Days 157 - 166: Into the Mountains...and Cool Air!


Mazatlan to Guadalajara: 505 km

What a ride it has been over the past week.  We have gone from sea level to an elevation of 1550 meters, and from hot humidity to wonderfully cool and dry mountain air.  As you can tell we have chosen the mountain route over the coastal route for our journey through mainland Mexico, and so far we are very pleased with this decision.  Mileage wise it should be a little shorter, but of course we have to factor in a lot of long climbs.  For those that don't know, we are in a bit of a crunch period now.  Glenn's brother, Brendan and his fiancé Kristi are getting married in Costa Rica on November 17.... Less than a month and a half away.  We are estimating that this is just over 3000 km from where we are now.  So, we still have a shot at making it solely on the bikes but it will be super super tight.  If we are running behind we will have to hop on a bus for a few hundred km to make up time .... But we really want to ride the whole way... If our bodies and bikes don't protest too much we may just make it, wish us luck!

Here are some photos from the last week:

Mainland Mexico: Part 1

September 27 and 28: Days off in Mazatlan

We had planned to take one day off in Mazatlan, I was feeling a little sick, and we both felt the need for some rest before continuing on. But one day turned into two,  the night before we were planning to leave we checked the weather to discover that a hurricane was forecasted... Winds up to 50 km/ h and 50 mm + of rain.  We woke up to a lot of rain and wind, and decided the that it would be wise to stay put.  Our bodies were a little bit delighted at having two days off in a row!  Mazatlan was also a wonderful town, the contrast front the Baja is huge, it is lush and bustling and so much fresh food everywhere.  We went for our last swim in the ocean for the next few weeks.  We also happened upon a very cool little hotel, it was actually just a typical hotel, but one of the live-in workers made incredible souped up bicycles...complete with sound and light systems. They were covered with bright reflective colours and most were recumbent or tricycle style...somehow glenn and I both neglected to get a picture of any of these sweet bikes...sorry! 

September 29, 2012:   Mazatlan - Esquinapa de Hidalgo 93 km

On the road again.  Today's ride had a few rolling hills, but also a lot of flat sections so we made good time, arriving at our destination around 1:00pm.  The lushness of the landscape was unbelievable.  Although the Baja had been greener than normal when we were there, it was nothing like much vegetation growing everywhere and so beautiful....also really really humid and sweaty.  There were two road options for the entire route from Mazatlan to Guadalajara, the toll road and the free road.   Based on reading others travel journals, it looked like the toll road was the better option, it was shorter, had less traffic and a wide shoulder ...often eight feet wide!  It proved to be very pleasant riding, the only problem is that it does not go through any towns, so you need to make sure to carry enough food and water with you for the day.  There were a few no bicycle signs as we first got on the road, but when we got to the toll booths, the workers just waved us thorough (no cost!)... So I guess they understand that it is the safer option.   We arrived in Esquinapa, which was about 5 km off the toll road, to find a town filled with bicycles.  Everyone seemed to be riding one, and in the town square they even had a monument to the bicycle (check out the photo).  We hung out in the square for a bit, and soon were surrounded by some awesome children....who at first didn't believe us when we told them where we had rode our bikes from.  This has actually been the typical reaction from kids, at first they give us a look like we are full of s***, then they eventually believe us and start telling all their friends.  Adults tend to give us a sort of 'yikes' look... Similar kind of look you would give someone if they had told you they were injured or sick....  Anyways, I digress.   We found a cheap place to stay and explored with bike-loving town for the rest of the afternoon....with some delicious orange juice and rice and beans to sweeten the deal.

September 30: Esquinapa de Hidalgo to Rosamorada 114 km

Today was our longest mileage day yet.  For some this may not seem so long, but with 100 lbs of gear in hot sweaty lands it is a lot....for us it was.   Also, the day started off with our stove refusing to work, so we headed to the market for some coffee and breakfast instead..  it was pretty good terrain for a long day. Mostly flat passing marshland after marshland for the first part of the day.  Sweat dripping from places you didn't even know possible, but I kept us cool... Thank you Mother Nature.  We had a short rest under an underpass ...the only shade around...and hung out with some iguanas, before heading out for the last part of the ride.  Unfortunately, the flat ended, the hills began, and I ran out of water.  I also may have started losing the ability to think and act rationally.   The hills, which were not that big compared to what lay ahead, were torturous... For me anyways, Glenn seemed to be unphased ...and just pressed along.   I had to stop every few hundred meters and images of myself dying of dehydration were beginning to fill my mind ( by the way Glenn also didn't have water, so it's not like he wasn't sharing).  About 20 km from our destination there was some clear looking water dripping from some spouts on the side of the road.  I filled up a couple of bottles and filtered it...all the while thinking, thank god! ... Unfortunately, the water tasted like salt and was not drinkable.  So we carried on, just focused on pedalling.  When we got close to Rosamorada, we were ecstatic to find a giant restaurant... It was actually weird how big it was, room for several hundred and completely empty.  Anyways, we each ordered a few drinks of the sugar and carbonated water variety,  and felt like we had been woken from a fugue state.   We continued on for a few more km and found the only hotel in town and some food.  The town barracho (drunkard), even came to visit us and forgot his beer by our bicycles.  Sadly the sleep was not too restful because of a very temperamental baby next door and church bells that rang with no particular system....what a day.

October 1, 2012: Rosamorada to Tepic 85 km

Another milestone of a day, we did our longest climb in a day today.  From sea level to just over 1000 m, in about 30 km.    The first part of the day was near level, but we tried to race through knowing that we had some major climbing coming up.  We started climbing and climbing and climbing.  We took about five hours to do 30 km. We sweated more than we have ever sweat before, our cloths were completely wet, it was lovely :).   We arrived in the mountain-top town of Tepic late afternoon and weaved through the narrow streets looking for the centro, and a cheap hotel.  After some time we found a clean and very cheap hotel...the cheapest yet, in fact.  Turns out there was a reason it was so cheap...but I'll get to that.  We also needed to do some laundry as most of our clothing had been saturated with our sweat over the last few days, so we found a lavanderia, and they very hyper owner said that we could pick up our cloths at nine the next morning.  This would mean leaving later than normal.... But the temperature up here in the mountains is cooler and oh so refreshing, so we thought it would be OK. After some dinner we took our haggard bodies back to the hotel and slept so so soundly.

October 2, 2012: Held hostage in Tepic

We woke up a little later than normal, and went off in search of coffee and food before getting our laundry back.  The temperature was beautiful, we were even compelled to put on long sleeve shirts, bliss!  After eating we headed over to pick up our laundry, but the place wasn't opened.  We went back to the hotel packed up and returned to the laundry mat... Still to opened.  We went to check again ...still not opened.  This continued most of the day, and at a certain point it was too late to leave and make it to our destination....and plus the laundry still wasn't opened!  So we were forced to take a day off in Tepic...worse things have happened. We really liked this town, there was a vegetarian restaurant with delicious food, a great art museum, and beautiful parks.  Being back and forth from our hotel all day we also discovered why it may be so cheap.  It wasn't exactly a brothel, but there was certainly an arrangement with local sex workers that this was the place to use, but like I said before it was very clean and everyone was super nice and friendly... Aside from a few grimy looking men.  Late in the afternoon the laundry mat finally opened, turns out that the hyper owner that we had met the night before was rumoured to be a bit of drinker, and his worker who we spoke with told us that she thought he had drank too much the night before and was actually in the closed laundry all day refusing to open shop.... She was pretty livid about the situation as she had come to work early in the morning.  Phew.

October 3, 2012: Tepic to Ixtlan del Rio 85 km

Today was a beautiful day of riding.  Some cloud cover and a higher elevation made for cool and refreshing riding.  I was reminded today of how much I like riding, it was as if the last month we were riding inside a sauna, and today we were was very energizing to say the least.   But, we are in the mountains, so very hilly, some long long climbs....but oh so beautiful, and did I mention that at this altitude there are pine trees.  A little different than the ones in Canada, but pine trees nonetheless, pretty awesome!  We arrived in Ixtlan del Rio early afternoon and had our usual routine of finding a cheap place to sleep, resting, and then getting some food.  Our Primus Multifuel stove was still refusing to work despite hours of efforts so we decided that it was 'fit for the pit' ( some of you might get this reference..?), and we have thrown it out; also we can officially say that we do not recommend this stove for any type of use,  it is not dependable.   So needless to say we cannot cook much until we get a new stove.  We  have also discovered that in most towns here all of the restaurants seem to close at five...a bit of problem at times.  So tonight we made some cold but delicious food.  

October 4, 2012: Ixlan del Rio to Magdalena 52 km

A short, but long day.  For the first time in a while we had a pretty strong head wind from early morning on into the afternoon.  This, combined with the fact that the coffee we got from the market in the morning may not have been very caffeinated, made us pretty sluggish.  We were climbing for the first 15 km or so, only to drop back down 400 meters only to do it all over again....We knew that we would not make it all the way to Guadalajara that day, so we decided to call it quits early in the afternoon with the hopes that the next day would bring calmer or more generous winds.  Magdalena was yet another beautiful little town,  we have been stunned by how wonderful every little town that we have been in has been.  They are beautiful, full of activity, lots  of community space and so far every town we have been in feels very safe, and people have been kind and generous.   

October 5, 2012: Magdalena - Guadalajara 75 km

What a started off beautifully, as these cool mornings always do.  The wind was calm and perhaps a little helpful.  We started climbing as we knew we would be for the first 10 km or so.  As we reached a bit of a plateau in this 'staircase' climb I was following closely behind Glenn and before I knew it a giant rock was in front of my bike and I didn't have time to go around it.  By giant I mean about the size of two heads, and yes this was not the first time I have hit a rock.  But this time I was thrown off my bike quite painfully.  I scratched my elbow up pretty badly and had some bruises here and there, but the bike seemed to be OK, just a few minor adjustments.  I had a little rest and we got back on the hurt to put pressure on by elbow which was annoying but after and hour or so this passed, and we zoomed along to the outskirts of Guadalajara...which I should now mention is the fifth largest city in Mexico, about 1.5 million.   The traffic got heavier as the toll and free roads merged, and the generous shoulder disappeared for the most part.  It got a little hairier as we encountered exits and had to stay on the main highway and dodge the traffic that was turning off...eek.   Then glenn noticed that his tire was pretty low, we haven't had a flat for months because we have Kevlar lined tires, but they are now showing wear, as we have almost 6000 km on them.  So we pulled off to fix the first flat in awhile, hoping that we remembered how.    Glenn discovered not one puncture in his tube, but five!  During the last few days there has been a lot of debris on the shoulder, mainly bits of truck tire....with wire in them.  These little wires were the culprits, they seemed to punch right through the Kevlar.  So, five patches and we were ready to go.   Traffic got heavier and heavier and more and more chaotic.  As we were entering the city we went through a tunnel, that had two exits.  Glenn was a little ways ahead of me, and I was hanging on to my bike for dear life as the cars sped through the dark tunnel inches away from me.  I got through the tunnel, and kept moving expecting to see Glenn any minute...but I kept riding and he was nowhere.  Normally we stop and wait for eachother in these situations, but since I thought he was ahead of me I just kept riding getting more and more concerned.  I stopped to ask a few people if they had seen him and no one had.  We were heading to a Casa del Ciclista and we both knew the address, so as my stomach turned with concern, I decided to just head there hoping he had done the same.  After what felt like forever, I finally heard his bell ringing behind me...phew.   Turns out he had taken the other turn out of the tunnel, waited for me for a while, then realized it was the wrong way.  Soon we arrived at a wonderful sanctuary in the middle of this beautiful, bustling and chaotic city... The Casa Del Ciclista.  It is a community based bike shop, with an amazing group of folks committed to social action.  We were warned by them, and others that we have met that it is a difficult place to leave and we can see why.  It is relaxing, and incredibly laid back.  We were going to stay just one night, but looks like it  will be two.... :)

October 6 , 2012: Exploring Guadalajara

There are dozens of museums in this city, mostly free.  The culture here is rich and vibrant, clearly a strong commitment to the arts.  It is really a great city, and we wish that we could stay longer... The folks at at that casa keep telling us about great stuff to do, and listing the reasons why we should stay tempting!  but we have a wedding to get to.  Tomorrow is car free Sunday from 8-12, so it looks like we will be able to exit in the city with hundreds, maybe thousands of locals enjoying the safe streets!  Still trying to work out our route from here, the roads are not that straight....might be a result of all these mountains....but we will either loop up and over Mexico City or under.... We will have to decide in a couple days.   

All for now...