Check Out What's New! - Also, Free Oranges : Zanatepec, Oaxaca to San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas
Hello again faithful friends, family and followers! We have added some cool new gadgets to WE LOST THE MAP, that we think your really going to like.
First, we gave it a face lift. But don't fret, the blog is still there. You can get to it by clicking on the GO TO BLOG button on the HOME page. Or, you can click BLOG at the top of the screen and there we are! Same great blog, updated weekly for your action-packed reading enjoyment.
Next, you will see a MAP button on the main page or if you look to your right of this page and click the VIEW MAP button and an interactive map will open in a new window outlining "roughly" our route. From the start in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska all the way to where we are now! Updated as we go.
And last, if you scroll down on the main page, we have added zesty, thrilling, informative, page clicking articles for your reading pleasure. Gear reviews, tips, travel advice, short stories and soon to be loads more...so keep checking back as we add to the pile.
Now on to the next update from Ville, enjoy!
Zanatepec to San Cristobal De Las Casas
One safety issue both of us have been very firm on is not to ride at night/in dark and we've been able to avoid it until a couple of days ago. Here we were riding in pitch black on a busy highway on the outskirts of the Chiapas state capitol Tuxtla, big trucks flying by us and honking & flashing lights. My rear light is flashing but not bright enough for them to notice us from a large distance while flying at high speeds. With intentions of camping before dark at around 60 miles for the day, we found ourselves with nowhere safe to camp and in the dark terrified that we would be run over and we are now at 85 miles and counting.
Early that morning, we left the Warmshowers host Rodrigo's place in a little town called Zanatepec almost at sea level right when the sun was getting up. We knew we had a big 20 mile climb over the coastal mountains heading towards the interior of the state. The climb went fine even though there was no shoulder and even at 7 am the heat was already turned on high, we got to the top and had lunch in a small village while feeding some of the local street dogs with our leftover beans. After the lunch we had lots of rolling hills with beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. The locals were very courteous driving around us and giving us tons of space. Even the wind was on our backs, how perfect was that!
We made it to our goal of 60 miles around 1:30 pm, had some tacos for lunch while having a little pow wow about what to do. Should we keep going or call it a day early and rest our bodies since we knew that we had a big big climb in 2 days to get to San Cristobal De Las Casas? We decided to keep going since both of us felt fine, we made a vague plan to do 10-15 more miles and find a camping spot on the side of the road. After about 15 miles of riding we started looking for a spot, I walked off the road at least 5 times to see if there was a hole in the barbwire fence where we could sneak into the trees. Nope. Nada. Not only was the fence always there but also the terrain was very challenging with thick thorny brush that would rip you to pieces and puncture your tires in the process.
It was getting dark and we were starting to get really nervous, we knew we still had another 15 miles to the next town, and both just off getting sick were really lacking the energy to get that far. The sun slowly set and now we were riding in complete darkness. All of a sudden I saw something, thanks to the headlights of a semi passing us, that I thought might be a break in the fence. I yelled to K.G, "I'm going to check the fence for a break!" I thought that she slowed down to wait and so I stopped my bike and ran to investigate the fence. There was a hole big enough for us to squeeze ourselves through with the bikes into a cow pasture. I was excited and ran back to the bike, K.G was nowhere to be seen. Then I realized her taillight was not flashing and not only could I not see her, but there was no way the passing traffic could either! I jumped on my bike and started riding like there was free beer in the next town screaming until my voice was hoarse, and it took me a good mile and a half to catch up with her. I told her about the break but at that point we decided not to bike back because I wasn't even sure if I could find the spot again in the dark. At this point our only real option was to ride all the way to the next town, so on we pushed.
It was really hard both physically & mentally on both of us, riding in the dark with traffic zooming past is no fun. Finally we made it to the outskirts of the town and saw an auto hotel (some of you might remember what they are from our previous stories). They are the places where you can get a room by the hour and the TV channels are not Disney or Nickelodeon material. I think at this point we would have taken just about anything! The young man at the entrance asked me how many hours we needed, I smiled and said we needed 12 hours. I'm sure he was impressed. We took showers and crashed hard, slept through the night like a baby even though the neighbors were expressing their love in a very loud way. So romantic.
The next day we had a hilly, hot 20 miles to get to Tuxtla. Once in Tuxtla, all we needed to do was to find the bike shop where our friends had sent us spare tubes from Puebla. Would through the sprawling city, found the store and got the package, wrong tubes! Miscommunication/lost in translation was the reason, but no worries the store said they could order the tubes and have them shipped to our next stop, San Cristobal de Las Casas. I needed those tubes really bad, I had no spares left after I blew out 2 in Oaxaca. They both broke right next to the valve so patching was not an option, plus one of the tubes was already patched 5 times so it was time for him to retire anyway. I didn't want to tackle Central America without spares since we knew they would be even harder to find there (I ride a size 700x40 with Presta valves, which is not common at all here in Latin America).
After ordering the tubes we rode 10 miles of downhill to a small town of Chiapa De Corzo. We found a nice and cheap hotel close to the highway, the owner was really nice and talked our ears off about Chiapas and the history of this beautiful and rebellious state. The room looked nice the first time I checked so we went to bed confident that we would get a good nights rest for the big climb the next day. Not the case, the room and the bed were infested with ants. There were so many that I had to check in the middle of the night if there was an anthill under the bed! Not only did I have problems with ants all the way in my butt crack but the room was also hot as an oven, needless to say we both slept like crap.
We woke up at 5am to beat the heat and brushed the ants of our bodies, ate a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola. I was so delirious in the morning that I even forgot to tell the owner about the ant problem, he seemed like a nice guy so I doubt he knew about it. The previous night we had discovered podcasts, I know it's old news and no we did not grow up in caves but it's just something we haven't tried yet. They're freaking awesome! They made our 30 mile climb to San Cristobal De Las Casas go by really fast, 6000 ft of elevation gain has never felt so easy.
In the middle of the climb a truck full of oranges passes us and pulls in front of us, the driver climbs on top the truck and asks us if we want oranges? After I said we'd love some he starts throwing them down to me and tells me he thinks we're crazy, I agreed and thanked him. These are the moments that make our day and they're not rare in Mexico, people here are extremely friendly and nice. They do nice things and expect nothing in return. We ate half of the dozen or so oranges on the spot since we didn't want to carry all of them up the mountains, plus they were really delicious. Two thirds of the way up we took a lunch break at a roadside restaurant and got to enjoy the views of the climb we had done from their patio.
By around 2:30 pm we rolled into San Cristobal De Las Casas and made our way down to the house of our Warmshowers host Oscar. Oscar showed us around the town and we had a mean game of ping pong in a bar. Thanks so much Oscar for hosting us! We've been here in San Cristobal for 5 days now (waiting on my tubes to show up), right now we're staying with a different Warmshowers host Edu from Costa Rica. Nicest guy ever, we have his apartment pretty much to ourselves and we've enjoyed some quality time with him sharing stories and beers. He has traveled extensively in South America by bicycle so we've been picking his brain on routes and he's been adding new places to our list of places to see. Thank you Edu for everything!
Finally my tubes arrived last night and now we're ready to head out. The plan is to ride in 2 days close to the border of Mexico and Guatemala and cross it early in the morning. Peace out Mexico, you've been awesome! Central America here we come!
Ville and I were weaving between busses and traffic heading south on the main artery heading for the central/downtown Oaxaca, when we flew past the rerouting of traffic straight into the center of a giant protest in the middle of the street.
But before even heading to Oaxaca, let me tell you a little bit about staying in Puebla for two weeks. When we left Toluca to begin heading south, we had no intention of even riding through Puebla because it was completely south east of Mexico City and we wanted to head south, but our good friend Pedro, from Morelia, had a couple friends in Puebla and we thought, "why not?" We have always been pleasantly surprised by the towns we least expected to be surprised by. Puebla was of no exception.
Luis and Ari welcomed us into their apartment without knowing us at all and only by the referral of said friend, Pedro. But welcome us they did, and for a solid week of bike fixing, quinceanera, birthday and Mexican wrestling festivities. And the night before we were planning our goodbyes and heading back out on the open road, I, K.G., ate something that didn't sit right and was laid up for another week at their place. And did they roll their eyes, stomp their feet, and kick us to the curb as I would have done, no! They made me breakfast and lunch I could stomach every day before leaving for work. They harassed me with text messages to make sure I was still breathing. They tracked down a naturopathic doctor because I didn't want to pump myself full of antibiotics. And STILL they were sad when we left! These two win the gold star for true friends! Can't thank you both enough and excited to see you both again after the ride :)
So after a long two weeks, Ville and I packed up, said some teary goodbyes and got back in the saddles heading south towards Tehuacan, where we stayed one night with Job and his roommate. Thanks boys for the tasty tacos and a bed to sleep. We pushed on into some decent hill climbs back into pine forests and some beautiful camp spots for a few more days into Oaxaca City. From about 25 miles outside the city, the road turned to shit and there was broken glass, garbage, and graffiti (and not the cool to look at kind, but the tagging your name everywhere in dirty parts of cities kind) where we ended up with multiple flat tires and were happy to get into the city and off the road. On our way into downtown, we found ourselves right in the middle of a giant protest against recent changes in education reform. Ville was reminiscing of when he was here back in 2006 and they were protesting then more violently for teachers. Mexico is not the only country where governments make cuts and it appears that education is always the first to go. Children are the future of Mexico, US and the world as a whole. If we want to progress, we cannot wallow in fear, but rise above fear through education and knowledge and only then will we accept others as they are and discover true happiness. My words of wisdom for the week.
After cycling right through the demonstration, we found a cheap hostel in the downtown and walked around looking at the artisan textiles that are so famous for this area (made by the the natives in and around the state of Oaxaca), watched a graduation celebration/parade, and decided to push on the next morning heading south. I had picked up a nasty cold in Puebla and was in dire need of rest, but didn't want to take more time off the bikes after already being out for 2 weeks, so on we pushed. After so many tire punctures (2 of which were Ville's tubes right at the valve rendering the tubes useless) and leaving Ville with only the two tubes in his tires and no back-ups. We scoured every bike shop for tubes to fit his tires, but came up empty handed and realized we might just have to cross our fingers that we make it all the way to Columbia where there is a big cycling culture and possibly more tube sizes available. Luckily, Lois and Elvis, came to our rescue again and are mailing the right tubes to Tuxtla where we will pick them up in a couple days ride.
From Oaxaca, we rode south to Santiago Matatlan, town of Mescal, where I bought artisan chocolate, we ate beef tongue tacos, got a hotel room for the night and headed south into the dry, windy, hills on Highway 190. It was a really tough four days of ups and downs in very gusty, dry hills and when we were to drop out of the hills close to the coast and get some flat land to cycle, we hit the worst winds we have experienced since Baja. So intense we had to pedal to try and get downhill and from Tehuantepec to Union Hidalgo, we rode through garbage ally where the entire stretch of road was covered in garbage and gnarly winds. Once we reached Union Hidalgo, we decided pushing so hard when now both of us were sick was a bad idea, and asked the local police a safe place to stay. They were a great group of guys that let us sleep in the town open-air gymnasium, we were able to watch the local high school kids volleyball practice for a few hours before bed. And as they shut the lights and we locked the door, the bats came out to feed as we fell off to wrestles sleep.
With one day of push left before a planned rest day in Santo Domingo Zanatepec at a Warmshowers host's house, we rose at first light and turned north for 8 miles heading straight into the wind to La Venta. We had breakfast there where outside we caught a big parade of the local elementary school kids celebration of the first day of spring. They were very cute adorned in animal costumes and marching down the street. The rest of the day was spent pushing on through the winds surrounded on all sides by hundreds of wind turbines. It was very exciting to see that Mexico is investing in green energy and a young local guy we chatted with is studying engineering to work generating energy with the wind turbines. While some countries are regressing back to dirty coal mining, Mexico is moving forwards in the use of clean green energy, also creating jobs. Good job Mexico!
As we rode east, we slowly pulled free from the wind vortex where the winds were blocked by mountains and by late afternoon we finally reached Santo Domingo Zanatepec where our Warmshowers hosts, Rodrigo and Lupita welcomed us to their home. Yesterday we decided to take a much needed day off the bikes to rest and recuperate and went to the local highschool where Rodrigo is a teacher and spoke to two of his classes about our ride and practiced English and Spanish with the kids. Then yesterday evening, a group of the girls from one of the classes came by to take Ville and I to dinner to try some local food and interview us. We have felt so incredibly welcome by this town and so many of the people here it feels very nice. Sadly, Ville woke up this morning when we had planned to hit the road early to beat the sweltering heat, and is sick. DAMN!
With all the best intentions of making it all the way to Oaxaca in 6 or 7 days, we got stuck in the middle in Puebla. For a week! Here's how it went down...
Justin Bieber, aka Ville, and I made it back from a few days in Mexico City to our Warmshowers host that lives in Toluca and had a great night with them, and 2 other cyclists they were hosting, Luz and Sylvain. We had some fun nights of board games, shenanigans, and were able to get a lot of tips about the journey south, as Luz and Sylvain were traveling north by bike. We packed up, said our goodbyes and headed out of Toluca (city at the highest elevation in Mexico) dropping way down to Cuernavaca, where we stopped for a night to see the sights. From somewhere outside Toluca a ways up in the forested hills, we began passing hundreds of Mexicans walking the road going east on a pilgrimage or camino to a sacred sight i n the mountains where there is a church wedged into a canyon. We understood that from the end of February through mid March is the time for the pilgrimage and people begin where they live or as far out as Puebla, walking anywhere from 5-200 miles. Their belongings carried by trucks, but carrying large crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary along the way. Even though those we passed did not know about our own pilgrimage by bike, it was a special experience saying hello to so many people we passed sharing a common goal of learning more about oneself while on a journey with a set destination.
Leaving Cuernavaca in the rush hour morning traffic was intense, and for almost the rest of the entire day we rode through a series of towns that seemed to have blended into Cuernavaca, and we never really felt as though we got out of town and traffic until getting onto a cuota (toll road) just before dark. After two days of dropping extreme amounts in elevation and riding in the chaos of city traffic, our shoulders and backs were locked up and I had a decent raging headache. We rode through a small village, in the hopes of finding a safe spot to camp in a yard, and after asking a bunch of farmers and townspeople, the police said we could camp in the town's square. After imagining what it would be like to get out of the tent in the middle of the night to pee on the concrete in front of the police station in the town's square, we agreed agents it and continued on as the sun set. On our last ditch effort, we asked a very poor family on the outskirts of the village if we could camp in their yard and they were super kind in allowing us to camp. Kindness has come to us in all forms and from all kind of people.
At first light, we packed up, thanked the family, and headed back to the toll road to cook some oatmeal on the side of the road (not wanting to fire up a stove in the yard of the family) and continued on the toll road where we passed a bunch of day cyclists from Mexico City on training rides, us heading for Puebla. Our good friend, Pedro, from Morelia had sent us some contacts in Puebla and we were planning maybe a night off in town to check out the sights. Once arriving in Puebla, we called Luis who met us in the city center and we biked back to his apartment with him where we were given our own room and had beers with his wife, Ari, her sister, Sele, and her boyfriend, Elvis. Our one day of visiting Puebla has now turned into nine days of hanging out with this crazy group that we now call our friends.
We spent a day riding bikes out to Cholula, where there is a pyramid with the largest base in the world and even a church at the top. A couple days we spent at Urban Bike, where Elvis the Genius works and was nice enough to add extensions to both our handlebars so we don't have to lean over so far (this will hopefully greatly save our backs and wrists!) and cleaned our bikes just because he is a great guy. He was also able to fix my shifter, which had stopped working after leaving San Diego and I had to set to friction to keep working. My frame had bent slightly, he bent it back a little and adjusted the shifter back to microshift, and I blame all the tacos and good Mexican food for the bent frame.
Luis spent all the time he was not overworking himself as a chef, showing us the sights of Puebla (these lazy Mexicans all work 6 days a week and only have Sundays off, man do we really feel like slackers, we don't even have jobs). We tried artisan beers at Sele's restaurant (where she works as a chef) and got to go to the museum there to see hand carved skulls, bones, pots, and relics dug up when they had done a full renovation of the building dating back to 900-1500 A.D. The history here in Mexico is just so mind-blowingly old! We drank pulque (fermented maguey plant) at a bar where a kid walked in off the street with his guitar and riled up the whole place singing Mexican pop songs. Check out the video below!
We ate fried grasshoppers and tried all kinds of local eats. Elvis joined us for a Group Night Ride for all ages and types of cyclists to come together and take over the streets for an hour ride around the city. Was a fun place to meet a bunch of locals who like to bike, and stop traffic with hundreds of bikes at night with music and lights winding through the streets.
We stayed through the weekend because we were invited to join Ari, Luis, Sele and Elvis at their cousin Caitlyn's Quinceanera party on Saturday evening in Cholula. It was an unbelievable experience! The festival was unlike any wedding I have ever been to in my life, around 200 guests dressed to the nines, tables set ready for a Presidential dinner, a massive lit dance floor where a choreographed show of young boys danced with the girl who's birthday it was, followed by another choreographed show with the girl and her Dad and guys from the family. There was a wild band throughout the night complete with balloons and cowboy hats passed out by people on stilts. There was a photo booth with props and a professional photographer. A dulce (dessert) table set for a king and she cut a cake that rivaled a wedding cake stacked 4 tiers high. A waiter for every table who literally refilled your glass of whisky/coke every time you took your last sip. And it felt as if the entire room of people, kids to elders, all knew how to dance, and not just dance, but really well! I was SO jealous. In Finland and U.S. we might get invited to a wedding a year or every other year and you shuffle around the dance floor and try and look like you didn't break a hip, but everyone in Mexico makes it to tons of these parties and all of them learn how to actually dance. Like where they shake and thrust everything from their hips to their chests to their feet. Dang! Ville and I have a lot to learn!
At about 3:30 a.m, as per tradition, breakfast of chilaquiles was brought out for everyone and then the party finally ended around 6 a.m. And almost all the guests were still there until then! And before everyone left, they were sent with gifts of drinking glasses full of candy with the birthday girl's name engraved on it and tank tops with her name and date printed on it. Like I said, I have never experienced anything like it. I can only imagine what this girl's wedding will look like! And after a few hours sleep we were all up again, had lunch at the nearby indoor marketplace, and dressed again to go to a baby cousin's first birthday party. Ville opted to sleep more, but Ari, Luis, and I made it to a rented hall where there was the most elaborate one year old's party I have now ever been to as well. The theme was all Monsters Inc. and the party was catered, with a band, lots of dancing, 3 pinatas, candy baskets for all the kids, and lots of alcohol and Grandma came around all night pouring shots of Mescal for the guests. To end the night there was a massive cake and another dessert table complete with a chocolate fountain.
By the time we made it home, I was the walking dead and Luis and Ari had to hit the hay to work the next day. Tonight we are going to see a real lucha libre match (Mexican wrestling) here in Puebla with Ari and we are opting for the cheapest seats because they said there are LOTS of people chanting and yelling obscenities at the wrestlers and it's the most fun place to sit. But tomorrow, Tuesday, is our big day. Time to get our fat butts back on the bikes and continue this party train south. We are already sad to leave such great friends and are hoping that we will be able to get them visas to come visit us in Bend so we can return the favor and show them our home and town when this ride is complete.
Thank all of you for following our journey and until next time, keep on keepin' on...
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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