I'm at a party, not sure where, but there is a packed room, people everywhere. I discover a Pyrex pan full of a piping hot risotto of some kind. I hunch over the pan, pick up a spoon and start shoveling it into my mouth. It's so creamy and delicious! Before I know it, I look down and I've eaten over two-thirds of the pan. Shit! Now I'm trying to hide the fact that I ate so much, stressing that someone watched me or knows I totally pigged out. And then I wake up. It's early morning, I'm in a wooden windowless host's home in Costa Rica, my tummy is growling, and I'm so disappointed the risotto was only a dream...
Portland was a dream. A dream so long ago already. We went on a beautiful hike in the Gorge with my entire family on a very rare sunny day. We ate like champs, hung with family, walked around downtown Portland and got lunch with my brother. It was so great. Our flight went well, short layover in LA, and then an overnight flight to San Jose. We bused it back to our friend Edu's mom and sister's house in Herelia, San Jose and took a nap. The wifi was down and so we just hung around the house, biked to Olman Ramirez Bike Shop and they were kind enough to squeeze us in to get our new bottom brackets installed and a tune-up that would HOPEFULLY fix my shifting issue. Now in the rainy season, it was dreary, rainy, cloudy and grey, very much a representation of our moods trying to adjust to being back on a bike journey and away from home.
To get to San Jose, we had jumped on a bus from Punta Arenas (not wanting to bike into the busy capitol on a highway off-limits to bikes) and were able to jump off at the airport near our friend's home. Unfortunately, on the way back, we had to bike into downtown San Jose to the main bus terminal to catch our bus back to the coast. We managed all right, got a bus and were back on the coast with plenty of time to move south to Matapalo where there was a truck stop and a few small open air restaurants. We pulled over to get giant bowls of vegetable soup and Ville asked the young girl at the counter if we could possibly camp in the yard. She immediately said yes, and as we expected to set up our tent, her mom came out to sweep the porch for us. When we went to chat with her, she opened this door to a small room at the back of their home, with a bathroom, she offered for us to stay. And did not want any money. It was glorious to get a shower and bed to sleep when unexpected. Itzel (the daughter) made us tea and snacks. We chatted with Ilzel (mom) and discovered that she is the cousin of Keylor Navas, the goalie of Real Madrid who just won Champions League two weeks before! Crazy, we had been in Bend and were able to watch the game at my parent's house. Small world. In the shower, we even made friends with the largest spider either of us had ever seen (the size of your palm), I am sure it was hilarious to see me streak from the bathroom naked with my eyes the size of pancakes.
In the morning, they made us a giant omelette breakfast they again would't take money for, and we headed on our way. The sun was peeking out through the clouds and the road was nice and flat. Since being straight off a horrible bought of unknown mosquito ass-kicking virus, we agreed to stick to around 50 miles a day until we were both back in shape. Next stop, was a Warmshowers host, brother and sister, that was right off the highway near Ojochal. Before arriving at their place, a kind lady and her husband (bikes in bike racks on the top of the car) pulled over and asked if we were looking for a place to camp. When we said we were looking for our Warmshowers host, they offered us a cabin they had next to their house up the road. We were very tempted, but decided to stick to our plan with our host because we had already written to them we were coming. After struggling for most of the Central American countries to get even a response back from a Warmshowers host, we were both blown away by the unbelievable kindness that was now offered from everywhere we turned. So much needed now when we both were struggling to get back in the biking zone.
Our Warmshowers hosts, Aguero and Melania, were brother and sister and offered up their home to Couchsurfers and Warmshowers cyclists. Even though there was about 5 different families living in their home, one guy insisted on sleeping on the floor and gave us his bed. Incredibly kind people, who spoke so highly of helping others and making the world a better place. When we were sleeping, we even had a cat fight in our bed, claws and all, what a thrill! The next morning Aguero took us up the hill to the hotel he is a manager of to see the stunning view where the river meets the sea. Back on bikes, heading south, we pushed onto Rio Claro where the last hour to town was pouring rain and we rolled into town soaked. We managed to find a motel for not horribly expensive and the next day was Ville's birthday and I gave him the choice to do anything he wanted on his big day. And you know what he wanted to do more than anything else in the world? Bike! Ya, I know. I couldn't believe it either. So we got up early and hit the border after a couple hours, stamped out pretty easy and were bummed to have to pay $16 (there went our food budget for the day) to leave Costa Rica, what a complete rip off. Very ready to get to South America and quit crossing borders every few days with fees.
Once we crossed into Panama, the road became wider with a large shoulder and much faster moving traffic. After a few hours of cycling we both had noticed how few motorbikes we had seen and how many big cars (more similar to the US than any other Central American country). The road was still relatively flat and much more deforested than Costa Rica to make way for cattle and ranching. As we made our way into David, the shoulder disappeared and the traffic turned horrid! The drivers are obviously not respectful of cyclists what-so-ever and I was nearly hit 3 times in an hour from cars turning in front of me or pulling out right in front of me. My stress level was through the roof and we decided to pull over in town at a grocery store. After eating lunch and resupplying our food stash, Ville chatted it up with the security guard who recommended a decent motel nearby to stay. Because it was Ville's birthday and the only special thing we could do was get a motel room for the night instead of sleep in the tent in rain, we got ice cream and got a room. After a nice shower and Netflix movie, we got a good night's sleep and headed out early towards San Felix where we had been given a number of a Peace Corp. volunteer there.
We rolled into San Felix, a mile off the main drag, and Julia, welcomed us into her home and even did our laundry! We made a feast together and a couple other volunteers, Abigail and Frank, showed up to stay the night. In the morning, we made another big breakfast feast before leaving and heading out into the pouring rain. A massive thank you to Julia for having us and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and your kind gift and hope to meet again! The road ahead was brutal, the entire day it rained and we were soaked with mild chaffing and the hills were treacherous for our out-of-shape butts. Luckily, Devin, our great friend we know from a soccer team in Bend was kind enough to come out to the road and pick us up so we didn't have to bike out to his place in Santiago. But boy were we glad to get to his place and see a friend from home! And take a much need couple days off the bikes to recoup and book our flight from Panama City to Cartagena, Columbia. We had originally hoped to take a boat from Panama to Columbia, but our budget dictated otherwise and a plane will be faster.
We have to fly over the Darien Gap because for those who don't know about the area, there are no roads through it and no border crossing between Panama and Columbia. It may be very unsafely possible to trek through the jungle and pop out on the other side, but since all we have talked to do not recommend it, we will opt for a safe flight. From Santiago we have a few more days bike to Panama City and a few days there to box our bikes and see the sights before flying to Cartagena and beginning our South American journey! YAY!! A new continent! WiFi is always scattered, but we love to hear from everyone, so write us, and until next time, keep on keepin' on...
We ended up on a slide-at-your-own-risk water slide. It was 0-60 mph in a half-second, not sure our bodies even made contact with the slide on the way down and we hit the water at 4Gs shooting my bikini and Ville's shorts to the four corners of the pool as we skipped along the surface of the water at the bottom of the slide. What a ride! But first...
After a roller-coaster of ass-kicking hills of Guatemala, followed by sweltering temps in the hundreds through El Salvador and Honduras low-lands, we coasted into Nicaragua where the temps dropped into the 90's and our spirits lifted. With the soaring temperatures, Ville and I were pounding water like crazy (drinking over 8 liters of water a day), but watching it pour out our pores before it ever made it through our bodies. I had to tackle a super painful bladder infection, "staying out of the sun" (actually biking all day IN the sun), waking up at 4 am to try and beat the heat, struggling to find accommodation during Easter party no available affordable lodging celebration week, riding nasty patched together shoulder-less pavement packed with high-speed aggressive drivers, and all while also struggling with food allergies I haven't been able to eliminate since Mexico. It was rough folks. We took reprieve from the mid-day heat in American fast food chain establishments because they were the only places with consistent WiFi and air conditioning (my refusal to enter a fast food joint went right out the window when we had hit our lowest lows). Our saving grace was the Central American people.
When we were on the side of the road, me in heaps of pain, a family took us into their restaurant and took Ville on their motorbike to get antibiotics. Again when the infection came back on the side of the road, another family gave us a ride to the pharmacy and refused to take payment. Where Americans live in their cars and roads are only for travel, Mexicans and Central Americans live on roads; walking, biking, in horse-drawn carts, waiting for buses, sitting on porches, lying in hammocks, pushing carts, pedaling rickshaws, motoring moto-taxis, sitting in snack stands, selling fruit, soda, water, gas, you name it. Our entire days are filled with passing people, smiling and saying hello. There is the occasional person who looks past me or through me, but most everyone smiles. And says hello. And safe journey. And for that moment when we look each other in the eye and smile, I hope it makes that moment, their day, their week a bit better. It makes this whole ride worth every mile.
Once we crossed into Honduras, we noticed that where the fields stretched out for miles on either side of the road, loads of people had built shacks in the 7 meters or so of land between the road and field to try and sell fruits or vegetables that came from the fields to people passing by. Where stable (or as stable as can be) governments bring investors, which in turn bring tourism and money to some of Honduras's surrounding countries, Honduras has not found the same stability and more of it's people in the rural areas between towns, seem to just be surviving. One would expect (especially if you follow news), Honduras to be super dangerous and many cyclists opt to rush through or skip it altogether. But we found the same kindness from people as we did everywhere else we have traveled.
Once we crossed over into Nicaragua and the roads became beautiful, freshly paved roads with a giant shoulder, we cruised into Chinandega and were tipped off by some locals about a sweet water park complete with a slide-at-your-own-risk water slide. It was 0-60 mph in a half-second, not sure our bodies even made contact with the slide on the way down and we hit the water at 4Gs shooting my bikini and Ville's shorts to the four corners of the pool as we skipped along the surface of the water at the bottom of the slide. What a ride! The next day we rolled out early and had a pretty easy day to Leon. Leon is a colonial city, fairly touristy being close to the beach and volcanoes, but we enjoyed walking the streets and seeing the sights. We were able to catch the Barcelona vs Juventus Champions League Quarter Final game and although Barcelona lost, was nice to sit in a bar with other tourists excited to see the game. On our day off there, we made it out to a shop for me to find a new bra to replace my busted (no pun intended) one. For those following our ride, you may remember the goat trail from hell we ended up skidding and falling down on at Lake Atitlan. Well, on that same glorious day and moment of suffrage, my beloved bra, which had a zipper down the front, decided to pop open thanks to all the sweat rusting apart the zipper and leaving me flopping in the breeze WHILE skidding on my ass down the hill. Oh times we look back on now and laugh at.
While out bra shopping, Ville and I ran into Marie-Eve, a friend we had biked with a bit on the northern California coast and whom we had no idea now lived in Leon! What are the odds we happen to run into her the day before she was flying back to Canada on our one day off in Leon in a bra shop?! Was nice to catch up with an old friend and take some down time before hitting the road early again heading for Managua. We had the plan to find a cheap motel outside the city, but after many failed attempts, we found ourselves in the city, patching Ville's flat tire, going from full hostel to full hostel before the kindest German man, Manfred, at La Pyramide Hotel, took us in and gave us a beautiful room for two nights. He even drove us up to the non-active volcano in town to show us the city. We walked down into town through a park where we watched a full court of guys in wheel chairs playing basketball and a women's basketball game. Was really inspiring!
After our much needed rest day in paradise (thank you SO much Manfred for your kindness!), we were back on the bikes and decided on an easy day into Laguna Apoyo, where we were excited to finally get to swimmable non-polluted water south of the American border! We climbed up to the crater and had a steep decent to the water where we, again, went door to door at "obscenely priced eco hostels" that wanted over $40 USD and up a night, and only allowed camper vans, not tents, to stay at their places. Lucky for us we ran into David, hitchhiking backpacker from Germany, who helped us to find a no-name place that quoted us $10 a night for a closet with a mini-fan. As soon as all our bags and bikes were jammed into the closet of a room, she told us it would be $10 each, and as we packed up to leave, she felt sorry for us and allowed us to stay for $10.
Sundays are family days in Latin American countries and since it was a Sunday, the locals beach was packed with drunks and families and we thoroughly enjoyed our refreshing dip in the lagoon (although give it a few years and that place will be completely unswimmable and dead for sure). It was pretty depressing to see how the handful of hotels and hostels have claimed the beachfront for only tourists in their establishment, pushing the locals to the one completely separated beach we swam at. We could feel the resentment from the locals and who can blame them? We did enjoy watching the wild howler monkeys swinging from the trees above hucking mangoes at rooftops, feeding the baby squirrel at our place and even Ville enjoyed conversing with a Giant Macaw who was able to say, "Hello."
Since our closet room only had a tiny bed, Ville slept on his blow-up mattress on the floor and at dawn as the howler monkeys started growling like lions, we packed and had a very humid, sweaty couple mile ride up to the rim of the crater. We did pass a bunch of locals walking down the hill dressed in resort shirts on their way to work and because we made the move to say Hello, most of them were really friendly. It was a short easy downhill into Granada this morning and after watching a school parade, we are staying out of the heat and catching up with all you fine folks out there. Because Costa Rica will be quite a bit more pricey than Nicaragua, we are planning to spend a few more days here in this country before crossing into Costa Rica and making our way to San Jose where we will fly to Portland and Bend for a couple weeks to celebrate our making it to the "half-way" point of our journey. YAY! And for those not in the know, May 11th, Crow's Feet Commons, Bend, Oregon, 6-8 pm. Be there or be square! And until then, keep on keepin' on ya'll...
First day in Guatemala, and we had a serious butt-kicking day long hill climb! This kid passed us with the bed of his truck stacked obscenely high with massive bags precariously roped on. A while later, we ride up to where a few bags have come loose, busted open on the pavement, and he is trying to scoop up the remnants on the side of the road. Of course, we pulled over to help. And that is how we ended up with about 7 lbs/3 kilos of unroasted coffee beans.
, on empty Leaving San Cristobal De Las Casas and Edu's place was rough. We enjoyed the time off with a cool guy in a really neat town. Was like ripping off a Band-Aid. But easy-peasy rolling hills, lot's of elevation dropping into Comitan where we camped a night at a Warmshowers host's yard, complete with a pack of dogs, chickens and even ducks, oh boy! We rolled out early and had another pretty hot, but easy day into the border town, Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, where we got a cheap hotel to spend the last of our pesos before heading to Guatemala.
The next morning we rode to the Mexico Immigration to stamp out, and was the first time we were yelled at and treated poorly by any Mexicans! But it was fast and then the hill climbing began, immediately leaving Mexico. And since we waited to get breakfast until getting to the Guatemala side after finding an ATM, the climb was straight up hill for three miles and even passed the city garbage pile before finding Guatemala Immigration, we were pedaling on empty growling stomachs. But Ville came out of Immigration all smiles because the man working there was super friendly and had a great sense of humor. Good start to Guatemala. We found a working ATM somewhere in the chaos of the border and a nice place to grab breakfast before the climb commenced.
The climb was intense, but incredibly scenic and we climbed through numerous small villages where all the women were out in front of their homes weaving on looms and in the yards were hundreds of varying ages of coffee bean plants. When we rode up to the kid who passed us in his pick-up, trying to scrape some white things into a broken bag, we pulled over to help. I pulled out a bunch of Ziplock bags and Ville pulled out his knife to help sew the large broken bag closed. As we said goodbye and rode away, he insisted we take two of the giant Ziplock bags full of unroasted coffee beans. He said they were really expensive, on their way to be sold to Starbucks and we would surly be able to find a coffee roaster in Quetzaltenango. With still a long way to climb, we gladly accepted the bags, stuffed them into our panniers, and climbed up to just outside Huehuetenango where we scored a not super cheap Auto Motel.
The next day, we had a lot of very scenic ups and downs on a very deteriorated road, littered with potholes, and crazy traffic. My shifting had been off the entire previous day and now was continually getting worse. We pulled over to adjust it numerous times, with no luck, until finally not too far away from Quetzaltenango, I hear a loud SNAP and look down to see my chain on the ground. Damn. We dig out the Quick Link to fix it, and no luck. My chain was shot and so we stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride really quick (everyone in Guatemala seems to be incredibly kind) with Celestino. We strapped the bikes in the back with the trash and crammed into the front bench seat. As we hit the road, we both quickly realized we must be riding with a professional race car driver, because no one corners like Celestino. I mean, NO ONE. I don't know how my pants stayed dry. It was completely terrifying! We almost killed 3 dogs, 2 motorcyclists, and had near head-ons with multiple giant trucks and buses. Very nice man, appreciate the ride, but not sure if I was happier to know people like that are on the road with us. After a quick stop on the side of the road, Ville got out to help with the trash, and realized after packing every piece of his own garbage to a garbage can, he was helping this guy just chuck giant plastic bags of garbage down the hillside (not in a designated garbage site). And then after Celestino drove the truck tire into a giant hole, floored it squealing out and back on the road, we were back heading for town. My fingernails firmly planted into the dashboard and Ville's arm.
He dropped us outside town and we walked our bikes to a safe spot for me to sit while Ville rode around town to find a bike shop (unfortunately these bikes take a special size chain), and then we walked a ways to the shop where we were greeted by some great guys at BiciCasa. They had my chain, put it on, and even gave us a discount. Thanks BiciCasa, great stop for bike parts in Guatemala folks. We then headed to a friend of a friend, Lucy's, house. After planning to only stay a couple nights, we stayed three. Lucy and her daughter, Leah, fed us, walked us all over the city, and I even was given a Spanish lesson! Thanks so much for all the hospitality girls, plan on another visit soon! We also found a great coffee bean roaster, Tostaduria Grano de Cafe, where they kindly let us help roast the beans and explained all the steps. And now Ville is carrying four and a half pounds of coffee until we can bring it to Oregon. Will be the best dang coffee in the world.
We had been warned that climbing up to Lake Atitlan would be rough, but we had no idea what we were in for. We left early from Quetzaltenango, and started a slow easy climb that turned into a very steep climb, but had a spectacular view and rode through more villages full of very friendly indigenous Guatemalans. A cop rode by us and invited us back to his house to give us some avocados and play us some tunes on his guitar. After the climb, the drop down into the lake was extreme. We had to take a few breaks our hands hurt from gripping the breaks and we happened upon a car that had lost control on the downhill into a concrete wall (everyone was ok). And then, we took a wrong turn.
Google Maps has been awful in Guatemala, and boy did we really learn a lesson on this one. After heading straight downhill a few miles on the wrong road, everyone we asked said we could not continue the way we were heading. But we were sure they just didn't understand what bad-ass cyclists we were and we decided to forge ahead and rely on Google. We figured the dirt road was what they meant was not passable. Then the dirt turned into switchbacks straight up hill. Then we came to a giant overlook where Google told us the "road meant for a car" went over the cliff and landed in the town about a mile and a half down. For about 30 yards, the trail appeared to be a really rough mountain bike trail, and then the boulder field started and the trail turned into, at best, a goat trail of boulders, burning plants, where we took turns helping each other lift the bikes over rocks on the cliff. We honestly debated tying rope to the bikes and lowering them down the hill it was so steep.
Three and a half hours later and nearly dark now, we were both completely drenched in sweat, madder than hornets, and covered in bloody wounds, but luckily no irreparable bike-trip ending damage. When we finally made it into a town, past the town's garbage dump, we were told not to go that way. Uh, ya, noted. And then back on the bikes we still had a mile over the hill into San Pedro and up some steep hills to a hotel. After the best showers of our lives, we were asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow at 8pm. We took a mandatory day off to explore the very touristy town and agreed to leave the next morning heading to Antigua. We had beers with Nile and Andrea (another cyclist couple we met up with again after seeing each other in California whom also started in very northern Canada) over looking the lake with the surrounding volcanoes towering around us. Lake Antigua really is a beautiful place, touristy, but beautiful.
We got up early this morning, all four of us loaded our bikes on top of a boat taxi, tied them on, and once we arrived in Panajachel, began our insane climb up and out of the lake. The views from the top of the rim were stunning, and as the road turned to a cratered mess straight downhill, we realized were in for a roller-coaster day of the steepest roads we have been on so far, for just about the entire 45 mile day. At one point the road was completely washed out and we rode through a cute waste-water stream to get back to a road. By the time we hobbled into this cheap hotel on the outskirts of Antigua (there is a giant week long pre-Easter festival going on in Antigua, filling all the overpriced hotels and we are gladly going to stay away from) we are both so sore we can't climb stairs or bend over. I feel like I'm 90. So this is what I have to look forwards to? Except how I abuse my body on goat trail cliffs with a fully loaded bike torpedoing downhill, I will be dang lucky to make it to 50.
Tomorrow we are heading through Antigua, will plan to stay somewhere at about 50 miles. And should have another day to the border before we will cross into El Salvador. After Mexico, I feel like we are flying through countries now. Well kids, I am off to bed. Thanks for reading, following, and supporting us. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
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!
Dear Diary, it's me Ville. Let's give K.G a break from writing and let's let the idiot loose on the pages of this blog.
Exciting personal things that have happened to me after Morelia :
1. I got a haircut
2. I got to play football/soccer with a fun group of guys in Toluca
3. I got a slight black eye from hitting my head on a branch while playing soccer
with a 6 year old.
4. K.G told me I look 10 years younger after my haircut (positive)
5. K.G told me I look like Justin Bieber (you figure out if this is positive)
Enough about me! Let me tell you what our new friend Pedro "The Godfather" did for us in Morelia. When we were leaving Morelia, Pedro felt that on our way out of the city there was a curve that was too dangerous for us to ride without support. The Godfather showed up in the middle of his work day to drive behind us with his car to block the traffic coming from behind and possibly hitting us at the blind curve, after we reached the straight portion of the road he pulled over and let the colony of honking cars and trucks pass us. Thank you Pedro!
After 25 miles/40 km of fairly flat riding we started climbing like it was going out of style! The next 30 miles were intense climbing towards the pine tree covered mountains passing Agave fields left and right, the thing about climbing for 30 miles straight up is that it puts your body in a new position on the bike. Problem with new positions on the bike is that your butt rubs on the seat in a new way and the spot that you have already worn to the level of tough leather is not anymore the spot getting the action. A new saddle sore is born, Hallelujah!
The view and the fresh air was worth the sore butts, all of a sudden (in 5 hours) we were surrounded by pine trees galore. It felt like we were riding over one of the passes crossing the Cascade Mountains in Oregon. The air smelled like home. We truly enjoyed riding in the cool air of the high altitude in this beautiful setting but the day was coming to an end and the sun was about to set. Just when we were bombing down the mountain, I spotted on the side of the road an old man smiling at us in front of his house. I quickly yelled to K.G to reduce the speed from the speed of sound and to pull over. I made my way back up the hill a bit to talk to him and ask if we could camp in his yard, he said we could and started showing some spots to pitch our tent. After multiple options we decided to camp on the patio of his brother's house since he wasn't home. Oscar was the man's name and he and his family owned a little store attached to their house to cater for the people passing by on the busy highway leading over the mountains between the cities of Morelia and Ciudad Hidalgo. One thing to consider when camping close to a road in Mexico is to avoid the downhill sections, trucks here have incredibly loud air brakes, it's almost like they have Metallica's sound system attached to them. Just when I was in full sleep mode dreaming of shiny bike parts I was rudely woken up by what sounded like a machine gun the size of a Walmart, I could see the driver in my mind grinning at us and saying " Wake up suckers!"
The next morning we thanked Oscar and his family and finished the rest of the downhill, all the way to the city of Ciudad Hidalgo, this was also the first time since Alaska that we were wearing our puffy jackets due to the cold morning high up in the mountains. In Ciudad Hidalgo we stopped to grab a bite and ask for directions on what route to take up to the mountains to see the Monarch Butterflies, we got quite a few directions that seemed to all be very different from each other. Every time we talked to someone they would ask us where we're from, I tell them I'm from Finland and most people don't have a clue where it is and Kristen is from Canada due to recent "tensions" between USA and Mexico. This is something she doesn't do lightly, by no means is happy not to tell where she is from.
I was desperately hunting for a Oxxo ( Like a SevenEleven ) for a coffee and once finding one and pulling in to the parking lot we met Javier, Javier turned out to be a great source of information on how to get to the butterflies and insisted on buying us coffees. After we had detailed directions on how to get to see millions of flapping wings we headed up the mountains, climb was intense but beautiful. I guess you have to work for the view. Once we reached our destination, Ocampo, we had already gotten a message on our phone from our friend Javier, he met us downtown and helped us wheel and deal with the owner of a cheap hotel in town. He rode his bike 30 miles just to help and hangout with us with no hidden agendas. That's Mexico.
The next day we woke up early to catch the first minibus at 7am to the butterfly sanctuary, it turns out that the first minibus leaves at 8am. Classic Mexico! Once we got up to the Sanctuary we still had good 45 min hike up in cold mountain weather to find the hiding butterflies. It was worth the shivering cold jaunt up to 9 400 ft/2865 m to see the Monarch Butterflies that have made it all the way to Central Mexico from Western Canada to meet up with their homies and make babies, yes that it the official National Geographic's description. We were bummed we couldn't see them flying around since it was too cold for them to do nothing else than great massive clusters of butterflies hugging each other to stay warm. Just seeing that was awesome so we left feeling happy to have climbed all the way up there to see these beautiful creatures that have traveled almost the same distance as we have. Have a great journey back to Canada buddies, may the currents be at your back!
Gee gully whiskers we had a blast flying down the mountain, passing logging trucks that were loaded up so full you couldn't fit a hair between. Here's a video of the rollercoaster!
After the down hill came the uphill, this one was 17 miles long! We got almost to the top when the sun was setting and I asked a farmer if we could camp on his field. He said no problem, pitch the tent wherever. We found a spot that we liked, pitched the tent and crawled in to hide from the cold night. We were almost asleep when 2 men with flashlights woke us up, they were telling us we were camping in a bad spot and should move. I asked what was wrong with the spot and they told us there were some bad hombres wandering around and that we should camp closer to where they were camping since they had guns. Telling a stranger that you have guns doesn't always make them feel safer, that was the case with us too but we still decided to take down the tent and move to a safer area code. It turned out that Enrique and Antonio were hired by the farmer to guard the tractor and rest of the equipment on the field. We ended up sleeping just fine but I was so restless that I woke up every time a cricket farted. In the morning before taking off we thanked the guys and gave them Snickers bars for snacks.
By late afternoon we reached Toluca, we did get thrown out of the toll road first time in Mexico but ended up riding just fine on the free road even though it did have substantially smaller shoulder for us. We had written to Warm Showers host Guillermo (from Mexico) and his wife Janelle (USA) about staying with them, we wrote them from Guadalajara and estimated that we would get to their house on the 11th. We ended up getting here on the 18th due to the kindness of Mexicans along the way. We did keep them updated on our progress and luckily since they've done a lot of bike touring they understood exactly what was going on. Guillermo (Memo) and Janelle live in a beautiful house a little outside of downtown Toluca with their 2 kids Anna and Mito. We've had a great time hanging out with them sharing travel stories and getting lots of good info for the road ahead.
From Toluca we made a 3 day trip by bus to Mexico City where we got to see all the sights we were hoping for, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Museum of Anthropology and Diego Rivera's murals in one of the government buildings. We stayed with 2 different Warm Showers host in the city. First with Tomas (Argentina), he is doing his PhD in Mexico City on renewable energy, thank you for thinking and working for future generations Tomas! He lives with his wife Ursula (Mexico) and we had a blast staying with them and had a great dinner laughing our worn out butts with their friends brainstorming on business ideas on how to make Pajarete the national drink. The next 2 nights we stayed with Nelly and Erik in the southern part of the city, Nelly is a teacher and Erik drives Uber. They made time in their busy schedules to show us around the cool & hip parts of the city and we got to taste more traditional dishes that we would've never found out on our own. I could describe you the city but it's better to see our pictures, or even better come and see it yourself. It is awesome! The public transportation system works like a charm and there is enough things to see for multiple weeks.
Yesterday we returned and we held a speech at the local university for one of the classes Memo teaches. The students seemed to enjoy hearing our stories and no one was sleeping while these 2 yahoos were ranting and raving about the beauty of traveling by bike. We had fun sharing our stories and hopefully inspired someone to jump on the bike for even a short ride to the next town.
Tomorrow we're heading towards Cuernavaca and from there to Oaxaca. I attached a Google Map with a route that is not quite like ours (instead of 5 758 miles we've actually covered 7 100 miles) but it gives you a pretty good idea on where we are and where we've come from.
Yours Truly, Justin Bieber.
But before we jump to Morelia, we had two very eventful stops first, San Juan Cosala and La Isla. We arrived in San Juan Cosala to visit with Peter and Madeleine and ended up staying a week dancing, eating, learning to play pickle ball, swimming in their club pool, hiking, and just plain relaxing. It was such a treat, big thanks to you both for having us in your beautiful place! We also took a bus for one day into Guadalajara to walk around and see the city, much easier than trying to bike through the city. Ville met a guy near the Cathedral in the city center to juggle a football/soccer ball with and we ate the best chile rellenos plate (so good we had 2 plates) in the largest indoor market in Latin America, Mercado San Juan de Dios. When it was finally time to leave, Peter joined us for the ride east to Chapala and up the climb out towards Guadalajara. We had the plan to camp a night and head the rest of the way north to La Isla, but decided to push through the 90 miles and arrived by dark pretty wasted and without even having an address, in front of our friend Samuel's home. What luck!
Samuel is a friend from Bend who happened to be down visiting his family in La Isla, a very small town in the farmland and hills near Ayotlan (about 80ish miles east of Guadalajara.) Since only corresponding with his daughter, Denise back in Bend, and niece, Isis who was in La Isla, we were not sure how convenient our visit would be for Samuel and his family. What a fantastic stop and time we had with the entire Segoviano family that made up almost the entire town and their friends! We thought we might stay a day and every day we said we would leave they had another party, get-together, fiesta, sigh-seeing trip, tequila drinking fest planned. Not only were we given the royal tour by everyone, we have been completely taken in as family and have promised many returns. We send many many warm hugs and thank yous to all of you that made our time in La Isla special and look very much forwards to seeing you all again after this crazy bike tour.
One of the mornings in La Isla, vaquero (cowboy) Oscar and his wife Sol had us over with a group of friends to have a taste of our first pajarete. Oscar mixed coffee, sugar, chocolate, and alcohol in our cups and then after locking one of their cows in a chute with grain, filled the remainder of the glasses with fresh warm cows milk straight from the udder. It was so delicious we had 2 for breakfast! And still tipsy, we headed by car with Samuel, Isis, Chuy (Isis's little tyke) and Gabriel (Isis's dad and Samuel's brother) to San Juan de Los Lagos and Arandas for a day of sighseeing, eating ourselves silly, and being showered with gifts for the road. When we finally had to pull the plug and keep on keepin' on, we had some sad goodbyes, but were very grateful for coming. And an hour up the road we stopped at our new friend Alex's butcher shop for a bunch of dried meat for the road.
We had a rough patchwork of roads, very bumpy roads, dirt roads, most with no shoulder, on the way into La Isla and much of the same all the way back south east heading towards Morelia. After a night of camping in a cow pasture surrounded by cactus, we pushed on a full day to arrive just outside Morelia to discover it was a massive city (around a million people) and as the shoulder ended and it was getting dark, we decided better to get a motel and ride the last few miles into the city center when it wasn't dark with zooming traffic going by us. Ville scored us a super cheap auto motel; you can pay hourly or stay the whole night, pull your car into a garage no one can see, the reception is behind mirrored glass, and a whole channel of free porn and the rest of the channels were sports. Although, they are very clean and a killer deal for a spacious room complete with shampoo, soap, and even towels.
After late checkout, we rode the few miles in a bit less chaotic traffic into the city and just as we pulled over to check the phone for directions, a cyclist rode up and asked if he could help us. Ville asked for a cheap place to stay (maybe a place without a free porn channel) and he told us to follow him. Pedro, took us to a couple places and found us a hostel right in the heart of the city center and then after dropping our bags, we followed him to his restaurant to have breakfast. Pedro has the coolest little Italian restaurant, Restaurant Palermo, just south of the city center, and when we arrived, he made us fruit and yogurt and eggs with garlic olive oil and toast. And as if we weren't already beaming with gratitude, he insisted that he was so happy to meet us. That he was suppose to have showed up to open the restaurant earlier, but overslept and just made it in front of the passing train to meet us. Destiny! Still in amazement almost daily how we meet these people that are all so incredibly special and we are able to be on this journey sharing our time/lives together. That is what life is really about for Ville and I, the people. The bikes are only the cheap transportation to get us to these people and moments we are sharing.
After breakfast, Pedro took us to a great bike shop, En Eje Del Ciclismo, where the owners were so thrilled to hear of our journey they gave us a discount on Ville's chain, installed it, and threw in a free patch kit. This bike shop is awesome for any cyclists out there heading through Morelia, thanks guys! And Ville and I left bikes and headed out exploring the city center by foot before heading back to Pedro's restaurant for an authentic fine dinner of a special cilantro sauce on jicama followed by homemade pesto pasta, bread, sangria and a fruit/nut/cheese desert! What a treat! And after, he took us on a wild sightseeing tour of the city by bike. Pedro is the happiest most positive bloke we have met (o.k. there have been quite a few, but he is at the top of the pile), and always smiling, put a positive spin on everything. We couldn't have asked for a better tour guide. We stopped at a trendy new beer and food warehouse for beers and then after leaving bikes at our hostel, walked to his friend's restaurant/hotel/home to have beers and chat.
Victor and Josue are engineers that have lived in the city most or all of their lives with some of the most incredible stories to tell. Victor gave us a tour of his hotel and home that puts many multi-million dollar Bend homes to shame. His attention to fine detail and construction is unreal and well worth a stay at the hotel, La Casa De Las Rosas, when you are in Morelia. Victor had an assortment of bull fighting photos hung behind his bar on the wall, which we then learned they were of him. We also spotted a photo of Victor on the set of a popular t.v. show set on the same wall.
Josue, after we had a few mescal shots, spoke of his experiences as a professional bull fighter, where the animal and man truly come together in an even matched fight to the death. He had been gored by a bull and broke his neck in three places where somehow he miraculously healed from and is back to good health. He has changed professions to owning a construction company and teaches classes on bull fighting instead, but spoke of how crazy one feels when in the ring with a pissed off bull. And how your fear, and how to harness that fear, is what keeps you alive to fight another day and another bull. Victor used to be one of the highest judges of bull fighting in his day and we couldn't have been more pumped to meet all these great people and hear their stories. We are hoping to get to go learn how to bull fight from Josue before we leave town.
After a few beers and tour, we all headed to Pedro's friend's restaurant and bar, Dos52, where we listened to booty-shakin' live toons, chatted, laughed, drank mescal and beer until we all stumbled home at five this morning! Throughout the night, the band had joined our table, other patrons, the owner and her sister, and we had the most welcoming night of friends in Morelia. These two old farts should not be staying up drinking until five in the morning anymore, and it took a full day of recovery after. Last night Pedro took us to get gazpacho (very popular chopped fruit cup mixed with cheese, hot sauce and salt/pepper) and this morning to his friend, Leonorilda's restaurant for a phenominal breakfast of meats, beans, tortillas, salsas, and we even shared shots of mescal and sweet corn cakes. Marceva Fonda is another must visit restaurant when in town! Thanks to destiny and Pedro, we are enjoying our stay in Morelia with new friends and will keep on keepin' on...until next time. Adios.
People of Morelia peacefully protesting against the recent immigration regulations and import tax implemented by the new US government
The youngish Mexican guy rode past me, Kristen, standing with our bikes outside a small shop while Ville was inside buying water, and when I nodded and said, "buenos tardes" he spun around and rode up to me asking where we were heading (this in Spanish, because people speak Spanish here in Mexico). I told him "Argentina" just as Ville came out and he was so excited to talk to us about our ride and show us pictures of his bicycle group there in Ixtlan del Rio on his phone. Ville asked for recommendations on a cheap motel and taco shop to eat at and the boy, Angel, invited us to follow him back to his house to eat. Super sweet of him, we filled our water bags and headed off behind Angel through the town. This was after a long hard day of hill climbing in baking heat along the 15D, after leaving our good friends, Greg and Lee in Tepic.
After leaving the Baja, the mainland of Mexico has been an insane amount of climbing in pretty intense heat. We filled our bags with rehydration packets from the pharmacy to add to our water and try and help to stay hydrated on the long grueling days of heat, but it's almost a losing battle. The moment we suck down water, we watch as it pours down our face and soaks our clothes. And on top of that, for some reason I, Kristen, have taken to getting intense nose bleeds every single day for some unknown reason. Either from the change of weather or the stress of constant traffic zooming inches from the handle bars, I don't know. But are just hoping that it will straighten itself out somehow and the weather might cool off somewhat.
Arriving outside Angel's home, we walked our bikes through to the back yard and sat inside at the table in the single roomed home with dirt floors and concrete walls. His mom made us a tomato soup with noodles and tortillas and we ate and Ville chatted a bit in his ever improving Spanish. After, Ville offered him some money for food and he was almost offended he offered and told us we were his guests. He pulled out his cycling jerseys and vests and was so proud of his cycling group. After the meal, he led us to a hotel on the second story off the main square in downtown Ixtlan del Rio. One of the cheapest hotels we had found in Mexico, Ville paid for the night and Angel helped us carry up all our bags and bikes to the room. Then took us on a walking tour of his town and introduced us to his friend, a lady in his bicycle group, who makes hand-made sweets she sells in a cart at the square. She loaded us up with bags of goodies and then also refused our money, throwing it back at us and insisting it is a gift.
After heading back to the hotel to shower and hand wash our clothes, we met back up with Angel and his friend to walk to the square where their bicycle group, Ixtlan en Bici, was meeting up for a night ride. It was incredible! One of the group leaders had bungee-corded a large speaker to the back of his bicycle and with a microphone introduced Ville and I to the large group of mainly kids and young teens all on various kinds of bikes. We posed for a photo and they were so excited to hear about our bike trip. Then Angel presented Ville with his very own Ixtlan en Bici bike shirt and they headed out for their night ride.
The next morning, the elder nightwatchman asked Ville where we were headed and to be very careful because the president was speaking on his little handheld radio about Trump, and he was worried about us and our safety. While I, Kristen, waited outside with the bikes, an elderly man walked up to me and asked if I am American. I said that I was from Finland. And he walked away. I felt really saddened that I had to lie about my own nationality. We walked with Angel to a local breakfast hall and bought him breakfast to thank him for his hospitality. We gifted him with a We Lost The Map Bracelet and he hugged us both as he headed off on his bike to his job in a veterinary office.
Once back on the bikes on the 15 D toll road and heading towards Tequila, my mind was swirling with thoughts and emotions I was having a hard time letting go of. When I tried to talk to Ville about it, just to process through it all, I found I kept getting choked up and tears were running down my face. Ville and I try very hard to respect others and their opinions and stay out of politics, but this is not just politics anymore, we are in it! We can't just turn off the news and ignore social media and keep our opinions to ourselves. We are bicycling through Mexico and USA (Trump), has decided to build a wall between USA and Mexico and make the Mexicans pay for it by imposing a tax on goods coming into the US from Mexico. After spending a month and a half bicycling through Baja and mainland Mexico, we have had nothing but kind, welcoming, positive experiences with Mexicans and the people living in Mexico. So we are at a complete loss to know what to say, do, behave, help, and all while reverting to speaking in Finnish and saying we are both from Finland or Canada.
After a very long, emotional day on the bikes, we arrived in Tequila, checked into a hotel and went to bed. The next morning, our Canadian friends Greg and Lee drove from Tepic to meet us to spend the day checking out distilleries and drinking Tequila. First we drove to Miravalle Distillery, Home of Azunia Tequila in Amatitan, where our friends Rick, Brenda, and Jim had set up a tour of the distillery for us. Really fascinating to see the whole process of making Tequila and we were gifted with a couple bottles of really good tequila at the end. Thanks so much all of you for a fun Tequila experience! After we drove back to Tequila where Greg and Lee took us to La Alborada Distillery to sample a bunch of different tequilas and we watched a large group of college kids whom had gathered from all over the world, whack at a pinata while having a hysterically good time.
On our walk back to the hotel, we were ambushed by a group of Guadalajarans who pushed beers in our hands and insisted we dance in the streets with them. These happy Mexicans really know how to party! We all took turns dancing and posed for a bunch of photos and then we said our goodbyes to Greg and Lee as they headed back to Tepic and we headed to bed. Just before bed, Ville headed out for a short walk and returned upset because a very sweet little black dog had followed him for blocks and jumped in his lap for loves and now was waiting outside the hotel for him. It's pretty hard to see so many stray dogs in Mexico and not want to rescue so many of them, but while on a bicycle tour through numerous countries, we cannot. We hope in Tequila, a bit of a wealthier town than some of the towns we have biked through, Ville's little buddy will have someone take him in.
The next days ride took us east back through Amatitan and then south through fields and dirt paths onto highways where there was less cars thanks to it being a Sunday. In Mexico, Sundays are Family Days and most Mexicans spend the day together in parks, beaches, back yards and such and leaving less drivers on the road. We have found that Google Maps Bike Routes are horrible in Mexico, many times taking us a "short cut" through a town that the road turns into farm roads a lot of times that just dead-end or are really unsuitable for biking on, like gravel, sand, and boulder fields. But we managed to get as far as Santa Cruz de las Flores where Ville asked a man where we might find cheap accommodation. A very elderly man, who was very dirty, with an old broken bike, missing most his teeth, but with a very sweet smile gave us very detailed directions to find a nearby hotel. Then he offered to show us, but said he would not be as fast because of his bike. We followed him up over a walkway overpass, down a couple streets where there was a sign for a hotel. We profusely thanked him and when Ville offered him money he refused and said, "next time." He was embarrassed to shake our hands because his were so dirty, but we insisted and asked to take a photo of him (to add to our Kindness page.) Both Ville and I almost moved to tears by this mans incredible kindness and refusing money, just helping us to be a kind person.
The hotel was actually even cheaper than the last, at only $6.50 a night, and filled with lots of semi truck drivers. Excited to get to Lake Chapala and see our friends Peter and Madeleine, we got up early and hit the road after a quick breakfast street taco stop. There was a group of men there who were really excited to chat about our ride and asked if we still like each other so far? They wished us a safe journey, as has been with most of the Mexican people we have encountered, and off we headed the last 25 miles into San Juan Juan Cosala where our friends live. We spent a relaxing day catching up with our Canadian friends, both whom we met on Vancouver Island where they had been Warmshowers hosts to us there, and are now able to visit them at their winter place on Lake Chapala.
We are hoping to take a few days rest off our bikes, maybe make a bus trip into Guadalajara to see the sights (we have read how not bike friendly Guadalajara is being such a large congested city), and catch up with our friends before heading back on the road going east towards Mexico City. Thanks all for your love and support on this journey and keep spreading love and kindness. Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
The last time we were on a ferry, BC Ferries, was in British Columbia. Once we arrived back in La Paz following our tour of the tip of Baja, we biked up to the ferry terminal about 12 miles north of the city and met the BC Ferry, now Baja California Ferries. The boat is the size of a small cruise ship, very clean, and we even booked our own cabin for $35 extra. This was worth it for us not to have to listen to karaoke until midnight up in the lounge or a blaring TV where the passengers are seated in chairs much like airline seats. Oddly enough, we had to clear customs even though we were not crossing any border, but the guy seemed very unconcerned with the mace Ville was carrying and just chatted us up instead of X-Raying our bags. On the boat, we stood in line for our free meal at the cafeteria, listened to some eccentric karaoke, and watched as the guys pulled up the ropes and the ship shoved off at 8 pm. Once at sea, these old farts went to bed. After all, 8 p.m. is late for camping cyclists that go to bed soon after the sun goes down. Our cabin had separate small beds, no window, but with a bathroom and even a shower! We arrived at exactly 8 a.m. and disembarked with Curtis and Jenny, other cycling friends on the same ride we had met earlier on, and cycled through Mazatlan together heading to a cheap motel to stay.
Once Curtis and Jenny and we had checked into rooms, Ville and I headed out for breakfast and to explore the town of Mazatlan. We spent the 2 whole days walking all over the old city, along the Malecon, up to the top of tower hill and the lighthouse hill and ate lots of great food. The buildings were really colorful, the people incredibly friendly, and the town alive with music and theater. On our last evening in town, we attended a Women's March along the Malecon for women's rights and human rights. Felt empowering for a moment to realize there are a lot of people out there globally who care about loving thy neighbor and treating all humans with love and respect. We are a part of that movement.
After riding south out of Mazatlan, we wound through the chaotic streets until finding the toll road or quota. For two and a half days we were on this road, two of which were pretty flat along the marsh land of the coastal area with intermittent mango groves. In complete contrast to Baja of dry, cool desert, with a ton of wind, and minimal climbs we are now in very hot, humid mountains with perpetual climbing. What use to be a full day on the bikes of 60-80 miles and felt fine, we now are completely wiped out after 40-45 miles. And since the toll road bypasses all the small towns, we are struggling to stay hydrated and find enough water. But the shoulder has been spectacular and the traffic could not be more amazing and inspiring! The giant semi trucks are almost always moving over and giving us room as well as the cars, all while honking, waving, cheering, and flashing their lights to alert other drivers of us on the road. Every town we do ride through we are constantly greeted by people on the street, smiling, waving, and telling us "buen viaje" (good travels) or "mucho suerte" (much/good luck). We couldn't be surrounded by kinder people.
On our second days ride out of Mazatlan, we had pulled over at a gas station to get water (which there was hardly any) and met an awesome couple, Greg and Lee, from Ontario, Canada. They were kind enough to give us some water and told us they live in Tepic and invited us to come see them on our way through the next day. Since we only had 20 miles into Tepic and the road had been only flat to mild rolling hills, we were excited for a short day. Wrong! It was over 3,000 feet of climbing in under 20 miles. By the time we showed up, we were completely soaked in sweat and completely spent. Greg and Lee welcomed us into their home, let us shower, do laundry and stay a day to drive us around and do much needed errands. Thank you both so much for all your kindness and generosity!
Tepic was a much larger city than we had imagined and lucky for us to have locals showing us around, were able to see so much of the sights. After so many touristy towns on the Baja and Mazatlan, it was great to finally be in a city wandering around that we were the only white skinned people we saw the entire time. Riding out of Tepic, will be a lot more heat and climbing, but we have a plan to try and meet up with Greg and Lee in 2 days ride in Tequila for some distillery tours and party! Until then, keep on keepin' on...
The last couple weeks have been one big party, with a bit of biking in between. But mainly relaxing, spending time with great friends and fun in the sun. It was much needed. Baja was a rough ride. Lots of sand, not a lot of water or food stops, and a thousand miles of it. Since our ferry leaves tonight out of La Paz, we had no need to cycle more south, but we wanted to see friends and celebrate the end of the Baja and it was well worth the trip!
In El Pescadero, Jesse and Sherri spoiled us rotten. They lent us a vehicle to get to the beach with a surfboard, lounge chairs and cooler in tow. We hit up the local farms for fresh produce and lobster and they chefed it up every breakfast and dinner. They took us sightseeing in Todos Santos, rescued turtles, snorkeled, drank a lot of margaritas , and met lots of their great friends. We had a complete blast and we thank you both like crazy! Expect a visit again when this crazy ride is complete.
Next we rode to Cabo San Lucas (a decent shoulder and along the coast but hotter than the surface of the sun) where we met up with Rick and Brenda who drove us out to their place in La Fortuna and also showed us a great time. Ville surfed, we swam in their pool, played with their pups, toured San Jose del Cabo and ate like kings. They had some neighbors over for dinner and a whole slew of friends stop in on Jeeps on a Poker tour. We were connected with Rick and Brenda through a friend from home, Tony, and my cousins in Orange County, Jeff and G.K. and now consider them friends of ours. As they hopped a plane home, we biked north to Los Barriles where Rick and Brenda have a hotel and insisted we stay. The road was fairly pleasant and meandering but with no shoulder and little traffic. And man, what a treat when we arrived at the hotel!!
The Agave Hotel in Los Barriles was magical! After all our tenting it and splurging on cheap motels we shared with Ryan and Lydia (although a great bonding experience), it was SO great to have our own cushy bed in our own room right next to the pool and ocean. We were lulled to sleep every night by the waves and kayaked, swam, walked on the beach, cruised through town and just relaxed! When we arrived we met a great group of Canadians who welcomed us to dinner and fattened us up. Thanks all of you for fun conversations and great food! If your looking for a easy place to get away with relaxation in mind, check this place out. It was awesome. Thank you Rick and Brenda!!
It was a very sad day when we had to pack up our bikes and get back on the saddles heading northwest back to La Paz. A lot of steep hill climbing up and down and then headwinds on our homestretch to La Paz. By the time we made it through the miles of busy La Paz traffic to our motel, we were both wrecked. Today is our big day leaving Baja and heading by ferry to Mazatlan and the mainland Mexico. If any of you will be in our path, hit us up! Would love to see friendly faces. Otherwise, keep following and keep on keepin' on...
K.G. & Ville
Made it to Santiago, Panama. We are back baby!
“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
Make a Difference!
Together, let's send this girl to Argentina!
Help us directly with PayPal or Credit Card