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...
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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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