I think everyone has been thinking about something or someone and next thing you know that thing happens or you bump into that person. I was riding along thinking that in more than 20,000 kms of riding we had not come across a road accident. That was about to change around 200 kms south of Mexico City. I had pulled off the road on a hill under a tree to get a decent drink as it was bloody hot (around 35-36 degrees and I was really feeling the heat). Next thing I hear the squealing of tyres and look to my left to see the rear side of a van (one of the Micro buses they use here to ferry people from one town to another) miss my back wheel by about a metre. I watched as if in slow motion wondering if the driver was going to recover the skid. He didn’t and the van crashed into the bank on the opposite side of the road 20m from where I was standing.
There were three men in the van including the driver and I would bet that none of them were wearing seatbelts. They all managed to walk out of the van, only one of them was complaining of bumping his head. I worried for a moment that the driver would somehow blame me for the crash but he didn’t. Other vehicles arrived and the driver quickly asked for other people to help him push the van back out onto the road. This signalled my time to make a discreet exit and I quietly cycled up the road to meet Tony. I did a little research and surprisingly found out that Mexico’s death rate on the road is 12.3 per 100,000 people (compared to New Zealand’s 8.5 and USA 10.9). This surprises me because hardly anyone wears safety belts / helmets here, the roads aren’t as good (some are downright rough) and some (most) of the vehicles are falling apart. Still, my limited observation of driving habits have shown Mexican drivers drive slower than in other countries and are generally very patient and courteous. This may be the mitigating factor for their road toll. Interesting enough Mexico’s murder rate is higher – but I digress.
The absence of cars is why we ride roads like this…
The route we picked involved plenty of big hills along its 738km length – this was not going to be a walk in the park! The closer we got to Oaxaca the more prevalent and steep the hills became. Our estimate of arriving in 7 days averaging about 100kms a day was ambitious and in reality it took us 10 days to ride the entire route. But the route delivered great scenery, interesting people and a challenge for both of us. Of the several challenges (apart from the terrain) was the heat. It got seriously hot – riding in the mid 30’s during the day. It became a relief to get above 2400m in height and get some reprieve from the heat. Out of the 9 nights on the road we camped for 8 of them staying in some of the nicest camp spots we had so far in Mexico.
The pick of our camp spots a spectacular gorge near the town of Santo Domingo Tonalta.
View down the gorge from our camp site Santo Domingo Tonalta.
San Jorge Nuchita cathedral.
One of the road hazards over here. A bull with his harem of cows. Luckily these bulls are really placid and don’t pose any problems for passing cyclists.
Locals moving their stock to new grazing.
And here’s some of the roads we travelled…
There were some areas where locals weren’t as friendly as usual. Over a period of two days we were approached by locals warning us of the dangers of passing through these parts. They warned us to be careful. One lovely young lady warned us about wild wolf / dogs that lived in the forest and that we needed to be careful when camping. She further stated she had never been camping before in her life and this was a story she had heard. For a couple of days we felt a little uneasy, but was this our skewed perception, or was there any real danger (other than normal danger when travelling)?? Were these people warning us because they were good natured, or did they want to scare us so we would leave? However the good far outweighed the bad and we met some really wonderful people who helped us on the way…
Spot the Giant!
Hugo and his Father-in-law in Yutanduchi de Guerrero.
And to top it all off we met a great group of Mountain Bikers just outside of Oaxaca who were out for a Sunday club ride. They were a great bunch of guys and one girl (who was tiny, but could ride a bike). They brought us all the way into the city. One of them, Rudolfo offered us his house to stay in and we readily accepted. They also gave us good advice about where to get some work done on my bike and where the good bike shops are. Rudolfo spoke very little English and our Spanish is still pretty basic, so our conversations revolved around the words we knew, sign language and a little Google Translate.
Where we have been…