It has been quite a journey these last few days. We are finally, officially in Southern Mexico if you can believe it! This area is alternately incredibly mountainous and incredibly flat with famously strong winds. We feel proud to have conquered both the climbs and the wind. Our few days crossing the narrowest part of Mexico – the isthmus – included the windiest riding we have ever experienced on a bicycle. Our final climb to San Cristobal (accomplished just two days ago) rates as our hardest climb ever.
We can divide this portion of our trip into three sections: the ‘descent’ from Oaxaca, the crossing of the isthmus, and our entry into the mountains of Chiapas. Each of them could be a post of their own, but I did manage to condense the first two into this update. You’ll have to wait another day to read about our entry into Chiapas though, sorry!
First, the ‘descent’ from Oaxaca City.
I use the word ‘descent’ cautiously to describe our three day journey from Oaxaca, at 5,000′, to sea level. I do this because we had to climb over 6,000′ in the process! While in Oaxaca we spent far more money than usual, so we jokingly decided to try and spend as little as possible for the next week. We later abandoned this idea when faced with a rainstorm and tired legs, but by sheer lack of services we ended up spending next to nothing anyway! We stopped early on our first night out of the city in a tiny town after getting rained on during a sinuous descent. Of course, the town had no hotel but in the process of asking for one we found a simple room attached to a restaurant. For $7 we had an indoor camping spot, a shower, and a bathroom.
The very best part of the room was the company. Three little kids aged 2, 4, and 6 were
fascinated with our stuff and kept us company as we made and ate dinner. After dinner we were surprised by yet another festival! This time it was a street parade / fundraiser for some purpose. We are not sure at all, we just know that a live band and about half the town was wandering the streets asking for donations and dancing. We were immediately spotted as possibly the only gringos to ever stay in town, and forced to dance along with them. What a riot!
Our next day riding was utterly exhausting, but also lovely. We climbed 5,000′ total as we rose out of one river valley and descended into another repeatedly. It was threatening dark when we reached a teeny town called ‘La Reforma’ where we got permission to camp at the town basketball court. Miraculously, they opened up a bathroom for us and there was free satellite Wifi! Of course, there were also fireworks at 5:30 am. The morning was salvaged by a man selling sweet bread from his truck. Yum!
The last part of our descent was finally pure downhill! It was a joy to blast out of the mountains with a tailwind. We ate too much fruit at a fruteria, and drank too much horchata and coconut water in a market town. It was beautiful.
The overdose of fresh drinks marked the end of the ‘escape from Oaxaca’ and the beginning of our crossing of the Isthmus. We had a mere 26 flat km (about 15 miles) to cross before reaching our intended destination… but it took us nearly 2.5 hours and had us wondering if we should get a ride.
What? The Philtrons thinking about a ride?! Don’t worry, we didn’t get one, but we did think about it! You see, the wind was immensely powerful, and directly from the side. This means that we had to lean far to the side just to stay straight, and every time a large vehicle passed we would be suddenly sucked toward it by the difference in wind. We quickly decided to simply stop riding every time a truck or bus neared. In this way we crept slowly but safely towards our destination.
The Isthmus is the narrowest portion of Mexico, and also the only portion where the mountains cease for a brief space. The winds from the Gulf of Mexico rush through this gap and rage through the flat lands on the Pacific Coast. We rode through this area on flat, straight roads while being gusted by the wind in all directions. It was neat to be surrounded by towering wind turbines, and frustrating too to be practically blown backward at times. We had the good fortune to stay with a host at the end of our windy day. Rodrigo, Lupita, and their three sons gave us a warm welcome. We spent the evening chatting and watching YouTube videos with the kids. It is amazing how much 4 and 6 year-olds know about technology!
After our overnight at Rodrigo’s home we once more headed into the mountains, but this time in a new state: Chiapas. This is Mexico’s southernmost state, and is known for more mountains, jungles, rainforest, Mayan ruins, and its vibrant indigenous inhabitants. So far, we have mostly experienced the mountains. Unfortunately for you, you will have to wait for tomorrow to hear about this next part of our trip!
Here are a few more photos that give more of a snapshot into our experience here: