Central America | Mexico | Istmo & Gulf of Mexico | Chiapas | Tuxtla Gutierrez – Racing Mules and Raging Winds
I spent 6 days cycling from Oaxaca to Tuxtla. It was a beautiful ride. I made my first stop just 4kms out from Oaxaca to see a tree. Not just any tree however this is the Tule Tree found were else but in the town of Tule. The Ahuehuete tree, a type of Cypress is 42 meters around and is reported to be North America4s fattest tree. It is enormous in girth. It isn’t that tall really but its width is incredible. The age is estimated to be between 2 and 3 thousand years old. It is on the property of a church and well taken care of, it is beautiful.
I spent 3 days in the mountains climbing through beautiful hills and valleys. Mezcal country! Patches of pastel green agave dominated the valley floors. It is a major crop in these regions. One of the towns I passed through displayed a sign that read ‘mescal capitol of Mexico’. On either side of the road were little shops set up shoulder to shoulder like an old western town. Each was very eager to prove the quality of their product. The colors, the displays, the smells…I had to reach very deep inside my soul for the strength to spin through that town.
On the third day I intercepted a pack of mules crossing over to my side of the road, the hillside. I startled them as I always do. They started into a jog along side of me. Sandwiched between the hill and me. They were committed to their positions until they could find relief. It was really quite a sight and feeling to be riding along side a pack of mules. After two hundred meters or so, 5 of the 6 mules cut their pace and dropped back. One of the mules however was absolutely terrified and would not give up the race. I couldn4t determine if he was the sacrificial mule intentionally running me away from the heard or just too petrified to think. We stayed neck and neck for a good kilometer or more reaching 30km/hr constantly turning our heads inward to look each other in the eye like competitors in a race. It was just him and I and an ocean of adrenaline.
If I thought he would just give up I would have simply slowed and let him go on his way. He was running full tilt however and I was afraid he would bolt in front of me. If he did take this tactic he could have seriously damaged my bike and me. Worse than that however he could have knocked me into oncoming traffic or missed me and ran into traffic himself. In one split second he made his move. He attempted to
turn and with a great thump and a gut wrenching cry landed on his ‘ass’, legs flailing in the air. I was horrified, my heart dropped. I slowed to turn back and make sure he was OK but as fast as he dropped he was up again on all fours. Before I got turned around he was in full retreat. Teach him right for challenging a
Canadian cyclist…what the hell was he thinking? In all seriousness though it was a pretty intense race. You wont find me signing up for another one of those if I can help it.
The next day brought me into the Ismuth of Tehuantepec. Mexico4s most narrow chunk of country. I had read in my travel guide and been told by other cyclists about the wild winds in this region. The information I read received was accurate. The force of the wind along this section of HWY190 sucked up a lot of my energy. I was looking forward to some flat road after 3 days in the mountains but this was a whole new ball game.
The wind cut in at me from different directions but always with a prominent force from ahead. Mixed in with the wind were gusts that came out of seemingly nowhere as well as contributions from large passing trucks. I was blown off the road several times and several times sucked up into the air stream of passing transport trucks. During this period my upper body contributed as much as my legs. I really enjoyed the challenge. It was such a dynamic ride never knowing what was coming next or what position to be in. It was almost like being in an amusement park ride or flight simulator.
After the first days ride when I got into my hotel room for the day/night I lay on the bed and fell promptly to sleep. I was totally spent. When I rose an hour or so later the first thing that occurred to me was the silence. The wind on the road is so loud and omnipresent it makes you numb to the screaming and howling it produces, you certainly dont hear approaching traffic.
The last day in ismiuth was the most difficult. The highway passed over a mountain once again on a road that spent more time switching directions than getting anywhere. I was really enjoying the ride up on the continental divide, the wind seemed to have subsided somewhat and the scenery was terrific. Just when I was feeling a little calm in the day I heard it again, the screaming precursor to the force. Its bark was worse than its bite until I passed under a sign that read ‘Bienvendidos de Chiapas’. Ten feet beyond that sign I was blown off the road again and this time just a few feet from the cliffs edge. I don4t mind saying I was a little shaken. This was a different game with different consequences. I stayed there for a few minutes gathering my thoughts and strength and then pushed on. But pushing on meant taking the whole road, no way was I going to ride close to the edge. It also meant riding as straight on into the wind as I could,
I had to stay as narrow to the wind as possible or I would get pushed off the road again. When the road rounded again diverting the wind I could cycle a bit faster but riding straight into the wind I was only getting me 5 to 8km/hr.
I was blown off my bike again and this time had no choice but to try and walk my bike. Pushing my bike is a more accurate description. I ended up pushing my bike for a kilometer or so all the time calculating my options. At one point I thought it best to just surrender and put my thumb out. But I got back on. At one point after rounding a turn I hit a wall of wind. It didn’t knock me off my bike it simply stopped me in
My tracks, literally like cycling into a wall. I had to abandon my bike and move back. It was hard to stand up in this wind let alone move into it. I was close to surrender at this point, my thumb was at the ready but composing myself I gave it one last shot. I waited for the wind to break and I pushed on. I4m glad I did. The road came around to the other side of the mountain and although it never flared up with the same force again the wind was always present. I didnt relax for the rest of the ride, my senses worked at 200%.
In all I was knocked off the road seven times. Everyone I spoke with has told me the wind is always as strong. Folks also tell me and this is in my travel guide as well, that trucks get toppled over by the wind all the time.
Those were the toughest 3 days of my 7000km journey so far but I enjoyed them immensely. It was a true adventure for me. I don4t know that I would do it again but I4m sure glad I passed through this time.
Bye for now
Next Destination: San Cristobal
Weather: 24 – 28 degrees, cool at night, partly cloudy
Flat Tires: 4