Sunday, February 4, 2018

México - Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas


Guerrero is the state I have heard the worst about, fortunately for me the only negative that occurred with me was some mild food poisoning.

La Saladita
My first town of Guerrero was Playa La Saladita.
There were some of the longest lasting waves I've ever seen surfed. Small and weak they required a long board.

As it turned out, I camped just a few yards up from where turtles were nesting. In the late morning they just started popping out of the sand and scrambling towards the water.

I've seen these around different parts of Mexico: roosters bred to fight. Terrible.

I met a young expat in Troncones who was managing a cliff sunset bar. I asked her if she knew of a good place to stay in Zihuatanejo. She says check out loma bonita, a house converted to hotel rooms.  I investigate online to find nothing but a street name associated with that name. Arriving on my bike I find the street, cruise down it for a little while, find a sign of 'casa loma bonita'. I buzz the ringer and after explaining my purpose to a voice calling from way  up a steep set stairs,  she buzzes the door open for me. Walking up cliff side steps to a outdoor living room looking out over the bay, I'm immediately impressed.   Talking with the young woman with a baby hanging from her exposed breast I give her the quick scoop on my travels and she quotes me $50/night for a room. With that equaling my daily budget I told her I could only do $20/n but I'd be staying for 4 nights. 
Before agreeing we go have a look at the room. 
I walk with her up to a room to find this view. 

I could not have been more happily surprised for my planned rest period: a king sized bed, refrigerator, tucked between the downtown markets and beach,  with a view I could hang out with for a while. When she said '400 pesos, okay', I knew I had just scored one of the best deals I've found in Mexico.

From the other side of the bay
Some very modern tourist infrastructure in this 10 story building climbing up the cliff.

Turns out I left Zihuatanejo a couple days too early after a mild case food poisoning. I had 1.5 days of cycling with náusea, stomach upset and exhaustion, triggered again by temps into 90s and full sun, I think. After finally taking some Chinese herbs and hitting up a watermelon stand (an herb in Chinese medicine for overheating) I started to feel a lot better. It was the following afternoon (after minimal mosquito ridden sleep in the living room of a family that invited me in for the night) that about 4 days of anorexia caught up with me and my deficient state caused some of the worst leg cramping I've ever experienced. About 35 miles into the ride I developed annoying and mildly painful cramping in my legs. Unable to stand up on the pedals, for fear of my quads locking up, I managed through about 10 miles until reaching the outskirts of Acapulco (where I was headed) that my legs failed and started to seize up on the bike. I managed to clutch my calf and pry it out of a cramp before I stopped rolling and fell off the side of my bike in busy traffic 😯.  Got plenty of stares as I groaned aloud...

At my accommodations a bit later I setup a massage with an employee.  She showed up with another woman (maybe from previous issues with guys?) who soon got bored and started on my legs as well. Didn't matter that they had no idea what they were doing, for $10 it felt pretty good. 😎
I had a hard time finding a place to stay in a small town after a longer than expected day. As luck would have it a man on a motorcycle took interest in me, saying he had seen me earlier in the day and soon offered to put me in his sister's house nearby. Leary at first I said let's grab a juice so I could better get a sense   of him. After a bit I discerned he was legit and accepted his offer. I ended up meeting his extended family around town and had dinner with some of his family.
Passing through Acapulco
I was advised by a number of people to avoid Acapulco. Ensconced within the mountains, it was climbing to enter the city and climbing to exit. The exit was one of most treacherous sections of my trip. It involved a very steep 2 mile incline with speeding traffic and mostly no shoulder. I had to sprint up from one driveway/landing to another between bursts of traffic. It was both stressful and exhausting.
The downhill was pretty fun, though...

After a couple days of uneventful cycling I crossed into Oaxaca.

A fellow I met weeks earlier mentioned to me the name Chacahua. Unable to determine what it was I resolved to go to a town near by and see what I could figure out. I met a couple people  who said it involved boat ride and that it was worth the trip.... 

With no pavement and only 2 or 3 cars on the entire island, this was definitely off the beaten track. A place still mostly undiscovered by tourism.

Puerto Escondido
Arriving Puerto Escondido I was feeling really good, like I'd found a really nice rhythm to it all, comfortable and confident.
I found some of the chocolate that inspired Tazo chocolate in Boston, characterized by the rough, dusty texture.
La Punta de Zicatela
This is one my favorite spots in my trip so far.
Great travelor vibes without being touristy. It also had some of the best food I've had so far and cheap. You hear of many places with a reputation for being the best fish tacos "in the world". Well Kokos in La Punta de Zicatela gets my vote as the best in the world. Great quality, solid portion for $2.25 and had both mango and pineapple salsa/chutney.
Then there was a little vegetable shop that sold juice. Passion fruit juice and coconut horchata. Both super yum! I probably drank 5 liters in 2 days.

This town was the finale in nudism that started a few beach towns earlier. Apparently Zipolite is the home of a nudist festival in early February. It was a beautiful beach with good, open minded hippie vibes.
So many juice options!

Puerto Angel
Just a few Ks from Zipolite, I cycled here for the day. One of the most beautiful beaches I've seen on my trip. Funny it's called cemetery beach...
By this point my legs are feeling super strong, unfazed by pretty much anything thrown at me them days. Feels great!! This is a sense of the coastal profile.
Here in Oaxaca

You can see in the map above how narrow Mexico becomes just ahead of the pin. In this same region there is also a gap in Sierra Madre mountain through which high pressure in the gulf of Mexico flows over land into the pacific. This airflow makes for some amazing wind.
I have never experienced wind like the 2 or 3 days it took me to pass through this region. I cycled North+East with CONSTANT winds blowing from the North at least 20-30mph and gusts whipping much harder than that.  Cycling North into the wind was arduous, it forced me into my lowest gears and down to 4-5mph. When turning East and cycling directly across the wind I found myself fighting the wind to stay on the road. After battling the wind and being thrown off the side of the road for a 2nd time, I ended up walking a good bit of the of the day. And even then the wind almost blew my bike out of my hands.
Around 530pm I finally turned slightly south so I could ride the wind a bit instead of only fighting it.
Given the abundance of wind, I was happy to find myself in wind farms. It was so odd to see NONE of the turbines spinning. I've since come learn the winds were so strong that they stop the turbines so they don't wear out.

This region is also where an 8.2 earthquake struck about 4 months ago. I passed through a number of places with damage but I found myself in a small town so badly damaged it was like the city had been bombed. There was rubble everywhere. It was surreal. While there were still people around, I saw no shops/active commerce nor nearly enough manpower to rebuild.

I did 62 miles in 4 a couple days later, 15mph,even with temps up to 105. Versus the wind a couple days ago when I did 53 miles in 6.5 hours, 8mph. What a difference the wind makes....

Entering my last Mexican state, Chiapas
You never know what you'll come across on the side of the road, but I sure do like when it is fresh cut fruit. Despite spending their days on the side of the highway, these guys seemed to be having fun, laughing and joking around.
My path moved away from the coast, flanked on my left by the Sierra Madre mountains and became pretty unremarkable.
With temps typically up around 100f during the day,when I pass by a small town I often seek out a popsicle shop for refreshment and a chat.
After 8 days cycling I decided to take a day off in the city of Tapachula before crossing the border into Guatemala