Juchitan to San Cristobal, Uphill Headwind
Sometimes Pedaling Nowhere means pedaling uphill and into the wind…
After spending a few days recovering in the AC while watching college bowl games in a hotel in Juchitan it was time for me to attempt riding again. While the landscape leaving Juchitan is flat the area also provided something we had not dealt with yet, wind. The winds blowing south across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec are strong and we receivd numerous warnings about them and how they can blow cars off the road. Paralleling the coast as we headed South East these winds would at time literally push our bikes sideways on the sandy unpaved roads that we took to avoid the blowing cars along the main highway. The day and a half spent on these roads were hot, sandy, and bumpy. The Hotel America in San Francisco Ixhuatan and our Zapotec travelling hot dog salesmen neighbors were a welcome sight at the end of that day.
As our heading changed to take us more inland the sideways winds turned into head winds which we would be pedaling into for the next 4 days. Pedaling up Mexican mountain ranges is hard. Doing it on loaded bikes is quite difficult but combining the two with a headwind is disheartening. My hunch that the winds would calm down as we crested the first ridge of the coastal range was incorrect as the mountains only served to funnel and accelerate them right at us. A nice chicken farmer welcomed us to camp on the porch of an unfinished house that first day into the headwind climb.
The third day out had us facing one of if not the largest climbs to date and the winds persisted. Even on the brief sections of downhill the winds prevented any enjoyment of coasting down them as it could nearly stop you in your downhill tracks. With the help of a ride that brought us the last 10Km to the town of Cintalapa as the sun began to set. We were determined to get to a much desired hotel and hot food.
Between Cintalapa and the capital city of Tuxtla was the nicely spaced caves and spring fed waterfalls of Aquacerro where we bathed in a bat infested cave and explored the base of the falls that sprang from the side of the canyon wall.
A relatively short climb from Aquacerro provided the first real downhill is what seemed like weeks. 25Km with no wind brought us into Tuxtla were the mysterious Cone Pizza finally revealed itself to us. Look it up, it’s a wonderment of nature. Another short hop brought us to Chiapa de Corzo in order to partake in the tourist activity of taking a speed boat tour of Canyon Sumidero and lucking into the first night of Grande Enero. Grand Enero is a festival I believe is meant to serve as a way to mock the occupation of the Conquistadors. The first night was much like the opening day of the Dixie Classic Fair. In many ways Mexico is like one giant continuous fair.
Departing Chiapa de Corzo the elevation plot of our route to San Cristobal as depicted on my GPS was a terrifying sight. We were sitting at 1,300 ft and the high point of our route was perched at 8,000 ft. We would be climbing over 7,000 ft taking into account the ups and downs over the next 70 kilometers. This would be difficult but a five day rest in San Cristobal would serve as motivation to push through it. In our first day we would gain around 4,500 ft of altitude and 40 kilometers. We camped in a small village in front of the church and made spaghetti before attempting to sleep though the usual chorus of roosters, dogs, and turkeys. It’s nice to camp in villages as there is a sense of security in knowing you have been granted permission. However, the animals seem to always compete throughout the night to see who can be the loudest. I think I have grown used to the roosters, but the dogs are just ridiculous.
As I had figured it took exactly 14 days to get from Oaxaca City to San Cristobal, though if I had not become ill I suppose we could have done it in 3-4 days less. We spent the first two days watching NFL playoffs and eating pizza and chili with the first other cyclists we have come across on our trip. One is a seasoned cycle tourer, having cycled from Europe to Hong Kong. It’s good to pick the brains of someone with so much experience but also more than a little bit intimidating to find out that the mountains of Guatemala ahead of us are more difficult than the Himalayas.
One more day of rest and we are off towards Palenque and then the Yucatan. We will trade the climbing for flat terrain but also pick up the heat and insects.