A Quiet Day's Ride In the Oaxacan Mountains

We started our day unusually early, the alarm clock rang at five in the morning. We were facing steep climbs in the southern mountains of Mexico in the state of Oaxaca state of Mexico. The total elevation would be determined on how far we could ride which was determined by varying factors. The steep grades with our heavy loads would test our muscle endurance, the amount of time on a saddle would test our butts, the heat of the day in southern Mexico in May would bear down on our helmet-covered heads cooking us under the afternoon sun. Would we be hit by a late afternoon torrential rain, and if this happened would we be a place with cover? All these thoughts raddled around my brain as I mounted my bike and started the days adventure.

The early morning is a great time to ride because of the muted morning colors that fill the surrounding landscape, This morning was especially wonderful because the red-colored soil that stretched all around us was lit up doubly with the rising morning sun. A mist hung above the rich farm lands as we rode the quite river valley road. This moment of bliss was interrupted as the awakening sun heating the morning mist and us with it.

At 10 miles out we stopped for breakfast of quesadillas and sandwiches called tortas. As we waited for breakfast, I adjusted my seat for today’s ride. Yesterday's ride of 4500 feet climb stressed my soft tissue so an adjustment was called for.

We rode almost all day along a ridge line, deep valleys to the left and massive valleys to the right. We would climb 500 feet and descend 400 feet, and repeat this over and over. Climbing and descending. All and all we climbed over 3600 feet for the days total. I was in awe, how a road can be built along a ridge for 40 miles and have view on the left and right. It was an incredible bike ride with the beautiful vistas of tropical Oaxacan plants scattered throughout the expansive terracotta-colored landscape, but at the same time it is the dry season, and the land waits patiently for the rain to come in earnest.

As I rode the long miles, I kept myself entertained by looking around at the sights which are so foreign to me yet spike my curiosity. Who lives in the Adobe brick houses with tin roofs which stood on every distant hill top? What was life like for lone Mixtec Indian who worked hunched over his plot of land, and woman hunched over the concrete basins washing the endless piles of clothes, or preparing the days food? Why was the goats and mules making those awful sounds of protest? I let my mind wander for most of the time except when traffic approached or the road side DOG gave chase to me in which I focus on patterns of approach and the need for evasive action. Cars are mostly predictable, but not always. If I see a single car, it can go around me. If there are a bunch of big vehicles such as buses or large trucks, I avoid them and get off the road.

Dogs are another thing all together. They are unpredictable. Some will just ignore us. Some will do their duty and bark at us. Some will put up a good show and chase us but will back off when we speak out load. GOOD MORNING PERRO! But some need their daily exercise and will chase us. Randy often rides ahead of me which stirs them up and they are ready by the time I come along. He tells them to go get me and leave him alone. I often see this dynamics from a distance and see how the dogs go after him and they will either chase him or back down. I am ready with my greeting or water bottle if needed. I greet them first and if this does not stop them I squirt my water bottle at them. Nothing stops a dog in the middle of a chase faster then a squirt of water in the face or if they are really persistent it will take two squirts to deter them. Today I got chased by dogs 3 times. One was by three dogs and another was a 5 dogs chase and another was a single dog. The greeting worked once for the single dog and the waterbottle trick worked on the multiple dog chase. I am glad that the dogs in Mexico are so submissive.

We stopped a couple of times along the road for a snack of baked goods, sodas, juices and fruits. Lucy Miscellaneous was a great stop along the ridge top. What I noticed about Lucy was she was old, curious and had 20 years of picture calendars pasted to her store walls. This was a nice stop offering us a half hour rest out of the sun and a few minutes into her life. The next stop was another 2 hours away at a top of the mountains. Five local fellows of Mixtec origin rested under the canopy of the road side fruit stand. We stopped for some fruit and a coke. Half of the gentlemen did not speak Spanish but spoke the native tongue of the Mixtec which they were to shy to share a word of when we asked how to say hello. The midde lady behind the counter spoke Spanish as well as one other gentleman. After they asked about our journey and we told them we had traveled from Canada in the last 9 monthsand rode eleven thousand kilometers, there was silence, complete silence for the next 15 minutes. Nobody moved, nobody talked, we all sat on the plastic chairs crowded under the small metal awning hiding from the afternoon high elevation sun, in silence. Um! We finished our snacks, said good-bye and rode another 5 kilometers to a rest area and had a couple hour nap on a concrete picnic table.

Upon awakening we could not figure out what we wanted to do. Go on or stay here for the night. It was four in the afternoon and still early but we had rode 5 hours and climbed 3500 feet and we where tired. We decided to ride on until we could re-supply our water and food and stop for the night when the place to spend the night presented itself. We never did find a place to camp until we reached the town of Telixtlanahuaca, Oaxaca were we found a hotel for the night.

As I soared down the mountains of Oaxaca, something special happened which reminded me of why I am doing this grand adventure. A hawk was gliding along the ridge top with me, paralleling me around 30 feet to the right, lifted in the air by the currents of the mountains. Our movement were synchronized. When the road curved to right, the hawked drifted to the right, when the road veered left and up, the bird flew left and up, as my speed increased or decreased the birds movements shadowed mine or mine hers. I felt like a bird. I was free. I was flying. I had worked all day long to be able to glide down the incredible mountains of Oaxaca along with my friend the hawk. I was a hawk and she was me.

All my questions and concerns I had in the early morning were answered by the time I rested my head on the hotel pillow that night. It was a good days ride and my head was full of the sights, sounds, senses upon my skin and my body was tired and ready to rest so we could do it again tomorrow.