Tuesday, October 13, 2015

One Month In

Sometimes your body tells you when you need a break. Knees start to hurt or there's just an overwhelming lack of general energy. This time, however, we took a rest day I didn't realize we needed. We'd been building our miles up steadily and feeling strong but riding that much takes a physical toll, especially when we're still pretty new to the whole process.
Walking around Tuxtla Gutierrez, we finally rested long enough to realize how tired we were. The biggest giveaway for me was how much food I ate. People joke about having a bottomless pit for a stomach, but I literally continued to eat all day and was never full. For lunch alone, the three of us had two large pizzas like they were a snack. A majority of our morning was spent running much needed errands, finding another little journal to write down spanish words, plastic containers for our spices since the glass jars they come in are uninspiringly heavy, and a sweet pair of bumblebee transformers socks to protect my sunglasses from getting any more scratched while they're not on my face.

Splurging a bit, I also bought a small pack to hold my electronics. Between the weight saved from the spice containers and the new fact that I didn't have to unpack anymore for a day pack around cities, I suddenly realized how simple my life has become. The level of satisfaction and joy I felt from the little benefit in my day to day process was nothing short of jubilation. My problems must be so small to feel so happy about the improvement.

The next morning, I learned a lesson: be careful what you wish for. Before the bus ride, I wanted to keep riding because we were doing so well and I wanted to feel challenged a bit more again. It turns out if that thought ever comes into your head, you get rewarded. Thoroughly. We made plans to meet in the next city but rode separately because Jon wanted to stop by a bike shop. Moving on along, I felt great in the morning since it was downhill. I remember thinking "if it's all like this, I wonder if I can average 20 mph." After over an hour of uphill I remembered I wasn't carrying food, so when I saw a little stand I made the most of clementines and made the mistake of asking the boy who owned it if there was much more up. He smiled and said "yes." What he meant was I was on a mountain and it ended up being 25 straight miles with over 7,000 feet of elevation gain. Slow and steady might win the race but it doesn't keep you from getting exhausted.

I pulled into San Cristobal with little hope Jon and Kai would be close behind me. I hadn't taken any breaks up the hill besides lunch, and I knew they had a much later start to the day. Exploring the city and coming back to our meeting place every hour, I eventually assumed they weren't showing up and found WiFi to send a quick message before grabbing a hostel. It turns out they pulled in about half an hour later with their bike lights out and hilariously delirious state from the hill, but I was already busy journaling with a craft beer and a blackberry/cream cheese pastry in a beautiful low-lit courtyard. Yes, I was very worried about them.

The next morning we were connected over the internet, and got breakfast together. They moved to my hostel because the people who owned it were so friendly and relaxed, and we wanted an opportunity to explore the rest of the city. I spent my morning walking through one of the largest markets I've ever seen, with no clear path or pattern. I'm sure the locals know their way through, but I'd imagine it takes years to comfortably navigate the place and confidently know what's offered in every nook and cranny. Hoping to relax more, I climbed a hill for a lookout and had a rebellious moment. I found a 30 foot rock climbing wall with a zipline down the back, and a ladder underneath. Climbing the ladder, I only had to jump outside for the last bit to bypass the locked platform. Sitting up on my personal platform with the view, a book, and a delicious pastry was one of the most peaceful moments of the trip yet.

Taking a slow morning, we eventually continued on our way through the mountains. Apparently when you climb 7,000 feet, the scenery changes. Instead of tropics, we were rolling through dense pine forests and passing indigenous looking villagers. One of the coolest things the women do is carry large items or children in a big scarf/sling on their back. They may be short, but they can pack some serious weight and hike around.

Eventually we were finally rewarded for our efforts, and flew down the back side of the mountains. If you had told us that we woke up in rural Montana, I'd have believed it. The pine forests continued the whole way down, giving way to spectacular valleys, friendly construction workers who like to whistle encouragingly, and effortless riding.

Not our most eventful stretch, but it's been one month down on the trip and a full month in Mexico. What a month it's been. Surprisingly, the word I would use to describe our stay here has been comfortable. Despite countless warnings before we left, our experiences with the people and places have been entirely positive. We comfortably could find food and places to stay, establish a system for riding, figure out enough Spanish and a new currency, and rarely had any sort of serious discomfort besides occasionally sitting on a seat too many hours per day.

Looking back, there are many things that Mexico has done incredibly well. To end our month, here are a few of my favorites:

1. Salsa. Every one is different and delicious, assuming it isn't too spicy
2. Hospitality is incredibly sincere when offered
3. Incredibly courtious drivers toward bikers and lots of cheering
4. Beautiful churches
5. Free toll roads for bikers with excellent shoulders
6. Fruit drinks (with real fruit!)
7. Super cheap hard alcohol. Like $3 for a full bottle of decent tequila
8. Coffee made with a milk base instead of water
9. There's almost always something to celebrate in town
10. Well protected ecological preserves and beautiful, diverse scenery of all climates

Super excited to see how Guatemala compares! Sitting by the border, we're a bit intimidated by the gnarliest mountains we've seen so far, but ready to take them on. We'll just say it's incredibly apparent where the border lies. Mexico must have decided the most tiring and rugged landscape can belong to someone else. Thanks for following throughout Mexico and we'll see how the rest of the trip goes! One month down, 5 to go.

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