10th – 13th March: Reluctant to leave sleepy Puerto Angel we embarked upon the coast road towards the state of Chiapas. In the blistering heat, we three continued our voyage – the small effort of lifting our panniers onto our bikes enough to make us sweat profusely.
The coast road was fascinating, full of contrast. The snazzy resorts of the Bahias de Huatulco: glitzy hotels, golf courses, and an eerie lack of life on the streets reminded us of the unpleasant experience of cycling through Malibu, Southern California. Despite the concrete and the florescent turf, the beaches were beautiful, and a dip in the ocean was the perfect antidote to the heat.
From Huatulco we trundled on to the village of Barra de la Cruz. The unassuming track off the main road hid a place bristling with life. The beach is a well known surf spot and the village was teeming with dudes in board shorts – an unexpected encounter for us. Pablo let us camp under his palapa and showed us where to get a shower. Standing under a hosepipe, outside, naked in the dark with the sounds of cooking and the crackle of firewood as Pablo’s wife fed the stove was an unforgettable experience. The sensation of cold water on sticky, sweaty skin is bliss, you never take a shower for granted on a cycle trip.
Other pueblos appeared through the heat mirage and seemed listless places, slowly cooking in the relentless sun. The dogs still had energy to chase us though – luckily our technique of stopping, shouting and pretending to throw rocks seems to be doing the trick. Rincon de Bamba however, was another exciting, chance discovery on a turn off from the main road. We camped out at the only comedor in the village and spent the evening chatting and listening to the announcements over the speaker system letting you know that fresh fish, bread, fruit, etc. was for sale in the centre. An ingenious system used all over this part of Mexico where there are no shops selling these things on a daily basis. People rely on the speakers for all sorts of information – however, our hostess pointed out that it can get a bit annoying being woken up at 6am every morning with another banal advertisement!
Our ride was enriched with a few mini-dramas on the way. First up, Fallon lost her cleats from the beach camp in Puerto Angel. A bit of a disaster. We found a bike shop, swapped the pedals and she prepared to carry on in flip flops. Little did we know but Walter the fisherman had found them and embarked upon a journey of many taxis to track us down at lunchtime in Huatulco. He had been asking people if they had seen us, and through skilled detective work succeeded in returned them to the damsel in distress. And, the culprit? The very same mischievous puppy that had chewed up my flip flops the day before.
The next day, the intense heat, even at 4pm after a three hour siesta got the better of me and I had a small drama of my own – stumbling off my bike and grinding to a halt on the side of the road. Ned sprung to the rescue, flagged down the first pick-up that passed by, flung our bikes into the back and clung on for dear life as the kind driver flew to the next pueblo. Despite my insistence that I didn’t need a doctor, only shade, he drove with the urgency of an ambulance leaving Ned in fear of his life in the back. Luckily the next village was only 10km. However, in all the excitement Ned lost his sunglasses – an upsetting thing as riding with the glare of the sun on the bleached road is no happy experience.
Confession time: the guilty pleasures of more engine-assisted transport. From Puerto Angel we took a camioneta back to the highway – we’d already cycled the road once, no need to see it twice. Camionetas are pick-up trucks that will take passengers and anything else small enough to fit in, including three bikes. They buzz around rural Mexico like shiny beatles (they have coloured tarpaulins to shade their cargo) connecting remote villages for a few pesos a ride. Brilliant.
We also took a bus 230km to Cintalapa from the depressing oil refinery town of Salina Cruz. This way we skipped cycling the isthmus – notorious for cross winds that blow trucks over, we had already experienced some hot headwinds into town and it felt like being inside a fan-assisted oven. Taking a bus would also give us more time to explore Chiapas. It’s a liberating feeling scrambling into a bus, realising it’s ok, you don’t need to pedal every inch of the way…