Most of Mexico
There’s been a great deal of time since my last post. A lot has happened and my attempts to try and approach the whole chunk of time to pull it apart into a blog are generally met with feelings of being overwhelmed. A whirl-wind recap is in order: I cycle towards the heart of Mexico through Tepic to Guadalajara where I stay a week with some chemical engineering students, one of which is the cousin of a woman I met in a Walmart parking lot who is a friend of my neighbor and friend Carlos in Baja. I change my handlebars, cycle around the city in the rain, and casually sneak into the University of Guadalajara CUCEI campus to attend a physical chemistry lecture with my hosts. I continue on to Guanajuato through the home of Patron and 7 Lenguas tequila production. Guanajuato turns out to be the most stunning of the colonial cities of Mexico I’ve seen thus far, sporting subterranean tunnels, colonial architecture, and narrow walking alleys all nestled in some hills (a tunnel which spans the city underground is supposedly more polluted than the air in the mighty Distrito Federal (Mexico City)).
On I go through the cradle of Mexican independence, Dolores Hidalgo, to San Miguel de Allende, another pretty colonial city, where my host shows me the brilliance of helado de queso.
With the largest city in the Western Hemisphere looming I decide to save some time and headache I decide to try my hand at CHEATING.
Boom, 300km on a bus in a matter of hours and I’m in Distrito Federal that very afternoon checking out the Zócalo. One night in a hostel and the rest of my week stay in D.F. with Maria, Virginia, Vicky, and Sebastián (family of Baja Carlos) in the south of the city. I eat giant Tortas (milanesa, quesillo, y piernes makes a special torta called “Rusa”) in the park where Alvaro Obregón was shot and which once housed his arm in a jar, visit the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), enjoy the company of Carlos’ family, find out about albur (a special breed of Mexican sexual innuendo), meet with a friend I met in La Paz, and get my fill of exciting-fast-paced-taxi-dodging-big-city cycling.
On the way out to Puebla I see a few of the canals of Xochimilco before cycling between the volcanoes Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl in a big 138 km day.
I spend the rest of my time climbing up and down through the pueblos in the sierra where I have road-side pulque refreshment with construction workers on the way to Oaxaca, spend the night in the yard of Nauhuatl native peoples, and sleep in the plazas of other pueblos watching quick games of fútbol amongst the youth there.
I make it to Oaxaca city and reunite with Sarah and James and we spend a week there (Them having already spent 4 days before my having got there) each of us alternately feeling well and under the weather. In Oaxaca I have a gear purge to lose 6 kilos, build a series of pop-can stoves (in the spirit of lightness I sent my clunky and temperamental Whisperlite home, perhaps to my eventual chagrin, the jury is still out), and meet for dinner with Andy (who I cycled with in Baja), Andy’s girlfriend Waiyeng, Sarah, and another cycling couple.
Sarah, James, and I make our way slowly over the sierra and he the Oaxacan coast where we are now, taking easy days on the beach in the shade with reading and food at hand.
It’s really warm on the Oaxacan coast. I’ve never been the sort to take a beach vacation in order to lay around but in a place like this those traditional tropical vacation images begin to make more sense. I sleep sweaty and know the brilliance of a hammock in the shade.
It’s somewhat of a surprise that I’ve been in Mexico for more than 3 and a half months. My new pace/timescale has allowed me to spend extra time in a place and to visit places I hadn’t originally intended to. While the above accounting has it seem like constant activity and excitement, this effect is due to it being a distillation and in reality I’ve also had a lot of down time. With an open time scale it is difficult to know when to stay and when to go and I often find myself wondering at the reasons for each as they often seem terribly artificial. In one place staying day to day, the experience of relative in-excitement can stretch out to cover the general nature of my life at this time: regularity in ways but overall infused with a steady flow of change. Staying in one place a week feels to me an eternity in my currently travel warped perceptual paradigm: always again grows some restlessness and the itch for the road again. These ebbs and flows of stopping and going and the concurrent relative level of itch has me wonder about the nature of travel, of constant change, and if that itch will remain with me when this trip is over. After a long period of travel how easy is the traveler’s reintroduction to society (put in those terms brings to mind a correctional system and a set of cultural norms to adhere to)? I’ve met both sorts on this trip, travelers forever and those on a week or two venture and I’m curious to see how I’ll feel on return. Take the length of a line connecting me from my home in Colorado, it will have gotten long when Ian and I flew to Prudhoe Bay, AK on the Arctic Sea and continually shorter until some magic point in California when it reached its minimum. From that point it has continued and will continue to grow until I return again to Colorado. A friend has told me that a traveler that travels forever never gets to experience the travel because there is no decompression. Another has told me that travel is reasonless until you return home to discover the reason. There is no way to know my reaction until the time comes but for now I feel strongly that for one to experience change, to travel through a differential (space, thought, time) and to sense that change is to be alive.
This cycling trip will have me continuing to encounter the all-potent ideas of contrast and change. I’ll be enjoying the company of my friends James and Sarah as we sweat our way across the isthmus of Mexico in anticipation of the highlands, San Cristobal de Las Casas, and Guatemala.