Follow the bikers of Going South on their adventures though the Americas.
There are two options for cyclists on Mexican roads: A. The 'libre' single lane roads with no shoulder to cycle in, more commercial traffic yet plenty of little villages and towns to stock up on food and water and, B. Motorways/Freeways with very few services to resupply but with safe shoulder to cycle in. After being forced off the road by passing semi trucks twice in the last three days on the libre, and witnessing the aftermath of a head on collision an hour or so before us, we decided to test out the freeway from the coast into the mountains to Zamora.
After several months of cold weather, we thought it only fair to treat ourselves to a little beach time, basking in the sun and providing an "all you can eat buffet" for the sand flies and mosquitoes that have made San Blas nationally infamous. This is one of the few times on the trip that we are actually hoping for wind to give us a little respite from the clouds of bugs that automatically gravitate towards the new Gringos.
We loved immersing ourselves in the Mexican culture in Old Mazatlan - We had been lucky to meet Fermin on the way in through the hectic streets who guided us to the Old town where he recommended a great little hotel for $18 dollars right next to the hussle and bussle of the market. We enjoyed a few days break there before moving on south towards San Blas. We wanted to be on the beach for Christmas and had 4 days of riding to get there.
Arriving in Mazatlan was, for us, a real high point, bringing together beaches, warm weather and the prospect of plenty of tasty food. Having initially planned on staying for 2 nights and then heading on down to San Blas, after the first few hours walking around town, we then decided to prolong our stopover and really make the most of this lovely colonial town.
I was glad to get the border crossing out the way as we arrived safely into Chihuahua, Northern Mexico. The Mexican chapter could now truly start. Alex and I spent a day exploring the city and trying to adjust to the new culture and language but there was a constant air of anxiety within us the first few days. For me the indicator was loss of appetite and worry. We had grown very accustomed to the relative ease of bike touring in the US and Canada. The routine coffee stops at gas stations, the kind and generous people in RVs and cars, the regular city breaks and stays with old friends. Now we were entering the unknown and for me the major barrier was the language.
Bike touring can't always be stunning landscapes and breathtaking views. Along any trip, there are bound to be "less impressive" places that need to be crossed before the next wonder of nature. The northwestern Mexican coast might be such a place.
Having arrived in Columbus and planned on crossing the border to Las Palomas, we were slightly thrown by the constant stream of warnings and advice from border patrol officers and anyone we crossed not to cross the border there. It appears that there ahas been a recent increase in violence in the area, and two "Gringos" on bicycles with plenty of easily sold gear would be like hanging the proverbial carrot in front of the "Bandito's" noses.
Having chosen to cycle East to cross the border into Mexico, we rode across the desert of southern New Mexico, expecting mild temperatures and plenty of sun.
Alex and I had been dreaming of Tucson for many weeks. There waited the warm hospitality of our fantastic friends Ron and Barb, whom we had stayed with Alaska. Known locally as 'Snow Birds' Ron and Barb like many other Alaskans, flee the cold dark days of Alaska in the winter and head for their holiday home in the desert. It took them 5/6 hours in a plane and Alex and I, 4 months on a bike.
Having heard that the Grand Canyon was visible from space, I was already expecting it to be rather larger than a ditch. Walking out of the forest to the viewpoint on the Northern Rim however still blew me away. Just like Death Valley, the sheer size of the spectacle removes you from the human scale and makes you feel like an ant... and a very lucky one at that.
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