< Oaxaca | Guatemala >



I exited Oaxaca through the hot southern end of the Valles Centrales towards Tehuantepec. As I slowly lost altitude over the course of a couple of days, the heat began slowly to blow over my arms and face until no cool breeze remained, but only the sweat-inducing calor.

In Tehuantepec, I met an Irish cyclist who was riding from Mexico City southward as far as his schedule would allow. We braved the strong winds of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and arrived after a couple of days in Arriaga, Chiapas. With our arrival, I said goodbye to the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs and hello to the Mundo Maya. Already in Arriaga, I started to see native dress and catch whispers of Tzetzal, a local Mayan language.

The next day we set out for Tuxtla, but winds stronger than those that tried to keep my from entering Los Angeles fought us over every inch we tried to gain. While taking a break from being knocked down again and again while walking my bike up the hill and having to dodge branches and airborne rocks, I sat down on the side of the road and laid my bicycle (recently re-christened “The Waddling Tortise”) down next to me. To my utter disbelief, the wind mounted an even stronger offensive than before, and my bicycle started to slide down the road on its side. Aside from a tear which duct tape was able to repair, no real damage was done. But in that moment I realized that having to retreat down the hill to fetch my bike when it blew from my hands would result in little forward progress. I knew I was beat. So I hitched for the third time on my trip (into Los Angeles, in the dune buggy and now into Tuxtla).

My time in Tuxtla was uneventful, and the next day I did the solid 40km climb up to San Cristobal de las Casas. Upon arriving in the cool of the afternoon amongst pine forests and hillls that put me in mind of Austria or Switzerland, I quickly decided that San Cristobal was my favorite city in Mexico. I could easily have spent several weeks there, and was sorely tempted to do so. I saw indigenous people in their traditional dress speaking their ancient tounges, and wanted to fully know that place. But Palenque called, and I knew it was time to go.

Struck sick with the flu the day after I left Palenque and unable to eat anthing, I still managed to make it to Ocosingo, and then to Agua Azul the day after. There I jumped into the pools immediately to refreshen and remove the sweat that covered my body. I was too weak to swim, despite a sign warning me that it was dangerous not to, but I floated in a shallow pool for a while until I felt better.

At Agua Azul I met a French Canadian couple who surprised me with a delicious dinner. Unfortunately, what I ate of it didn’t stay down and none of those tasty calories could do me any benefit. The next morning they gave me some dry crackers and a broth to drink. Both were wonderful to my deprived and recovering body, and were gladly consumed. Somehow, I forced myself the final 40 miles into Palenque, hooked up the with irish cyclist again, and went to bed after drinking several pitchers of juice and juice-like beverages.

The following day I met the French Canadians again, and we set out to explore the ruins of Palenque together. Wow. Wow, wow, wow. I was truly well-impressed by the ruins, having been put in the mood the night before by howling monkeys and dreams of ancient Mayans. I decided that the ruins were worth the three days of delirium and torture to ride there.

After that my irish companion and I set out for the Guatemalan border through the rain and into the Lancandon jungle. The entire day felt great to me, finally having my strength back after being sick, and my muscles back after all the punishment in the hills from Guanajuato to there. It rained the entire day which kept me cool, kept the sun off my fried skin, and made me content and at peace. The next day, we made the final 20 miles to the border, boarded a boat, and motored across the river and into Guatemala.

< Oaxaca | Guatemala >