Friday, November 23, 2012

Mexico part 2

I am now sat in a nice little hotel in TAPACHULA (the border town to western GUATEMALA)... tomorrow will mark my enterance into country number 4, and the beginning of what I see as the last leg of this amazing journey.

Since I have last updated alot has happened:

 I have dealt with roads of varying condition, tackled mountains, and heavy rains, and crossed what I think of as the wind tunnel of the world(also known as la ventosa).
 I have had a few nerve-racking experiences; almost been hit multiple times (ironically more than once by an ambulance) and I DID hit a Taxi (it was in slow motion so no damage, luckily). And I have my first few experiences stealth camping in central america..sometimes much closer to the highway than I would have liked.
But, fitting with the rest of the trip, I have continued to be treated with unneccessary kindness by strangers; being let into their home, given warm meals and treated with huge amounts of trust.
 I also got to return the favour of these wonderully unnecessary act of kindness, letting a random stranger who helped me off the road after dark stay on the floor of my hotel room in Arriaga, Chiapas.


The few days after leaving Veracruz city were challenging ,as I entered the hilly region of southern Veracruz.But they were also wonderful- As with the hills and volcanic mountains come all the beauties that go with them, rivers, waterfalls, cloudforest, and breathtaking views! The last little while there has been more times than I can remember thus far that I have wished for company not only to help with the hard times but someone with whom I could share the beautiful landscape that I am surrounded by and memories that I am gaining..

 I did not leave Veracruz as planned on the 12th, as my wonderful hosts set up an interview with a local television station and a last minute newspaper interview as well.

After the TV interview I said goodbye to the rest of the family and me and Tiago set off with the aim of getting me started on the road out of the city. (Santiago Sanchez is a wonderful man and borrowed a bike to help get me around the towns on the unfamiliar city roads).However, not too long into our ride we came across a vehicle belonging to a newspaper in town and Tiago, being the wonderful man that he is, ran in to ask if they could do a story on my mission and cause....welll.. turns out the guy didn't actually work for the newspaper, only the family that ran it.But now that the idea was in our heads we turned around and pedalled back along the 10km or so to a little passed where we had done the TV interview to talk to the paper..(sorry for making you ride around all day tiago.. your a star). When the interview with the paper was done it was around 2pm and therefor a little pointless to be starting on the road. So we headed back to his house where we were greeted by his very surprised and happy family.

The next morning was an early start. After a final wonderful homecooked breakfast and round two of goodbyes. My wonderful hosts handed me the packed lunch they made( along with an assortment of gifts of toiletries ect. that would be useful for the road) and I was out the door, with Tiago leading me on his borrowed bike. Thank you again to all that helped me in Veracruz, there are no words that can explain my gratitude.

It only took about 20 minutes to get out of the city with Tiago leading me... a task that would likely have taken 2 hours or more on my own; likely getting completely lost, confused and nervous on the city roads.
He left me on a wonderful stretch of road-flat, not too busy with a good side shoulder and it would continue on like that for most of the day and into those that followed. That day I covered around 110km into the town of Lerdo (alot of which was along side the beautiful Laguna Alvarado) .. and along the way had yet another heart warming and inspiring experience.- while sitting on the side of the road in the town of ALVARADO, eating the sandwich my wonderful hosts sent with me, an old man walked up, handed me a coca-cola and without saying anything he walked away, barely giving me a chance to say thank-you.... one of those things that make your heart skip a beat.

The next day got tough... tough but rewarding. This is the day that I entered the hilly region of LOS DOS TUXTLAS and CATEMACO.. a region know as "La Suiza Veracruz" ( the Veracruz Switzerland). The climbs were long, and as seems to be the norm, where the roads get steep and bendy, the roads get narrower and loose their shoulders.Making pedalling sometimes feel like a death wish as cars speed around corners to find you much too close for comfort and unable to get out of the way due to large drops along the road side. ( It was on this day that I almost got ran over by not one but two ambulances.... that would have been ironic wouldn't it?). ... BUT, the challenge did not come without reward as on this day I also witnessed many waterfalls, beautiful rivers and streams, countless breathtaking mountain views and at the end of the day set up my tent in an RV park along a river that leads to the heartstopping beauty that is LAGO CATEMACO.... all experiences that made the difficult ride and close calls worth their while ( added of course to the reason I am on these roads at all!- To provide learning opportunities to a group of  very deserving people!!)

I awoke early the next morning to a downpour and alot of fog.... this continued through most of the day, causing me to stay put for the day. At first I wasn't so happy about stopping again so close after my long stop the in Veracruz, but it gave me a chance to explore the town, the beautiful lake and enjoy some local cuisine... CATEMACO IS AN AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL PLACE... if given the chance, GO!.. the only thing that would make it better is if the lake was an ocean and you could dive!

The next day, was rainy but not enough to keep me still. After a very nice breakfast, courtesy of one of the permanent residents of the RV park, I was on the road by about 10. The day would prove to be mildly hilly, a continuous mist with occasional actual rain and periods of TERRIBLE roads.And terrible roads accompanied with rain are a pain... as puddles hide massive potholes and other dangers..... but this being said I had a WONDERFUL day and loved every minute of it soaked to the bone or not!.. ( I also realized that the only necessary piece of rain gear in this part of the world while cycling is shoe covers!... being soaked to the bone in this temperature isn't a problem, actually quite nice while riding... but having your feet in puddles all day isn't  fun no matter where you are (well.. unless of course your completely submerged and blowing bubbles, then it is the most fun you can have!!)). With all the rain and hills and a bit of a late start I made about 80km to the city of ACAYUCAN ( the last city on the Atlantic untill I board my boat to the island :-) )

road side camping
Upon leaving Acayucan, it would take me a few days to cross the skinniest part of Mexico, to the state of OAXACA and the wind tunnel of the world that is La Ventosa. In these days I would have my first experiences stealth camping in Mexico. Both times I did so would prove to be a terrible nights sleep... first because I was right along side the road ( slightly nerve-racking and very loud) and second because the field I chose to put my tent with was sooo windy that most of the night my tent was basically flat on top of me.... This being said I have decided stealth camping is a great way to make sure you get alot of ground covered- it means you don't stop until dark, and you are up and on the road at the crack of dawn trying to avoid getting caught..... butttt sometimes you still get caught and when you do, the people usually ask you to stay another day and offer you a place in their house...makes you feel a bit bad to have done it and wish you could take them up on their offer. BUT a mission is a mission and got to keep the goal in mind.

In these days I would also have not only my first but my first three flat tires in Mexico ( that will happen if you don't look in the tire annd take out what made it flat in the first place you know.. haha ooops). But I am getting very good at changing and patching tires... only takes about 15minutes on average to change and patch a tube!

Upon reaching the coast and being struck with the insane winds of the La Ventosa region, at the same time as dealing with a tire that would only stay inflated for 10 minutes (and by this point I HAD taken the culprit out) I was not a happy camper. But, as seems to be my lucky ways, when in need- help arrives. This time it was in the form of a very wonderful family. They pulled over and asked if I needed help ( I may have been on the verge of tears if not already there), I told them my problems and they said they would be back in 10 mins with a truck if I stayed put. They took me to a mechanic (that happened to be her father) and helped sort out my problems free of charge. They then asked if I wanted to stay in their house for the night... even though it was only 2pm and I had alot of riding time left, I happily obliged. And as soon as we arrived at their house they said they had things to do but I could stay. "mi casa es tu casa"... soo trusting to leave someone you just met in your house alone for hours.... another skip of the heart..

In the morning we went to watch their 3 beautiful children march in a parade for November 20th before they gave me a ride out of the extreme winds... only minutes in a car that would have been along battle on the bike. They wanted to take me further but luckily there was a road block that stopped them, I felt bad to tell them no when they were offering but feel guilty taking a ride too far, so the road block was welcome as no one could pass in a car but bikes were allowed...problem solved.Thank you my wonderful new friends for everything you are amazingly kindhearted people.

That night I made it out of OAXACA and into ARRIAGA, CHIAPAS. Though I was not sure I was going to make it; I was on the road with still over 10km to go with only 5 mins left to complete darkness. As I contemplated giving up on reaching town and setting up camp along the road again, a man pulled over and offered me a ride to town, of course i accepted. And this is where my chance to return all the favours Mexico has given me came into play... on the way into town he asked if we could share a hotel room to save money. I was skeptical; having only known this man for a few minutes, having very limited communication abilities with him and knowing the stereotype of latin american men's attitude towards white women... but, all of this considered I decided to do it anyway. So many people have helped and trusted me for no reason so I let him stay on the floor of my room. And woke in the morning unscathed with all of my stuff still where I left it and after he left he came back with sandwiched to give me for the road as a thankyou...If you open your heart to the world  and take risks you will most likely be pleasantly surprised at how amazing this world and the people who live in it really can be.

The next few days into Tapachula were fairly uneventful.. beautiful but uneventful. And now here I am, about 30km to my chosen entry point to Guatemala and the last leg of my journey. Only a few short weeks away from the beautiful island and wonderful people that are my second home and family.

It is coming close to Christmas and in the spirit of Christmas I ask everyone to do everything they can to make sure that the dream  become a reality.. Donate if you can, and encourage everyone you know to do the same; Every dollar helps. Everyone deserves to experience the Christmas spirit of giving and receiving and if you can help those less fortunate why not. Let's give these wonderful people the best Christmas they have ever had.

Thanks all for your continued support on this journey... it is the support and seeing the donations that keep me going on the hard days. I as well as the people of LITTLE CORN truly appreciate it. Thank-you from the bottom of my heart.
-Steph :-)
-p.s... don't let the spirit of giving... buy lunch for a homeless person, open doors for strangers, pick up a hitch hiker.... do everything you can to keep the spirit of giving going; and it doesn't just need to be because it's christmas, kind acts are appreciated year round

..sunrise oneside, full rainbow on the other

1 comment:

  1. Hi Steph,
    Not sure if you're still posting here, but thought I would try anyway. I came across your blog while following a fellow ADV motorcycle rider (Dwight) which had only wonderful things to say about you. I was also sorry to hear about your recent accident, and hope that you are doing well. Having been in Nicaragua recently for the first time and enjoyed it, I was really impressed with your involvement in the community, so I just sent a small donation to your fund. I definitely plan to go back to Nicaragua some day, and perhaps I'll try a few dives on Little Corn Island. (didn't know about diving in Nicaragua until your blog actually!). Best of luck to you, from a fellow Canadian (QC)!