After finishing two days of volunteering workshops at Centro de Espranza Oaxaca Grassroots Infantil that we were leading on geography and global citizenship with 8 – 16 year olds (Thank you Muskoka Foundation) I was ready to get some lead out today. And that is exactly what I did – even though the original plan got slightly modified in route.
Gaila was ready to spend some serious shopping time in the Oaxaca city centro so we were both set for our plans. Nice and simple, just a day of doing what we wanted to do. Sleeping in until 8 and then saying goodbye to Mark, a good friend of our hosts Calvin and Leanne meant I got on the road at 10am. Yes, leisurely to be sure but just what the doctor ordered. Overland Oasis is in Santa Maria Del Tule (check out The Tule Tree!!!) just a few clicks south of Oaxaca proper and it is the perfect place for us to be chilling. Since Mark does a lot of camping and adventuring in the mountains nearby he had a route all suggested for me. After a fuel stop at the ever present Pemex I was on my way in earnest. South out of town to Teotitlan founded in 1465 and translates to “land of the gods” or “foot of the mountains” depending on which indigenous language you chose. A quaint little village that was pretty quiet when I road through heading to the dirt track I was seeking. The plan was to ride about three hours on this dirt bit and find some of the great vistas and views Mark suggested.
Little did I know that after a few kilometers out of town I would come smack into the middle of a road block. The local officer suggested it would be an hour or so before I could pass up that way. Well not one to be put out by a detour I decided to find a way around it. And I did. After 3 clicks up towards the damn (which apparently looks awesome in the rainy season with a waterfall/cascade) I started to see locals and visitors alike lined up on the curves around the dirt road. The Renault flags and Red Bull t-shirts where a dead give away – there was a car rally in town and around.
Too cool. I pulled up to the Renault hospitality tent and took off my gear. As I did a super nice guy – Alfonso from Tijuana (doing work nearby) came over to say hello. We started chatting as his English was excellent and hit it off right away. He is a real adventure guy too doing mountain bike racing, motorcycles, rock climbing and travels extensively. We watched one of the stages up close and personal. Lots of fun and brought up many flashbacks to my racing days. Unfortunately, the route they were using was the EXACT route I was planning for my ride today. (See the map below.)
After the stage ended we decided to head back into town for some lunch. Can you say “mole”? No, not mole but “molay” the really fancy and good Mexican sauce made with fresh chocolate and local peppers. Killer on my pollo (chicken). Stuffed we decided to meander in town a bit as Alfonso was planning to pick up a textile or two. Kind of wishing I had… Aside from the awesome textiles we saw a wedding going through the center of town and at the church. Fun to watch, but it took a little effort getting around on our way out back to Oaxaca. With a wide variety of guests it appeared the gringo groom was marrying a beautiful local girl. Really cool cross cultures. Eight foot tall puppet like dolls and mariachi band to boot.
Once back in Oaxaca we parted ways as I was determined to get onto some more dirt and up into the mountains. But first, I would have to navigate some awesome twisties heading East out of Oaxaca. Turn after turn after turn delivering me to about 9000 feet. Sweet. Only had to pass a few chicken busses over double yellows in the turns How am I ever going to abide by US traffic laws again?????? Once up on the top I took a somewhat hidden left that immediately turned to excellent dirt track. Sweet – finally. Now, the very sad part about this story is that it appears I may have fried yet another camera. After waxing a Canon earlier in the trip, then the Panasonic, it appears I may have toasted the cheap (at least as cheap as I could find with any quality) Canon I got in Guatemala City. As such, no pictures from the top. Damnit, I am pissed!!! It was gorgeous!! In fact, for a time I had a hard time remembering I was in Mexico as it looked just like so many forest service roads I have taken in the Cascades. Seriously. Pine needles, cones and even some moss on trees. Yes, the temp even dropped to 59 degrees after hitting 92 on the valley floor. Was I happy? You bet. Road for about 90 minutes up, up and up. Towards the end, the dirt track turned into hand laid stones that were leading up to a place called Coral de Pedro or something like that. Sadly, there was a locked gate and steep drops to the side that kept me from going any further. 10,636 ft was the highest point I reached. Very nice. Just so disappointed I could not take pictures or video. I think it is the wind & dust that is killing my cameras. Guess I need to change my approach. It was so refreshing and rewarding to ride up there. I wish every day riding could be like that. Well, maybe not the two bulls and one donkey that seemed quite happy to slow my progress.
After making the turn to start heading down I was hauling some booty to get back by 5pm with one errand to run. Wouldn’t you know it, my bike Lucille (2011 BMW F800GS) decided to start acting up again. Periodically on the trip – mostly at elevation and mostly later in the day after hours of riding – she has taken to stuttering or stalling. Usually not a big deal as it doesn’t happen very often and I can’t repeat it at the dealer or on flat ground. This time however, with serious slip and lean angles happening on the dirt it was very unsettling to deal with this today in the middle of nowhere. Indeed I ran into two trucks and wouldn’t you know it cut out right as I was making one of the passes!! Unsafe AND embarrassing. Surely this is a fuel delivery problem that happens with elevation and heat, but I will be damned if I or a dealer can figure it out. Guess I will be reading forums next.
Safely back on the Oaxaca valley floor I was no longer having the stalling problem. I stopped by the local moto shop and picked up some chain lube and silicon for our host Calvin. Some stuff he needed and just a small token of my appreciation for the welding he did on my pannier frame yesterday. Very happy about that.
Ends up I got right back to the Overland Oasis at the same time Gaila did so we had a nice kissing reunion and then shared some cold beers telling the story of our day. Mexico so rocks! It is truly wonderful here and I can see why Canadians Calvin and Leanne have settled in this great spot. Tomorrow we will be heading to one of the large local markets and a street festival. On Monday we will leave for the Playa (beach) as Semana Santa holidays are all wrapping up now here and things will be getting back to normal. Do yourself a favor, next time you plan a trip to someplace warm, try the interior of Mexico. Yes the beaches are awesome, but getting to see, meet and know locals has been one of the thrills in our trip. And yes, so is the back road dirt riding. I am pleased with how the day turned out and excited about meeting new people. Ciao for now, Tad.