We left La Paz on an 18 hour ferry to Mazatlan, crossing the Sea of Cortes and entering our third Mexican state, Sinaloa. There were plenty of differences from Baja to notice upon our arrival, like the clouds, the heat, and the large tropically forested mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental to the east. We took to a treacherous stretch of road from Mazatlan to Tepic, a four day initiation to cycling in the tropics with lots of speeding truck and bus traffic to make things interesting. The scenery however was beautiful, mountainous, and it seemed there was never a mango tree out of sight. We actually couldn’t pay for a mango. They were so plentiful that fruit vendors would give them to us free. The day we reached Tepic, the capitol city of the state of Nayarit, we had withstood harsh sun and “pura subidas” (all inclines). Now that we were out of Baja, we had only a map of the whole country of Mexico to help us plan our route. There wasn’t much detail. We had to rely on asking locals about the road ahead more than ever. I enjoy this aspect of unpreparedness to a certain extent. It encourages more interaction with the locals and also keeps things more unplanned. The new tropical climate hosted many cool trees, birds and parrots, iguanas, frogs, spiders and unfortunately mosquitoes. Roadside fruit stands sell mangos, bananas, pineapples, refreshing coco helados (cold coconut water), and other locally grown goodies. In general, mainland Mexico is about 40% cheaper than Baja California. Our first impression of the fifth Mexican state, Jalisco, was Puerto Vallarta. Touristy hotels and shops took up a large part of this coastal city. The Sierra Madre was very pronounced to the east and its tropical forests seem to grab the clouds and hold onto them in a mist. We only spent a few hours in Puerto Vallarta before moving on to camp on a secluded beach. We found a perfect spot near the ocean and right near a small river that emptied into a lagoon. We never imagined a freak storm in the middle of the night that would force us to scramble around outside to put on the rain fly and try to keep the tent from becoming an unteathered kite in the fierce wind while getting soaking wet. If that weren’t enough, 5 hours later we realized the lagoon had taken on quite a bit more water and surrounded us while we slept. What an introduction to rain in Mexico! Well, we dried out the following day and pushed on through the ups and downs of Jalisco, passing many cattle ranches and agave farms. The agave plant has a beautiful blue-green color, kind of looks like a thinner version of aloe, and is Mexico’s pride and joy, the most important ingredient in Tequila. We made it to a beautiful coastal town called Melaque for a bit of needed rest with a friend of Alex’s. We rested our sore legs and minds and played on the nice sandy beach and ate fresh seafood from the plentiful coast.
After almost a month and a half of cycling in Mexico, I feel strong and lean, and confident in my grasp of the local language. The people of Mexico continue to be welcoming, proud, and encouraging of our mode of travel. The road ahead seems to be more coastal and flat (or so I hear), which should be a welcomed change from the mountains. It seems we’re likely to be encountering more rain as we continue south, but as long as we can avoid camping on the riverbeds, I think we can benefit from the life the added precipitation will bring out of the landscape without too much inconvenience.
Highlights: Trees, iguanas, cheap food, beautiful people, thumbs up and encouraging honks, and warm Pacific Ocean!
Downers: Slashed and burned rainforest, and Diarrhea strikes hard!