From Melaque, we exited the state of Jalisco and entered the small state of Colima. It wasnít long before we were traveling the ups and downs of Michoacan. We experienced fantastic views of the coast. The relatively empty road wound around the coastline outlining rocky cliffs, blue waters, and isolated beaches. There were small towns nestled in the wide river valleys that opened up to the ocean. The locals seemed to make a living ranching goats and farming crops like corn, coconut palms, and mangos. Physically, the cycling was definitely harder than I first thought, but we took a lot of comfort in the fact there was very little traffic on the road. Bright green iguanas started popping up along side the road with regularity. The large ones were a bit more difficult to see as they were all pretty skittish. I guess it is a self defense mechanism you develop over time when there are so many animals out there to eat you, even humans with slingshots. I have yet to eat iguana. It is actually outlawed here because the Mexican green iguana is endangered, but that doesnít mean they arenít eaten by locals.
During our ride through Michoacan, we camped out at a cool little beach town called Maruata. There were a few beaches separated by interesting rock formations, caves, and rock arches. The locals were very laid back and content. I met some cool travelers here before we moved on down the coast. It seemed like every day for the next week, we experienced rain at some part of the day. It was a difficult task to stay dry and we usually had to spread out our things during the heat of the day. One night after entering the state of Guerrero and settling on the beach of a small town, we were introduced to a fierce tropical storm that sat for some hours far out in the ocean providing us with a great light show before rushing in to try to blow us away. It was dark and the lightning lit up the sky like a strobe light in a dance club. There was very little noise until the storm neared and it was then we realized the true strength of this beast. Before Alex had a chance to put on the tarp, the wind picked up and practically folded the tent over me. Sand blasted the tent and even entered it through the small mesh screen. We moved the tent into some shelter while the rain followed and didnít let up until the morning. We didnít get much sleep that night and were left in the morning with lots to clean and dry out, however we were provided with another interesting experience about the unpredictability and force of tropical weather.
As we neared Acapulco, I started to think about my goals of the trip and how a time frame can set some limits on how the trip is enjoyed. I was thinking about the amount of time that will be spent in Mexico and the amount of time Iíve made for myself for the rest of the trip. I would like to give myself enough freedom to take plenty of side trips and even spend time in a few places to know them better. Iíve realized this might mean not finishing the trip in January in Argentina. I want to feel that it is ok to still be in Central America or northern South America in January, and if weather is an issue, I can finish up the southern part another time. I guess the key is to have a mindset that doesnít include many long term plans besides the enjoyment of the trip and trying to get to know the areas I am traveling through. I think this revelation will enable me to be more relaxed about the road ahead, and it will open up many more side trips that will hopefully make the trip a lot more enjoyable, not that I am not enjoying it already!
The evening before arriving Acapulco, we detoured into a place called Paraiso Escondido (Hidden Paradise). We were led the 10 km to the water by the son of some restaurant owners on the other side of the River Paraiso which we crossed by boat with our bikes and trailer and panniers. Our destination was a spit of land across the river that faced the ocean. Locals had set up rustic palm front roofs over hammocks and benches for entertaining visitors. We camped out by the ocean and saw the stars for the first time in a long time. In the morning we had a seafood breakfast waiting for us. I had a whole fried fish and Alex had fish quesadillas. We arrived Acapulco after a fairly easy day with the exception of the last 10 km of windy incline with traffic and a very poor road. My first impression of the city was of amazement of its size. There were houses everywhere and tall buildings in the distance. We had a decent time navigating the busy streets to our destination, the home of a friend from Miami. We met up with another cyclist, Adrian from Colorado, parked the bikes and unwound. I was able to spend a couple days with Romo before he returned to Miami and then we made preparations for our side trip to Mexico City.
A five hour bus ride took us to Mexico City through the mountains and various towns. We were introduced to the metro train system right from the start. It took us to the Zocalo area of town, the historical and government center. It was hard to believe we were in a city of 30 million. It seemed like another big city to me. I guess this is just one that keeps on going! We settled into a decent hotel that was cheap and very nice. This would be our base for exploring the city for the next 5 days. Some of the negative things I heard about this city was about crime and pollution. Fortunately we werenít exposed to any of the first, but the pollution was a bit more obvious. There seemed to be a constant haze in the air that obscured views of buildings. After a few days, I could feel the pollution in my eyes. We were over 7000 ft elevation and the weather was cool. We had some sun but for the most part, clouds sat over the city for our stay and we experienced some heavy rains, always at the same time of day. Navigating the city became very easy using the metro train system. We were able to check out the National Zoo in Chapultapec, murals from Diego Rivera and other famous artists in the Government Palace and Palace of Bellas Artes, the Museum of Anthropology, the National Art Museum, Museum of the House of Frieda Kalo, the ancient canals of Xochimilco which were built by Aztecs, and the amazing pyramids and ruins of Teotihuacan. I was happy to have gotten through to a couple Servas hosts in the city as well. I was pretty discouraged after calling about 8 hosts and not being able to put together any visits. Many hosts were either not with the program anymore or had outdated contact info. We did get to have a couple day visits with some very cool hosts. Pedro and his girlfriend Veerla showed us around the city one day, and we had a great meal and conversation one evening with Octavio. We also got our share of big market experiences. Some streets were totally consumed by vendors on both sides of a street, making it tough for the occasional car to compete for space with all the pedestrians. Most vendors were selling stuff we didnít need, but I came away with a few purchases, a new wallet, hacky sack, and of course some replacement bike parts. I was pleased to find a string of about 20 bike shops, all on the same busy street. Despite the number of shops, finding the right parts was pretty tough and required a lot of browsing and questioning. I did end up leaving with most of the parts I figured I needed to get my bike running like butta.
We left the city with good feelings. I realized it would take weeks to explore Mexico City, but I felt like I made a pretty good dent and left with a great deal more knowledge about some of the cultures of Mexico, ancient and modern.
Lori Sievers (July 6, 2003)
Remembering a good friend: The day after returning from Mexico City, I got some bad news in an email. A friend of mine, Lori, had died in a fall on a hike in the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming. This news rocked me. I didnít want it to be true at all. She was the kind of friend I wanted to have plans with in the future. And now her life had been cut way too short. It makes me feel like every moment should be cherished on this earth. Lori wanted to take care of it, explore it, and she fell into it, but way too young. I hope that I can carry her spirit of life with me as I move on. I love you Lori and will miss you lots.
Now we are in Acapulco. We have returned to the oppressive heat of the coast, but it will only be a matter of time before I get used to it again. The bike is running fairly smoothly, and I am feeling eager to move on. There are two more Mexican states to explore before we enter Guatemala, Oaxaca and Chiapas. A side trip to the city of Oaxaca is likely and as we travel through Chiapas, we will depart from the coast into the mountains and enter the southern jungles of Mexico. I will be purchasing some anti-malaria meds to combat the little buggers in the jungle.
There has been a lot to think about in the last few weeks, and being on the road again will hopefully give me the time and space to let some things marinate in my mind. It is true that life is short and should be appreciated to the fullest. I donít want it to take another loss of a friend or family member to remind me.
Thanks for reading. Peace and Love from the road,
Highlights: Empty roads and fantastic views of Michoacan, having a place to stay in Acapulco, Mexico City side trip.