The pink scarf wrapped around her hair and loosely flowed down her back, finding its resting point just below the waist. This was the only item of clothing worn by the woman who was steadily swinging her way toward me. Unlike Shakira, it was evident that her hips did, indeed lie, as she walked with an exaggerated swing through the sand. Her walk was enough for me to turn my eyes back to my book, after all, there were a few other guys hanging around me, under the shade of a palapa. A few seconds later I heard ‘excuse me’, she was now standing right in front of me. I decided to keep my eyes on my book, and then a guy eagerly jumped forward, with his eyes also jumping all over the naked woman. She then said ‘ash tray’, handed him a cigarette but, and walked off like she owned the whole beach.
My banana leaf weaved hat was pulled down low on my forehead, it was mid day, and me and my face decided that between the siesta hours, we would do our best to avoid the glorious sun rays that beamed down without mercy. This had to be the last climb I thought to myself, I had not long ago passed a 80km sign signaling my near arrival in Oaxaca. 7 days ago, I had set out for the place that I knew only through the whispered voices of nearly everyone I had befriended.
Leaning forward, eyes indicating a state of reflective nostalgance, her whispered words left her mouth and traveled between the seemingly secretive space between us. ‘You have to go to Oaxaca!’. It was said with such passion that I quickly made a mental note of it and stored it right next to all the others I had long forgotten.
Four months later, Oaxaca was no longer just a word I could’t spell. Through the enthusiastic words of others, it was now a magical place where one could shiver out in the cold in the morning and on every corner find a steaming silver drum filled with Mexico’s most delicious tamales and freshly ground hot chocolate. The days would then literally brighten up as the many indigenous women would take to the streets selling their handicrafts and homemade chicken mole, that you would later dream of. The nations finest cheese would be melted generously over calabasa flowers quesadillas, whilst the aromas of fresh local coffee wafted through the air. The nights would then bring back the cold, and Oaxaca’s liquid gold, Mezcal, would warm the body and the soul. This was the city I had imagined, and today I would celebrate my long-awaited arrival into the heart of Mexico.
Indeed the arrival would suffice as celebration enough. The past few days were far from easy. A town on my map, seemed to have vanished and left me to ration my water for another days hard ride. Not to mention having no water to cook resulting in a dinner of almonds and nutella, tasty but lacking in nutrients. The following morning I was convinced that a truck ran over me during my sleep. ‘ crazy feeling when your first pedal feels like it should be your last, and yet you know you have to ride even harder today as your water is vanishing like the last re-up point. Luckily I had enough gatorade powder to get me through, in fact I drank so much that my poop turned bright blue. The road was good to me though, soon after I found 15 perfectly ripe oranges by the road in just one day, followed by 8 more, and then 5 the following day. Having not been able to wash in 3 days, desperate measure were taken, as I used half an orange in both armpits in an attempt to freshen up, my nose wishes that it worked.
In the mountains I had found a rhythm that was suited to constantly pedaling up hill, and discovered that I needed to embrace the climbing, in order to thrive and enjoy the punishing terrain. Indeed, 3 whole days of constant up, is enough to make you reevaluate the way you feel about cycling 14000 feet, of up. So on my expected final big climb, I was a little sad to be leaving the mountains behind, but also relieved to give my knees a rest. It had been several days with only a scattering of tiny pueblitos along the way. This part of the sierra was raw and mostly un populated. Then, nearing the top, I spotted a few people on the roadside, probably waiting for a ride, and their very existence told me I was closing in to civilization.
My banana leaf weaved hat was pulled down low on my forehead, obscuring my view, but I could feel a penetrating gaze piercing through my space. I glanced to the side to see an old woman sitting on the ground staring at me with some intensity, the look in her eyes was a questioning one, she said, where are you going? where have you been? but how and why? And then a second later she bowed her head as if to get a look under my hat and at my eyes, and then, her eyes changed, it was as if she realized her previous questions were not so important, and then she simply asked me, who are you? I lifted my head, sweat rushing out of every pore, neck hurting, back aching, legs heavy, mouth dry, eyes stinging, and then, I simply smiled. She lifted her head and slowly her face changed to one of clarity, she seemed to now understand the where, how and why, and as for the who, her understanding was also simple, I was a champion.
The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2010. That’s about 13 full 747s.
In 2010, there were 48 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 827 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 627mb. That’s about 2 pictures per day.
The busiest day of the year was November 26th with 174 views. The most popular post that day was San Miguelle to Huamantla – 7 days – 400km.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, trentobike.org, WordPress Dashboard, crazyguyonabike.com, and travellingtwo.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for bikingit, http://www.bikingit.com, jason mcanuff, bikingit.co.uk, and bikingit.com.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
San Miguelle to Huamantla – 7 days – 400km November 2010
About January 2010
My stuff January 2010
The Idea January 2010
Doin it! February 2010
Livingston: hey, I’m guiding a group of french people up Volcan Malinche tomorrow, if you wanna come?
Me: of course, that would be great!
Me: hey, how cold do you think it’s going to be up there?
Livingston: yea, it can get cold, will be below zero, easily.
Me: Well, I only have sandals and i don’t have a jacket or warm gloves!?
Livingston: You’ll be fine, I’ll lend you some boots, and don’t worry about the rest.
Me: Ok, cool, hey, what time are we talking?
Livingston: 4:00am start
And so it was, I was awoken at ridiculous o clock and stumbled out into the dark, where I was slapped in the face by the cold. Against the clock, I knew I only had a matter of minutes to stuff my face with as much bread and biscuits before the group was ready to roll. I left my Gatorade infused water in the car the previous night, and it was now nice and icy, on a hot day, it would have been perfect. The French were quick on the go, and so armed with a packet of biscuits and 3 liters of water I hastily made my way to the back of the group where, with the aid of my headlight, I revealed the path for those in front of me. It was apparent from the get go, who was, and who wasn’t, going to make it. As I crunched my way through a pack of biscuits and sipped on icy water, whilst shining the light for the others, I offered the slowest of the group a biscuit. He was a heavy set man, who had previously admitted his smoking habits to me. ‘A biscuit!?’ he said, ‘I can hardly breath, never mind eat’, and gave me a incredulous look. ‘Ok, at least drink some water’ I said, and he did, slowly, whilst the others marched on. An hour later we eventually caught them up, and as the sun was peeping over the horizon, my new friend decided enough was enough, and headed back down to camp. We took a moment to marvel at the epic sunrise, and then walked our asses off for a few more hours. The group was old, but they were experienced and had lungs like hot air balloons. One guy, named Jack, was a machine, and armed with his hiking sticks, he set the pace, and said he would see us on his way back down. The surroundings were simply draw dropping, untouched nature at its finest, we walked through pine forests, until we finally broke out, nearing the summit, and re grouped for a break. Of course Jack was already well stuck into his sandwiches and gave me a wink as I approached. It turns out Jack is from Madagascar and here comes the shock of the day, he hasn’t seen or heard about the animated movie Madagascar! ‘Jack, when you get back to wherever it is you’re going, just promise me jack, OK, just promise, whatever happens, you’ll see the movie’.
After, food, water, banter and pictures, it was decided that more than half the group were not going to attempt the summit. What usually happens in this case, is that all of the group have to go back down with guide, but seems as I was there and I was going to summit anyway, we suggested that I would guide Jack and a few others to the top. We took pictures of the climb ahead, and with the aid of the zoom and a small stick, I was shown the way. ‘If you go this way, you will slip and die, its too icy’. ‘Dont go this way its too steep’, ‘aim for the pyramid and then take the boulders’ and so on. I memorized the route up and shouted ‘allons-y’ (lets go) to the group. Acting like I had done it a million times we slowly made our way up, until nature called and I had to rush off to the bathroom. It was definitely a seat with a view, and called for deep contemplation, but, alas, I knew Jack would be doing press ups in eager anticipation, so I hurried back. Nearing the top we had to scramble across some boulders, which i assured them was easier than the steep walking, well it was for me anyway, not being used to walking, Jack thought the opposite. Upon arrival at the summit, french kisses were given all round, quick photos were snapped and in a matter of minutes, they were heading back down. After walking for hours I wanted to stay a bit longer and so Jack said he could lead the way for the rest. I sat there for an hour, feeling like I was the only one in the world, and wondering what would I do if I was, indeed, the only one. The mountain dogs that had followed us up all the way, and must do the trip everyday, decided it was time for a nap and found shaded corners to hide from the environment free sun rays. When I decided I should head back down, I shouted allons-y and to my amazement the doge woke up and followed me down.
It took my around 2 hours to playfully catch up to the others, where I was received warmly and told that the machine had took off to camp. The walk down was more challenging then the way up as what was icy mud on the way up, was now just mud. Jack was waiting for us near the camp, doing lunges to wind down. After our thanks, goodbyes and good lucks, I was gifted with a 20$ tip for being an excellent ‘guide’, and just like the ice that rests on the peak of Malinche, I too, had my own icing on the cake.
The road was very mountainous, and the pictures will show, and I was plagued with bike problems. The most serious being my chain breaking, and not having a spare. I tried to break the one around my wrist but it was so rusty, I almost broke my wrist in a desperate attempt. In the end, I had to fix my chain short which resulted in a skip every 20 or so pedals, until I made it to the next bike shop, a days ride away. Another day instead of the usual sundown bed down routine, I didn’t get to sleep until midnight after a bunch of failed camping attempts, (damn you ‘patron’ (boss). I’m sure Montreal punishes me for taking so much time off the bike, as this is a recurring problem. Also, after rationing my last bit of water until I arrived at the next town, I was met by the toll booth assistant from hell. Legally, your not allowed to bike on the toll roads here in Mexico, but I have never had any problems and they always just let me pass, but this time was different. They wouldn’t let me off the road and insisted that I continue my illegal activities and ride on a few 100km to get water! I pleaded that I was out of food and water and there was no way I could go on, they, that is the armed police guard, and the witch in the booth, insisted that their booth was special and I couldn’t pass through it, period. OK, I was desperate, so I asked if I could leave my bike here, and walk into the town to get water and food, they said, no! I was bamboozled and angry at the illogical thought process they must have been going through, but more so, in the lack of compassion showed to a traveler who obviously was in need of water and just wanted to get pass. I ended up having to jump a barbed wire fence down the road, with all my stuff, and through a corn field and entered the rear of the town with a sour taste in my mouth, which quickly went away with every smile I was given.