Day 21 – February 28th, 2016 – Colima to Alcaraces
Today we departed from Colima and continued on the cuota (toll road). We had a long, slow climb and Erin had a hard time cycling with fever and chills. This is the first time either of us have cycled feeling so terrible and perhaps it wasn't the best idea. Yikes! We only made it about 10 miles, but it's better that we stopped when we did. The ascent out of Colima wasn't particularly hard, but given Erin's health, it was a full day spent in her 'granny gear.' The granny gear, for those of you who are not avid cyclists, is the lowest gear (or smallest cog on the front crank set) on a bicycle that allows for the least amount of resistance, making it easier to climb hills and not exhaust oneself. We talk about our amazing, resilient grandmothers while we're in our granny gears, and draw strength from their support and belief in us. (Shout out to our grandmothers – Mehedi's Savta & Oma, and Erin's Nanas, Gams and Katie for all their love and support!)
The sun was waning and we didn't make it nearly as far as we wanted to, but it was time to find a place to stay for the night. A couple of travelers that we met back in Boca de Iguanas told us when in doubt, camp at a Pemex gas station. They're usually open 24 hours and have bathrooms. So we camped for the first time at a Pemex in Alcaraces, a tiny town north of Colima that didn't come up on our maps. It was not bad at all, in fact, charming in its own way. We made time to stop and enjoy the sunset with an epic view of Volcán de Colima. Stopping to watch the sunset is our favorite daily ritual whether we're at home in New Mexico or traveling abroad. We think about how lucky we are to be alive and strong enough to get through this.
After the sun went down, we made tostadas but Erin did not have much of an appetite. It is hard to tell if this is a bug that will go away or if medical attention is necessary. We called it an early night to get some good sleep. We decided to see how she feels in the morning. Locals tell us there is a doctor and lab in the next big town, Tuxpan, which is only 25 miles away from Alcaraces. If Erin can't push it tomorrow, we will hitchhike or get a taxi.
Day 22 – February 29, 2016 – Alcaraces to Tuxpan
Erin woke up in the middle of the night with a bad headache, took some ibuprofen and fell back to sleep, sleeping well for the rest of the night. When we awoke, it seemed like her fever broke and she was ready to "Push on to Tuxpan!" We climbed up and out of Alcaraces to Quesería and enjoyed a beautiful descent into the canyon. Despite the lack of much physical exertion, Erin is starting to feel achey all over again. We want to make it to Tuxpan so she can see a doctor today. We pulled over at a gas station to take a water break and notice a Red Cross next door. We cycle up and a medic offers to take Erin's vitals. He gave her a couple pills for body aches and stomach ache. Mehedi asks if he can give us a ride to Tuxpan. He checks with his boss and says he can take us to the junction, 2.5 miles before Tuxpan. We loaded up our bikes and hopped into his ambulance, and got a lift about 10 miles of narrow, windy downhill with heavy traffic. We both were hungry so we whipped up quick tostadas and guacamole (our go-to meal with cheap, easy to find ingredients) at the junction and Erin took a short rest. Then we were off to Tuxpan.
Tuxpan was very close from the junction where we were dropped off by the paramedics. We rode through town at about 3pm looking for an open lab to have Erin tested for a parasite or infection. Unfortunately, nothing was open, so we realized we'd be staying in Tuxpan for the night and visiting the lab in the morning. When we come to these small towns, we usually go to the Plaza to orient ourselves before we begin looking for a place to stay. When we are in rural areas, we camp – but in towns, we try to find a secure place for our bikes and belongings. So we head for the Plaza, which is larger than expected, and has a beautiful view of the mountains to the west and large Mexican flags flying high. Tuxpan is a vibrant, bustling town. As we entered, we saw a sign with the pueblo's crest - "Tuxpan, Jalisco, El Pueblo de Fiesta Eterna." Our first impression? Totally.
We see local cops on the Plaza and ask them where we should camp for the night. They told us to check with the church, a block down from the Plaza. The man who lives on the grounds of the church tells us we are welcome to camp behind a small, locked gate and use the bathrooms at the church from 9am-5pm. We leave our bikes behind the gate and walk around to find food for dinner. It is starting to cool off. We're at 3,700 ft elevation here and really starting to feel the cooler temperatures compared to being on the coast.
On our walk, we stroll by Hotel Juarez just a few blocks from the church – a funky, cute hotel. Rooms are well within our budget and a restful, quiet night would be worth it for Erin's health, as well as a nice, hot shower. We went back to the church and returned with our bikes to settle in. We spent the rest of the evening strolling around Tuxpan. In our down time, it is hard to sit still! The town really came to life in the evening, but Erin needed to take it easy and get to the lab early. So we came back to the hotel, made tostadas (again) and a fruit salad, and went to bed.
Day 23 – March 1, 2016 – Tuxpan
We took an unexpected day off today as Erin's lab tests took several hours to come back. By the time they did, it was too late in the day to start cycling. Erin's symptoms are subsiding and we're both eager to push on, but we know that rest and health are fundamental to bicycle touring. The lab results came back negative for parasites, so we are hopeful that Erin is on the mend. While walking back from the lab, we stumbled upon Tuxpan's Ethnology & Archeology Museum, tucked away beside the church.
The museum was very interesting, focusing on the history of Tuxpan and the surrounding areas up to present day. We noticed strong themes of life and death. We read that Tuxpan has multiple fiestas every month of the year for specific cultural traditions. We only wished we had been there to witness one of the celebrations. Outside the museum was a beautiful, yet heavy mural depicting the area's history, pre and post European contact. The museum was a lucky, excellent find, and well worth the 10 pesos (about 60 cents US) to get in. We had a mellow evening and tried to get some rest for the next leg to Mazamitla.
Day 24 – March 2, 2016 – Tuxpan to Mazamitla
We started cycling around 9:30am and it was still nice and cool outside, and the terrain was not very rigorous. As we peddled on, the road became narrower and narrower, while traffic steadily increased. In addition, the tiny road was crumbling and deteriorating due to large trucks and buses. By the time we reached Tamazula de Gordiano, Erin was feeling terrible again, the traffic was very heavy and the road was narrow and crumbling. We asked some truckers if they could give us a lift, but they said they weren't allowed or didn't have time. One man told us to cycle to the next town, La Garita, and look for a woman selling electrical auto parts, and she could help us. Sure enough, several miles later in the next town, we found her sitting happily outside her shop. It is so fascinating to be on the ground and put our trust in a tip like this ("find a woman selling electrical auto parts") and to watch things unfold perfectly. We are talking and thinking a lot about fate on this trip. The woman kindly greeted us and found us a taxi that would take us up the mountain to Mazamitla. We managed to put all our gear and one bike in the taxi and strapped Mehedi's bike to the top of the taxi with a single Surly junk strap. (We have to take a minute to say thanks to Owen at Broken Spoke in Santa Fe for recommending this incredible little strap! He told us it was strong enough to strap your bike to a car's roof, and we had the chance to test it out at 60-70mph up a windy mountain road. Sure enough, it held up!)
We arrived 40 minutes later on the top of the mountain, a few miles before Mazamitla. We cycled the rest of the way into the center of town. We made our way to the Tourism office, where we met Juan Antonio, the Director of Tourism in Mazamitla. He loved what we were doing and generously found us a cabaña to stay. We made our way to El Granero on a steep hill below the Plaza. Mazamitla is built on a beautiful mountain side. We were greeted at El Granero by Rafael, who invited us in and directed us to a gorgeous, large cabaña. We were taken aback by the fully equipped cabaña – kitchen, sala, two bedrooms with a sleeping loft and fireplace. So happy to be here, and such a reward!
Day 25 – March 3, 2016 – Mazamitla
We decided we needed to stay and explore Mazamitla, as it is a gorgeous little town, one of Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos. We awoke early and spent the morning walking around, photographing the grounds of El Granero. Afterwards, we went into town for a bite and to use the free wifi on the Plaza. The cobblestone streets and smell of pine trees create a warm and inviting feel here. Most of the buildings are adorned with beautiful woodwork from shutters and balconies, to decorative pillars and corbels. We can feel the cold mountain air as we are at 7,500 ft elevation, and we can hear the wind whistling through the pine trees. There is something about this place that really feels like home, and we both feel it. We had an incredible lunch of camarones a la plancha and enchiladas de pollo at Alpina Restaurante on the Plaza. We spoke for awhile with the manager, who was kind enough to take time to look at our map and give us a bunch of suggestions on our route.
In the afternoon, Erin began feeling sick again, so we decided to head back to the cabaña. We picked up some firewood and had a wonderful, warming fire. Mehedi managed to scoop and shape out two spoons to carve, one of which is a left-handed avocado scoop for Erin. Tomorrow we hope to cycle into the state of Michoacán, to Sahuayo de Morelos. It is time to get to the bottom of Erin's illness so we can begin covering more ground, as she's been under the weather for over a week now.
Until next time! Hasta la próxima!