20 Jan Cycling into the central Mexican Mountains, Tepic to Guadalaja
Heading up and up and up to Tequila, Salud
Our bicycle tour of mainland Mexico continues. It is roughly a 150 mile bicycle ride from Tepic to Guadalajara. The route takes us from 3002 ft elevation to roughly 5140 ft elevation. However, that does not take in account the several long ups and downs in between.
Although, we are not a huge fan of cycling on the toll road, as it can be loud and hot. We decide to stay on it anyway. For one, the libre 15 is just as busy with lots of big trucks. It is also much more narrow and has no shoulder to pull over if traffic gets crazy. We were also told that the cuota is much safer to travel on through Sinaloa and Jalisco as it is frequently patrolled by police and military.
One of the downfalls is, there are limited stores and eateries located on the toll road. Usually there are a few food stands, a gas station and an OXXO located near the toll stations or occasionally near an exit. So we have to plan ahead to make sure we have enough supplies to last us to the next stop.
Overall, the ride is not very exciting. It is hot and humid.
There are several very long climbs. In deed the climbs are so long and occasionally so steep that many trucks barely crawl past us. Some trucks struggle and expel big clouds of hot, dirty fumes as they pass us, which makes breathing unbearable at times. Sometimes I try to hold my breath as I see the exhaust pipe getting closer, because the exhaust is enough to make gag at times. But I fail miserably, considering that struggling up the mountain just makes me breathe in even deeper as soon as I exhale the breath that I was holding in so desperately.
Occasionally we see another road following the valley below us and we wonder if we made the right choice by staying on the cuota. That is until we see the same amount of trucks traveling there as well.
Along our way we find a hotel in the small town Ixtlan del Rio to stay the night. It doesn’t look like much from the outside. But as soon as we push our bikes through the main gate, we are greeted by an amazing courtyard. The inner court and the room resemble an old mission. There are some seating areas in the beautiful landscaped garden and it is very quiet and relaxing.
The next day we start cycling early again.
As we continue climbing, we see Mango trees and occasional agave fields. Eventually, we are surrounded by agave everywhere, it seems that every small patch of dirt, no matter how steep or narrow is planted with agave. Sometimes we even spot some horses in fields, eating weeds and the long leafs of the blueish plants.
The blue agave plants look amazing on the red earth.
As we check our map, we see that we are going right past the small town of Tequila…that would explain all the agave fields.
Since Tequila is located right at the perfect spot to stop at the night, we exit the cuota and head down a very steep 2 mile road into town. As we coast down we stop to look at the beautiful surrounding mountains. We also wonder how dreadful the climb back out of town is going to be tomorrow.
As we find our way through town to a half way reasonable priced hotel, we notice that there are quite a few tourists here. We even spot a few tourist buses disguised as tequila bottles and tequila barrels. We had no idea this place was this popular.
Eventually, we find the hotel. It looks cute, colorful, and colonial from the outside. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the most expensive, yet also the worst room we have had so far in Mexico. There is hardly any room to maneuver around. The front wall consists off all windows and glass doors facing the road. No A/C and the shower has only cold water, there is no actual shower stall nor shower curtain. Instead the shower head is right over the toilet and the entire bathroom gets soaked — a literal water closet.
As we ask the very nice lady, who checked us in, where we can find dinner, she rattles off all the big restaurants at the touristy square. Yet, when we ask her which one is her favorite place to eat she tells us “ the food is bad everywhere in town” and she was adamant that she would not eat anywhere. So we end up going down the quiet road near the hotel and eat at a small family restaurant. The tacos tasted just fine, the jamaica-water was refreshing and the price was just right.
After the tasty dinner we wandered through town, checked out the church plaza and various bronze statues depicting local people during various stages of agave harvesting and tequila making.
Apparently, the town as well as the drink Tequila are UNESCO heritage protected and one can only name the agave drink Tequila if it was produced in this area.
Cycling from Tequila to Guadalajara
In the morning, our cycle tour of Mexico continues. The good news is, it is only a 45 mile ride from Tequila to Guadalajara. The bad news is it is going to be another scorcher of a day and we start out the day with a few miles of steep uphill out of town to reach the toll road again.
As we reach the end of town we decide to stop for breakfast first though. We find a small place along the road that offers tortas. But like so many times before, the eatery is not completely open for business yet and we are told it will be 5 more minutes before we can get served. Well 5 minutes turn into 10 and eventually into 20 minutes before we get to order our meal.
At least we won’t be climbing out of town with growling stomachs.
Actually, we don’t make it too much further passed the breakfast place, before we have to stop again. About 100ft up the hill we stop to fix another flat, before continuing on.
Although, I was really dreading the climb up to the toll road, I really surprised myself by making it up there without having to push my bike…. Maybe the late breakfast was helping.
It is just another hot day of cycling along the toll road. Traffic picks up more and more as we get closer to Guadalajara. It gets even worse once the 15 Libre and our toll road merge. Luckily we find a route which leads us along a bike path pretty much into the center of town. Unfortunately, we don’t quite make it there without having to stop again to fix another flat.
As we check Google maps for places to stay, we see a hotel near one of the squares. It has reasonable prices and the location is perfect to explore the old part of Guadalajara. Since our internet is not good enough to make a reservation, we just cycle there.
Once there, I go in and ask about a room. For the first time in Mexico, the room is actually much more expensive when we enquirer about it at the reception. Usually we found that rooms are cheaper when we just show up, instead of booking online.
When I ask if they could just match the online price, the young man tells me just to go ahead and book online and gave me the WiFi password to do so. Shortly afterwards, we settle into a very nice room at the Santiago de Compostela hotel, where we will stay for the next few days to explore town.
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