08 Feb Cycling from Puebla to Tierra Blanca
After our morning coffee from the OXXO and taking the customary picture at the Puebla-city-letters, we head out of town. Unfortunately, we do not get very far. About a mile into the ride I notice, that something does not feel right. I am trying to go through a mental check list in my head. It is not until I put on my gloves at a red
light, that it suddenly hits me. My wedding ring is missing and my left hand feels strangely naked.
We quickly, turn our bikes around and head back to the hotel. I run to the reception, point to my empty finger, then up toward our room and ask for the keys. With keys in hand I sprint up the stairs and start searching the room.
I shake out the linen and look under pillows…nothing. All the tables, nightstands and shelves are clear. The floors are clear. Nothing on the bathroom sink. I look at the piled up dirty towels. There is nothing in the first two….but…after picking up the hand towel I hear a clink and see my wedding ring rolling across the floor….yeah! Found it! I quickly slide it back on my finger, where it has been for the last 34 years and head back to the reception to return the key. The two women at the desk, are almost as happy as I am after seeing that I found my wedding ring again and give me a big smile and thumbs up.
Time to get going again
It is Cold in Mexico
It is about 55 miles from Puebla to Cuacnopalan. Although, we are already high up in altitude, we still manage to do more climbing. Not sure if it is the overall elevation and thin air, or still getting over being sick. Nonetheless, I have a difficult time getting up the hill. I have the occasional coughing spells. But what is more troubling are the intermittent episodes, when I feel, that I can not breath at all and cause me stop for the moment.
Eventually, though we make it to the small town, Cuacnopalan. As we stand at the turn off to get into town, we spot a cyclist. Initially, he rides right passed us, but after giving us a quick glance he heads straight toward us. After a short hello, he points at his almost flat tire, then to our pump. Of course, we are happy to help and he is grateful to be able to continue on.
As we finally turn into town it is already late and getting dark. According to Google, there are three hotels in town. Two of them closer to the center, so we go and check there, hoping that we can also get something to eat nearby.
Unfortunately, the few eateries, we see are closed…..and so are the two hotels. The only choice left is the third hotel, which is on the outskirts of town, where we started out. Lucky for us, it is open. Although, there is nowhere to eat, the owner is nice enough to let us use their stove to heat up water for our emergency rations of ramen noodles.
Tired and cold, we head into our room and eat our soup, before we snuggle up into our bed with 3 extra heavy blankets.
In the morning, we are still tired and freezing. Since we kept getting tangled up in the heavy blankets and felt the springs of the old bed poking us in the back all night, we did not get much sleep. No wonder we are off on a late start.
To our dismay, we also discover, that Ron has another flat. So while I look to restock our emergency food pannier, Ron gets to fix another flat tire. There are about 5 tiny grocery stores sitting right next to each other, but non have simple chicken flavored ramen soup. Instead, every one of them has super spicy shrimp flavor… go figure.
When we finally head out of town, however, we hit the check-pot and find a regular grocery store to restock food and to have breakfast right outside of the store.
Off roading through fog and windmills.
Soon after climbing out of town, we decide to take an alternative route off the mountains and turn onto a dirt road. As we stumble into a small village, we encounter a small family. They seem surprised to see two gringos in their village and try to give us directions back onto the main road—- we obviously look out of place. But, they won’t let us go before snapping a few pictures of us.
Since our GPS tells us, we have missed a turn, we backtrack a few meters and continue on to another dirt road, where a women is tending to her garden. She greeds us and is confident, that the dirt road will lead us to the next town, where we want to go.
As soon as we make the turn and have a clear view of the path, we can see a steep uphill, complete with a gravel road and washboard sections. Ron tackles the steep hill without much difficulty. I, like usually, need a break and do some pushing in between.
Once on top, we take a short break to enjoy the views. While we can see clearly into the direction we just came from, it is foggy and misty ahead of us. The air is wet and a cold breeze hits us as we continue riding into the fog of rolling clouds. We see several windmills around us and our path continues to take us right under some of them. At times the fog is so thick, that we can only hear the hum and eerie swish of the huge blades circling above our heads. And although, we are standing right in front of them , we might only get to see a shadow of the gigantic towers or we catch a glimpse of a blade as it slowly cuts through the fog.
Finally, we reach a high point. We take a short brake at a dirt road intersection, when Ron notices, that he lost a screw, that holds his bike rack in place. Luckily, we brought spare parts and the problem is fixed within a couple minutes.
A farmer and his wife are off to the side and watch us ride by as we move on. Unfortunately, after a few hundred meters, we realize, that we missed our turn, right there, where we actually took our break. We quickly turn around, say ”hi” again to the farmers and turn off at the intersection.
The dirt road turns sharply and leads steeply down several hairpin switchbacks.
Eventually, we ride by a few homes, which appear to be in the middle of nowhere. But a few more switchbacks later, we find ourselves back in a village and on a paved road.
As we descent, it continues get colder and colder. We are sure, there must have been amazing views along this exhilarating ride. Unfortunately, we are not able to enjoy any of them as the fog continued on.
We are not cold for long though, as the nicely paved road takes a turn and we are fazed with a short but steep climb.
Just as we are working up a sweat again, the road takes another turn and descents several miles down the mountain. As we fly down the paved road, the temperature plummets further with every meter we lose on elevation. It get so cold, that we have to stop to put on a few more layers under our rain coats and even dig out our gloves, before we can continue on.
10 miles later we arrive frozen and shivering in another love hotel.
Again it is already late. Thank goodness, we still have some bread and cheese left in our bags and the hotel owner is happy to heat up water for our instant soup, so we can warm up again.
We are not in the Central Highlands anymore
It is still freezing cold, when we leave the room in the morning.
Thankfully, there is an OXXO not too far, where we can warm up with coffee and a few breakfast pastries, not only once….but twice this morning.
Today’s ride should be pretty easy, as our route continues to lead out of the central highlands.
We continue down the main road through Orizaba. The town looks very modern. It boasts contemporary architecture and beautiful parks. We also encounter many more recreational cyclists along the way.
At the edge of town we take a right off the main road, onto a small county road. As we look back into the direction we came from we can see the stunning mountains that we have descended yesterday. We probably missed out on some fantastic views, when we came down from the central highlands in the fog, but we are not about to climb back up to see what we missed out on.
Instead we continue on and after a couple short steep ups and down, we drop down into another abyss. Several more cyclists come either crawling up the steep incline or are flying down as we are.
The temperatures seems to hike up with every mile and the scenery is changing quickly from the drier mountain landscape to lush jungle type vegetation. Before we know it, it is warm and we are surrounded by banana trees, big ferns and thickly overgrown trees.
Sugarcanes and wild camps
As we continue our ride, we turn off onto even smaller roads, which slowly kept deteriorating. Soon we find ourselves dodging potholes and big cracks and breaks in the pavement.
We ride through more and more sugar cane fields and jungle like vegetation.
Before hitting another short, steep uphill, we decide to stop for lunch at a small shrine. While we eat our tortillas, we notice black flakes floating through the air and wonder if there is a fire somewhere nearby. Yet, we can not smell or see any smoke.
After continuing on, the road keeps deteriorating, Alex, a man on a motorcycle , comes by and chats with us. He is surprised to find two gringo cyclists on this road. So before he departs, he gives us his phone number— in case we need help or a translation.
The road continues on through more sugar cane fields and the air becomes thicker with bits of ashes and a sweet burned smell. Soon, we find the source of the ashes, as we cycle right past a sugar cane processing plant.
Right next to it, though is a nice little spot, surrounded by birds-of-paradise flowers and sugar cane, where we pitch our tent.
In the morning, we wake up to a soaked, wet tent. Also we noticed, that there is a farmhouse not far above us on the hill. We move our stuff quickly to get out of sight and to have breakfast before we head out.
Not far down the road, we come by another shrine next to a very nice gorge, where the river flows quickly. As we take a short break to snap some pictures, a man and his son ride by on donkeys on their way to work. They have chainsaws and machetes hanging off their saddles and wave at us, before disappearing in the woods.
We keep going, up another hill and through a small village. People are friendly, wave and wish us a good morning.
After leaving town, we notice a car following us. The car passes us and parks ahead next to the road.
As we approach the car, a young man steps out and greeds us. He introduces himself as Alan. Apparently, he is a computer guy and works in Mexico City. At the moment though, he works from home and takes care of his aunt, who had corona.
He is very excited to practice his English and we end up chatting for an hour.
At the end he gives us advise and a little bit of a scare, as he warns us about ” drugs in the sugar cane”.
We of course, are wondering if the cartels have a big presence in the area and are mixing their drugs in between the sugar cane. Come to find out that it is just a big misunderstanding together with the Mexican accent that turned the sugar cane trucks into evil drugs. All he wanted to say, is to watch out for the truckdrivers transporting the sugar cane.
After a good laugh and exchanging informations, we continue on.
Unfortunately, the route google wants to take us, leads into a couple dead ends or onto some overgrown farm tracks.
Fortunately, we contInue to run into people, that are happy to point us back into the right directions.
Some even stop us to talk with us or joke around, that they want to come ride with us.
As we are getting closer to town, we finally find ourselves cycling on pavement again. We even see several other cyclists. A couple are racing down the street with Ron. And a guy on a motorcycle is trying to give Ron the advantage by telling him to hang onto his motorcycle….good times.
Once in Tierra Blanca, we stop at an intersection, to look for a place to sleep. A couple walks by and asks if we need help. They are happy to give us directions to a posada, and tell us, that posadas are much cheaper and better than hotels. She even cheekily says, “or you stay with us.”
We end up heading to the guesthouse, take a well deserved shower, and eat one of the best pizzas we have had yet.
Unfortunately, the night does not end as well as it began as Ron started having chills and a fever in the morning. Apparently, he finally caught, whatever I was fighting in Puebla a few days ago.
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