24 Jan Guadalajara to Tula
The tale of no sleep and feeling uneasy, Cycling Guadalajara to Churintzio, 100 miles.
It is time to continue our cycling tour of Mexico. Like always, it takes some time to find our way out of the city. As we reach the outskirts of Guadalajara, we stop at a gas station to buy drinks and notice a bank across the street. Since we are running low on cash we decide to go ahead and get money out at the ATM.
While I watch the bikes, Ron sprints across the street and returns after a few minutes. Empty handed and with a dark concerned look on his face he reports, that the ATM has eaten my debit card and now shows that it is „out of order“.
To top it off, it is Sunday and the bank is closed, so there is nobody we can ask to check on our card.
We go back a few more times, just in case the ATM decides to spit out our card again, but we have no such luck.
Worried that the card may end up in the wrong hands, we go ahead and call our bank to report it lost and cancel it. Afraid that the other ATM in the lobby might swallow our other debit card, we decide to keep going and get money out during the week at a different location.
We decided to have a change of scenery and forgo cycling along the toll road. Instead we find another road leading out of town. Where we continue our ride over several rolling hills to Ocotlan, where we spend the night.
We locate a small hotel just outside the center of town. It has good reviews and a reasonable price.
Hungry, we head toward the town center to grab a bite to eat. The center plaza still has its Christmas decorations up and there seems to be a small fair going on. We find a small restaurant at one of the plaza corners and decide to take a seat inside to avoid having people come up to us trying to sell us things or asking for money.
To our surprise we even find lasagna on the menu and order it. Also to our surprise, a guy comes right into the restaurant, asking us for money while we wait for our supper. Since the man reeks of alcohol and does not appear to be homeless we tell him no.
After a little bit of grumbling and asking again, he decides to try another table. Yet, he has no luck with the locals either and leaves again. So much for our plan to steer clear of people asking for money.
Happy and with full bellies, we head back to our room to relax and to get a good night sleep.
Unfortunately, sleep is not coming easily tonight, as we suddenly hear music cranked up around 10 at night and several people singing karaoke. A few seem to hit a couple good notes. But for the most part it sounds like happy drunks yelling into a microphone, unable to carry a tune in a bucket.
The party goes on until past 4 in the morning…at least someone had a good time last night. It surely wasn’t us.
Drained from lack of sleep, we get up and walk to the OXXO to grab a coffee before we start cycling out of town.
It’s a 57 mile ride to Churintzio. It is hot and we have a lot of climbing to do along the toll road. Being tired from a sleepless night probably didn’t help the matter.
Tired and exhausted after the long ride, we get off the highway and roll into town.
Somehow this little town has an eerie feeling to it.
Like many times before, we try to find our way to the center of town, where it is usually easy to find food and a place to sleep. We follow the narrow street. Cars have to wait on oncoming traffic as only one car can fit comfortably through the turns.
Once we arrive at the town square, we see dozens of people in masks standing in line to get vaccinated. We also see dozens of armed police and even more military personal standing guard and walking the square. Usually, we find all the security personal to be relaxed and friendly. However, here most of them seem to be genuinely on guard.
We get off our bikes and weave through people and cars toward a hotel across the plaza. All the while we feel everybody staring at us.
Once at the hotel, we are able to secure a room. The hotel is very surprising. From the plaza it looks like a small facility. But once we enter through the front gate a big courtyard opens up in front of us. It is quiet, clean, and beautifully landscaped with plants and trees. Although the place seems pretty much empty, we are still only able to secure a small room toward the back.
After stowing away all of of our bags, we head a few houses down the road to a small family restaurant that has only a short menu of fries and hamburgers.
A guy sits next to us and another is standing outside. Both of them check us out, but neither is saying a word, which seems very unusual. Ron feels uneasy and can’t finish his dinner fast enough to return back to the room.
Tired we plop into our beds. Unfortunately, we are not getting much sleep tonight either, thanks to a bright hallway light shining through a small window above our door.
In the morning we crawl out of bed. Still tired, we head across the plaza in search for a well needed coffee. An older man walks by us and asks for money. After we tell him no, he yells and curses at us as he walks away.
Feeling a little troubled by the situation, we quickly find a place with coffee and head back to the hotel courtyard to sip on the cup of Joe and eat some cookies before heading out of town.
On the way out, we stop at a small store to resupply with food and drinks for the day. An English speaking gentleman is trying to help translate. Apparently he has lived in the USA and is coming back to visit family. As I leave the store he says: “Good luck on your travels, I’ll pray for you!”
The man and the interaction were very nice; yet, we are not sure how to take his departing words.
Maybe it is just the overall lack of sleep and the heat getting to us, giving us this uneasy feeling in this area.
Rediscovering the Magic of Cycle Touring,
About honesty, hospitality, quaint places and magic villages. Churintzio to Cuitzeo,
As we reach the outskirts of town, we stop at a small food stand and have the best chicken tacos we have had yet. The young lady running the stand is super nice and between her broken English, our Kindergarten Spanish and lots of laughing we are trying to have a conversation between with us….maybe the tide s turning…
It is only a 28 mile ride today to Panindicuaro . We have two long climbs along the way, but all the climbing pays off as we also encounter two nice long, very enjoyable down hills for a change.
Along the route we pass by a few more police checkpoints and we see several trucks with private security services escorting them — Reminders that this area is still controlled by cartels.
However, the tollroad is supposedly the safest route since there are regular police and military checks along the way.
As the day goes on and we are greeted by more friendly horns, waves, thumbs up and smiling faces, we start feeling more relaxed again.
We find a small hotel with the cutest and most relaxing courtyard. Quickly, we unpack our chairs and sit outside of our room to enjoy a peaceful late afternoon.
Later, we head to the town square to find dinner.
After checking at a small restaurant, that only offered chicken in mole, we decide to go with a small taco stand at the center. It is run by a friendly man. His young son is eagerly helping and handing us cokes.
We order tacos, which were quite delicious. When it is time to pay, we have a difficult time understanding the local dialect and believe our tap comes up to be 180 pesos. Apparently, we pull out too much money, as the man points at the change in my hand and counts out precisely 118 pesos.
The honesty of people is amazing!
In the morning we follow our usual ritual of looking for a place to get coffee. We are hopeful to find some next door in the community market. To our disappointment, the man at the first stall tells us there is nobody present this morning who sells coffee. Then he quickly turns around and yells up the hill to an older lady that there are two people in need of coffee and sends us her way.
The frail looking old lady waves at us with a big smile. Her little shop is still closed and she struggles to unlock and open the big rolling shutters that protect her little store.
Ron quickly helps her to push and pull the heavy metal shutters out of the way. Then we are recruted to move a small table out to the street which holds cups, sugar and creamer. Afterwards, the kind little woman fixes us coffee, says a prayer for us, and wishes us well for our travels.
As we finally cycle out of town, we receive many more “Good morning!” cheers. Several people give us enthusiastic thumbs up and friendly waves……This town is the definite opposite of where we were yesterday. It is exactly what we needed to brighten our spirits.
It’s a 50 mile tiring ride with two long climbs to where we plan to get off the D15 toll road. According to our routing app, we have another few miles out of the way to a small town with an affordable hotel — the only one we can see within a several mile radius.
As we find the exit, the road leads seemingly across a big lake. Tired and exhausted from the heat and climbing we are eager to make it to the other side. Unfortunately, we come to a screeching halt about a mile before we reach the other end. Compliments of another wire from a shredded truck tire, which bored itself into my tire and left me with another flat.
Thankfully, Ron is quick and efficient fixing it, despite being annoyed by the situation.
With a new patch on my tube, we quickly reach the small town on the other side of the lake.
To our surprise, the first house we see sports a sign advertising camping. Since we have not had the pleasure to camp since leaving the Baja Penisula, it was a no-brainer for us to turn right into the gate to enquire about a camp spot.
The campground is empty, except for a few women wrapping up their workday at the attached restaurant. I knock on the door and ask if the campground is open. One of the ladies initially says that it is closed, but after seeing our bicycles she tells me to wait and disappears to find the boss.
After a few minutes a man appears. Although the campground is closed, he is more than happy to let us stay. He shows us around and suggests setting up camp close to the lake, where the view is the best. He quickly cleans up some horse manure close to the site and even brings us some firewood.
In the morning, we wake up and just as we are about to make our morning coffee our camp host comes over with a tray. With a big smile and an enthusiastic ”Buenos dias” he brings us coffee and tea. What an amazing day to start bicycle touring!
Cuitzeo to Tula
It takes us another 3 days and 142 miles to cycle to Tula, where we plan on taking a down day to check out an ancient ruin.
During our travels, we talked to a few officers at a tollbooth, who were super excited to tell us about the region. They proudly told us that our route will lead us through beautiful mountains and a national park that is the ”Mexican Yellowstone”.
We meet a businessman while getting a cup of coffee at the OXXO. He owns three bikes shops and hands us his business card “Just in case we need help”
Tired of following the mundane tollroad, we take a small detour through Temascalcingo, one of the “Pueblos magicos” or ”Magic Villages”.
Colorful flower pots, bowls, vases, dishes, baking ware, statues….anything and everything imaginable made from clay is being sold. Huge flowerpots can be had 4 for 100 pesos….unbelievable!! Too bad we are on bikes. This is definitely a moment I wish I would be traveling in the biggest, baddest pickup truck available. Amazed by the art and sad I can’t stack up a few pots on my bike, we eventually find our way through town.
It’s another hilly 54 mile day, before we reach Tula. At least we start out on a small country road and the scenery over the hills is beautiful on our way to Tula.
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