Monday, February 2, 2015

Tequila! Jan 29th- Feb 2nd

Jan. 29th
We wake up before the sun rises to get on the road early.  The road is hilly and windy with no shoulder, but there is very little traffic and the dense foliage provides cool shade. Slowly we make our way up through the jungle, away from the beach and into the mountains. By the time we reach the main road leading into Tepic it is HOT and muggy. 
Some muggy scenery

We climb up and up and up, and there is very little shade. We are both uncomfortably drenched in sweat when we stop for lunch in the shade next to a small tire shop. On the outskirts of Tepic we find a gas station and purchase some Oreo cookie ice cream. It tastes like heaven! 

As we are enjoying our last spoonfuls, up rolls Alex, a cyclist who has offered to let us stay with him. He leads us up the last big hill and then shows us to his house where we are provided with everything we could possibly need! Over dinner we share cycling stories; Alex has toured all over Mexico and has great advice for our route. It's a fantastic evening and we stay up too late talking.
Our fantastic friend Alex.

Jan. 30th
We wake up early to roosters and various other city noises. Mexico is a very noisy place. Although we wish we could stay longer with our new friend, we also want to make some forward progress on the road. So, we say goodbye and roll out. I can't stop smiling thinking of all our wonderful new cyclist friends in Mexico. Thanks again, Alex!
We ride on the toll road again, a huge road with a big shoulder and very little traffic. No one is here because no one wants to pay the toll! The morning weather is perfect; it's cooler now that we've come up in elevation. For a while we coast through farming valleys, and then we start to climb again. Now we're surrounded by sheer cliffs and pine trees. Occasionally we cross a gorge and get great views of the fertile valleys tucked away far below.

After lunch the afternoon passes quickly. We cross a volcano whose edges are piled high with interesting black igneous rocks, and then make a long beautiful descent into a valley.  Arriving in Ixtlan del Rio, we go in search of Pancho, a bike mechanic and good friend of Alex. When we ask a group of young kids with bikes where to go, they immediately offer to show us the way.  After winding across what seems to be the whole city, we arrive at the Hospital de Bicicletas where we meet Pancho and his wife Mary.  Seconds after arriving we're offered bananas and seats to sit down and relax.  Pancho invites us to stay at his place for the night, and so begins another wonderful evening!
El Hospital

For dinner we go out for pizza, then stroll around the town square which is lit up beautifully at night and bustling with activity. Along the way we meet many other cyclists and exchange stories. There is quite the cycling family in Mexico!
The plaza at night

Jan 31st
We wake up and enjoy an amazing breakfast that will fuel us for the rest of the day.  Smoothies with bananas, honey and strawberries, PB and honey sandwiches, tortillas with eggs and cheese, pineapple and papaya. Pancho and Mary, we can't thank you enough for everything!
What a breakfast!
Pancho and Mary

Our ride begins with another climb.  We bike up, then down, then back up.  Definitely in the mountains! At some point we pass into the Mexican state of Jalisco, but we don't see any indication of the border, not even a sign. Progressively throughout the day we see more and more agave plants painting the hillsides with lovely hues of aqua blue.  
This guy tried to sell us that huge jug of tequila when we stopped at this rest area.

Upon seeing the exit for the town of Tequila, we turn off the main road and descend into a gorgeous valley. 

On the outskirts of town we find the fire station and ask if we can stay for the night.  The station is large and clean, and the whole crew is super friendly.  They give us our own room to set up camp and access to the bathroom and kitchen.
The fire station insignia 

After a late lunch we walk down into the center of town.  Here we find a lovely church and cobblestone square, lively with music and venders selling everything tequila related that you could possibly imagine.  We decide not to spend our money on an expensive factory tour and instead just walk around town talking to people, learning about the history of Tequila, and having some tequila samples.  The samples themselves are enought to make me feel intoxicated! We enjoy exploring until the sun goes down. 
Local transportation around the city of Tequila
The old chapel in the town square
The Cuervo of Jose Cuervo

Fun facts:
1) The original meaning of tequila is "to cut" probably a reference to the important obsidian mines that were once in this valley.
2) The city of Guadalajara used to be located in the valley of Tequila, but had to be moved to a different location which was easier to defend from attacks.
3) The native people in this region had been using the agave plant for centuries, but it was only after the Spanish conquest of the area that the tecniques for making wine and the tecniques for preparing agave were combined into Tequila!

Feb 1st
The first part of our day is relaxing and cool with a light rain, but as soon as we hit the outskirts of Guadalajara things get exciting.  There is a ton of traffic, many more roads, and lots of potholes.  Slowly, we manage to make our way into the city central where we discover not one, but multiple plazas bordered by ancient stone buildings and cathedrals. 
One of the many beautiful buildings 

The city itself is like any large city in the US with busy streets, shops and people, but the central area reminds me very much of Europe. We stop to get some food and internet at a cafe and I enjoy watching people go by in old style horse drawn carriages. As we eat, a Canadian couple sits down at the table across from us and we end up talking to them for a while.  They're familiar with many of the places we biked through in Canada and it's fun to share stories! Great to meet you, Earl and Sami.
After encountering a Michael Jackson impersonator and doing a bit of exploring, we bike out to the west a bit and meet up with Luciano, our warm showers host.  He immediately welcomes us into his beautiful place and we cook up some delicious pasta with veggies for dinner with brownies and ice cream for dessert! Having such a wonderful place to stay makes this big city a lot less overwhelming.
Lu fixing his commuter bike

Feb 2nd
We're hanging out in Guadalajara today, planning our route, doing some errands and eating delicious food!
The new bike share program in Guadalajara 

- Tamara

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