In the Land of the Maya

Alex decided that she wanted to celebrate her 25th birthday with a hot shower and a good meal, so after Salina Cruz we hopped on a bus headed for Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capitol of Chiapas state. This would also help us avoid the dangerous winds that pummel the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (Mexico’s narrowest point) all through November and December. Our decision was affirmed by the fact that the route between the two cities was lined with hundreds of wind turbines – the first we’ve seen in Mexico. We were glad for the chance to avoid getting blown off the road and make some fast kilometers.

Unfortunately, when we got to Tuxtla Gutiérrez we quickly found out that we should skip town ASAP. Loud, dirty and thoroughly blah, there was really nothing that could make the city worthwile for us. So after just one night in town we packed up and got out of there in favor of the highly anticipated city of San Cristobal de las Casas. That day was pure grind, a steady climb of about 40 kilometers and over 6,000 feet. The most interesting bit came at the beginning, when we passed the toll booths that mark the start of the cuota. Rather than the policemen we usually see stationed there, the place was crowded with civilians wearing sunglasses and bandanas to hide their faces. They brandished sticks as makeshift blockades, carried paper signs with prices written on them, and held out tin cans to passing cars. Drivers deposited money into the tin cans and bypassed the bored-looking toll booth attendants completely.

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After a less than inspiring stint in Oaxaca, the way out of town was somewhat of a relief. It has rarely felt better to be back on our Long Haul Truckers with the road rolling away beneath our wheels and a favorable tailwind at our backs. Our departure from Oaxaca signaled a marked change of pace: the colonial heartland of Mexico lay largely behind us, and the rural landscapes and steamy jungles of the coast awaited. The rolling hills and country views were so refreshing, in fact, that we kept on pedaling on until nightfall.

When the time came to look for a campsite, we found ourselves close to an enormous construction area where a new highway was in its early stages. This seemed rather inviting but it was still crawling with construction workers, so we hemmed and hawed for awhile before finally deciding to go ask someone if it was okay to set up camp. For some reason we always expect the worst from these requests, despite the fact that we are rarely met with a no. This time around, the man we asked acted like it was the most normal thing in the world for two dusty güeros on bikes to ask about camping at the construction site. Without further ado, he led us to a secluded spot and reminded us that the next day was Sunday, so there was no need to worry about workers coming in the morning. After setting up our tent, a night watchman named Fernando came over to introduce himself and reiterated that our night would be “muy tranquilo.”

Construction site camping – a new favorite!

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