Pantxika and Fred
Pantxika Goyhetche and Fred Lolliot are a French couple undertaking their next big adventure – a cycling tour of Mexico.
Mexico City to Oaxaca
We landed in Mexico City on Saturday morning at 8.30am after a 14-hour flight from Istanbul. As we didn’t have a return ticket, border control was a bit difficult. First, they didn’t want us to enter the country, asking us to book a return ticket online. Then they started to be more receptive as we explained to them the purpose of our trip and finally, they agreed to let us in and allowed us to stay for six months.
Kali and Mutxo were already waiting for us in the luggage area. This was our first flight with the bikes, and we didn’t know in what condition we would find them after the trip. As soon as we saw them, we were relieved to find the boxes were still in good condition. It was time to bring everything outside the airport and to rebuild the bikes. Everybody was intrigued by the fact we were putting the bikes together just outside the terminal. It took us about two hours to get everything ready and it was time to cycle towards the city centre to meet Lars, a German lad we’d contacted on Warmshowers, and who was to be our host for the next three days.
As soon as we started, we realised Mutxo didn’t enjoy the flight. There was a problem with the fork, so we would need to find a mechanic. On our way, a woman cyclist saw us, and was surprised with our set up and, by chance, she was the owner of a bicycle shop and also a mechanic!
She said unfortunately her shop was on the other side of the city and closed for the day, but she recommended one of her friends not far from the place we were staying at. After nearly an hour chatting with her and digging into our memory to remember our school Spanish, she left and we arrived at Lars’ place, right in the city centre.
As soon as we arrived at his place, we felt lars was a very nice person and, without knowing us, he told us three days in Mexico wouldn’t be enough and invited us to stay longer, as in four days he was going on a bicycle trip in the north of Mexico, so we could stay in his flat for those two weeks. We accepted, of course, as this would give us plenty of time to discover the city. After this, we decided to go straight to the bike shop to get Mutxo fixed, and in no time at all, everything was sorted.
We spent three weeks all together in Mexico City, discovering the food, practicing our Spanish, admiring the street art, getting blessed by the indigenous people to wish us good fortune on our trip around the country and of course visiting every monument we could in the city.
Sadly, after three weeks, it was time to go and to say goodbye to this amazing city, and of course to Lars, our wonderful host. We were very impatient to start cycling in the countryside and to discover the real Mexico.
Out of the city
We wanted to go north to visit the Pyramid del Sol in Teotihuacan. It was nice to cycle through Mexico City suburb and you could feel the atmosphere already changing. We were slowly getting away from the busy environment and it was just more and more ‘authentic’ countryside for mile upon mile. After a day’s ride, we arrived next to the Pyramid del Sol, and we found a campsite just in front of the Pyramid. The owner was very cheerful as we entered the site and it was then we realised we were the only ones there!
Pyramid del Sol
After a good night’s sleep, we were awakened by the hot air balloon already in the air just above us, carrying the early-bird tourists for a flight over the pyramid. We packed our stuff and asked the campsite owner if we could leave Kali and Mutxo with them for the time we were going to explore the site, and of course he agreed. As we were on our way to the pyramid, the three dogs from the campsite decided to come with us and stayed with us during the whole visit. As soon as we approached the pyramid, we were very impressed by the size of it, and we were feeling small next to it. This is classed as the third biggest pyramid in the world, by volume, and we easily see why.
Unfortunately, due to the sanitary situation, we were not allowed to climb to the top of the Pyramid where the view would have been stunning but, on the other hand, there was nobody around, so we had the site just for us.
After few hours visiting the site, it was time to go back to the campsite to pick up Kali and Mutxo and continue our journey.
We took the direction of Puebla, south of Mexico City but we decided to go around the city on the east side, using dirt paths in the middle of the mountains. We had to get used to cycle above 2000 metres as we were feeling tired quickly. We cycled the whole afternoon surrounded by cactus, and we didn’t see much civilisation.
In the evening, we arrived in Santiago Cuaula, a small town surrounded by mountains, and we headed to the church to ask if it was possible to sleep there. Since the beginning of our trip, we hadn’t been lucky every time we asked a church for a place to sleep, and this one was no exception. Someone was there, but he explained to us that he had no authority to allow us to stay around the church, which was in fact a nice way to say ‘no’. We thanked him and decided to go the town hall to see if we would have a bit more luck. We asked after the mayor, and someone showed us where he was living. But another man came to see us and asked what we were looking for. We explained to him that we were looking for a place to put the tent for the night, so he gave a phone call and then told us we would be able to sleep in the Taekwondo dojang but as there was a class right know, we would be able to go there at the end of it. The man brought us to the dojang and introduced us to the instructor and as soon as the class finished, we were able to go to sleep.
The next morning, we were back on the road, heading to Puebla but using tarmac road this time. It took us two days to arrive, and we met plenty of nice people on the way but, in the meantime, Pantxika had started to feel a bit sick, we think perhaps probably from the spicy food as we were not used to such hot food! We decided to stay for a week in Puebla to make sure she could recover properly and to discover the city.
We absolutely fell in love with the city. The people, the market, the city centre, the food, we loved everything about this city. When we left after a week there, we promised ourselves we would come back here one day.
Tehuacan and the mountains
We headed off in the direction of Oaxaca, capital of gastronomy in Mexico. The first 150km were very easy, downhill most of the time. Our plan was to go to Tehuacan and then to go along a B-road over the mountains to reach Oaxaca. Just before we arrived in Tehuacan, a guy stopped us on the side of the road and told us he was also a cyclist, and asked us where we were going and which itinerary we were thinking to take. When we told him our plans, he advised us not to take the B-road, as it would be too dangerous, but to follow the main road as it would be much safer.
At first we decided to follow his advice, but we then decided later not to do that and stuck to our original plan. Sure, the road was safer, but we were not passing any towns or villages at all, and it would be very difficult to find water.
The climb was very hard, and it was very hot. We were running out of water by the end of the day, so we decided to exit the main road to try to find a shop to buy some water. After nearly two hours, we came across a small village and a little shop where we could buy some water. We bought about 12 litres and then headed back to the main road.
It was also hard to find places to put the tent as all the fields around us were fenced and there was no way to get in. We never thought it would be so hard to wild camp in Mexico. We were very used to asking people when we needed a place to stay, so we were not hesitant to ask for hospitality – and 95% of the time it worked.
After a few days on the road, Pantxika started to feel ill again, so we decided to contact a workaway in Oaxaca, Andrea a German lady, who was needing someone to take care of her puppies. We explained the situation to her, and she offered straight away to come to her place and stay as long as we wanted, to make sure Pantxika was fully recovered before we starting cycling again.
We told her we already had a Warmshowers host organised for the first two nights in Oaxaca, Zoe an American lady, so we would head to her place first. She also recommended a doctor to Pantxika and we found out she was a good friend with Andrea, too.
It was time for Pantxika to have a rest and make sure she would be 100% fit to carry on.