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We are down the road again. Guanajuato was fun and I learned a lot but I got the rambling bug and had to get going. As always, the first day back on the bike was very troublesome. The ride from Guanajuato consisted of terrible traffic and a blow out that completely trashed my rear tire. We had to trash it and pull out the small 26x1.25 spare tire that I have been carrying for just such an emergency. This day got better. As we were limping into Irapuarto we met Rodrigo who is an avid cyclist. I knew that he could tell me were the good bike shops were by his shaved legs, Banesto racing jersey, and the skilled way he rode his bike. He was one of those rare gems of a person that Mexico seems to be so full of. Not only did he lead us to the better bike shops in town he introduced us to his family who took us in for the night and fed us.
The following days went much better. We left the big cities and busy roads behind and rode far back into the farmland and back to the simpler ways of life. This is rural Michoacan and a place that I will never forget. Tall corn, proud hard working people, and endless kilometers of quiet roads. We entered a misty land of volcanoes and wild burros grazing on the sides of the road. People out here have time to stop and talk and we have learned many things from them. Living in the shadows of ancient volcanoes has its advantages. The ash in the soil from the previous eruptions grows corn and beans very well. The people who work this land consider themselves lucky to live among such dark, rich, and productive soil. When a very old but strong man told me this fact he whispered it so only the wind and I would know. A great secret of a farmers paradise. A nearly perfect human who lives in his private paradise.
Fences in this area are made of hard large rocks that also flew from these volcanoes ages ago. These are very heavy rocks made of basalt and the labor involved in clearing the land and building these fences is inspiring. One farmer explained to us the history of his land through the rock fences. "My father and I built the fences over there (pointing) and my father and my grandfather built those fences next to the pig pen and my grandfather and his father built the fences next to the house and etc. etc..... When my son reaches 12 years of age we will build new ones together in the corn field to our south and he and his sons will build more etc. etc....." I will never look at those endless rock fences the same after this discussion.
The ride from Guanajuato to Morelia has been very different compared to the other parts of Mexico we had already visited. This is mostly because it is the rainy season in Central Mexico and everything is very green and damp. The scenery in northern Mexico was very dry and brown just like southern Arizona. As we rode south through Mexico we gradually climbed to higher altitudes and things got greener and more humid. Most of the areas in the north of Mexico are still considered semi-arid and really were just a bit greener than Arizona. Now we are riding on the high central mountains and have left the brown behind. Instead of the usual mountains lining the valley floors we are weaving through huge volcanoes shrouded in mist and ancient lava flows everywhere. This makes for a very rugged and surreal landscape. Even though this is the rainy season this part of Mexico must receive more rain than the north because there is vegetation that can only grow in wet climates. Growing wild on the side of the road we have ridden past bamboo, avocados, and unknown plants with leaves as big as a table top. Another surprise is the green carpet of moss growing everywhere. The rich smell of humidity lays heavy in the air. It seems more like western Oregon or Washington than Mexico. Suddenly, we feel a long way from Arizona. We love the change in scenery.
The rain and wetness has changed things besides the vegetation. Coming from Arizona we had to get used to this new wet climate. We quickly learned that the rains almost always come in the evening or night. Since being caught in a downpour would make things very dangerous on the road we quickly learned to make camp before it starts to rain. We have had to camp in some pretty big thunder storms and they can last for hours and occasionally all night. I now pick camping locations based on how high and well draining the ground is. Many times after an all night rain we have crawled out of our tent to find ourselves camped on an island. It is crazy to think that just a few weeks ago we seldom pitched the tent and just slept under the stars and now we have to dry it every morning.
The good news is that it is usually pleasant during the day. The mornings are very cool (sometimes even cold) and usually very foggy until then the sun comes out to burn it all away. We can ride for several hours in cool pleasant conditions in the afternoon. At around 4:00 PM the heat and humidity starts to build to uncomfortable levels. This is our cue to stop for the day. When the rain finally does start it is a big relief because it cools things off to the point that we need jackets and long pants. Once we got used to this routine we found our new climate fun and comfortable.
The rainy season lasts until October and we will miss the excitement when it is gone. In November our Mexican tourist visa expires and we have to enter Guatemala. The weeks before we will be experiencing the jungles of southern Mexico. I expect that going from the high central basin to the low steamy jungles of the coastal lowlands is equivalent to the difference between going from western Washington to southern Florida.
Along with the new climatic differences the wildlife has changed. The blood sucking mosquito is now a problem for us. I am sure that the mosquito situation here is tame compared to many parts of the globe but we are not used to it. In Arizona, as well as the northern Mexican deserts, we seldom see one. In Prescott, Arizona we often slept with the windows completely open. Nothing comes flying in to bite you. Now we can expect mosquitoes every evening; especially if it does not rain.
There are also now Fire Flies or Lightning Bugs flying around in the evening. To my knowledge these do not exist in the desert. This really reminds me of growing up in Indiana. I had forgotten how much I liked them. It is like having our own personal light show. Other new bugs include ticks and grasshoppers.
The people who live in Michoacan are great. We have met so many wonderful friendly people here that I would consider moving here someday. Often locals invite us to stay with them in their homes and eat a meal with them. It is very moving when people are so generous to us when they have so little for themselves. They have no motive for this except that they want to meet us and see that we are roughing it.
Well I got to go, we are going to the grocery store to buy food for our next leg of our journey through the desolate mountains of eastern Michoacan. I feel like we are packing to take our covered wagon across the Oregon trail, - 1 kilo of coffee, 1/2 kilo of sugar, 1 kilo of oatmeal, 1/2 kilo of raisons, bananas, oranges, a variety of soups, pastas and other dried goods. We buy fresh fruit and vegetables from people we meet along the way.
Green Grass and High Tides (The Outlaws) - Tim Travis
I have used several brands of bicycle panniers and
highly recommend Ortlieb.
See Why I switched to Ortlieb waterproof Panniers?
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