The bike and I halted by a protest in the southern highlands, Mexico.
November 22, 2005. Departing Zihuatenejo, I followed the coast down to Acapulco. Having had my fill of the coastal region, I turned east and began to climb back into the highlands. With each mile the temperature began to drop- as did the humidity. It felt great. Towards the end of a long day I found myself in the town of Chilpancingo. Here, I tossed my Lonely Planet guidebook in the trash and decided to ¨go native.¨
The next day I began to climb steeply into the mountains. Soon, I was in a very rural area far from anything tourist- or anything at all for that matter. For hours I rode through winding mountain roads, unable to gain any speed due to the small, curvy road. Around noon I came to a stop behind a line of vehicles that looked like they were there for the long haul- car doors were flung open and people were eating snacks by the side of the road. Some people waved me around, so I passed them and moved to the front of the line. There were trees and rocks in the road, forming a barricade. Someone told me the road was closed. I feared I would have to ride all the way back to Chilpancingo. Then someone pointed to a 3 foot wide area to the side where I could get the bike through. So I passed this little gap and proceeded. As I entered the town square a mob of over 100 people descended on the bike and I. They blocked my path and soon I was surrounded by a swarm of shouting Mexicans. Finally a leader (jefe) emerged and explained that the village had closed the road to protest new taxes being introduced by the government (protesting new taxes you say? Be still my Republican heart!- I'm with you!). He soon led the mob away and they discussed what to do with the wayward American. Some wanted me to stay until the road was re-opened at 6pm, most however, wanted to let me pass as I couldn't really do anything about the taxes. The jefe returned with the mob and asked if I would wait until 2pm to show support for the village. I said ''no problema.'' I saw a little bodega across the square, and with the entire mob watching, I went to purchase a cold Victoria Lager. When I emerged- beer in hand- the crowd went wild...cheering, clapping, whistling, etc. Perhaps they thought I'd be angry about the delay. Just another day on the road in this interesting country.
After several days of hard riding I arrived in Oaxaca City, where I planned to go to a cooking school. My plans would change after lunch one day. Eating at noon, I returned to the hotel for my daily siesta. By 3pm I was shivering with cold. By 6pm I was "erupting" (front and back!) in a grand- and miserable- style. Suffice it to say, I didn't always make it to the bathroom. For 2 nights I didn't sleep. I was unable to ride for an awful week. The cooking school be damned, escaping Oaxaca now became my top priority. At last I was able to mount up, and covered in a layer of sick sweat I began to push south towards the city of my dreams, San Cristobal de las Casas.
After being punished by winds in excess of 50mph for over two hours (twice I was blown off the road- even the unflappable Mel Clarke put his bike on a truck!), I began to climb back into the highlands, and San Cristobal. The ride was another beauty, steep mountains covered with rows of corn, lush, wild and green. Natives in their brightly colored clothes were everywhere, hauling loads of firewood and corn on their backs. As I approached the town of San Cristobal, I spotted a headlight behind me. It was a heavily laden KTM 950. The rider pulled up next to me at a stoplight and we quickly swapped names and info. His name is Michael, from South Africa. He's doing the same route I have planned. After riding through this interesting country all by myself, I suddenly had some company! I was excited to say the least. We stopped before entering San Cristobal Centro and enjoyed a beer as we considered where to stay for the night. As we eased our way into town a group of six local riders surrounded us. They were all wearing smiles and it was fun to suddenly be riding with others. Things were looking up indeed! San Cristobal proved to be a wonderful place. We met many Europeans here and enjoyed a variety of more international quisine, which agreed with my stomach. The surrounding native villages were spectacular. I was a bit sad to leave San Cristobal, but the trip continues...next, Guatemala.
The long, lonely road to Oaxaca City- over 250 miles without a place to buy fuel.