Following on from my prologue post
Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido - Prologue (Long)
here's the first day of our 4 day ride.
Ready To Go. L - R, Pedro, me, Craig and Brooke
We got to Pedro's shop at 8:30am and met our support driver Jose Luis for the first time. After filling camelbaks etc. we made our way through the busy morning streets of Oaxaca. We hadn't gone more than half a mile before our first mechanical of the day. Craig's chain blew a link and I made a hasty makeshift repair with a spare powerlink I had. I also had some spare links but they were for my sram chain and I didn't know if they'd work on Craig's Shimano. The chance of finding a bikeshop with 9 speed chains in the next four days was going to less than zero, so we were hoping worse things weren't to come.
This was going to be the longest distance day of the ride, clocking in at around 85km. Fortunately it was going to be pretty flat until the last 20k. As we left the city of Oaxaca we saw another mtber who obviously knew Pedro, which is no surprise as he's a big name in cycling there. Pedro used to ride on the national road team in the 80s and is also an ex-national mtb champion. These days he concentrates more on endurance races and his tour business. Soon after we also passed a kid riding a really nice old Colnago road bike - pretty rare in those parts.
As we left the paved road and hit our first dirt we found an excellent location for a bathroom break, or an Ozzy video.
Brooke having fun
On the road
Craig enjoying the ride
We were being extremely lucky with the weather. The day was overcast keeping the heat down and spirits up. It's great riding through off the beaten path villages and seeing pieces of Mexico you miss from the highway. We stopped for a late morning snack of ripe mangoes from the market in the zocalo small town. You're never usually too far from places to buy food when riding in Mexico, although these would become fewer and farther between on the second and third days.
Our support jeep and some of the local transport options
As the festival of flats continues. Today would chalk up another flat on Brooke's tally.
Soon after we would get caught in a local traffic jam. All the campesinos we met along the way were really friendly. A welcome change from the too busy hustle of where we live in the centre of Mexico City. Less welcoming were some of the packs of dogs which would lie in wait for us. Pedro would run interference keeping his bike between us and them frightening them with a squeal from his v-brakes.
Pedro leads the way
The further we went the less road and more track the route would become. Pedro warned us to steer clear of the pretty yellow flowers which were hiding some nasty thorns. We could have used some of that flora and fauna expertise on our first two rides around Oaxaca.
We stopped for a late lunch of eggs, beans tortillas and agua de pina cooked by a sweet lady at her house. As we ate the clouds started to gather. It's the rainy season here and you can pretty much set your clock by the afternoon downpour.
At this point we would split up for the first time. Brooke was going to ride in the truck for about 10k and Craig, Pedro and I were going to follow some awesome singletrack along a river. As we headed down a dirt road towards the trail the heavens opened. We passed an old guy in a cowboy hat and a plastic poncho riding the most bent up frame we'd ever seen. His front wheel was tracking about a foot to the left of the rear. I love that the bicycle isn't a sunday ride luxury here but a genuine form of transport. Throughout the day we would see kids drag racing us through their village, delivery boys with a 5 gallon bucket hanging from each side of the handlebars, .old men on little bmx bikes, and even bicycle taxis pulling trailers.
Riding the singletrack through the rain would prove to be the highlight of the day. Definitely the best trail riding I've done in Mexico so far. Beautiful scenery along the river bank and an amazing variety of surfaces and technical challenges, from slick rocks and roots to a variety of muds. My Blue Grooves handled it all until near the end when we hit some really thick fudge. I think I got about 100 yards before my tyres, and front mech were completely caked up.
The 60lb Stumpjumper
Tracks through the world's heaviest mud.
Pedro's skinny racerboy michelins had fared much better, but Craig's bike was pretty gunked up too. Fortunately we weren't too far from an aquaduct to wash it all off, followed by a relube. A short climb and descent later and we'd reconnected with Brooke and Jose Luis.
The last 10-15k or so was mostly rolling jeep roads. Pedro wanted to try a section of singletrack he'd heard about so him and Craig disappeared into the bushes. Brooke and I coasted to the finish with Jose Luis following. I got a chance to work on my dog pack defending techniques through the villages. I found that a deep bark generally let them know who was the alpha dog.
By the time we got to our rest stop for the night, the Hotel 6, an ex-sugar cane hacienda, we were pretty beat. Craig and Pedro weren't too far behind - apparently their excursion had run into a couple of dead ends and Pedro hit a really slick section which took the bike from under him. They eventually found the trail and probably ended up doing a couple more k than us.
At 85km this was the longest dirt ride any of us had done in one day, and we were cheered by the thought that the next day would be much shorter - but if we were going to get to the beach we'd have to climb over the Sierra Madre del Sur.
To be continued...
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