Day 132: Guanajuato is a strange place

I slept in this morning and I hadn’t heard any sound till 7 am. Fernando and Frieda were making B’fast as I packed up and they shared the nice grub with me. They were a really lovely couple and I wish I had more time to hang out. Ah well, the ride goes on…

I had contacted Marcin and Anna, who had bussed it to Guanajuato and I planned to do a short day to there too. The rode out of Leon was not pretty, again. I can’t wait to get to the hills and forests. The route was a highway with decent traffic. It was flat till Silas and easy riding. I road into the town center, these days the centro is a hub of activity and always a bit of fun to check out. Silas centro was a busy market selling all sorts of stuff for Christmas and also many fresh produce. I walked thro and once out of town, it was a gentle uphill into Guanajuato.

The view got a little better here as there were a few trees and as I got into town, I had to negotiate two tunnels which was a bit hairy. No lights or shoulder and I had to take the lane just to make sure no one knocks me out.

When I spotted the town, it reminded me of Minas Tirth from the lord of the rings. The town is built on a hill and the sides of the roads were built as high walls to keep the houses from slidin down. It seemed to be a pretty touristy place and felt totally out of Mexico. Not sure who planned this or why. But it was really strange to see a really densely built up place with narrow roads leading every which way. Funnily a lot of the roads were underground. Tunnels all over the town with the buildings on top. I tried to navigate my way to the place the poles we were at and looped around in the tunnels trying to figure out my bearings. The GPS is pretty useless here and I had to find an exit and get to the open.

The place seems to attract a lot of artists and as it is win tourist spots, tons of souvenir shops were around. I finally found the hotel, which was pretty cute, but not much of a hotel. I spent a while waiting for my friends and finally caught up with them. I checked into the hotel and went for a walk around town. It is a pretty interesting place indeed and I think a good way to appreciate the place would be to live here for a while. There are too many nooks and crannies that might have a little bit of treasure to discover, a cafe here, a pub there etc.

Walking around town was a tourist affair and good do see the place, but I count not get a sense of the niceties. Would have been nice to have a contact to hang around for a day or two, but as it stands now, I move on.

Route: Leon to Guanajuato
Distance: 58 Km
Ascent: 490 m
Descent: 267 m
Expenses: $ 34.10
Comment: Towns like this can be appreciated only by living in them I reckon.

Day 131: Tamales are the bomb

First off, YARD! yay! Well I have an excuse, I have to nurse this cough for a little bit.

I pretty much rested all day. Fernando’s sister laura and her Boyfriend Juan were cooking some b’fast and Lunch and shared with me too. I took the time today to patch the tubes and also patch my panniers with the new material I have procured.

Later in the evening, Juan invited me to his house as they had a gethering that he called “posada“. It’s a religious event, but to me it is more of a family gathering with some religious overtones. Ah well, its always funny for me to watch people in a bit of religious emotion. It’s same regardless of what religion it is. I think its easy to move people when you appeal to salvation in their afterlife. I shall not continue, this post is about Tamales.

Juan’s House was a riot of activities. His extended family was gathered and there was food all around. I was invited to eat some tamales. I have had tamales before, and personally didn’t think much of them. They didn’t do it for me, to be honest. But these Tamales were stunning.

The following would make sense to only those who have a certain cultural indulgence in South Indian food. So the Tamales… Imagine some nice fluffy idli’s like the one mum makes. Soft fluffy and warm right out of the cooker. Now imagine some Spicy tomato chutney. Now try them together, I mean stuff the damn chutney inside the idli and take a bite with the hot & spicy chutney oozing out. Dang these tamale’s were fantastic. I ended up eating nearly half a dozen. I suppose i will look for them as a good meal whenever I can.

The rest of the event was more traditional and some songs being sung etc… I waited till they came out with pniata’s which the kids took time whacking until they could get the candies out. Ah well, some cultural indulgence was a good way to spend the evening. I am once again lucky to be invited into a stranger’s home and allowed to witness some nice family gathering. It was lovely indeed.

Leon as a city Isn’t really pretty. But they seem to be adding a number of walkways and bike paths that would make this an interesting town to commute in. Further, the spanking new bus system seems to be pretty rad. It’s not extensive, but what is there is nice indeed.

Day 130: You haven’t seen shoe shops until you hit Leon

I had a nice sleep. Its good to sleep outdoors I missed it in the last couple of weeks. Though there was a bit of a disturbance what with the dog barking at odd times of the night, the rats squeaking under me and the rooster getting in on the action at 4 in the morning. the Farm was up and running at 5 AM. I decided to lay in for a while and was eventually up at 7. The sun doesn’t come up till 7 (haven’t seen sunrise in a while, heh).

I was packing up when the old farmer asked me if I wanted some milk. He was milking the cows and got me a glass full straight from the udder. Screw pasteurisation, drinking milk right from the udder is how it should be done :-) I had a second glass full too and headed on the road. San Julian was just downhill from there and I stopped there for some b’fast. They had wifi too so I spent more than an hour there uploading the blogs and doing internet stuff.

By the time I got back on the road, the sun was high, but it wasn’t too warm yet. It was nice riding, but the scenery was generally blah. After a long while, I got to the town of San Francisco. This looked like a boring sprawled out town and I wasn’t interested in stopping. I figured I might just get some grub when I get into Leon.

I found something cool though at San Francisco. There was a big shop right on the main road which was selling various sorts of fabrics. What caught my eye was the nylon, poly, plastic etc… And they had rolled of stuff inside. I figured they might have some material I could use to patch my panniers and walked in. I couldn’t speak the language, but with a bit of dancing about, managed to tell them I need a waterproof material to patch. The feller took me to a corner where they had the material in spaces and in any color I could choose. I picked red, to match my pannier and they gave me some solution to stick it too. And it cost me all of 5 pesos. I have another 6 ft of material left over for future use. Score!

There was a bit of road construction after this bit and the funny thing was that they had a bike lane all the way to Leon, about 20 km. In Leon, there was bike lanes all the way into the city centre. I didn’t have my host’s contact and had to muscle my way thro the traffic to the centre to find a cafe with wifi. I ended up a McD and the managed let me use her phone to contact Frida.

The ride to their place was short, but the heat was pretty intense. I suppose the combination of sun and pollution was a hard one and I was a bit tired by the time I got to my host’s place. All along Mexico, one of the things that stands out is the number of shoe shops in any town. The smallest village would have one Big ass Church and 3 shoe shops. Leon tok the cake, there was an entire shopping complex all 4 floors of it dedicated to shoes. “Zappatos Plaza”. I would later learn that leon is the Shoe capital of Mexico and the biggest industry around here is manufacturing fashion for your feet!

Freida & Fernando were young teachers and fun to talk with. Bummer that they were heading out of town tonight, but they were chilled to let me stay and hang around. I figured I might stay a day more and catch up with them a bit more before I leave. Also good to get rid of this bit of cough too I think.

Route: Farm house near San Julian to Leon
Distance: 75 Km
Ascent: 351 m
Descent: 717 m
Expenses: $ 17.30
Comment: Easy ride, but still no good views

Day 129: Revovery on the road

Seems like the bug I’ve caught (and for that mater Marcin & Anna too) is pretty strong and is not giving up on me so easily. I slept fitfully and the cough kept my up in the early morning, as a consequence, I stayed in bed till 8:30. Almost looked like I might take a day off. Marcin and Anna decided to rest out their flu, but the only way I know to get rid of it is to work out and mentally zone out the thoughts of it. So I decided to ride on today. Bummer I wouldn’t get to ride with the couple yet.

Fernando’s mum cooked up a storm in the morning! It was nice to chat with them as we munched on the b’fast and I again felt like I should stick around, what with our host being so awesome to us.

Finally I decided to get on the road and it was almost 11 when I was ready to leave. The route started with a steady climb out of town and got up to 1900m. After that it was mostly rolling hills sticking to 1900 and sometimes getting to 2000. It was not a pretty ride, the scenery was flat and dry and mostly going thro farm lands.

Initially, the chicken farms smelled very familiar. They smelled like a childhood home I used to live in, behind a chicken butcher. The diary farms brought back memories of NZ and the occasional pig farms smelled so bad, I had to speed up to get away from them.

The libre was alright to ride on, the traffic had thinned in these parts and the occasional truck would pass me with enough space. I was zoning out in the morning so I decided to stop for a cup of coffee at a petrol station. I took a siesta and that refreshed me a bit. The next stretch was again boring and I just rode along gently cranking out the distance.

In the morning I had noticed a slow leak in my rear tire, duh. I hoped it would be fine till the evening, but of course, I had to get a flat in a treeless section. The air ran out quickly and I had to push my bike along looking for a clearing to work in. After a bit I found one and patched the flat. Incidentally, I think it’s the first one where the schwalbe tire was penetrated. And it was a tiny wire from the truck tires. Ah well.

I rode up to the next town, San Miguel de alto, which had a pretty church, but I didn’t bother to take pictures. But I did stop for a bit of food before heading on. As it would turn out, I’d learn two lessons about patching tubes.
1. Not to patch a flat by the side of the road. And if you did patch, not to use the same tube to ride immediately
2. The park tool stick on patches are rubbish even if you used additional glue.

As I started, I noticed the rear tire deflated and I had to fix it before moving on. I still had about 24 km to get to San Julian and the sun was scheduled to set in 45 mins. I figured I’d as well ride as long as I could with available light. As it had to be, the next section was an uphill too! Awesome.

I rode on and was scouting for motels or restaurants where I could ask to camp. There were many houses, but not much else. Eventually when the light got too low (I can see stars now), I was at the crest of some hill and I spotted a rancho (farm house of sorts). A couple of dogs were barking and some kids were plying. An old man, probably the grandpa came out and I asked him, in my awesome spanish if I could stay there. After taking a bit, he figured what I wanted and let me stay. Ain’t that cool, a random house call, and it works all over the world!

He didn’t want me to stay on the floor since he said there are lots of rats round. Hammock to the rescue! Yay. I found a spot to hang and he asked me to put my bags inside his car to keep away from the rats. Absolutely sweet. His son came by in a while and didn’t bat an eyelid at me, instead he smiled and I had to tell him my story and he was like, “ok, sleep here” and went off.

Faith in humanity, restored!

Route: Tepatitlan to Farm house near San Julian
Distance: 71 Km
Ascent: 980 m
Descent: 510 m
Expenses: $
Comment: A pretty blah day, made good by random kindness!

Day 128: Libre, Libre, Libre

Finally, I manage to extricate myself from the clutches of the lovely folks in GDL. It was difficult saying goodbyes, but such is life. I’ve made new friends and had amazing times. And now its time to move on.

I started the day with a nice b’fast with the lovely girls (Iris, Miriam & Helene) and when I got back to Casa Cyclista, I figured Marcin & Anna might not be joining me yet. Seems like the Flu that has been infecting the Casa has taken a good hold on them and they decided to bus it to the next town. We planned to ride together, may be that would be tomorrow.

I bid farewell to my buddy Dani, for the time being. We planned to sync up again after the New Year’s, with Wolfi. The boys are a riot and I would not want to miss riding with them. Steve, the Kiwi I met in Baja, showed up yesterday and it seems like we don’t get to hang out together much. May be our paths would cross soon enough. I hope the flu bug in CasaC passes soon enough and everyone gets party fit before Friday. Its the big party and I am missing it :-(

I headed out around 10 AM and followed the GPS tracks out of town. I felt a bit tedious to breathe, what with the blocked nose and stuff, but nothing a good exercise can’t cure eh. The bummer was that the cars and trucks were blowing fumes and breathing thro the mouth, just screwed with my throat too much. I managed to get to the toll road (Cuota) and followed it most of the way to Tepatitlan. It was a bit of a rolling route, but an easy ride thro the day. The shoulders were wide and riding was easy, but the Cuota starts to get real boring after a while.

I stopped for a quick break and coffee around noon and just as I was entering the toll road, my front tire had a puncture. Luckily I had a bit of a shade to investigate. Once again, the tires were not to blame. Seems like a bit of paint chipping inside the rim ended up damaging the inside of the tube. Bummer. I added a bit of duck tape over the rim tape and replaced the tubes before carrying on.

Abut 15 k’s or so before town, I was zoning out and not really enjoying the scenery. So I figured to change things up and got on to the Libre (free) highway. This was a bit more interesting, though slower and probably more dangerous due to the lack of a decent shoulder. At times shoulder would disappear and at best its about 2 feet wide. But its nicer to pass thro some sleepy villages along the way and wave to the kids on the street. Much more interesting than cranking out distance on the Cuota.

I made my way to Tepatitlan by 4:30 and hung out at a cafe. I was supposed to meet one of Iris’s friend, Christian, here and he showed up in a little while. We chatted a bit and rode around town and I finally left him and headed to meet my host in town at 7 PM.

Fernando, was a really nice chap and he let us feel at home the moment I got there. Marcin and Anna had already reached and we hung out the evening at home. Fernando’s family was more than welcoming of us and his mum made us some lovely pancakes for dinner and I must have swigged half a litre of fruit punch too, heh.

It’s sad to leave GDL, but I am happy to be back on the road an in a really nice home tonight.

Route: Guadalajara to Tepatitlan
Distance: 87 Km
Ascent: 950 m
Descent: 750 m
Expenses: $ 13.30
Comment: A bit of a boring route, but nice to be back on the road.