Day 22 – El Camon to Cintalpa – 226 Miles

The morning started on a positive note: neither us nor our belongings were carried off by bugs in the night. However, we’d gotten rather cold at one point and with only sheets on the bed, Kay grabbed his BMW jacket and put it over his legs. The bed was also quite possibly the cheapest bed I’ve ever slept in – no matter how I rolled over or tried to get out of the way, I ended up rolling into Kay. We spent the night in a lump in the middle of the bed. Listening to one of our neighbors watch Spanish TV LOUDLY, whilst another (possibly the same) made loud banging sounds.

We got up and out rather quickly this morning, and were just packing up the bikes around 8AM… when Kay suddenly started feeling queasy. He went to sit on a pile of rocks nearby while I chatted with some folks who were originally from Washington (the state, not DC) but had moved to Monterrey. They had two dogs traveling with them, and one of them kept bringing me a rock to throw. That’s right. She fetched ROCKS. The couple was friendly and were giving us tons of tips and asking about our trip, while Kay was getting worse and worse. By the time I walked over to check on him, he was ready to go lean over a trash can and start hurling.

After Kay was violently ill for probably 5-10 minutes, he walked over to sit on the steps of the hotel in the shade and I went hunting some drink to settle his stomach. All I could find was Sprite. He sipped it and waited for his stomach to decide what it was doing. By around 9AM, he was feeling recovered enough to head out on the bikes, although he professed to be repulsed by the idea of food. We hadn’t had breakfast and I wanted Kay to try to eat something, so we rode for a bit with me leading and waiting for Kay’s stomach to settle further.

After about 40 minutes of riding, we ran across a random roadside food stand with a bunch of locals sitting around a table, and smoke coming off what appeared to be a big grill. We walked up, and I asked the girl cooking what she was making. “Quesadillas,” she said. After consulting with Kay, I ordered one for each of us, thinking that should be relatively easy on his stomach. It was just a humble cheese quesadilla, but it was SURPRISINGLY tasty. Seriously good. She cooked it on a large, cast-iron convex sheet – like a big, thick, very shallow cast iron bowl.

wood fired quesadillas

We quickly polished off our quesadillas, and asked for two more. I was happy Kay felt like eating more and happy to polish off another tasty quesadilla. One of the guys there spoke some English and asked if we wanted some hot sauce, and laughed at us when we declined. This seems to be a recurring theme in Mexico. “Look at the gringos – they don’t like hot sauce!”

Kay seemed much revived after the food, so we hit the road again. It was another morning of beautiful riding. We rode down 180 from El Camon to Jalapa, and it was lots more nice twisty roads. I’ve been constantly amazed by how beautiful the riding can be in Mexico. I wasn’t expecting this many mountains and beautiful roads.

Nearing Jalapa on 190, Kay pointed out that his GPS thought there was a BIG honking lake off to our left. I looked at my map and confirmed it on the paper map, but we couldn’t see the lake. Kay said that one of the dirt roads we passed on the left would probably lead that way, so we took one of them off in that direction.

It started heading down toward the lake… but pretty quickly turned off to the right. And led to a big yard with a couple of structures and a fence on it, and a guy standing in the middle burning things ( as Mexicans are want to do ). He seemed unhappy that we’d come down the road, and signaled very firmly for us to turn around and go back out. We both felt a little tension after that, as it was the first hostility we’d really encountered and it certainly made the idea of taking another dirt road less appealing.

After Jalapa, things started getting a bit more boring (but warmer)… and at Tehuantepec, we took a side trip into town to look for an ATM to grab some more cash. That took longer than expected, and the riding after we left Tehuantepec toward the north (to Juchitan, and then La Ventosa) went from boring to downright unpleasant. Almost as soon as we left Tehuantepec, we noticed the wind picking up. And up. We’d basically entered a big open plain, and the scrubby trees weren’t doing a lot to break up the wind.

The wind was blowing us all over the road and as we approached La Ventosa, we saw that at least the locals were doing something about it… we entered a ginormous wind farm. There were dozens of large, industrial windmills (maybe even hundreds, as they were spread out over a wide area) and we kept passing a hill and then encountering more of them. From just before La Ventosa until around Niltepec (give or take…) there were tons of windmills. But as soon as we entered the hills again for good, the wind died down and the riding became more enjoyable again.

At this point, Kay commented that the terrain we were passing through resembled an African savannah. The trees were similar to what we’ve seen in video and photography from Africa, albeit more dense than we’d expect to see there. The temperatures, too, were HOT – the thermometer on my bike read 103 in the shade (one of the thermometers said 113) but both could have been off a bit from engine heat… but it was still hot. So we’d started the day in the mountains in the mid-50s, and by around 3PM, we’d reached a toasty African savannah.

By around 4PM, we were getting close to leaving the lowlands and Kay was pondering whether to stop early and try to hidey-camp. We knew that once we hit Tepanatenec and started heading toward Centalpa, we’d get into the mountains again and it would be borderline (or actually) too cold to camp, depending on where we started. Kay kept his eyes out for good hidey-camp roads, but eventually he reported that he was feeling uneasy about hidey-camping down there. I posited that perhaps it had something to do with our unpleasant encounter with the local on the dirt road earlier, and Kay agreed that might have played a role.

Whatever it was, we didn’t find a road that seemed good to us until we started heading up into the mountains, and when Kay tried to communicate that he’d found a good road, I couldn’t understand because the headsets were acting up. Kay was all of a sudden too distorted for me to understand. We both rebooted our headsets multiple times, but it took probably 5 to 10 minutes for us to get the headsets happily rebooted so that we could both hear one another. The Cardo Scala Rider G4s definitely still have some bugs to work out.

By then, it had been miles since the hidey-camp roads and we opted to keep going rather than turn around and start trying to explore them. So we rode through the mountains again, and eventually came out onto a plateau. We’d gone up to about 800 meters at one point, and plateaued at a little over 600 meters (we’d been at around 77 meters before we started into the mountains) and the world suddenly took on a whole new look and feel.

The riding was beautiful again. The colors seemed more vibrant. There were mountains off to the left, and some off to the right, too. It was cooler. And we both felt immensely more positive about the riding and the vibes from the place. We both agreed that we’d have felt comfortable hidey-camping on practically any of the roads we encountered on the highland plateau, and it was a stark contrast to how we’d felt in the lowlands. No idea why we felt hostility in the lowlands and why we felt positive energy in the highlands, but we did.

Sadly, it was going to be too cold to camp up here, so we rode on to Cintalapa and rode around town for a few minutes until we found a hotel that didn’t seem as shady (kay: skeezy / sketchy / icky) as the ones on the edge of town. Don’t think there are any bugs here, and Internet is available (for a fee) but doesn’t seem to be Wi-Fi. We’ll figure that out in a minute. It was a little under $30 US (more than the $13 US we paid last night) but for the peace of mind, it didn’t seem too bad. We’ve loaded some more Dr. Who onto the iPad for our viewing pleasure, and I think I’ll do some laundry and let it dry while we watch TV.

The day had its ups and downs, but seems to be ending on a positive note. (Also, I’m happy to report that Kay seems to be feeling much better now – no more tummy badness, although we’re both feeling a bit tired and run-down.)

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