Note: As from the previous post, this should have been a single entry. Lets see how far I get this time against accursed WordPress and photo uploads:
Mexico City (or District Federales as it’s known in Mexico, abbreviated to DF, or more confusingly, simply Mexico. In fact, the proper name for the country is the United States of Mexico…) was the next milestone, almost directly east of us. But to get there we needed to cross 2 substantial mountain ranges, the first starting out right from Morelia. It was well into the afternoon that I glanced back to read a roadsign that said ”Morelia 50km”. We’d been climbing nonstop for hours, in fact had we turned around there, we’d been able to freewheel back to withing 4km of Morelia. And it was still another 6km to the summit, making it a hard but rewarding day in the saddle.
The other plus of this as the crow flies mountainous assault on DF is that it takes us into the heart of the +3000m high forests that marks the southern terminus of the annual migration of the Monarch Butterflies, from the Great Lakes area in south eastern Canada. Basically they’d come just as far as I had, in about the same time. The sight of hundreds of thousands of butterflies weighing down the branches of trees was awe inspiring and quite humbling.
We yet again dropped out of the mountains to cross a vast valley before the final push up and over into Mexico City. This time a 35km uphill took is to withing jumping height of 3600m, before the long descent into the City. The road was remarkable quiet for its proximity to a metropolis of 20 million people, and within the last 25km we were still speeding through empty and peaceful forrests.
My first impressions of the city were very favourable, but admittedly these were against a backdrop of very low expectations. We stayed for 2 nights with vintage bike loving Antonio and about be veterinarian Julio. They were Warm Shower hosts living in a grand old flat in a very hip and upcoming part of town, filled but trendy restaurants and bars, the likes of which would fit seamlessly into any global city. (NOTE: A re-read of this statement made me wonder what I actually know about global bars and restaurants. Jack to be honest. I just liked the city OK…) The staple attractions of the city were also of an impressively grand scale: The parks and public spaces, the monuments, the museums, the colonial buildings, the cathedral and squares. The gleaming modern skyscrapers of a financial flavour expelled all doubt that it was a city surviving only on the memory of past heydays. I was simply dazzled and charmed by everything, and reluctantly accepted that a 2 day stay was not doing the city any justice.
In trying to extend my stay I faced an accommodation problem: Our hosts were all leaving for the weekend, and Javier joined Antonio and his girlfriend as they left on a mini biketour south, which fitted in perfectly with his plans – It was now early in December and Javi had decided his holiday needed a holiday. He was heading back to Spain for some time in the snow, a family Christmas and maybe even a couple of weeks worth of work. Being a chef he was in high demand by his former employer it a posh ski lodge facing the looming peak season. Riding together we’d played to our individual strengths and informally accepted different areas of responsibility: I’d plot and navigate the route and Javier would deal with people and charm us into free camping or accommodation along the way. It had been a very fruitfull partnership but now I was on my ace and looking for low, or rather no-cost housing options. A failed attempt at the Casa Ciclista ended with me meeting a random other local cyclist and graphic designer, Armando, who offered me his place to stay for the night. What followed was an unexpected 45min, 20km cross city nightride to his 2 room apartment he shared with his mother. For supper we went to the neighbourhood taco shop, which was heaving on a Friday night. It took almost an hour to receive our order, but it was well worth the wait as we tucked into the delicious morsels. Perhaps the best taco’s a had in Mexico, definitely among the best. Armando and his mother were of modest means, and feeding a ravenous stranger would leave a noticeable dent on their budget, but they flat out refused my offers of squaring up. That night I was offered the makeshift bed normally used by Armando, as he and his mother shared the single bed in the tiny bedroom. I was deeply touched by the selflessness and kindness of complete strangers.
In the morning I accepted that I’d exhausted my accommodation options and set out to book myself into a hostel. This allowed me the freedom to explore the city at leasure. Even 3 nights was barely enough to scratch the surface, and I’ll let the pictures tell a small part of the story.
Righto. No nice polished ending as this is not the end. Read on in next post.