Another great migration
Guanajuato, Michoachan, Mexico State and monarch butterflies
Hello friends, family and those we've met on the road! Welcome to the eleventh edition of our newsletter, this time penned from Cuidad de Mexico.
Since the last edition we have mostly continued on the Trans Mexico route, experiencing plenty of dirt, cobbles and lung-busting climbs. We've eaten enough gorditas to fill our panniers, and camped so high that we woke up to a frosty tent. We also had a memorable stop in the beautiful city of Guantajuato, where we cosplayed as backpackers in a hostel and ate a falafel wrap the size of our heads. It's been a fantastic few weeks.
After leaving the wonderful Ivan and Isabel, and spending a night camping at a closed roadside restaurant, we ascended a cobbled hill, gazing at a statue of Cristo Rey, before descending into the pretty town of Guanajuato. With much of the historic centre pedestrianised, cars and bikes are forced into its underbelly, which consists of a network of tunnels that were previously home to underground rivers. Riding into town in this way, we were struck by how much we felt as though we were in a Mario Kart race, dodging pillars and skidding over cobbles. I wish I had photos, but it was not a time to take your hands off the handlebars.
When settled into our hostel we met Jeanne, our Quebecois pal, and together we spent three days exploring the city on foot, enjoying its colourful streets, cheap street food and the sounds of singing, day and night. It's a university town that's home to estudiantinas - students that double up as troubadours, offering tours of the town that feature songs and folk tales. These tours started on the hour, every hour, not far from our hostel window. We loved them, and the city's abundant warring mariachi troupes, regardless - live music is something that's been missing from our trip.
After our city break, we said another goodbye to Jeanne (we've stopped assuming each encounter will be our last now) and dived headlong into a punishing day of riding. We climbed uneven, vertiginous mining roads before descending via mountain-bike worthy trails - we were both really challenged physically and mentally by the relentlessness of this day, and were glad to be well rested for tackling it. It was also a day that confirmed our suspicion that an upcoming section of the route (CDMX to Oaxaca) might be beyond our comfort. It can be difficult, after six months on the road, to admit that you still have limitations: despite being the fittest we've ever been, there are still many other riders out there doing more, longer, faster days. Some of them have less stuff than us, making them lighter, but plenty of them are just stronger. I (Suzie) have been particularly disheartened by the realisation that to get to Oaxaca in time for Christmas we'll need to pivot to tarmac, but a day spent with our friend Greg in Mexico City helped to reshape this disappointment: not only did his validation of our plan as a good idea for us really help, but we are now also so excited to follow along with his journey as he attempts the 18,000m of climbing in 650km of riding that is out of reach for us. We can't wait to catch up with him during the festive period and to hear all about it.
After a few more days on the road, the scenery started to change. In the states of Michoachan and Mexico we returned to verdant trees and gushing rivers, with a more acute sense of abundance. We rode to a little town called Macheros, marked on the route as an ideal spot to witness the migration of Monarch butterflies, who sunbathe at the top of mountains in the region. We settled in the reserve's campsite (yes, a real campsite with toilets and everything!) for two nights and, as a celebration of Ed's birthday (and courtesy of his sister and her family), hired a guide and two horses, which we rode up the hill in order to catch the mariposas. Our photos don't do the spectacle any justice: thousands of butterflies clung to tall pines, giving the impression of autumn leaves, before floating through the sun-soaked sky. It was wonderful to engage in some classically touristic behaviour, and it's a sight we're so glad we didn't just roll past.
You may have noticed me say that yes, it's been six months. As we approached Ed's birthday and this milestone, we naturally found ourselves reflecting on how far we've come, and how much further we've still to go. We both feel fantastic on the bike, and are enjoying how relaxed the attitude to wild camping is in Mexico, and these are big things when it comes to our day-to-day wellbeing. But we've also been struck by how much is ahead (we're not even halfway), and the dull ache of feeling friends and family are far away has ever so slightly increased. Recently we missed the wedding of some of our best pals back in London, and we found ourselves feeling very far from home when a family member went through surgery (they're doing well!). Although strong in our resolve that it's best to attempt this trip in one whack where possible, the thought of the scale of what we're undertaking is now more of a daily companion, and something we're adjusting to.
Thankfully arriving in Mexico City - after a dash over two mountains, a last-minute Warm Shower (thank you Antonio!), a dodgy Burger King veggie burger and a very welcome rail trail - has helped us feel a little more like ourselves: it's good to once again be surrounded by bustle, and the fashions and habits of city people. We've stayed with two sets of generous Warm Showers hosts and are loving the plethora of museums as well as the opportunities for good coffee and visits to Decathlon. Our ongoing sleeping bag saga has also been resolved, with the help of Esteban, to whom we simply cannot give enough shoutouts.
We'll rest up here a little longer before continuing south towards Oaxaca for Christmas, when you can expect the next installment of this newsletter.
Toot or boot
Bums being sore from a bike saddle BOOT
Bums being sore from a horse saddle TOOT
Traffic on the winding roads of the Valle de Bravo BOOT
Being able to camp behind a petrol station in the middle of one of the country's most touristic spots TOOT
Mexico going out of the World Cup BOOT
The lack of cars on the road during football games TOOT
Thanks and shoutouts
Ivan and Isabel
Everyone from the hostel in Guanajuato
Jeanne and Greg, siempre!
Felipe and Mariana
Lia, Colin and family
We are Edwin Foote and Suzie McCracken - thanks for signing up for our newsletter! Edwin is from England and Suzie is from Northern Ireland and normally we live together in Deptford, south-east London. We arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska, in May 2022 and are attempting to ride our bicycles the length of the Americas, hoping to finish in Argentina in 2024. If you have any recommendations of things we should do, people we should meet or places we should stay, we'd love to hear from you! Please reply to this email, or follow us on Instagram (ed_win or _suziemccracken).