The Main-land event
All aboard the Trans Mexico
Hello friends, family and those we've met on the road! Welcome to the tenth edition of our newsletter, this time penned from Lagos de Moreno in Jalisco, Mexico.
To say things have changed since the last email would be a bit of an understatement. We've left Baja behind for mainland Mexico, where we've already encountered a range of different climates; from the sweaty humidity of Mazatlan on the coast, to the rainforest-esque conditions on the ascent to Durango, followed by the drier altiplano and crisp air of agricultural lands. Climbs have proved our only constant companion, although we've been lucky enough to spend more time with friends too.
Another big change is that we've started to follow a route - the Trans Mexico. This stretches from Mazatlan to the border wih Guatemala, and prioritises dirt roads over tarmac. We don't believe we'll have time to follow it for the whole period that we are in Mexico, as it adds a lot of kilometres to our overall endeavour, but what we have experienced so far has been incredibly fun.
Considering we have very little experience of riding unpaved roads (Ed, some; Suzie, almost none), we have been elated to discover how rewarding it is. We are certainly pushing our traditional cycle-touring setups to the limit (ie, racks and panniers with medium tyres rather than mountain bikes with frame bags and chunky boys), and find ourselves unable to cover the distances we had become accustomed to on the asphalt. But in return for this slower progress we get miles of being able to actually speak to each other (no truck noise) and the incomparable sense of smugness that comes with completing a particularly challenging section. Often we have been traversing uneven bedrock, loose gravel, gigantic puddles and even destroyed bridges, and somehow we are still smiling. It's been an absolute joy.
Although our newfound love for dirt is probably the headline of these past few weeks, it belies just how much fun we've had on roads, too. Paricularly from Mazatlan to Durango, which we have since learned is considered one of the world's most beautiful highways. This path snakes from the coast right up through the heavily forested mountains, through tiny villages that enjoy some of the most astounding scenic views we have ever encountered. It really stood up to some of our favourite sections of riding on the trip so far (parts of Alaska, Tahoe to Yosemite in California), and although it was physically punishing, we were buoyed by the presence of trees after the cactus-only Baja and the lack of traffic due to relatively new toll road that often runs parallel to the 'libre' (free) route.
At our new average altitude of 2000m, we've also returned to cold nights. At first this was a bit of a shock, and we compensated by visiting hotels and making use of the hospitality of the bomberos (firefighters) during our first week or so on the road. But now we have settled back into a kind of routine. Gone are the dawn exits that were necessary in Baja: now we wait until we have enough sun to warm our toes. And we have some new sleeping bags currently on their way to Mexico City (thank you Esteban!), to help ease our passage into the tropical climes of Central America.
We've also greatly enjoyed how much more populated this part of Mexico is. From an administrative perspective, it means we have to carry much less food, as there is always a tienda or a little roadside restaurant selling gorditas (corn pouches full of beans, cactus or green peppers). We are also now able to enjoy cities in a way we couldn't afford to in the US - here we can stretch to a hostel or Airbnb, and spend a day or two walking around and eating ice creams. We've had a fabulous time in Mazatlan, Durango and Zazatecas, enjoying the architecture and museums in each.
And, as always, we've been helped along the way by faces old and new. We spent some more time with Baja buddies Carla and Rolf in Durango, and then, in a turn of events that brought so much cheer to the both of us, we overlapped with Rhyss (from Baja) and our old pal Greg at a fabulous Warm Showers in Zacatecas. I think seeing Greg again, who we rode with for a month in the US, was more restorative than a month off the bike could have been: it was such a pleasure to catch up and hear about his experience in Mexico so far (he crossed the border in New Mexico, and swerved the usual Baja-bound route). Hosts Francisco, Sandra and Paco, meanwhile, treated us to enchilladas and gave us a rooftop base in the middle of this incredibly attractive colonial city. It really felt like a holiday, and now that we're back on the road, Greg - who is also on the Trans Mexico - is proving a fantastic scout, as we languish a couple of days behind him.
A Spanish-speaking scout could also prove useful as we venture onwards in Mexico. If you are a fellow touring cyclist feel free to skip this bit: you'll have heard it all before. But for those of you who have been asking about how we keep ourselves safe, it's worth mentioning first that we haven't felt in danger since we arrived in Mexico (in fact, we were more nervous of some parts of the US). Since we decided on this trip, through our reading about travelling in these countries and our gathering of information from other cyclists, we have been aware that the best tactic is to ask locals about the road ahead, and whether it is safe to pass. This becomes a little more complicated when you factor in some things that are true pretty much everywhere in the world: most people regard bike travel as inherently dangerous, and people think the next town/city/state over is where the bad guys are. So we are trying to stay in constant (if somewhat stilted) conversation with people as we pass through areas known to be hotspots for cartel activity or land disputes. So far we have only made one change of plan - a 200km bus through part of the state of Zacatecas. We established that many cyclists ride this section without problems, but we had enough warnings that we felt it better to just enjoy an excuse not to pedal. We had help from Paty and Gabi, from a Whatsapp group designed to help touring cyclists in Mexico, with the latter helping us smoothly catch said bus. This change in plan also facilitated our food-filled reunion with Greg and Rhyss, so we're not complaining.
Next comes Guanajuato, reportedly one of the country's most beautiful towns, followed by San Miguel del Allende and Mexico City. We can't wait.
Toot or boot
When you weren't expecting the road to be cobbled BOOT
The disappearance of RVs/motorhomes, and being back on the 'same team' as touring motorcyclists TOOT
Snakes, spiders and insects of all kinds... BOOT
Migrating butterflies, everywhere! TOOT
Dogs chasing you on the steepest part of the hill BOOT
One friendly dog bounding along beside us for 50km, including an overnight camp TOOT
Punctures, loosened bolts, malfunctioning kit BOOT
Conquering dirt roads TOOT
My folding keyboard breaking so ha is hard o ype he leer 'T' BOO
Finding time at Ivan and Isabel's peaceful home to complete this newsletter TOOT
Thanks and shoutouts
Craig and his dad
Francisco, Sandra and Paco
Ivan and Isabel
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).