Cycling Sinaloa :: Heat & Hospitality

Leaving Mazatlan

Weaving in and out of traffic, we finally reach the wide shoulders of Highway 15 leading out of Mazatlan.  It is hot, we’re thoroughly drenched in sweat and we are leaving later than we’d like, but we’re feeling energetic and hopeful.  We’ve been off the bicycles for over a month, waiting for the ferry in La Paz, waiting for visa extensions and waiting out illness.  It feels liberating to be moving forward again, both of us wondering what we might find over the horizon or who we might meet later in the day.

We stop in the lively town of Villa Union to grab an early lunch.  I’m feeling a little self-conscious, our clothes completely soaked with sweat, our faces flushed, while the locals look fresh and undeterred by the heat.  As I finish my quesadillas the lady who owns the tiny restaurant motions to the young waitress and when she comes to pick up our empty plates she replaces them with two small bowls of flan.  I look up, surprised and she laughs and points to the owner who gives us a huge smile and a wave.  My heart swells with gratitude and I slowly and deliberately eat the desert, each spoonful more delightful than the last.

Scenes from Villa Union, Sinaloa, Mexico from 2cycle 2gether on Vimeo.

As we leave town we take a right onto Highway 6, a detour that heads toward the coast.  It doesn’t have shoulders and it adds a few miles on to our route, but it has little traffic and provides the rural and relaxed riding experience we both love.

Beautiful & quiet back road Hwy 6 south of Villa Union in Sinaloa.

Highway 6 is quiet, smooth & gorgeous! We pass by lagoons and wetlands throughout the day.

Lagoons, Hwy 6 south of Mazatlan

Around mile 40, and before we begin to head away from the ocean, we start thinking about a camp site for the night.  A man on a scooter pulls up beside us and we stop to chat.  He lives down the road in the next town and when we ask about camping along the shore he tells us to just pick a spot, that we can camp anywhere without issue.

Cycling through Sinaloa :: Highway 6, south of Mazatlan from 2cycle 2gether on Vimeo.

A few miles later, as we near the tiny town of La Palmita we pull off toward the ocean and a mere hundred feet in front of us is a nearly deserted, beautiful beach.  We quickly agree our day is done and trade our clothes for swimsuits.

Wild camp at La Palmita beach, south of Mazatlan

“Camp anywhere!”

The water is warm, like bathwater, but it washes the sweat of the day away.  We spend the rest of the afternoon playing, doing flips in to oncoming waves and body-surfing our way back to the shore.  Later I stretch and walk out the day’s ride along the beach.  There’s nothing like it, really.  The sound of the waves calms my mind and an underlying uneasiness settles down in to a gentle acceptance of what is.  Each long “shwoooooooooosh” of the water hitting the shoreline becomes a testament to the fact that everything is moving, ebbing and flowing in its own consistent and rightful way.

It’s Friday night and before long the beach is dotted with families, coming out to get in a quick swim before sunset and to chat with neighbors.  As we eat dinner, we notice a man come out of a small shack in the field behind us, taking a hoe to the garden.  The barely audible sound of metal turning earth echoes the waves mantra, “Here, here, now.”.

Sunset at La Palmita beach, south of Mazatlan

We watch people slowly gather their things and walk toward town, the setting sun signaling the time to leave.  I quickly set up our tent in the fading light and we grimace when the swift breeze dwindles to a stifling stillness.  As lightning splashes across the sky and thunder threatens, we lie in our tent, spread out naked as jaybirds, trying not to move and taking heavy, hot breathes.  Beads of sweat sparkle in the moonlight and sleep rides in and out on the waves of heat.  The rain never comes.

We wake early, feeling limp and drained from the sweltering heat.  Just before the sun rises we race toward the water, jump in for a brief reprieve, then run back to cover ourselves before we shock the few local folks we see meandering our way from town.  Five minutes later we’re fully clothed and just as sweaty as we were upon waking.  Men carrying baskets over their shoulders scan the beach for clams and pairs of women in exercise clothing speed walk the road parallel to the beach.

As we start moving about, putting away our tent and gear, we’re attacked by tiny, annoying, flying bugs that try to make their way into our ears, nose, mouth and eyes.  We first encountered these little buggers in Baja and were told they were only around for certain parts of the season, their sole purpose to consume the amniotic fluid of hatched eggs along the shore.  Unfortunately, they also seem to be naturally attracted to sunscreen, ear wax and any other orifice that secretes any kind of fluid.  We dance about, trying not to go mad with their insistent nature, and dash toward the road. We decide to skip breakfast and hunker down to ride till we get further from shore, the breeze we create by riding the only thing preventing them from overwhelming us.

Beach gnats, Sinaloa, Mexico from 2cycle 2gether on Vimeo.

The heat falls upon us like a thick blanket, causing us to feel heavy and slow.  As we ride alongside fields of symmetrically planted palms we hear the distant “clonking” sound of coconuts hitting the ground.  We catch glimpses of men balancing long white poles in the sky and realize they’re carefully coaxing the the fresh, green nuts from their nests.  We meet men on scooters or bicycles heading toward the town we just left.  When they see us they take on a look of both shock and delight, raising their hands in greeting.

Horses roam freely among coconut trees.

As we speed past a group of men harvesting coconuts near the road we hear their whoops of joy and their calls for us to stop.  We quickly make a u-turn to head back.  Despite that we’ll be covered in the flying gnats we’re trying to outrun we want to meet and say hello to the men who are walking toward us with glowing, smiling faces.  As we shake their hands and wish them a good morning they quickly grab two coconuts and chop off the ends, handing us each one and motioning for us to drink.  The milk is clear and not what I expected.  It has a hint of sweetness about it but is more bitter than I had anticipated.  Once we finish drinking they take their machetes to the nut again, cutting it in half then cutting small pieces of coconut shell off for us to use as scoops.  We dish out the white meat.  It’s very filling.  What a great and generous gift these men have offered two passing and hungry strangers on bicycles!

Given a fresh, green coconut as a gift from a man harvesting.

Drinking the coconut juice.

Eating the meat of the coconut.

Kai scooping the meat out.

We finally start to make our way inland again, passing through the tiny town of Aqua Verde, where Kai determines we should try to take a shortcut that appears to exist on his map.  It will keep us off the busy Highway 15 and should cut off 10 miles of our day’s route so I’m up for it.  After we mime and grunt our way through several conversations with people we meet on the streets we make our way toward what we think is the road we should be on.  It’s a dirt road but it appears to be well-travelled and several other locals on bicycles are going in the same direction so we keep at it.  Soon we come upon a section of the road that is covered in thigh-high water but a dump truck driver that we asked for directions from earlier is patiently waiting for us.  He jumps out of his cab when he sees us approach and points us toward the adjacent farmer’s field.  There’s a well-worn path through the field, just alongside the fence, that is obviously used by local pedestrians and cyclists to bypass the flooded road.  We’re, once again, overcome by the kindness of this man, and others we continue to meet, that take time out of their day to wait for us, to make sure we’re on the right path and to offer their assistance.

Streets of Aqua Verde, Sinaloa

Leaving Aqua Verde

Using a farmer's field to bypass a flooded road.  Aqua Verde to Chametla

Riding through a farmer’s field to avoid a flooded road.

We rattle our way over the field and continue on till we come upon another surprise – a swift, deep and wide river.  But we discover a man with a boat near the shore who offers rides across the river and so we load all our gear, our bicycles and ourselves into the narrow cavity of a slightly leaky boat.  A few minutes later we’re on the other side and I’m almost knee-deep in muddy water, unloading our bags and passing them over to Kai, who then carries them up the steep shoreline to flatter land.  After we load the bicycles up again we quickly clean our muddy legs off with the river water then head down the still-dirt road toward the next town on the map.

Our shortcut meets a river!  Aqua Verde to Chametla

Meeting the river.

River crossing, Aqua Verde to Chametla, Sinaloa

Sheila at the front of the narrow boat with all the gear.

River crossing, Aqua Verde to Chametla, Sinaloa

Kai in the middle holding on to his bicycle.

Road leading to Chametla, Sinaloa

The road on the other side of the river.

We continue through Chamelta toward the town of Pozole, the road occasionally morphing from dirt to pavement.  Making a quick pass through Pozole we opt to go back to the only restaurant in town that serves something other than shrimp.  As we pull in to the driveway a man grilling holds some nice looking fillets of fish in the air, asking if we’d like some.  I smile and say, yes, the smell of frying fish reminding me of my own father, who would spend weekends grilling the fish he had caught earlier in the week for our family’s dinner.  The rest of the family, a grandmother, a mother and several young girls surround us, motioning for us to pull our bicycles in to the shade and to sit at the picnic tables.  A woman younger than me, and mother of the three girls, goes to a small drink cooler, lifts the lid and asks if I’d like a glass.  I look in and see blocks of ice floating in a milky-looking liquid and I ask her what it is.  “Aqua de Horchata,” which turns out to be a concoction of boiled rice juice, milk, sugar and cinnamon.  As you can imagine, it’s absolutely delicious!

A family heading to Aqua Verde, from Chametla, Sinaloa

Met this family from Chamelta heading toward Aqua Verde to sell puppies.

Met this guy and his puppies on the road to Chametla.

Short break in Chametla, Sinaloa

Taking a water break in Chamelta.

Vegetable truck, Chametla, Sinaloa

A vegetable truck stopping at the market we were sitting in front of in Chamelta.

Lunch Break in Pozole?, Sinaloa

The restaurant we stopped at in Pozole.

Soon, additional family members, uncles and cousins, come out to say hello and to ask us questions about our trip, our bicycles and our plans.  Eventually David, a young, charismatic teenager, is summoned.  He can speak English fluently and he spends the next hour fielding questions from the family, asking us the question in English then translating our answer to the group sitting around us.  We show them our gear, pictures of our family and our tiny home back in Vermont.  They explain who was who in their family, offer us use of their shower and gently coax us in to hand-made rocking chairs under the shade of a mango tree in their backyard.  We spend a wonderful afternoon exchanging stories and taking turns answering and asking questions.  We learn that the kids were on school break for a month, that one family had lived in the States for a couple of years, that many people in the area make their income this time of year by selling coconuts and mangoes.  David, who spent a couple of years living in California, talks to us about racism and misconceptions he noticed that U.S. citizens held about Mexicans.  We talk about how Mexico is much more advanced and economically better off than many Americans assume, but David also laments things that he feels holds Mexico back from progressing, things like girls and young women marrying or becoming pregnant at too young of an age.  We spend hours talking to the family, about a myriad of subjects, and feel incredibly lucky to have been invited in and welcomed in to their home.

Young men met in Pozole?, Sinaloa

Teenage boys, family we met in Pozole (David on the far right).

Wonderful Family we met in Pozole?, Sinaloa

The generous and wonderful family we met in Pozole.

Even though the afternoon heat hasn’t abated much, we decide to continue on toward our final destination, a hotel in Escuinapa that will offer a cooler environment in which we can catch up on the sleep we lost the night before.  The rest of the afternoon is tough and long.  The heat is so intense that we have to take frequent breaks under the shade of roadside trees.  We finally make it to the busy town late in the day and, exhausted, cycle our way around town to check out the five hotels on offer.  We end up deciding to pay a little extra for the hotel that has an elevator so that we won’t have to lug our gear and bikes up flights of stairs.  The next day we move to a cheaper hotel and take a rest day.  We catch up on sleep and spend the evening taking in the events on the town square and people watching.

Just a few days in to cycling through mainland Mexico and we’ve already been blown away by the generosity and friendliness of people who live here.  Despite travel warnings put out by the U.S. government and despite the narco-related violence that threatens some areas of Mexico (including the states we’re travelling through), we haven’t once felt threatened or unsafe.  In fact, our humbling experiences have only proven that our global community isn’t as dangerous as one might think.

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12 comments to Cycling Sinaloa :: Heat & Hospitality

  • It is great to catch up on your story and I loved the videos. :^) Tammy has been experimenting with a service called soundcloud recently and has found its easier than writing for her to communicate to her readers and her readers also love hearing her voice. :^)

    Regarding the bugs, Tammy and I pack a bug head net from “sea to summit” on our bike camping trips. They weigh almost nothing, work great to strain wash veggies, berries and fruit and really reduce the madness that little critters can cause when buzzing or climbing around your face. :^)

    • Hi Logan,

      I’ve noticed Tammy’s use of soundcloud and it works great! We accumulate so many video footage that we never show that it seemed a shame not to start sharing short snippets. I keep telling myself I’ll have time to put together longer storylines but it’s difficult to find time lately, plus it’s been a frustrating experience trying to upload larger media files from our often spotty and slow internet connections. I’m experimenting with these short videos so thanks for the feedback!

      We meant to pick up a couple of locally made nets before leaving Vermont then never got to it. Other than that one day it hasn’t been a big issue so far but we’re keeping our eyes open while we travel and hope to pick some up along the way. I sure wish we had them at the beach that day though. Thanks for the tip on your brand and on the double-use of them. :-)

      Will be following you as you prepare for your move. I’m going to go over and take a look at RowdyKittens now to get an update. :-)

      • Hey Shelia,

        Yes, Tammy has been loving soundcloud. She does a one-take recording via her iphone and that medium seems to work really well for her. You should try it! :^) I’d think it would be easier than video. Tammy is getting so good at this I’m thinking maybe I should start a podcast with her after the book tour. :^)

        We will be moving September 4th (after the labor day madness). We stained and sealed the house this weekend and will be doing a few other things to prep. I also have a few compost updates that I’ll have to send you soon! :^)

        Cheers,
        Logan.

        • Oh Logan, but I really dislike how I sound on recordings (it’s totally my own self-consciousness/judgement, I know)! But, I can see how it would make things a lot easier than video. Maybe I’ll experiment a bit and see what I come up with. I DO love podcasts. I would love it if you started one!

          You two have lots of changes happening right now. I love that you can just pick up and move – benefit of having a tiny house and living simply.

          After the madness settles down, do send an update on the compost situation. I’m always interested in learning about that! :-)

  • LUIS

    I’m enjoying so much you travesy , this is a dream of my , since 25 years ago , and I still can not do it!! You guys are going to be responsable for my divorce , because I want to do what you are doing , soooo bad . Keep the good spirits and enjoy Mexico and their people , they are good and candid . BUENA SURTE and keep up the good work writting your travel .

  • luis

    I live in las vegas , would have been nice to have seen you when you passed near here ,I wonder how many miles you ride every day ? I can do , here in Vegas 40 or 50 miles without problems on a mountain bike, but without any weight on it, what difference does the weight you carry? I hope guys you doing fine in Jalisco , I used to live in Guadalajara , enjoy that city is beautiful , have a great trip , are you guys allright ?

    • Hi Luis,

      We didn’t actually ride through Las Vegas – we had to take the Amtrak (the California Zephyr) from Nebraska to California to beat the winter weather and to get south sooner. We may be through there though on the flip side of our trip, when we hope to tour Canada and the U.S. extensively.

      Mileage depends on many things – how we’re feeling, terrain, weather – we can ride anywhere from 11 miles up to around 60 miles. I imagine if we had some flat stretches we’d likely ride more. Also, our mileage increases as our fitness increases. So we started off climbing around 20 miles a day and got up to around 40-50 miles of climbing in the last couple of months. Really, we usually just have a general goal in mind each day but if we are having trouble or we feel like we want to stop earlier, we do. Since we have a tent we can pretty much stop anywhere, which gives us a lot of flexibility.

      As far as our weight, it makes a difference. We can feel every pound we’re carrying when climbing and we have sent home more than several packages of gear and clothing and stuff we just didn’t want to carry any longer to get rid of some of the weight. That being said, our bicycles and our stuff makes up our “home” so at some point you just have to accept the weight and acknowledge you need what you’re carrying. When we’re staying in places and on unloaded bicycles it feels bizarre – we’re so fast it’s scary! (Ha, Ha)

      We loved Guadalajara and are loving Jalisco. We are fine, thanks for asking – and we are loving Mexico. The people here are so welcoming and nice to us. It’s humbling and makes our hearts swell with gratitude.

      Have fun riding in Vegas and thanks for commenting, Luis!!!

  • Denise

    Coconut meat tastes soooo much better with some sugar on top ;)

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