Today was a short day, riding-wise, so we spent the morning exploring Oaxaca. Just a few blocks from the town square is a market, though it would be more accurate to use the plural, markets, as the shops sprawl for blocks in all directions. Each block is loosely dedicated to one group of items. Want a mattress? There’s a block for that. Bicycle? No problem. Clothes, textiles, electronics, just about anything one could expect to find has its place. We spent most of our time in the food market, which was jaw-droppingly diverse. Meats, fruits, vegetables, breads, alcohol, and more lined the walls and baskets in an endless maze of offerings. I was surprised to find spiced crickets, a common snack in some parts of Mexico. I tried them and they were pretty good.
I wanted to bring back a keepsake from the trip and kept my eye open for something special. Luis, one of my guides, suggested Barro Negro pottery, traditional items sculpted from a black clay found in the region. Thinking this was the perfect memento, I purchased the very vase Luis had pointed to when describing the pottery. It was perched on a shelf in a store window and stunning to behold. I was surprised by the cost, only $20 (everything in Mexico is surprisingly inexpensive). Inspired by the low cost, I picked up some shot glasses of the same composition. Drinks are always better when there’s a backstory.
Our shopping complete, we mounted our motorcycles and headed into the mountains. Again, the region surprised me with its pine-laden mountains and cool breezes. We stopped for lunch, enjoying another of the countless fattening delicacies I could not resist on this trip. Returning to our bikes, we were briefed about the impending weather. “We are about to climb into the clouds,” our guide Apollo warned. “Best to bundle up now.” This seemed excessive, given the warm and inviting weather. But I complied, putting on my waterproof outer jacket.
We continued our climb, deftly navigating the tight and sweeping turns. I felt the urge to pick up the pace but thought better when a logging truck came in to our lane during a sharp, blind turn. The roads were well-suited for speed but the sudden, unpredictable obstacles called for temperance. Near the mountain top, we found the clouds. The temperature dropped rapidly, our visors clouded by the heavy mist. Soon our visibility dropped near zero, my eyes barely able to see even road markers. Apollo activated his hazard lights, the flashing beacons a welcome guide in the soup. I turned on my heated handgrips and huddled behind the windscreen, attempting to retain warmth in the growing cold.
We crested the mountain, and soon descended below the cloud line. Visibility improved, and I was shocked by the change in my surroundings; the pine trees had been replaced by a lush, vibrant rain forest. Giant flora, trees, and grasses created impermeable walls of green and brown. We stopped for a roadside view. “We are now in a region where the clouds collect,” Apollo explained. “The forest has an almost constant supply of warm, wet weather.” I was amazed by the stark contrast, changing in only a few miles. The heat crept in and I shed my cold-weather gear.
We continued into the valley, stopping at a local store for water and a stretch. The tiny village produced the usual group of onlookers, who marveled at the motorcycles and asked if we were enjoying their country. The sense of unwavering pride these people felt for their homeland was touching.
We continued on to the hotel, nestled in the bustling city of Tuxtepec. We were exhausted and decided to skip an outing for some poolside relaxation and dinner at the hotel restaurant. Fine by me!
Tomorrow is our last full day if riding. I am told we have some nice surprises in store, both on the bike and off. We will see what comes.