We got here by mistake. Actually, it was a little bit of overestimating our high-altitude capabilities and a little bit of Mexico City’s awful bike route. There is a bike route connecting Mexico City to Cuernavaca- or so they say.
We woke up to a rainy morning today, which was a bit of a letdown since we thought we’d totally nail it this time. We set off on one of the city’s main bike paths and immediately began to wonder if we were being punked. The bike paths are comprised of helmet safety signs and little bicycle icons that appear to have been put up by the Tasmanian Devil. They do not necessarily correspond to an actual bike path, nor do they seem to take you anywhere helpful. We thought that it would get a little better once we were out of the downtown area of the city. Of course, being that Mexico City is the largest city in the world, that didn’t mean much.
Instead of the clearly marked, easy-to-use paths that were promised on websites and by the city government, there were chunks of red pavement that seemed to have been intended to be a bike lane. These lanes often trailed off into nothingness and when we managed to find one, it was just as likely to contain a parked car, a moving car, a mounted horse, a grazing horse, a tractor, six inches of mud, city sewage pipes, or a herd of sheep as a bicycle.
Things did start looking up once we stopped for lunch and had a bit of a rest. It took us 3.5 hours to go the 28 kilometers to get to the edge of the city limits, but shortly after that, we reached a really beautiful park area high up in the mountains. Tons of people were cycling, walking and skating on the path. There were families and dogs and abuelas selling tacos- it was really nice to see the park in use and the road quality was a complete inverse to what we experienced in the city.
Shepherds on the Trail
The one drawback to our mountaintop paradise is that there are no hotels or guesthouses to speak of. We thought that we could make it all the way to Cuernavaca in a day, since the mileage was nothing we hadn’t done before, but we hadn’t counted on the municipally sanctioned obstacle course that comprised the first part of the bike paths and the altitude kind of kicked our butts. 3 full hours of climbing at altitude is no small feat- at least not if you’ve been priming with fistfuls of tacos and the mysteriously compelling local drink, pulque. So we found ourselves just about halfway to our final destination, already feeling pretty tuckered out and running out of daylight. We started asking around in our child-like Spanish for the nearest guesthouse, but were told that there wasn’t anything here. Or in the next town. Or in the town after that. The best we could do was backtrack many kilometers and go down the mountain to the highway, where we would be able to find ‘the’ hotel. As in the only one around. We weren’t into the idea of going down the mountain because it would require us to go back up the next morning and we just wanted to be done for the day.
Through some miracle of phrasebook Spanish and maybe a little bit of pity for us, we spoke to some people who managed to get us a room in a local woman’s house for the night. Mind you, this was not a ‘homestay’ in the guidebook sense. We went up to a stranger on the street and ended up in a private home of a woman who had no intention of bringing home guests that night when she left that morning. We’ve had similar luck in the US, but with the hurdles of no common language and the cultural valleys between us, this seemed like a pretty amazing feat.
We wound up with our own little room that must have belonged to a granddaughter or daughter at one point. She gave us keys and showed us the downstairs bathroom that the whole little compound seems to share. I admit that I was not 100% comfortable at first- this would not have been my choice of accommodations given an option- but I am again floored by the kindness of strangers and am learning to be a little less skittish when things don’t go according to plan. True, we need to keep our safety in mind, especially in a country that is plagued with violence and crime at the moment, but these experiences are what make the world seem smaller and less threatening.
Standing in the Doorway of Our “Room” for the Night
We holed up in our little room for the rest of the night, trying to bundle up against the cold. We packed for Cancun, but we got Canada weather. We’re enjoying the lack of paralyzing heat for the time being, but are looking forward to the tropical climes we envisioned when we bought our short-shorts.
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