6th February (Mexico City – Calpulalpan) (88km)
7th February (Calpulalpan – Huamantla) (84km)
Heading 440km East-South-East from Mexico City to the gulf coast and the seaside city of Veracruz. Am still at altitude (2,000 – 2,500 metres) and it’s cold. The snow-capped mountain beside the road is the highest in Mexico and I’m feeling the chill winds. I haven’t got 100% power in the legs and it’s best not to push it out too far. Rain rolls through in the afternoon so getting off the road seems like a good idea.
Whatever possessed me to stop in Calpulalpan remains a mystery. After a while you develop fairly accurate impressions when rolling into a new town. The antennae buzzed as I rolled into this strip of truck repair and tire shops and decrepit old hotels, yet inexplicably and to my chagrin, I ignored them and stopped. Therefore checked into the Los Pinos Hotel, or at lease tried to. It turns out that the hotel is also a knocking shop for the passing truck drivers, and business is brisk.
Attitudes to bicycles in rooms vary. The old mama [and lead scrubber] was decidedly anti-bicycle and wanted to have me put the bike in the back shed (can you imagine?!) and therefore tried to stop me taking it into the room. I blush now to remember my advice to her (refer rude song below).
By contrast, am tonight in the Hotel on the Park in the charming little town of Huamantla. The room is three times better than the Los Pinas (and the bike is welcomed into the room).
8th February (Huamantla – Perote) (104km)
Today was a study in ineptitude and misfortune:
- Headed out of Huamantla in the wrong direction, wasting 10km;
- Two punctures on a road I didn’t need to pedal had I a sense of direction;
- Replaced tire cleverly mashing the rear brake pad assembly;
- Tried to get onto the toll road but was refused by over-zealous officials;
- Into a head wind for the last 20km, including the extra 10km that I didn’t need to do if I had any sense of direction this morning.
The ride, however, got done somehow. If Perote is not the coldest place in Mexico it must be close. People are actually wearing ponchos to ward off the cold. The town is shrouded in a thick mist as I approach and by what I can make out, this mist is probably doing the place a favour. The moister must roll up the 2,500 metres from the coast. Today will be the last cycling day at altitude as tomorrow morning will drop off the mid-Mexico plateau and then be at sea-level again. I’ve been at 1,500-2,500 metres since the ride up The Devil’s Spine’ to Durango so it will be interesting to see how being at sea level effects the breathing.
Tonight in the never-ending pursuit of excellence and new challenges, I have actually maintained the bicycle. Yes, single-handedly, I have replaced brake pads on the rear wheel and adjusted them. Am therefore ready for the big 2,500 metre drop to the coast tomorrow and might even be able to stop at the bottom.
9th February (Perote – Veracruz) (170km)
Blasted off the plateau down out of the blanket of cloud and swooped down onto the coastal plain. Rolling for most of the morning then into the heat of the coastal plain. The road into Veracruz became a bit of a nightmare with loads of traffic and a disappearing shoulder making progress difficult at times.
Veracruz is really hopping. Gone (for the most part) are the chubby crooning gauchos and farting sousaphones in favour of the clacking percussion and Latin beats of the Caribbean. Great seafood and people putting the salsa moves down in the city squares. Your correspondent (being, of course, the recognised ‘King of Samba’), would include dancing images here but regrettably am constrained by commercial considerations.
Veracruz is a bustling port city and the historical starting point for the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire. It was Mr Veracruz, while the Governor of Cuba who unleashed ‘Cortes the Killer’ to conduct the conquest of present-day Mexico from this town in 1521.
Spent the bulk of the morning sitting in The Grand Cafe sipping coffee. The waiters here wear white jackets and black bow ties and have been doing so since the 1920’s as the photos around the walls attest. The lads on the glockenspiel out the front whack out some pretty tasty rhythms too. I’m going to go right out on a limb here and pronounce the tacos at the Morada Marina as the Best Tacos In The World. I’ve not had better in Mexico anyway so it must be true.
If you are easily offended and don’t like dirty ditties, please do not read beyond this point as you’re not going to like it. Don’t email me about how rude it is as you have been warned.
Song for The Los Pinas Hotel in Calpulalpan:
Ohhhhhh……Calpulalpan is hard to pronounce
And there aren’t many words that rhyme with pronounce
Not one to let that stand in the way
The whores are so fat cause they’re paid by the ounce
The old mama-san at the Los Pinas
Is not adverse to a bit of penis
She doesn’t like bikes, even though she’s one
But her tires are flat and so are her buns.
Her head’s all wrinkled and her gut’s full of sperm
Some been there since century’s turn
But there’s always room for a little bit mooooorrrrrreeeee…….
If you’ve got 10 pesos then she’s your whore.
[Kazoo solo and tattooed dancing girls if available]