My Cycling Tour in Oaxaca, Day 2

Church in Mihuatlán

July 31 Monday, Mihuatlán to Candelaria

Day 2 map

68 miles, 7116 feet of climb, 9078 ft max.elev. (200 ft/div)

Market in Mihuatlán Today is market day in Mihuatlán. The vendors spill out of the official mercado building onto all the surrounding streets. Only the church grounds are not covered with the stalls of the sellers of vegetables, fruit, dried fish, shoes, bread, CDs, you-name-it. When I wandered down about 8:00 the market was already in full swing.

I came back to the room, bought some water at a little store next to the hotel, and had breakfast at a restaurant across the street. Huevos rancheros, fruit with yogurt and granola, and a glass of carrot juice came to 60 pesos ($5.40). Kind of an expensive breakfast for here but I need the fuel. The food was good but the service was slow. It was almost 10:00 when I finally pulled out of town.

That was my first mistake.

It started to rain almost immediately. It sprinkled off and on all day until near the end, as I will explain later.

Mountain in the distance The big climb begins just a few km from town. Yesterday I never needed my small chainring all day, but I became best friends with it today. I even dropped down to the 24/34 granny gear two or three times.

Somewhere near the top of the first climb, a car coming the other direction suddenly stopped and backed up to a wide spot in the road. As I rode by a lady asked out the window, "Sind sie Schweizer?" (Are you Swiss?) It was two Swiss ladies on holiday. We spoke for a couple minutes in German before it became apparent that English was much the better option. I told them about the summer 35 years ago when I worked as a waiter at the Hotel Schatzalp in Davos. They know the place well.

About 1:30 I stopped at a little roadside restaurant high up in the mountains for lunch. The dining room was deserted and I had to call "¡Hola!" to get the lady to appear. I had a little trouble understanding that lunch was eggs with chorizo. It was partly the loud radio playing and partly that I suspect that Spanish is not her native language. I neglected to ask the price, but the bill only came to 30 pesos, including a Coke. I left a 10-peso tip.

With my late start and slow pace because of all the climbing, I decided to stop in San Jose del Pacifico, where the guidebook says there is now a hotel, instead of pushing on to Candalaria as originally planned. Unfortunately I missed the town somehow. The book says it is at the highest point in the road, but there was no town at the highest point according to my GPS.

That was my second mistake.

Road scene Not long after the summit there was a long, steep downhill followed by some more climbing. Then there was another even longer descent on dry, glass-smooth, newly-paved asphalt. They hadn't even painted the center line yet. Sweet!

Part way up the next climb the thunderstorm broke. I quickly donned my rain jacket - I already had on my neoprene boots. The skies opened up and the rain started coming down in buckets. At one point there was a river of mud and water washing across the road. A couple cars had stopped trying to figure out what to do. Unlike the car drivers, turning back was not an option for me. I figured that bikes have bigger wheels than cars so maybe I can ride through it.

Wrong. The wheels slipped out and I fell into six-inch-deep mud. I said, "Darn it!" or something like that, picked up the bike, and walked it to the other side, my neoprene boots making giant sucking sounds in the mire with each step.

I scraped off as much mud as possible, ran the wheels through the water in the gutter to clean them, and pressed on. There was another long descent, more climbing, and then a very long uninterrupted descent that continued all the way into Candalaria.

All the while it continued to rain very hard. The grade was so steep and the wheels were so wet that at times I had to press the brake levers almost all the way to the handlebars to maintain speed. My safety margin was uncomfortably small. A broken brake cable or some other mechanical problem could spell disaster on that dark, remote road. At least I didn't have to worry about the rims overheating with the water-cooled brakes.

About 15 km before Candelaria I pulled off under the roof of an outdoor taqueria to wait for the rain to let up a little. I talked with a pickup truck driver who mentioned that he was one of the cars stopped at the flood and had seen me fall. After awhile I realized I was running out of daylight. My little bicycle headlight would not be sufficient to light up the road well enough to avoid rocks fallen from the wet hillsides, so I pushed on through the blowing sheets of rain.

In Candelaria, the only place I saw that looked like lodging was a restaurant with a sign, Casa de Huespedes. The lady showed me the room and demanded 100 pesos. That's the same price as the really nice room I had in Mihuatlán. This place is a dump. It has a cement floor and walls. The ceiling is the exposed tin roof. The only "window" is "glazed" with wood. The bathroom looks like it hasn't been cleaned in years. The cracked toilet has no seat.

I decided to go ahead and take it because (1) (as she no doubt noticed when setting the price) it was getting dark, it was raining, and I really didn't feel like looking for something better, and (2) it actually serves my purposes quite well. I don't feel bad about bringing my dripping bike in onto the cement floors and washing my muddy pannier in the shower.

For dinner I ate my last apple and the last three bread rolls with honey that I bought in Oaxaca. I didn't feel like searching for a restaurant in the dark and wet.

I'm lying in bed listening to the rain drumming on the tin roof. Any port in a storm.

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