Saturday, November 7, 2009

Plunging into the Papaloapan

Okay, so....I lied.

Earlier I said we were going to cycle this route the opposite way when we offered it as a tour.

You see, Basil cycled this road a decade or so ago and his memory was almost as foggy as the middle part of this day's ride. Leaving Ixtlan we believed we had 17km of uphill to be followed by a beautiful long downhill to almost sea-level, but much to our surprise 17km became 40km, and as a result, the ride became not so easy. It didn't help that our very late departure put us at only half way down the mountain by nightfall. Our only blessing was that the rain and the fog gave way leaving us a beautiful, dry, newly paved road that delivered us safely into Valle Nacional.

In the end, the amount of work that went into this day's longer than expected climb and our rolling (not always downhill) 3000m drop made us realize what a death march this ride would be for most fully-loaded bike tourists if cycled the opposite direction. For most such a ride would be simply impossible. Therefore we will indeed drop 3000m instead of climbing them. That drop will take us through pine-oak forests and into stunningly lush tropical hardwood jungle that is fed by water that trickles slowly and then cascades down the walls of the surrounding mountains eventually turning into tremendous rivers that gush out into the Papaloapan Plain. Corn, tobacco, coffee, rubber, sugarcane, and pineapple fill the valley and spill out towards the state of Varacruz. In Valle Nacional, surrounded by descendants of the Chinantec people, we eat empanadas and relax.