Monday, December 8, 2008
The road through Sola de Vega bustles with pilgrims. It is barely daybreak and the many temporary eateries that have cropped up to service the raging hunger of so many cyclists and walkers are already open. The shops are brimming with oranges, mandarins, sweet breads and cookies - all favourites of the pilgrims. Bike shops, shoe repair, pharmacies, and corner stores are open 24 hours in this otherwise quiet village that, for a few weeks every year, is swallowed up by a river of pilgrims making their way to Juquila to ask for a miracle or to complete a promised return visit to the tiny and highly revered dark-skinned Virgin of Juquila. Many pilgrims have cycled and walked through the night to get to this desination. Some travel carrying large crosses and sacred pictures to be blessed and returned to needy homes and businesses.
This is no easy journey. The trip to Juquila is mountainous. The trip away from Juquila is among the steepest paved roads that we have cycled in Mexio. This morning a spritely young group of single speed cyclists is taking a break before they continue uphill away from Sola de Vega. They eye us with all our strange gear attached to our bikes and our fancy lycra clothes. We eye them with their unencumbered single speed bikes and their blue jeans. It is a treat to be on a road where bikes outnumber cars and where it is not uncommon for people in cars to hand out oranges, sandwiches, or water to the cyclists or hikers they pass. There is a certain contagious energy that arises from sharing this mission with so many others.