In bad need of rest, we took an unscheduled day off today, although Jon’s stomach was a bit ‘chili-pickled’. Actually we found out that the mayo we used in our sandwiches the day before had been in the sun for 4 days, so definitely past its best.
We headed to some hot springs just outside Guadalajara – (I’m sure the sulphur springs will sort him out), and it seemed like the rest of the city had the same idea! Kids spilled out of the backs of pickups, singing and chanting as we followed the rocky road into the national forest. It was certainly different – the water was baking and lying back in the water with a chilled Corona, definitely took our minds off the coming days of serious mountain climbs.
Cycling over the cobbled streets on the way out of Tequila, people were still on it from the previous night, falling about all over the place. I saw one guy stumble across the road to his pick-up truck and get in the driver’s seat – I even noticed his wife in the passenger seat- crazy!
Rich’s wife Lizzy met us outside the city to guide us in – the poor girl didn’t know what she had let herself in for, with lorries and other traffic getting rowdy beeping their horns at her for driving slowly behind us! It was also a new experience for Rich who found it all really stressful trying to look out for his wife and also to hold onto his pants while he tried to avoid passing vehicles.
The evening was a little more relaxed and Dom was able to get some much needed rest, he enjoyed being the centre of attention at a table with Lizzy’s mum, her friend and her sister who wanted to know all about the challenge while Rich and I tried (being the operative word) to get the BBQ going- we had to use some petrol to give it a jump start in the end. Rich’s friend Stefan and his wife Marisol came along too – he had arranged the media in Tepic so it was great to thank him. We tried to go into town for a drink but lasted about 45 minutes before deciding to call it a night – party animals! I had a looming case of gut rot which kept me up all night, not much fun.
We were going to cycle the 85 miles to Guadalajara but Dom was even worse today. The last thing we want is to burn out so close to the finish so we made the call to stop in Tequila and make it a 45 miler, a good job too as we did 2,700 feet of ascents which took us up to our highest point yet of 5,000 feet.
As we rolled into Tequila the smell was recognisable straight away and took me back to my uni days; Tequila Tuesdays down at Casablanca.
We found a cushdy little Mexican restaurant for dinner and feasted on tequila chicken and cactus. On the way back we stopped off at a tequila bar for a rather generous measure which set us up nicely for a good sleep unfortunately though a group of rowdy teenage Mexicans on the lash were in the room next door and the ceiling fan didn’t work, also didn’t help having to cuddle up to Dom in his pants.
Rich arrived at our hotel an hour early (we all got confused with the time difference); it was really good to see a friendly face and a good boost for him to see some friends from England. He moved out to Mexico a few months ago after marrying a Mexican, Lizzy, she’s awesome and they make a great couple.
One of Rich’s friends had arranged a radio interview for us but she couldn’t do it any earlier than 11.30am – a little bit concerned about some inevitable night time cycling but hey it was good to raise further awareness in Mexico right? After paying Jose the cabbie to guide us across Tepic we arrived at the radio station to find we were to be interviewed by a group of very fiery self proclaimed porn stars. this should be fun! Fortunately they had a translator and the interview went well although I did catch Dom losing track a couple of times focusing on silicone! Everyone at the station wanted their picture taken which was a good ego boost and then we heard they arranged a TV interview for us too, more concerned about the time but we carried on, Rich got a little nervous as he was the designated translator but he pulled it off. Barnaby Bear even got his TV debut.
After the interviews it was a quick dash to Walmart (so good to be reunited again with western supermarkets, no offence China) where we embarrassed ourselves again by turning a row of trolleys outside into a banquet bar! Stocked up on food we were on the road by 2.30pm and on we ploughed. Dom was still pretty low on energy and clearly needs a rest but we decided to press on and take it steady. We called it a day in a town called Jala about 10km short of our destination as we were cycling in the dark and Dom was pushing himself beyond his comfort zone. Not the best place to stop but it’s only for one night we told ourselves.
This small town can be described as a trucker hillbilly wasteland and we later found out there is active witches who live there! As we cycled in we were going to ask for directions from a petrol station but when we saw it was being raided by police with AK-47s we thought it probably wasn’t the best idea. We found a dodgy motel with strange splattered blood stains on the sheets and I drew the short straw with a pillow that looked like it had skid marks on – think I’ll use a rolled up towel then! Dom and Rich went in search of food and I decided to guard the stuff in the room, they found a burger stall and amazed the folk there (who had never met English people) when they ordered 9 burgers for 3 people. It was great to have Rich with us and a good morale boost with us, also a bit of a bonus that he can speak a bit of Spanish.
As a treat we gave him a taste of home with an episode of Ramsay’s Nightmares on the laptop. I was happy (despite the poo pillow) as I managed to finish the TCC Challenge promotional video – not going to win any Oscars but conveys the right impression- you can see it on our media section its titled ‘my cancer journey- tcc challenge’.
Rich confirmed that we are allowed to cycle along the toll roads, so Jon wanted to get straight on it to Tepic. I was a bit more reluctant, knowing that we had another 80 miles to go today and didn’t want the mince of getting turned away from the toll booth. Well we should have just jumped on, as we spent the next 20 miles shitting ourselves as we saw dead and live 5ft snakes in the grass verges, cat sized iguanas, birds the size of small dinosaurs (nicknamed Terance the Terradactor ) and becoming acquainted with some seriously ‘small cock’ Mexican bus drivers.
Once we were on the toll road, the bikes were purring and after a few police cars and army trucks zipped past with no problem our confidence grew. We knew from looking at the elevation this morning that the big arsed 900m climb was coming, and sure enough we hit the start of it just after lunch, after hearing the big arctic lorries crunching gearboxes . It nearly finished me off, as I found myself really tired and low in energy, sweating like I was in a sauna, and while Jon powered on, the hotel on the hilltop couldn’t arrive quick enough. I’m sure a good dinner and sleep will sort me out and I’ll be back on track tomorrow.
So first day of cycling in Mexico – the finishing line is in sight, but we still have a long way to go. And cycling out of Mazatlan, past all the police and army vehicles, I’m not sure this is going to be easy! Actually we find out later that Mazatlan is quite a dangerous place (outside the tourist area), so I think we were cycling through the outskirts as a drugs bust was going down.
And boy is it hot – Rich (Jon’s friend) did warn us, but with the training of Thailand and Laos we thought we would be used to the heat. Well this is another level. 36 degrees today and cycling along the Highway 15 Libre, we got through 7 litres of water each! The scenery was stunning, but with the mountains looming in the background, we knew they were getting ready to batter us in the coming days. We still managed 100 miles today, but we could barely keep our eyes open as we rolled into Acaponeta, along the cobbled streets into a typically authentic Mexican town centre. Even eating was a struggle, and this was certainly a warning sign that Mexico is definitely going to be the toughest leg yet.
We scheduled a day off today, to try and get acclimatised to another country, and first task was to see how did the bikes fared on 3 planes, 16 hours of flying, and five different nationalities of luggage handlers. Not great was our assessment as we un bended pannier racks and mudguards, hoping that they will carry us through to Cancun.
The tourist area of Mazatlan is really quite nice – lots of restaurants along the beach side, and they have these novelty golf cart taxis, pimped to the max with neon lights, bass boxes and alloys! I wonder what St. Andrews would think about these at the next Open!
The next leg of the adventure was to fly to Mazatlan (right on the Tropic of Cancer), so we could start cycling across Mexico. After some repairs to the bike boxes (3 rolls of parcel tape from reception), we then had all the same ball ache of checking in our luggage, trying to avoid paying for excess luggage. Luckily Barry, ‘the baggage hander from Manchester’ sorted us right out, saving us about $200 – nice one Bazza!
Arriving in Mexico was unnerving – we had been warned about being ripped off, so were on guard when we needed 3 porters to carry all our luggage to the taxi. But all ok and we headed to our hotel in the tourist area, not before getting a look at the rougher end of Mazatlan, which is where we have to cycle! Crashed out in the hotel, while watching the Oscars which was cool as we had been standing in the same spot the day before!
This will be interesting! Our luggage seems to multiply every time we have to go to an airport, and the complimentary shuttle bus driver from Novotel wasn’t best pleased that he was also being used as a parcel lorry today! At Hong Kong airport, the China Airways check-in staff informed us that we didn’t have the right documents to travel to the USA, and needed to use the internet to download the required forms. Luckily she was really helpful and let me use their office to do this. An hour later and all sorted, we then confused the hell out of all the staff with the number of bags we had (8 plus 3 bike boxes, total weight around 80kgs!), which was a right touch as we avoided all excess baggage charges!
Our 13 hour flight left at 1pm, via Tapei where we had to go through security again (it isn’t easy with our hand luggage in binliners), before boarding a connection to Los Angeles. Weirdly we landed at midday, so in fact had gone 13 hours back in time! But our heads were saying it was 2am, so when Jon faced some sarcastic power hungry yank at customs, it didn’t please him that he was whistled at and directed to unpack all his bags for a pointless security check.
So to avoid the jetlag, we had to stay awake for the afternoon, so I thought it would be a good idea to head to Sunset Boulevard, as they were setting up for the Oscars the following night. Well with 3 buses and 3 metros just to get there, we were seeing stars already in our heads, and after a good old American burger and chocolate milkshake it was curtains!