(February 4 – written by Dave)
We were up early this morning – I’m not a big fan of city riding but doing so early on a Sunday morning when the only things out and about are stray dogs, well, that’s the way to traverse a city. We only had to ride about 2k to reach toll-way 150D, which we rode for most of the day.
Yesterday we could see a couple volcanoes to the west, but the bright sun made them hard to make out. Today in the early morning western sunlight, they were much more visible. Low quality Mexico City air still tried to hide them but this didn’t stop me from pulling up for a couple photos. One of the volcanoes had snow on the top which is pretty crazy in the tropics.
The toll-way was a good choice for the day, actually pretty quiet and very smooth – and the tailwinds that I promised Nancy were also blowing. We made really good time all day riding over 25kph for a good part of the day. Of course, the toll-way is not a complete bed of roses. Today I picked up a metal shard in my rear wheel that worked its way through to the tube, resulting in another flat tire. This one came where there was hardly any shoulder and lots of trucks. We kind of plastered ourselves against the guardrail and got on with a tire change. Not much fun but on balance, the toll-way was still fast ride.
Outside the flat, we only made a couple other stops during the day – once, to take in an inside the park homerun at a local baseball game – by joining we doubled the size of the crowd. We had morning tea – note Nancy did not remove her helmet, making it more of a short break, not the normal morning tea. And finally one last stop at an Oxxo for lunch. At the latter we met yet another local who had lived in the US and was keen to talk with us. He’d ridden from San Francisco to LA so at least he “got” what we were doing. His trip was supported – he called it a “princess ride” – I’m not sure what that makes ours!
We left the toll-way at Highway 140 because it made the ride a little shorter. This worked out fine except we ended up on a virtual goat track road. Sometimes short-cuts don’t work out saving any time. All the same, we made it to town pretty early for a 100k day. Finding a hotel worked out pretty well with two right near each other. We picked the Hotel Del Valle because they had a first floor room and we could roll the bikes right in.
After showers we decided to walk around town, or at least the part near our hotel. For the last couple of weeks we have been seeing lots of people wandering around town, generally near a church, carrying what appear to be dolls. The other day we saw a family going into a church and the father, mother, and daughter each had their own dolls in baskets that they were carrying into the church. The dolls are generally dressed up in gowns and are often carried in a little basket. The markets that are around the town squares also have several tents that are dedicated to selling the dolls or clothing for the dolls. Looking at the dolls up close it’s clear that they are not new but are older dolls that appear to be reused many times – they often have little chips on the face and head (they appear to be ceramic of some kind).
Well, after a bit of research we think we have figured it out. The dolls aren’t really dolls but are images of Baby Jesus. February 2nd is Dia de la Candelaria, or Candlemas in English, and those people who follow the old traditions are either choosing an outfit for Baby Jesus to wear or is on his or her way to church to have him blessed. Apparently it was tradition for women to stay home for 40 days after childbirth, and 40 days after 24 December is 2 February so that is when Mary would have taken Baby Jesus to be blessed. So, these Baby Jesus images are taken to be blessed around the same time. The dolls are often the ones used in the Christmas manager scenes and are passed down for generations in families – hence the little chips that we saw on some of them. The traditions surrounding what Baby Jesus should be dressed in sound very complicated (he can get progressively wild costumes as the years go by), which explains some of the odd clothing we saw. The tradition is apparently dying out in many areas but we have seen quite a bit of it in the last few towns we have been in so it appears pretty strong in this area of Mexico. Catholicism is full of traditions and rituals and here’s another one to add to the pot, I guess.
That mystery solved, we hit Yankee’s Pizza for dinner – I know, “that not very Mexican”, but we needed a break from Mexican food. Yankee’s was clearly a local favourite with every table full. The pizza was good – at least they didn’t put corn on it like they do throughout Asia.
We wandered a bit more and took some more photos of churches. The first church is the main one in town. The second is no longer used as a church and has only recently closed as a convent. The convent was only a couple blocks from our hotel and had very well kept grounds. I went up there on my own – making Nancy a little nervous. Well, it turns out that my biggest risk was getting beating by a bouquet of flowers. The grounds were full of young couples out enjoying the afternoon – and a flower seller clearly had just been through.
While at the convent I spotted a sign telling me that Tehuacan is a sister city called Onjuku, Chiba, Japan. Tehuacan is a small town but clearly it at least made the radar in Japan at some point.
Anyway, I’m off now to fight Nancy for the remote so that I can watch the last of the Super Bowl. I’m not a huge fan other either team but it seems like one should at least see who wins. I can always pretend that I’m studying my Spanish as I’m certain that the coverage won’t be in English.