(February 5 – written by Dave)
I got to watch the last 5 minutes of the Super Bowl and the broadcast was in English – woohoo. I didn’t really care who won, Nancy didn’t even know who was playing (Senior editor’s note – I was busy trying to find us a place to stay in our next town – some of us don’t have time to sit around and watch sports (boring ones, at that)). At least we saw it and could talk about it at work today when our co-workers mentioned it over morning tea. Oh no, wait, we aren’t working and normally have morning tea with no one but us. Anyway, go Eagles.
Today was supposed to be a quiet day of riding. We were up at the normal time and back out onto highway 150 by 8AM. Traffic in town was sort of normal but there was a nice shoulder. We both noticed a few pick-ups/utes with livestock in them, but didn’t really think much of it. As we left town, the shoulder disappeared and traffic, and in particular, utes with livestock increased. We couldn’t figure out what was going on.
Almost all of the utes were small and the animals in back were completely random. We saw sheep, goats, horses, cows, pigs and a bunch of birds, chickens and turkeys. Some utes had one kind of animal, others had a collection of several different kinds. Most had less than 5 or 6 animals, plus the odd selection of kids and/or ranch-hand looking folks. There was some traffic coming the other way but mostly it was going in our direction. It was generally polite with the odd, “gotta be first” yabo passing cars waiting for us.
We needed a break from the constant traffic so we pulled up at a Pemex station – sort of out in the middle of nowhere. By now traffic was bumper to bumper and we were going fast enough to keep up. Well, it turns out that the Pemex station was right at the turn off for all the utes. Guys were running up and down the road trying to buy animals with successful sales being transferred tailgate to tailgate in the Pemex parking lot. Mostly people didn’t sell but kept going to the turn off just past the gas station. We finally found a local who spoke a little English and explained everything to us.
Mostly small land holders bring their random livestock into this collection/sales yard one day per month. The guys running on the road were hustlers trying to guess what the auction price would be and buy the animals “below market” to turn a quick profit. We would have had a lot quieter day riding had we ridden this section any other day of the month than today. Oh well, we survived and it was quite fun to watch.
Once we passed the sales yards traffic died off a little but we still had to deal with the sellers heading home so it was not a relaxed country ride. We either arrived at the markets early, or most folks stay there making a day of it – traffic was nowhere near as bad leaving as it was coming.
We stopped again for morning tea in a small town at the top of a hill. We were supposed to have tailwinds and downhill today but leading up to this town, we had headwinds and yes, uphill. Nancy was on the front for this section and kindly pointed out that my “forecast” was not very accurate at this point – woops.
At the stop we finally got a photo of one of the other things we see all the time out here on the roads in Mexico – that is, pick-ups/utes with heaps of people standing in the back. Sort of a poor man’s bus I guess. This particular truck had 14 people in the back, including 5 or 6 kids. I hate to think of what would happen if there was an accident. No seat belts. While the trucks like this are hard to see, the number of children standing in their parents laps in the front seat of a car is equally scary. I guess we know now why there are so many of those roadside shrines.
We arrived in town right at noon today which was great – it’s nice to arrive early. We found our hotel pretty quickly as well. We are staying the Gran Mexico Hotel. It’s lovely old Spanish building right in middle of town. Our room is small but will do for the night. We’ve taken advantage of the early arrival to drop our laundry off and are now sitting outside our room on a lounge in shorts. We haven’t been able to hang out in just shorts for quite some time – it has warmed up nicely compared to a week ago.
We now have three days to ride to reach Oaxaca. We’ve been aware of Oaxaca for a long time but it seemed like a long ways off. Now it’s only three days away. We dip down in elevation tomorrow then have three days climb back up to Oaxaca. Soon we’ll be off the Central Mexican Plateau and really start to feel the tropics. We’ll go from complaining about the cold to complaining about the heat – some people just can’t be pleased!