(February 15 – written by Dave)
First up, good news, Nancy is feeling better. She still has the hacks but she is much better today and clearly on the mend. My cold is all but gone. Nothing blue skies and firm winds on the menu for us today. (Senior Editor’s note – thanks for all the wishes for a speedy recovery)
After yesterday’s head/cross wind coming into town, we decided that we should take this whole Isthmus of Tehuantepec thing seriously. A quick internet search revealed the image below. You can clearly see what this wind is all about. There are no mountains for a short spell, which creates a flat spot for the wind to get across the continent – right where we want ride.
We checked the forecast carefully and noted that morning winds were supposed to be from the west, while afternoon winds were forecasted from the northeast. In both cases gusts were supposed to reach 30kph. We were heading east, with the wind in the morning and northeast, into the wind in the afternoon.
That meant an early start for us. Even with having to haul all of our gear down the stairs we rolled away from the hotel at 7:30. This worked well as we did indeed have that nice tailwind for the first couple hours. We had two short climbs, followed by nice tailwind downhills, reaching Tehuantepec and morning tea at 9AM. The winds tomorrow are pretty much the same and we’ve got a longer day – so tomorrow, we’ll be on the road before 6:30 if we can.
Tehuantepec was not as big as we thought it was going to be and we didn’t spend too much time there but we did pull up at a large statue – Mujer Tehuana forjada en acero (Woman forged in steel). The sculpture represents the Tehuana woman and commemorates the 185 years of formation of the province of the Isthmus – I think they made it from steel so that it wouldn’t blow away. There was one nice feature in town – the roads seemed to be lined with wild mango trees. I took photos but was given strict instructions to not pick any (I didn’t).
The road from Tehuantepec to Juchitan de Zaragoza was more into the now strengthening head/cross wind. We only had 28k to ride but it was slow. Thankfully there was a nice shoulder as gusts stopping and starting with passing trucks made riding straight a bit of a challenge.
About 5k from town Nancy spotted the wind warning sign in the photo below and asked me if I wanted a photo. So we stopped and got a photo. For the record, the wind was coming from the opposite direction on the sign. What followed the sign may have been some sort of highway department joke. For the next 5k we had another identical wind sign every 200 meters or so. A couple had been flattened but I counted 17 of them in total. I’d like to have a piece of the sign contract in these parts.
We were too early to check into the hotel so we stopped at Oxxo to have a quick bite and a map check. From here I planned a local street route to a hotel in the centre of town. This is where the earthquake part of today’s blog title comes into play. Nearly every building and/or house we passed was being worked on. There were piles of rubble everywhere and lots of building construction material piled in all of the roads. The penny sort of dropped for us as we rode into the town centre and saw more of the same.
It turns out that Juchitan de Zaragoza was the closest town to the epicentre of the September 2017 Oaxaca, Mexico earthquake. Nearly every building in the old-town area has some damage. There was heaps of activity and “getting on with life” but we felt a little guilty being on a “frivolous” bicycle trip with so many lives up-turned. This was driven home when we reached the hotel that we were looking for. The rooms that they could use were sold out and the whole area looked very devastated. Needing a place to stay we rode a couple k’s up river to the main highway junction. Here damage had not been nearly as bad and everything seemed to be basically “normal”.
Maybe tomorrow, we should grab a shovel and help folks rebuild their homes. There is clearly much work to be done and it will be a long time before Juchitan de Zaragoza returns to what it was. Perhaps just being here, not getting in the way and spending some tourist dollars we are doing some good. I hope so.
We booked into the Hotel Santo Domingo Del Sur. It’s basic business highway out on the highway, with two major grocery stores nearby, an Oxxo next store and several restaurants across the road. It’s not old-town and we won’t be strolling to the cathedral but we are safe, and in the big scheme of things we are doing just fine.
Tomorrow we are up with the sparrows. We won’t pedal until daylight but we think that’s about 6:15. How far we make it, well, that depends on how good the forecast is.