Big mountains in Mexico

Pico Orizaba from the autopista to Tehuacan

Now that I’m in the vicinity of the highest peak in Mexico, Pico Orizaba, the weather is still quite unstable with rain and isolated thunderstorms. Hence I decided to leave my mountaineering gear in Puebla and for now continue riding past Puebla towards Oaxaca, the next big town to the South-East. From there I plan to ride a bus back to Puebla; I’m hoping that in a week or so the weather will clear and be better suited for the Orizaba climb.

The route from Puebla to Oaxaca leads through some mountaineous terrain. It is a fairly new road and well engineered, with lots of bridges and cut-outs to reduce the impact of the hills. (For some reason they build very few tunnels in Mexico; they’d rather take out an entire hill, which creates huge scars in the landscape…)

Autopista climbing 1100m with many bridges and cut-outs

Yesterday I had a fast ride; after the two travel days and hauling bike and bags by bus it felt great to be on the road pedaling again! I started the day around noon at 2100m ASL, crossing two hills up to 2400m, and ended the day around 6pm after a huge downhill of some 650m. For 10-15 minutes I was cruising along effortlessly at speeds between 40-70 km/h, passing a few trucks going very slow on the way down… It felt good getting back some of the energy I had put in over the last 3 hard days of riding towards Mexico City before my week vacation.

Evening downhill towards Tehuacan

Today I continued downhill into a broad valley which reminded me of coming down the Brenner Pass in the Italian Alps. I left the autopista at the last little village before the long climb to restock on water and some food. Since this is off the beaten path with very few tourists, people stared at me and my bike as if I’d come from a different planet!

Market scene in little village off the autopista

Back on the autopista the road continued downhill and dropped down to almost 1000m ASL where it crosses a narrow valley via a very tall bridge.

Tall bridge at the bottom of the long climb South of Tehuacan; this bridge did save 100m of elevation gain!

From here the road turns abruptly to the West and starts a very long climb over 30km of 1200m up to 2200m ASL! In the midday heat this was very tough. Beautiful landscape, mind you, but extremely tiring nonetheless.

Beautiful landscape to the West of the autopista along the huge climb South of Tehuacan

I was mentally prepared, but it still took me 4 hours with all my weight to get up there. Some of the passing trucks were also going very slow due to their heavy weight; I was tempted a few times to accelerate and hang on for some truck-surfing, but decided not to as it was too dangerous.

Exhaustion and too much sun show in my face near the end of a very long day

At the end of the day I was very tired and happy to find a small place renting rooms and enjoying a hot shower. At least I’m getting some acclimatization out of this riding and sleeping above 2000m. Tomorrow I should reach Oaxaca and on Sunday take a bus back to Puebla. Hopefully the weather will improve some over the next couple of days so that I can do some acclimatization climbs and finally the climb of Pico Orizaba.

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