Oaxaca district – first big hills, then big winds

Big Hills riding South of Oaxaca

After coming down from Pico Orizaba I returned by bus via Puebla to Oaxaca, where I stayed another evening and night. This was a great experience, with vibrant city streets, plazas, cafes and restaurants on a Friday night. One interesting aspect about Oaxaca was how men would greet each other: They first shake hands, then pull close into an embrace where the right shoulders touch and they slap each other on the back with the left hand, then they shake hands again. I observed this several dozen times at various restaurants. I also thought it was funny how in some streets the lanes are crossing to the other side (like an “X” shape) so that all of a sudden you drive on the left side of the road, and after a km or so they cross back. I don’t know why this is done, but it was highly confusing for me as a cyclist.

More mountains in Oaxaca district

Leaving Oaxaca to the South the road soon climbs up into some mountainous territory, and it pretty much stays like that all the way to Tehuantepec some 250km later. Either uphill or downhill, hardly anything in between; this must be heaven for motorcycles, but it’s very hard for the heavy weight touring bicycle.

Late afternoon hill climb by bicycle

At least I still felt the acclimatization advantage from Orizaba, which was great, like on extra Oxygen boost with every deep breath. Over those two days I covered 3000m uphill and 4500m downhill – I was now gaining all the energy back which I had put in when riding up into the Mexico highlands after Mazatlan :-) And there were some really long downhills, up to 900m (3000ft) at a time, where I felt like a motorcycle, effortlessly cruising at 50-65km/h and hardly touching the brakes for 10-15 minutes at a time.

Sheer endless mountains need to be crossed in the Oaxaca district

Once in Tehuantepec the terrain levels out and the road is mostly flat. What a difference, you can just roll along with much less effort and actually ride near 20km/h average speeds again! That said, there was a new challenge: Wind! A very strong Northerly wind was blowing the last two days here. Since the route is initially East, this wind didn’t help much, it was straight from the left side. In gusts the wind was so strong that it actually blew me off the road into the grass several times! With traffic from behind I had to pay very close attention, especially on short stretches of the road which lacked a shoulder.

Wind farms East of Tehuantepec

There seems to be strong wind frequently, as I rode past several wind farms in this area. One little town there is aptly called “La Ventosa”. At one time I felt a few drops of water on my skin; first I thought this might be from a passing car or truck, but then it started to full-on rain, despite clear blue sky up and around me! I thought this is weird, then looked upwind and noticed that several km to the North there was a large black cloud covering the mountain tops. Apparently the wind was so strong that it blew the rain falling out of this cloud all the way down into the valley – it literally rained sideways!

Once the road passes Zanatepec and Tapanatepec, it bends more towards the SE, so the N wind is more of a tailwind than from the side. So the last portions were actually quite pleasant, often with tailwind accelerating up to 35-40 km/h.

In 2 days I should reach Tapachula near the Guatemala border. From there it’s also fairly close to Tajumulco, the highest mountain in Guatemala and my 5th Panamerican Peak…

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