After a lovely break from the bike in Oaxaca, it was time to get moving. We had heard good things about the Oaxacan Coast, so were keen to cycle to it and have some fun in the sun!
Here is an overview of our adventure getting from Oaxaca to Puerto Angel, Mexico!
Friday 13th February: Oaxaca to Ejutla
After 5 weeks off the bike for me and 2 weeks off the bike for David, we were expecting our first day back to be a little tough, but it wasn’t too bad. The tough days were still to come!
We started very late around 1pm, as we had to visit the post office and say good-bye to our new friends.
Sending a package overseas from Mexico was an interesting experience. We wanted to send of box (mainly with excess shoes and clothes that I had worn in Oaxaca, as well as some souvenirs) to Germany. We had got a box from the hostel where we were staying and had sealed and addressed it nicely before we arrived at the Central Post Office in Oaxaca. We lucked out and got a very surly post office lady who demanded that we open the box! I asked why we needed to open it and she said: “because I need to see it”. OK. Thankfully David had brought additional packing tape, because it didn’t look as though you could buy any in the post office. You couldn’t even buy an envelope! We opened the box as requested and the lady said “Ah. Clothes”. Ah, yes. What were you expecting? Drugs? We didn’t need to specify what was in the box on the Customs Declaration, apparently the lady’s cursory glance was sufficient! We sealed the box back up and then had to write out the details of the sender and the recipient on a blank piece of white paper (notwithstanding that we had already written this on the box), and we then had to stick this onto the box (again using our own packing tape). You need to have your own pen for this, so its best to come prepared! The lady said it would cost 950 pesos (a small fortune) to send the box to Germany and we had to pay in cash. Fortunately, we had enough. We asked if it included insurance. Apparently yes. We handed over the cash and can only hope that it arrives. David’s brother tried to send us a package to my address in Oaxaca and it never arrived. We made inquiries at the post office and were informed that it had been delivered on the 22nd January, although the German postal service say that it didn’t arrive in Mexico until the 30th January. Hmmm …. I have more faith in the German postal system and no hope of ever seeing that parcel again. Hopefully someone in Oaxaca is enjoying David’s new Icebreaker undies and padlock!
The terrain from Oaxaca to Ejutla was essentially undulating and we actually descended more than we climbed on this day (500m). Cycling out of Oaxaca was easier than I thought it might be. Our Hostel was located on Juarez Street and we essentially cycled down Juaraz, crossed a busy freeway and then turned left onto Highway 175. It was that simple. Crossing the freeway was a little tricky … but we just waited until all of the traffic stopped at the traffic lights and then pushed out bikes through the stationary cars to the turning lane. No dramas. Mexican drivers are pretty courteous.
Cycling out of Oaxaca we received lots of smiles and waves. We had a nice shoulder to cycle in, which was relatively free of debris and the road was very good. About 15kms from Oaxaca we passed an Oxxo convenience store which was surrounded by about 100 armed policemen. We had no idea what was going on and we didn’t want to stick around to find out. I told David to get out of there and we increased our pace until we had left the Oxxo behind.
The scenery on this day was urban to start with around Oaxaca and then desert like, reminiscent of Baja California, as we cycled the High Plains of the Sierra Madre del Sur.
We bypassed Ocotlán on Highway 175 and decided to stop for the night in Ejutla. The road into Ejutla was not in the best condition, but it was ok. We maneuvered our way around the potholes and eventually found ourselves in the heart of town. We got a room at Hotel Villa Nazareth for 300 pesos (USD 20). It was a nice little hotel, clean and well maintained, full of statues of angels. After we settled in, we went to explore the town and feasted on yummy tacos at a local taqueria, Tacos en Heroica.
Saturday 14th February: Ejutla to San Jose del Pacifico
This was our biggest day of climbing on the tour (1709m) and it was tough going with temperatures over 30 degrees. My 5 gym sessions per week in Oaxaca were not enough to prepare me for this climb!
We left Ejutla around 9am. The road out of the town was rather potholed in places, but we made it out of Ejutla and rejoined Highway 175 and were soon undulating through the High Plains. Highway 175 was generally only 1 lane and we wound our way through the little village of Monjas and past some construction before we reached the larger town of Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz at around the 40km mark.
After Miahuatlán, we weren’t really sure what to expect in terms of the uphill. We knew that there would be a fair amount of climbing … but how much? One Cycle Touring Travel Guide to Latin America that we are using said that there would be a lot of short and one 10km climb to San Jose del Pacifico, whereas another blog that we stumbled across said that there was a steep 30km ascent to San Jose del Pacifico …. Mhhh … so what would it be … 10km climb or 30km?
There was a lot of climbing, but thankfully, there was no 30km steep ascent. I think it was more like a solid 13.5km climb. From Miahuatlán we started to climb and got stuck in a construction traffic jam leaving the town. We were expecting the climbing to start at around the 45km mark and we detoured into Santo Tomás Tamazulapan, hoping to find some tacos to fuel our ascent. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to find any taquerias in Santo Tomás Tamazulapan, so we made our way back to Highway 175 and stopped on the side of the road for a lunch of tortillas and avocados … which was probably better fuel for our climb than fatty tacos.
After our little lunch stop the climb started in earnest, as we switch backed our way up into the mountains. Usually I don’t like to stop while climbing. I like to get in a rhythm and just keep going. But, with the heat (over 35 degrees in the sun), the thinning air and my lack of cycling fitness after 5 weeks off the bike, we took regular little stops on the way up the mountain. The views were lovely out over the valley below. As we climbed the scenery changed and became much greener. We found ourselves surrounded by forest, made up predominantly of pine trees.
We had been climbing solidly for about 12km when we came across a little roadside restaurant and artisan gift shop. We happily pulled off the road and gulped down some kind of Mexican energy drink. I wandered over to look at the little gift shop, which displayed brightly painted alebrijes (wooden handicrafts) of flora and fauna. Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico. Although we can’t buy much on our tour, as we’re already carrying A LOT of gear, I wanted to support the local communities. All of the pieces on display had been made in the nearby village. I bought a cute little lizard to remind me of our mountain crossing for 50 pesos.
We asked the restaurant manager how much further to San Jose del Pacifico and whether the road would continue to climb. She said that it was 15 min by car, and should take us another 1.5 hours by bike. More importantly, she said that it was a bit more uphill and then undulating. Her description was pretty accurate. Leaving her little restaurant we climbed for about another 1.5kms and then the road started undulating, as we wound our way through some mountain villages to San Jose del Pacifico. I was running low on energy by this point, so we stopped at a little roadside shop for some chocolate to power us along for the remaining 5kms. There was one more smallish climb and then we caught sight of San Jose del Pacifico.
We came across Hotel Cabañas about 500m before San Jose del Pacifico. They advertised that they had camping and cabañas. I went inside to inquire. Unfortunately, they weren’t currently offering camping, but they had beautiful rooms for 350 pesos, including breakfast. They also had free-standing cabañas (but they were over 500 pesos per night). We opted for a room, rather than a cabaña and it was fabulous, with gorgeous vistas! The only downside was that the walls were pretty thin, and there was no wifi in the rooms. You had to pay an additional 10 pesos for 1 hour to use the wifi in the restaurant. This wasn’t really an issue for us as we were only staying for 1 night, but it would be if we were staying longer.
Although I was beyond the point of exhaustion, we cycled the remaining 500m into town to get some supplies. I really like San Jose del Pacifico – it was a super friendly little place. As soon as we arrived in town, we were greeted by the owner of the local pub. Apparently word had spread that some crazy Australians were making their way up the mountain by bike! A little crowd formed around us, eagerly asking questions and taking photos. Unfortunately, my energy levels were at rock bottom and I wasn’t really up for a night in the pub. Plus it was Valentine’s Day. We contemplated having some chicken tacos, but my Valentine decided to make us a beef ragu pasta on our little balcony instead, with a 6 pack of beer purchased from the local supermarket – it was one of the best meals that we have made on the trip!
Sunday 15th February: San Jose del Pacifico to Puerto Angel
Unfortunately, we didn’t sleep well. Perhaps it was the altitude. But, we still had 115kms to cycle to the little fishing town of Puerto Angel. We had wanted to get an early start, but someone forgot to set the alarm, so we didn’t leave San Jose del Pacifico until around 9am.
We made very slow progress in the morning. After only 8km, we stopped at a lookout to take in the amazing views. The carpark was packed with buses and motor bikes and we created a little stir. The motor bikers were particularly interested in our journey and wanted to take photos with us and our bikes.
In the first 3 hours we only covered about 30kms. I was starting to doubt if we would be able to make it to Puerto Angel if we were going to keep climbing like this … Thankfully, there was a killer 20km downhill around the 24km mark, which was amazing fun! David was racing some of the collectivos (little taxi trucks) on this stretch. We were finally making some progress.
We flew past the town of San Miguel Suchixtepec, which perches on the side of a mountain and other little mountain villages. The villagers were extremely friendly and waved and shouted encouragement to us. It was much friendlier in the mountains than in the valley the day before.
I recall one very steep climb before we reached La Soledad. It was short, perhaps only about 1 km, but it was so steep that even David said he was at his absolute limit, using his easiest gear to make it up the climb. It was that steep.
The Cycle Touring Travel Guide described the stretch from San Jose del Pacifico to Puerto Angel as “a little bit up and down until La Soledad and then a 42km downhill.” But, that really doesn’t do the ride justice. There was a lot of climbing on this day (1164m), although we did descend a lot more than we climbed (3623m)!
La Soledad was about 51kms from San Jose del Pacifico. I was so relieved to reach La Soledad, thinking that we had 42kms of downhill ahead of us. But, while we were generally descending from La Soledad, the descent was punctuated with numerous small sharp climbs, in particular, a 2 km climb out of La Soledad.
Shortly after La Soledad, just as we were about to start the descent, we cycled into a tiny town that had decided to charge a toll to use the road. As we rolled into town, the locals were just collecting a toll from a taxi. I wondered if the villagers would charge us. Smiling, but still puffing and panting from the climb, I cycled towards the chain that the villagers had strung across the road to stop traffic. The villagers looked at each other and then lowered the chain, letting us pass without paying the toll. It was a lovely gesture on their part and we waved as we cycled away. Few people appear to cycle through the mountains; perhaps they felt that we had earned the right to the descent that followed.
After descending for about 10kms, we found a little taqueria on the side of the road and stopped for a welcome lunch of beef tacos. Yum!
The scenery started to change as we descended. The mountain pine forests gave way to lush tropical jungle, full of palm trees, ferns and bananas! The temperature started to climb as well, we went from a dry 22 degrees to a humid 30 degrees as we got closer to the coast.
We whizzed past little roadside stalls selling bananas, coconut ice-cream and cold coconuts. We stopped at a little bar to quench our thirst on a cold coconut for 15 pesos each. They were amazing!
On the whole, the road was very good. Sometimes we were cycling on a new road, but generally it was the old road, which was patched and pot holed in places, but very serviceable. The traffic in the mountains was very light (great for cycling!). There were no big trucks or buses; mainly taxis, small trucks and colectivos. There appeared to be very few private cars, probably due to the poverty in the mountain villages.
Eventually, we made it to the town of Pochutla, which was a bustling little place, packed with cars. We saw our first traffic lights in 2 days! I had been hoping that it might also be downhill into Puerto Angel, but we had to climb up and over a few more hills before we finally reached the pretty little beachside town.
It took us a good hour to find somewhere to stay. First, we made inquiries at Hostel Jaimito. I was shown a room for 300 pesos, which overlooked the beach. The location was amazing, but we were worried about the security of the room. David found a recommendation for another Hostel, Gundi y Tomás, so we tried there next. Gundi y Tomás was a lovely Hostel and would have been perfect, but they only had one hot little room left, with no windows and no ensuite for 250 pesos. No thank you! They directed us to some bungalows up the road that also belonged to them, which had ensuites for 150 pesos. The price sounded amazing, but I was sure that we would get broken into there …. Thankfully, Matthias (a German man escaping Germany’s winter), spotted David’s German flag and recommended Hotel Soraya. He said that if we were staying for more than 3 nights, there were rooms available for 200 pesos. By this stage it was getting dark and I was very tired. We pushed our bikes up the steep driveway and after some negotiating, secured a fabulous room for 200 pesos per night! It doesn’t have hot water, but its so warm here that a cold shower is perfect. It doesn’t have aircon, but it has a fan and we feel really safe on the second floor. The best part is our massive balcony and hammock and the amazing view of the bay. We couldn’t be happier!