After a relaxing week in sleepy Puerto Angel, we were looking forward to getting back on the bikes. Little did we know that we would only be able to cycle for 3 more days, before we were forced to have a few more weeks off the bike.
The ride along the coast was incredibly hot and not as picturesque as we would have liked. In hindsight, although we both really enjoyed cycling from Oaxaca to Puerto Angel, we think it would have been better to cycle through the mountains from Oaxaca to San Cristobal del las Casas, rather than take the coastal road.
Here is an overview of our very hot, and somewhat traumatic, trip from Puerto Angel to Salina Cruz!
Sunday 22nd February: Puerto Angel to Barra del la Cruz (Pepes Cabanas Beach Camp)
After a week of hot weather in Puerto Angel, we knew it would be hot on the bike. We tried to get an early start, but even though we left around 8am, it wasn’t early enough. By 9am, we were sweltering and the temperature kept climbing.
The first 8kms or so was almost all uphill. I had really enjoyed coasting down into Puerto Angel the week before and now we were paying the price! Some dogs chased after us, but most of the dogs that we saw looked half-starved and too weak to give chase. It was an incredibly sad start to the day.
We had thought that cycling along the coast would mean lush jungle scenery and stunning coastal views. But, the scenery from Puerto Angel to Barra del la Cruz was, unfortunately, pretty average. The road was set too far back from the coast to afford any coastal views and the landscape looked kind of washed out, with only dry scrubby trees and bushes around. Consequently, there were very few photo opportunities, unless we passed a river, which was a very welcome sight.
Our Garmin’s indicated that it was 44 degrees and it was only 10.15am (see the pics for proof)! Although, I’m sure it wasn’t completely accurate, it was terribly hot and we were both dripping with sweat. My gloves became so wet with sweat that I was having real trouble changing gears with my rohloff twist-shifter and had to get out my spare pair! We stopped frequently at road-side restaurants for much needed cold coconuts (Cocos frios!), coke and ice-cream.
Not only was it hot, it was incredibly hilly. The heat and hills, combined with the not-so-picturesque scenery, made for a tough ride and I was incredibly happy when we finally reached Pepes Cabanas Beach Camp at Barra del la Cruz, which was to be our home for the night.
We had expected to find lots of surfers at the beach camp, but it was completely deserted. Apparently, it wasn’t the right time of year for good waves. The beach camp was basic, but very adequate, with friendly staff and relaxing hammocks. The beach was another 5kms away from the beach camp along a dirt road, and I am sad to say that we were too hot and bothered to ride an additional 10kms. We went in search of the shower, followed by beers and pizza! For dinner we went to the fabulous and very cool El Dragon Pizza Restaurant and Bar, where we shared the house specialty – a huge prawn pizza. It was the best pizza by far that we had in Mexico!! Barra del la Cruz is a pretty small place with few eating options and this place was an absolute hidden gem. I was surprised that it wasn’t mentioned in the Lonely Planet. Check it out if you are ever in the area
Monday 23rd February: Pepes Cabanas Beach Camp to La Bamba Beach
After the heat the day before, we wanted to get an early start. We had ordered breakfast for 7am, but the staff must have forgotten or slept in, so we set off just after 7am without breakfast. Thankfully we had tortillas and nutella with us …. so we didn’t go hungry for long.
The initial climb out of Barra del la Cruz was intense. A dog started chasing me up the hill, so I got off and pushed my way up to the top.
The highlight of day 2 was the changing scenery, which around lunchtime, became quite lush and tropical. Unfortunately, the heat was even more intense today than the day before, and although we didn’t climb quite as much , it was still very VERY hilly. David’s garmin said that it was 45.6 degrees, while his sigma bike computer said it was 51 degrees!! Mine was recording even higher temperatures! No doubt, it was inaccurate; but in the full sun, with the heat reflecting off the road and with little or no shade, it was crazily hot and humid.
We stopped every 10kms to 15kms to buy drinks (including more cold coconuts!), as we were seriously going through our water and at 40+ degrees, the hot water in our water bottles was not particularly tempting. At around the 60km mark, we passed a town, but we had only just stopped about 5kms before for a drink, so we planned to push onto the next town for our next drink stop. In hindsight, it was the wrong decision, as there were no more drink stops for the next 20kms. We were cycling in the full sun and there was no shade. We were a mess of sweat and our clothes were covered in salt.
By the time we reached the turn off to La Bamba Beach, I was totally exhausted and feeling quite dizzy and unwell (Mr TDA, was feeling fine, of course :)). I was also feeling a little cold, which from past experience cycling on 40+ degree days in Melbourne, I knew was not a good sign. We found a tree and I sat in the shade eating tortillas, drinking “hot” water and trying to cool off.
The last 2 kms from the highway to La Bamba Beach was a dirt road. After I had recovered somewhat under the tree, we slowly cycled the remaining 2kms into town. We were hoping to stay at the Cocoleoco Surf Camp, which had rave reviews on Tripadvisor, but it was closed when we arrived. The locals were incredibly friendly though and pointed us towards another property which had cabanas. We popped into the local grocery store (there is only one in town) for some supplies, including some cold drinks and then set off in search of the beach and the other cabana place. Unfortunately, the dirt road to the beach was very sandy in patches, and given how exhausted I was, I didn’t react quickly enough when my wheel came in contact with a rather large patch of sand. I wasn’t able to unclip before I fell and I landed with some force on my right side, with the bike landing on top of me. I cut my leg slightly, but otherwise I appeared to be fine. David helped me up and we continued to ride to the beach and then onto the cabana place where we found a room for the night.
After the day that we had had, we didn’t feel like cooking. The initially grumpy owner of the cabanas (I think we woke him up from his afternoon siesta!), organized for his neighbor to cook dinner for us, which was fabulous and great value. We were so hungry we ordered 2 meals each! Some of the locals also stopped by for a chat, which was really lovely – I guess they don’t see too many cycle tourers.
That evening I started to feel a pain under my arm on my right side. We assumed that I must have pulled a muscle when I fell. Little did we know, that I had fractured my ribs!
Tuesday 24th February: La Bamba Beach to Salina Cruz
The next morning was agony and I literally couldn’t get out of bed! David had to help me. Coughing, laughing and breathing hurt immensely. We didn’t have wifi, so we couldn’t look up my symptoms online, but we immediately suspected that I had bruised or fractured my ribs. Thankfully, they didn’t feel as bad once I was out of bed and as long as I didn’t breath too deeply, or laugh (which is difficult with David around), the pain was manageable. BUT, its quite hard not to breathe deeply when you’re puffing up a big hill and there were two rather significant ones on our way to Salina Cruz! Thankfully, we didn’t have far to go – only 43kms. We had originally planned to detour around Salina Cruz entirely, but now that we suspected that I had fractured or bruised my ribs, we decided that it was best to head straight to Salina Cruz.
The scenery was quite nice on this day, with views out across the bay, but it was unfortunately marred by huge amounts of rubbish. Such a shame.
It was another extremely hot day, but it was a little more manageable due to the incredibly strong winds (both head winds and side winds). Although I was taking pain killers, I was feeling very fragile on the bike and the downhills were quite scary, due to the crazy side winds. The area around Salina Cruz is renowned for being very windy and is home to some huge wind farms – we could totally understand why. I was SO happy and relieved when we finally made it to Salina Cruz.
It turned out that I had fractured my ribs – I had all of the classic symptoms and the only solution was to rest. So we were reluctantly forced to have some time off the bikes. Fractured ribs usually take between 4-6 weeks to heal … but, we had our fingers crossed that 3 weeks would be sufficient.