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1/27/19 – 2/2/19
Just as the average 42 year old plastics engineer thinks that her 401K, which has been rising in value for a solid ten years now, will clock fifteen percent annually to the end of time; the average cycle tourist is equally short sighted in believing that every day that begins with a nice downhill will either continue all the way to the ocean or at worst flatten out with a nice tail wind. For twenty five kilometers this is what I told myself. Despite the five percent grade I never touched my brakes. This could only be due to a headwind masked by our fortune to be going with gravity. As things levelled off I realized that we were riding into a 40 kph gail. It took us five hours to ride the next fifty clicks to Laguna Media Luna.
In 2014 I had taken a climbing trip to El Potrero Chico with my friend Jeff, a gentleman of leisure. It rained for several days so we hooked up with a few people from Mexico City and followed them to some climbing areas in San Luis Potosi. After a day or two of scaling limestone caves we all went to some hot springs. We had tacos in a little town outside the warm pools before parting ways and I took a picture of our new friends under the sign of an oil change shop. Because of this photo I think of them as The Four Lubricantes.
When Paty, our host in Zacatecas, told us about Laguna Media Luna, I had no idea that I had been there before. But as we pulled into that town and I saw the green sign that said “Lubricantes”, I knew where we were heading. Beautiful as the place was, they had a draconian set of rules which they adhered to with resolute and sedate conviction. On that climbing trip they had refused to allow Porter, my black lab, inside. She had to sit tied to the fence all day. In a country where any cop or politician can be convinced for a twenty dollar bill or six pack of Pacifico, the laguna guards were not for sale. They would not allow our bikes in and we had to chain them to that same fence. They asked what was in the brown case.
“My guitar.” They said it would have to stay in the guard booth. They were also not clear about how much they would charge us but promised we could all work it out later. All of this and the “hot springs” were tepid at best.
Crystal clear canals weaved under bridges and beneath palms and pines. We took a rest day on Monday and had the place to mostly ourselves. We were swimming around the docks. A man starting chatting to us. He was from Mexico but now lived in the States. I don’t remember anything from the conversation. I do remember that we got out of the water and sat on warm wooden planks in the sun. The man followed us. As he climbed the ladder and walked toward us it was impossible to ignore the fact that he was wearing a sky blue Speedo with a massive erection. He continued to talk. I kept thinking that if I had a piece of spinach in my teeth I would want somebody to tell me, but decided this was different.
Six am wakeup because we are supposed to be out of the laguna by 7. No breakfast. Quick breakdown of tent. I paid the night before but they could not break a 100 peso note so I had to track down the morning guard for my change as well as my guitar. The guy gave me a 20. It should have been thirty. He was unapologetic with some explanation about needing to talk to Ray. I decided to let the fifty cents go and get riding. We saw Ray riding his bike as we left. He waved and I refrained from shaking my fist.
Outside the laguna was a small village named El Jabali. The roads were filled with cyclists. Mostly farmers on old rickety clunkers carrying machetes, bags of rice, hatchets, and other primitive tools. Most smiled and gesticulated salutations with grimy chapped working man hands.
Steady uphill and into the wind for 104 km. The last 15k into Tamasopo drops 1,200 meters. We end up camping on a little island surrounded by rivers and small cascades. Take the thirtieth off to ride just outside of town to a place called Puente de Dios or “Bridge of God.” We decided to leave our entire camp setup and all of our belongings. It was the first time we had left everything in the open like this in seven months or so. Despite warnings from our illustrious president about Mexicans; none of our things were raped, stolen, or forced to do drugs. That being said the old gardener on the property was blowing kisses to Soph and giving me the mean mug.
The next day we make moves for Micos falls. There is a foul odor that I recognize as burning sugar cane. This is part of the harvesting process. The previous night there had been an orange glow in the sky from the torching of a massive field. We stop on a corner to check the map. A lump of ash falls on my forearm. A man approaches from a nearby house and introduces himself as Javier. We chat. Cyclist. Lived in Atlanta for 20 years. Back to run the family farm. He directs us to town to find an ATM. We had to backtrack past his house toward Micos and as we ride by he is walking out the front door with his bike and backpack.
“I will join you for today,” he says.
He took us down dirt roads cutting through the cane fields. He told us about his time in the states.
"The US is nice, but you can live better in Mexico. You make good money in the states, but it is so expensive to live that you spend all your time working."
We arrive at the falls and sit around eating 2 pounds of shrimp that I had procured earlier. The bag had unfortunately ruptured in my rear pannier and everything had been marinating in discharged shellfish juice in the tropical sun. Javier rode home and we were left to setup camp on another little island with a crystal clear swimming hole off the back. I tied my backpack to a piece of cord and let it hang in the river from a tree in hopes to get the shrimp smell out of it. Despite soaking overnight but the stench persisted.
In the morning, while sitting by the water, I heard a quiet voice say hello. It was so soft that I thought I had imagined it. I turned around and there was a little old man wearing too big pants held up by a shoestring. Empty fifty pound sack of rice on shoulder and stick pointing at me. A funny little medicine man with missing teeth and flagrant bouquet from rummaging through trash. I could not understand a word that he said but I gathered that he didn’t like us camping there. I checked with a local who pointed a finger at his skull and motioned the international sign for crazy. He said he was harmless.
After another day off we rode to Tamul falls to meet Tony and Karen, whom we had crossed paths with in Utah. Tamul falls are about three hundred feet tall. The river bed leading up to them is made of limestone and has dissolved into a series of pools that appear to be ten or twenty feet deep with vertical walls. Some of them are just on the edge of the cliff. The river is shallow and slow, so you can sit in the pools and look over the edge. I stood a foot or two away, looking over as the water slid around my bare feet. When you stand on a precipice like this your brain kicks in a sort of counter stupidity mechanism and it feels like there is a rope tied to your back that tugs you away. After a hike to the bottom, we walked back up to cook dinner together and camp on what appeared to be the grounds of an abandoned hotel. We caught up on each other’s routes and shared our highlights and low points.
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