Chewing on an iguana egg is an unexpectedly difficult experience. The shell is incredibly soft, flexible, and damn near impossible to puncture. You can crush it to the point that your top and bottom molars are touching and yet it is so malleable that it does not break. If you want to get at the yolk, it is a bit like opening a plastic bag with your teeth. You have to hold the little white ball in your fingers while tearing into it with your K9’s. Eventually it bursts. I can’t tell if it is the richest egg I’ve ever eaten or if I’m just telling myself that to justify the work it took to get at it. The rest of the tamale, which was filled with the rest of the iguana that the egg came from, tasted like chicken. Not good chicken. Like chicken that had been sitting in a basket of tamales under the Mexican sun for eight hours. It was five o’clock, so my particular tamale was particularly ripe. It looked like it had been run over by a Buick. I had lost my appetite. I tried feeding it to a dog, but Mexican dogs are strangely discerning. I walked it to the trash, not wanting to be perceived as the gringo that couldn’t hold down the rotting lizard meat.
This was in Tehuantepec. Our warm showers hosts were Jesus and Naomi. They didn’t have any spare bedrooms, so we had to settle for sleeping in a massive tent that they had set up for us on the upper deck of the house next to the pool with a panoramic view of the city. They were gracious hosts and the space was so comfortable that we took an extra day off so we could cook them dinner and talk bikes and future travel plans
Behind fútbol, protesting is Mexico’s second favorite past time. In Oaxaca there were demonstrations that had been going on for decades. A year or two ago, when we were in Baja, the government had raised fuel taxes. People barricaded roads in some areas so tankers could not get through to resupply gas stations.
This day, the twentieth of March, began with having to maneuver through several taxi protests in Zaratoga. There is only one road that goes through town. It crosses several rivers. Cabbies blocked every bridge in the city. Apparently people are so accustomed to these sorts of things that bus companies have a vehicle on standby at each end of town. When the main bus reaches the blockade, everyone gets out and huffs their belongings on foot to get to the other bus. They probably walk two or three miles between buses here.
Eventually you turn right at Ventosa. There is no precise physical point at which you enter the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. You know you are there when the cross wind begins. Here you will find one of Mexico’s largest wind farms, and by far the biggest I have ever seen. The entire system has over 300 megawatts of capacity. For scale, consider the following:
The average US home uses roughly 10,000 kwh (.01 mwh) per year. So you could power about two hundred sixty thousand thousand US homes for a year from this farm. Mexican homes, in contrast use less than 2,000 kwh per year. Meaning this field can power more than a million average homes. Surprisingly, the US was second in terms of average household electricity use in 2010 behind Canada. Australia came in a distant third with homes using about 7,000 kwh annually.
Winds can exceed forty miles per hour here. They blow from the north. The road travels east.
A fellow climber once explained to me “the fun scale.”
“Type I fun is when you’re out for a casual day, well below your limits, but the views and the moves are all perfect. It is fun in the moment and of course in retrospect as well.”
“Type II fun is like when we were stuck on Cowboy Ridge in Zion after dark in December making sketchy moves around ledges without headlamps and discussing who was going to be the big spoon should we have to spend the night up there. In the moment it was hectic, but I think I speak for both of us when I say we would do it all again and not change a thing.”
Type 3 fun, on the contrary, is not fun at all. It is not fun in the moment. It is not fun in retrospect. And if given the chance to do it again, you would prefer to drink motor oil. Riding in a forty mile per hour cross wind on a narrow road is type III fun. Winds of this strength can easily blow a truck over. You have to ride near the center of the road to keep from getting knocked off the edge. I had my bike tilted at a forty five degree angle into the gale as I pedaled. I tried leaning further when it blew harder, but at one point my pedal clipped the road on the down stroke. Occasionally the gusting would drop for a split second, causing me to fall towards the center of the road as if somebody pulled a door open that I’d been pushing on. As I corrected, it would pick up again and slam me toward the shoulder. I clinched the brakes to stop from rolling over, but my gear acted as a sail and I slid laterally through the tarmac, my tires scraping and leaving tracks perpendicular across the lane. I never seemed to make it much more than a hundred feet or so without having to stop.
I turned back to see Soph a quarter mile behind me. She had dismounted and was walking toward me. I waited.
“We need a ride,” I screamed through the howling, “There is a good spot for cars to pull over up ahead.”
I got off my bike to walk. Almost immediately the wind caught it and almost took it out of my hands. In the fight for possession, the edge of the pedal caught my shin.
I looked down at the laceration, blood being blown across the road.
It only took five minutes for a truck to stop. Diana and Francisco were our age and touring around Mexico. We drove through a hellhole of blown over power lines for twenty minutes before reaching a road block where a semi-truck had tipped over and blocked the entire road. We turned around and ended up driving for nearly two hours through obscure farm roads and nameless towns who’s existence I questioned due to the fact that they were not visible on my GPS. Eventually we were spit out about half a mile from the truck.
“A donde van?” I asked.
“Tuxtla. Quieren ir?”
Tuxtla was two days ahead for us. We knew the riding was going to be unremarkable though.
And just like that, two hours later, we were there. Time travel. I felt like I should try to offer something entertaining to our hosts, but an hour in that wind had left both Soph and I battered. I sat with my head against the window, watching the tall grasses bending over backwards and thought about a drunk that had read the cliff-notes of a Stephen Hawking book and tried explaining to me that speed is an illusion and it is actually the phenomenon of locations moving closer together. I double checked the map on my phone, all of the pueblas appeared to be stationary.
As a city, Tuxtla could be described as just fine. Redeeming qualities include an airport as well as close proximity to other places that are generally much nicer to visit. We stayed one night, found a decent meal, and moved on to Chiapa de Corzo the next day. Here one can take a boat into Sumidero Canyon. In addition to what is an absolutely spectacular sight, on display are two prime examples of Latin American ambitions and priorities. This can be summed up as a strong desire, and willingness, to place religious statues and men selling beer in the most unlikely of places.
We arrived in San Cristobal on the twenty third. The road wound through little foggy mountain towns. This was simultaneously one of the poorest and most beautiful parts of Mexico we’d seen. Little old women in vibrant colored dresses, undoubtedly made by hand, walked roadside all hunched over with bundles of timber on their backs. An ingenious strap crossed their foreheads to shift some of the weight from their tired backs. Necks like linebackers. Near vertical roadsides stepped and planted with a canopy of passion fruit.
Navenchauc. City in the clouds. Poor little huts encircling a shallow alpine lake. As we descend to town it starts to rain. Not hard, but enough to put the dry layer on. We drop a couple thousand feet in an hour or so and check into our room just as the downpour began. It didn’t last long. After meeting our hosts and showering we met Sheila and Cary for dinner. It would likely be the last time our paths crossed for some time as Soph would soon fly back to the states to take her citizenship exam. I would wait in Mexico.
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