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Published: September 14th 2008
Through the fierce hills of Oaxaca we rode; through Puebla state, Morelos, Mexico and Michoacan, where the road dipped and soared gently through the high contours, where sulphur hung on the air and plumes of pure white steam leaked from geothermal vents. We found charming, lively towns: Vallee de Bravo, where it takes a brave cyclist to tackle the quaint, but painful, cobbled streets; Morelia, where we ooohed and ahhhed at the music and fireworks show at the cathedral; Uruapan, self-styled centre of the avocado universe, disappointingly devoid of avocados, but where a passing Kelloggs delivery driver stopped to chat and load us up with snacks from his van. The avocado dearth was cured later that same day when we discovered three men with truckloads of the little beauties, and accepted a bag full of them. We could have lingered in the gorgeous little town of Mazamitlas with its alpine looks, cafes and bakeries, but just one days cycling separated us from Guadalajara, the end of our cycling road. On the final ride, we swooped down towards Chapala Lake and into Chapala town. It was Sunday and visitors and residents were promenading and snacking on corn on the cobs, ice-creams and
tiny fried fish, while children flew kites in the lakeside breeze. We were told that there were ex-pat american and english communities here, and a creeping americanisation testified to that. It was sad to see, but provided a handy rehabilitation for us.
And then we were in Guadalajara. The distant, unthinkable end point of our cycling journey for twelve months past. As was customary at the end of each day, I noted down the day's mileage, the cumulative total and, on this occasion, the grand final mileage. How far do you think it was? (A prize for the nearest answer.) And then it was time to celebrate; we asked for a restaurant recommendation and hunted it down. It may have taken twelve months to adapt to a frugal style of life, but it took all of ten minutes to abandon it, or rather the catalytic action of six tequilla cocktails and a beer.
And how has Mexico been? Well, a bonus surprise, I would say. It is a tremendously varied country. We experienced the excuberant jungle of the Yucutan and the lofty central highlands. More than once, we had to ask each other if we really were in
Mexico; surely this was Scotland or Switzerland? The famous beaches of the pacific coast and the North-west of the country, stretching away to the United States, remained unexplored. Perhaps another time? The towns are bright with colour; not just pastel shades, but clashing, bold hues. Life is relaxed and unhurried, and the people friendly, though there was an irritating, universal assumption that we were American. We soon learned to drop into conversation that we were English. The reactions were illuminating; surprise, astonishment, then a noticeable uplift in the warmth and welcome.
And before we knew it, we were in Washington, at the home of David and Tracey and baby Iona. Civilised order, comfort and cleanliness, battered clothing discarded, new garments purchased to fit our much reduced frames, hair cuts, beer, wine and curry; ahh, the rehabilitation is well underway.
And now, as they say, the end is near and comes the reflection; a year of travelling, of being inspired, humbled and thrilled, of having our values and perceptions challenged, and our physical and mental stamina tested. We return, not sadly, but thankful for this fantastic experience. We have seen people, cultures and lives so different from our own,
Should have brought the mountain bike for this road
lives with few of the material comforts that we take for granted and people with a warmth and openness that is heartening and humbling. We have seen cruel climates; a caustic sun and destructive rains, that make us appreciate the benign English environment. We have seen many natural wonders of landscape and wildlife, but the fondest memories come from the people we have met along the way; the unplanned, unrepeatable touches of humanity that have reinforced our faith in humankind. But now we have been cataputed into a new chapter (and one of us had to go to work at 8.00 am the very day after landing on British soil).
And so, we finish with a big thank you to those who have supported us, helped us and encouraged us both in person and over the ether. Big thank yous go to Terry and Ann; Jackie and Ray; Peter and Roslyn; Rob, Jo and Kathy in Tasmania; John Sleeping Wolf; David, Pat and Tania, Anthony and Teresa in Sydney; Ramon and family; Benjamin and family; Dario; Cockermouth International Pharmacy Services; friends and family who have watched over us and fretted. Get your worry beads ready for the next one...
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