David Johnson's Travel Blog
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Reserva de la biosfera

2015-11-27

tl;dr: I am biking through the desert of the Reserva de la biosfera Tehuacan-Cuicatlan with no brakes.

Sometimes it seems like everybody here speaks English. After a fruitless search for breakfast, I decided to just eat peanut butter at a table in the common area of the hotel. The university student at the desk asked if he could join me so he could practice his English. Unlike most others, he was learning from an actual teacher (a lady from Canada who spoke little Spanish). I kept talking way too fast for him, but he'd smile and try to fill in the gaps. When I went to a store to get some food for the road, the proprietor was the owner's son and had spent time in San Diego in construction. He said it was all about the money, and he wanted to go back. He ran a fairly large store, and apparently he might make $700 pesos a week ($44 dollars). But working construction he made enough to buy his own house in this town. He also filled me in on the likelihood of a Mexican paying taxes (not very), and how unless you landed a government job, it was almost impossible to not be poor.

From Teotitlan de Flores Magon I can go either north or south. My original plan was to turn north and angle toward Acapulco. But everybody (everybody) I described this plan to opined that it was a bad one. Apparently Acapulco isn't a very nice place. South leads to Ouxaca. Everybody (yes, everybody) agreed this was an excellent place to travel. So south I go.

I spent some time tweaking my brakes before leaving town. And I immediately discovered I still had no brakes. I could barely slow down. I swung into a dirt driveway so I wouldn't hit one of those cursed speed bumps sending dogs scurrying. It turns out my brake pads no longer actually have pads. They are worn down to metal both front and back. They are so thin the brake mechanism simply can't stretch enough to lock onto the disk. Of course I failed to bring spares. So I did the only logical thing: I placed all four "pads" on the rear tire, leaving the front completely brakeless. Now the rear works, even if it's metal on metal. Such squealing. Also the brake cable is slightly frayed, so I can't take the risk of ever building up too much speed and then assuming I can stop myself. Fortunately I spent most of today climbing upward.

I followed Highway 135, which loosely follows the lamely named Rio Grande. This area is desert completely covered in cactus and hardy brushes. There are irrigation channels to allow the growing of corn and lemons and other fruits, but it's mostly just cactus. The road cuts through parts of Reserva de la biosfera Tehuacan-Cuicatlan, so there are long stretches where Mexicans don't actually live.

Where Mexicans do live they sell gasoline. For whatever reason, the only Pemex along this road is closed, so the locals have picked up the slack. Where people live you will find "gas stations" which is just a collection of a dozen (or more for a big station) three- and five-gallon plastic jugs filled with fuel. I saw no jug that was still red, but every single one was faded to a very light orange.

Tonight I am once again attempting to sleep with no tent. Given that I had to be careful of the cactus, I may just not get rained on. The sky does flare up with occasional flashes of lightning, but that's from the jungle on the other side of the mountains.

While eating my dinner of tuna fish and Mexican-Ritz knockoff crackers I realized I am so camping in the Southern Mexico desert.

Oh my god, must Mexicans always play loud music at night? I'm in the middle of the freaking desert listening to a tuba. I can't even imagine how many kilometers away it is. It's not even club music. It's like they are piping some typical Mexican radio station through a broadcast speaker. Actually, that is exactly what they are doing.

leaving town


no brakes






holy cow they actually collect garbage here


Puente el Salado










Rio Grande


gas station


corn and lemons and mountains






entering some town


some ditch


good enough place to camp


good night Mexico

contact me at le@liverworks.com
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