Starting the bike tour: Valle de Bravo to Ixtapan de la Sal
After 75.6 miles, 6,667 feet climbing, and 3 days pedaling, we pulled in to Ixtapan de la Sal yesterday around 5:30…
Once we found a not too shady hotel, we promptly got a shower, beer, pizza and bed, in that order. Today is a big market day, so we’ll see what the town has to offer. So far it seems like a very neat place and we have been officially welcomed by several older citizens (I don’t think they see many Americans here).
On Day one we started riding from Valle de Bravo on a nonstop climb through semi-populated areas where people were generally amused by our buxom touring rigs. Eventually the road gave way to beautiful farmland and pristine pine forests as we started nearing the national forest. We were in the shadow of Volcan de Nevado de Toluca. About 13 miles/2,200 feet later we went into a restaurant to ask someone for directions to a hotel or campamento (campground). We were bushed.
Being green to the bike touring game, and Spanish for that matter, we were slightly ignorant about how to proceed without a campground or hotel for miles. Fortunately we met Carlos who had lived in Myrtle Beach for several years and spoke perfect English. We ate dinner with him and his two workmates, and they offered to give us a ride over the largest uphill yet to the nearest village. We took them up and drove past the Monarca Reserva to a tiny farming community where Carlos spoke with some locals about a place to stay. We were encouraged to set up camp on the portico of an odd community building smack in the middle of the village. The massive slab of concrete that made up the porch of the building was definitely an interesting first campsite. Oddly enough we woke the next morning to a small gathering of women and children waiting in line to receive their flu vaccines. They all found our packing up process very intriguing.
Day two started with me meeting Guillermo, who had once lived in Boone, NC and worked on a Christmas tree farm! He is now the shop keep at the only very small store in the village. I talked him into giving us a ride back up to the top of Monarca Reserva so we could check it out and then enjoy the long downhill. The Mariposa Monarca is the Monarch Butterfly and the Reserva is the high pine forest where they end their mass migration from Canada.
From the Reserva we explored a side dirt road for a bit and then proceeded on a 10+ mile downhill that would lead us through some breathtakingly beautiful farming communities and small towns. After a few more ups and downs through lush volcanically charged farming areas, we knew we were too tired to face the next massive climb. I spotted a small store up on a hill at a farm that was accessed by a dirt road, and we wheeled up to ask an older lady, Lucia, if she knew where we could camp. She didn’t, but she had a large unfinished open-air room attached to her house/store/farm. We asked her if we could make camp there and she somewhat gladly accepted. It turned into being the ideal place to camp. We got to explore her mini-farm and peruse all of its beautiful flora and fauna (including 2 gigantic avocado trees). She had 2 pigs, the younger of whom Ginny got fairly close with and fed some of our leftover “homemade” beans and rice. That evening it seemed that we served as entertainment for some of the locals, who, after leaving the school function next door, unabashedly looked into our make shift living quarters and all of the bizarre trappings that 3 gringos bring with them for a 6 month bike journey.