Day 339 - Popocatepetl, Mexico - 6235 km

Mexico is having bad press at the moment. Two cyclists have been brutally murdered on there way through the Chiapas state, just 3 weeks ago. One was German, the other Polish, both experienced travellers. The darker side of the country is coming to the surface. Everyone is warning me on social media: Be careful. Be safe. Take care. But how to be careful? Im on the road alone, vulnerable as a cyclist is. Were they not being careful? Could they have known? It could have happened anywhere.

After my bike got stolen in Mexico City, and with the news above in my head, I got more aware of the danger. I don’t leave my bike out of sight. During hotel stays I don’t even leave it in a garage anymore, I bring everything into my room. I’m suspicious and I don’t like. Hopefully I get more relaxed as time goes on and the bike gets some dust and scratches. 


I’m a few days on the road now. Taking it slowly, because I haven’t done much cycling for about 5 months, other than short rides through the city. Especially during the climbs I feel rusty. The same as when I left San Francisco after 5 weeks off the bike. However, the muscles are still there, because they’re built over a long time. I just need a few days to get them back into shape. The first challenge is Popocatepetl, the volcano south-west of Mexico City. The pass climbs up till 3650 meter. The good thing of staying that long in Mexico City is that I get used a bit more to the high altitude, which is 2200 meters. The weather is not very promising. Everyday it rains. Usually it starts to get dark in the afternoon. When I start the climb the forecast is not different and the skies already look grey in the morning. My hopes are not high. Halfway the climb it gets really foggy, there’s not more than 30 meters of sight ahead. I get wet, but everything is better than rain. And to be honest it is kind of beautiful too. 

Then the sky clears and the sun comes through. Below me are the clouds and there is basically no view into the valley. I dry my clothes and take longer breaks. High altitude is still not a friend. My head hurts and the oxygen is thin. Only a few more switch backs and I’m on top of the pass. The tip of Popocatepetl is covered in clouds, no smoke from crater is visible. Something I was dying to see, I’ve never seen a volcano being active, but I guess I have to wait for another chance. There will be more volcanos to visit in Central America. I don’t linger around on the pass and start the downhill with the warmth still in my legs. It’s a fun ride. Other than the road up this part into the Puebla state is unpaved and rocky. I leave some air out of the tires and I’m happy with the bike I chose for this trip - I’m faster than a cars and because of the big tires it’s a smooth ride downhill. No way I could have gone so fast on my Surly long haul trucker, which I cycled form Amsterdam to Singapore. I skipped the idea to camp in the hills and keep going through some poverty stricken towns until I find a hotel in Cholula. 

(Scroll down for gps track)