Avoiding seasonal depression when faced with the “Dark Months” - Portland to Panama!

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by 0theories, Nov 27, 2012.

  1. Markaso del Norte

    Markaso del Norte Adventurer

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    Great ride report! I am really liking your route, and your pictures. Keep up the great work! (somebody has to do it)! I hope to be doing a similar trip in a year!:lurk
  2. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Thanks for the compliments Markaso :thumbup The route keeps changing depending on mood, weather and recommendations from other travelers. In fact today I'm completely changing my plans and heading to warmer, sunnier, cheaper climes :evil San Cristobal will have to wait (it's down to 3 C and raining there I hear). Keep your trip as open as possible and you'll have a blast!
  3. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    The ride from Teotitlán de Flores Magón to Oaxaca took us deep into the desert. It was sandstone cliffs, cactus and scrub brush the whole way there. The roads were in decent shape and wound their way in and out of valleys, and up and down small mountains (there was one with 3000 ft elevation gain over a few miles where we passed a lot of bicyclists, possibly racing). The scenery here reminded somewhat of eastern Oregon (with different plants), where I do a lot of riding in the summer. We passed through many small villages and crossed several rivers.

    Lots of curves. Lots of cactus.
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    Slash and burn agriculture?
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    River crossings (the easy way) :evil
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    Looking back on a twisty road...
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    Deep valleys.
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    Sharp corners.
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    Before long we were on the outskirts of Oaxaca and the fun really began. It wasn't too difficult navigating into the city and to the neighborhood of cheap hostels near the center. We stopped at the first hostel we had in mind and found out there was no parking for the bikes. This was actually the hostel that Randy sent his plate to (without calling them first despite my suggestion). Hopefully it will arrive and he can pick it up without incident. We tried a couple more places but none had parking. This is definitely unusual... Eventually the stress of navigating city streets while looking for a place to live got to us (I won't go into details, but some tension has been building for a while) and we decided to part ways and try our luck individually.

    Almost to Oaxaca.
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    Randy had a lead on a place with potential parking, and I went off to seek my fortune to the south. I tried two more places (the first had parking at night only, but was expensive) and the second one was a hit. Coincidentally (perhaps), Hostel Cielo Rojo had space for only one bike. It appeared that things worked out perfectly as they usually do (one way or the other). The hostel has a friendly staff, a very reasonable rate for a bunk and a bunch of travelers staying there for the next few days. It was exactly what I was looking for.

    Hostel mural.
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    I spent the next few hours hanging out with new friends and catching up on the internet (including posting more updates [almost caught up]). Then it was time for my usual solo ritual of wandering around town aimlessly, getting my bearings. Oaxaca is a beautiful city with many architectural marvels. I didn't bring my camera on the initial wander so those will have to wait for another day.

    One interesting encounter I had was at the Santo Domingo Cathedral (then another there the next day oddly enough). I was wandering the streets trying to guess where tourist were from when I encountered a group of slavs I though were Russian. I stalked them to the cathedral but couldn't understand more than a few words of what the tour guide was saying. Eventually I spoke to him and they turned out to be Polish. Lucky for me some of them spoke Russian well, so I was able to have a great conversation which is always a treat for me. It made my evening. The tour guide also recommended some beautiful places to see to the south (which alas, I can no longer remember). It was a place directly east of San Cristóbal. Tuxtla maybe. Any ideas?
  4. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Hostel Cielo Rojo.
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    It took longer than usual to leave the hostel today. After exploring mountain villages with no other gringos or other English speakers in sight (I recently learned [from an “angry at the USA" Mexican hostel worker] that only people from the USA are gringos, not all white people) except Randy, it was nice to sit down and have a few conversations with fellow travelers. By early afternoon it was time to get out of the house and explore the city for a bit. After my preliminary explorations of the night before, I had a list of places to revisit for photographic sake and a list of places I haven't seen yet.

    View from the balcony.
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    I visited a few churches, some cathedrals (are they different than churches?), a series of parks and a museum or two. Saw some interesting architecture, some cultural displays, a little of what life in Oaxaca is like for locals and some street art. Overall it was an interesting but mostly uneventful day. Another day without riding, and a good one.

    Church.
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    Cathedral.
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    Church.
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    Cathedral.
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    Streets and sights.
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    One experience of several of note: I returned to the Santo Domingo Cathedral to see if something cool would happen since I had a good experience there the day before. I sat down next to a small group of Mexican woman who started animatedly chatting with each other, although I couldn't understand a word they were saying. After about ten minutes, one of them turned to me and asked if I spoke English. With a smile I replied “yes”, so they asked to interview me. On video. Apparently they are taking an English class and their assignment was to film an interview with a native English speaker (I guess I was close enough). Three of them took turns asking me basic questions (mostly the same questions) from introductions to my opinions on Oaxaca and what I preferred about my own country (the last being a bit awkward to answer). It was fun and left me with a big smile on my face.

    Santo Domingo Cathedral.
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    Language students: Alejandra, Jasmine, me, Elsa.
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    In the evening it was more conversations, more internet time and a good nights sleep. It's starting to get pretty cold here...
  5. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    As an FYI, a cathedral is the main church in a diocese. Usually the bishop associates with the cathedral.

    Often times, best travel is without your own. I have found that true for me.
  6. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Oh, thanks. That's interesting and helps put things in perspective. Why do the bigger cities have multiple cathedrals? Multiple diocese?


    Que?
  7. slide

    slide A nation in despair

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    That'd be my guess. I am not an expert on church org. I only found out about that when I looked up basilica due to it being part of a book I was reading. That article also brushed on churches and cathedrals.

    I also suppose, but don' t know, that perhaps folks like calling their larger churches cathedrals just to be grand about it.



    You can travel fully exposed to the locals or insulated more or less by having your own couintrymen or traveling group around you. My personal experience, limited as it may be, is that you have an entirely different experence if you are doing a solo interfacing with the locals. I also find the locals warm to a single or a single couple traveling much more than they would, say, a group of 5.
  8. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    True that!

    I fully agree. I always backpacked solo as you meet many more people that way. The same applies to motorbiking. I've met more cool people in the last three days than in the three previous weeks! Although to be fair, to some extent this has to do with being in more touristy areas.
  9. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    The weather is becoming cold and overcast here. It's just about time to move on, but I can't imagine the weather in San Cristóbal (high in the mountains) will be much better. For now I will concentrate on the present. According to the tourist map given to me at the hostel, Oaxaca is surrounded by all kinds of interesting things to see and do. I picked a couple for starters. The first is the Monte Albán ruins on top of a mountain overlooking Oaxaca City. The second is quite a serendipitous circumstance! An aside: Perhaps my favorite things in the world are Big Trees. Back to story: To my surprise and elation, as I searched for points of interest in and around Oaxaca I made an amazing discovery: El Árbol del Tule, (circumference/diameter wise) the Biggest Tree. In. The. World. I would have never imagined such a treasure would be found here, but I feel blessed that it is!

    It was late morning by the time I made the ~9 Km ride to the ruins up a narrow, curvy road (aren't they all these days) to the west. The ruins are really cool and what makes them stand out is that they are on a high peak overlooking the three main valleys of the region. As the day was overcast, it made the unbearable heat I was warned about less intense than it would have normally been. I wandered around for a few hours, taking photos and meeting interesting people who know what epiphytes are, so they had to be from the northwest (B.C. to be exact).

    Some temples.
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    Leaders of other cities getting castrated and sacrificed.
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    A bug.
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    More temples.
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    With the ruins mostly explored and the sky promising to release some moisture I decided to book it down the mountain and over to the east of the city to find the big tree. The Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) is in fact BIG. Now, it's not tall (by redwood standards), but in diameter it has no rival (well, maybe the African Baobab). I've seen many big redwoods, maybe even the biggest, but this was something else. The needles of the two are actually quite similar. When I first pulled into town and parked, I wandered over to a giant tree and started taking pictures. This wasn't it. This tree was the little brother.

    Little brother.
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    The big tree was around the corner and I had to pay a nominal fee to get through the gate to see it. Both of the giant trees are in a manicured yard of a church and surrounded by a fence. On the one hand I was sad that it couldn't be approached (or hugged), but on the other I was glad the trees were protected. It would have been a wonder to see this in nature, but in nature I suspect it would have been cut down for firewood or furniture long ago. Some regulations are necessary...

    Big Tree.
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    A note about my packing list: Light weight long sleeves shirts are a must. I neglected to bring any. Sometimes it's too bright for short sleeves and too hot for the riding jacket (sorry ATGATT people). The result of abstaining though is sunburn.

    I returned to the hostel near sundown and spent some time hanging out with newly arrived travelers. After ten in the evening I realized I was starving and went out to find a bite to eat. Most places in Mexico stay open pretty late and due to influence from Spain, dinners are often after 10 pm. In Oaxaca things are different. The city was completely dead (maybe partially due to the cold) and I was forced to eat a hotdog from a stand near the center. It was alright.

    You can buy full on hotdog carts at the appliance store in Oaxaca.
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  10. nvklr

    nvklr Been here awhile

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    That tree is magnificent! Thanks again for sharing your ride with us!
  11. Voidrider

    Voidrider Been here awhile

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    The Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) INDEED!

    I also love big trees, as well as unique and unusual specimens. I'm planning to ride to various unique or giant trees locally here in S. Oregon and going further afield.

    Besides riding one of my other passions is bonsai. In studying various trees I discovered there are in fact no true cedar trees native to N. America, no matter how often you hear "cedar this or cedar that"...so YES scientific names clear that RIGHT up.

    Yeah, my wife says that Disneyland has a file on the strange guy collecting seeds from various trees...yep, that would be me.

    I think the tree by the pyramids with the blue blossoms is a 'Blue Jacaranda' (Jacaranda mimosifolia) so right back atcha!
  12. vaara

    vaara Been here awhile

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    Great ride report & pics. Молодец! :)

    Can't wait to see where you end up next.
  13. Markaso del Norte

    Markaso del Norte Adventurer

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    I think those trees are amazing. I had no idea there were trees that large in Mexico.! I know what I am going to do to support my self while riding through Mexico. I am going to attach one of those hotdog carts to my vstrom!
  14. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Wow, thanks for all the positive feedback guys! You made my day :ear

    My pleasure nvklr! If you know of any great spots I simply shouldn't miss, please let me know. I'm officially taking requests :evil

    Some of the biggest trees of many conifer species (Champion trees?) are located on the Olympic Peninsula! But you probably know this already :D That area has some beautiful riding.

    True that. A good example are Western Red Cedars and Incense Cedars. One is Thuja the other Calocedrous (if memory serves me right). Neither are actual "cedars".

    Balshoya spasiba vaara! Sorry no Cyrillic keyboard...

    :rofl You may have some serious competition. The hotdog guys don't mess around! :rofl
  15. vaara

    vaara Been here awhile

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    Pro tip: in Google Translate, if you type transliterated Russian text into the box (select Russian in the left menu), it automagically converts to Cyrillic.

    So for example, "Ja edu v Yuzhnuyu Ameriku na mototsikle" becomes "Я еду в Южную Америку на мотоцикле." No Cyrillic keyboard needed. :nerd

    (sorry for going off-topic)
  16. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Yep, good tip. I tried it but google didn't conjugate correctly nor use the words I would choose (nor give me the option to change to the words I would choose). But their Cyrillic is perfect :D ...it may be me that's wrong, as I rarely use Russian, but it just doesn't "sound" right to my eyes. Although what you wrote is correct, what I tried to write wasn't. Back to topic as soon as these photos upload...
  17. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    The plan was to leave Oaxaca today and head over to San Cristóbal, a two day ride to the south and (mostly) east. On a whim I looked up the weather forecast and was displeased with what I found: Apparently the future held rain and temps of 3 C. I called bullshit on the whole (almost) freezing temperatures and rain situation, and changed my plans to something I can actually look forward too. Instead of the mountains, I headed straight south to do a whole lot of nothing at the beach for a while... At least until the weather clears up. Mazunte was my new destination. It's a beach just west of Zipolite, one of the few nude beaches in Mexico. I was going to head to Zipolite, but was warned about a weird “50 year old, gay meat-market vibe” there. That's fine, but not the vibe I'm really looking for, plus Mazunte waters aren't dangerous to swim in (undertows, riptides and all that at Zipolite).

    On the road again.
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    Down into the valley.
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    The ride from Oaxaca to Mazunte took me through the desert, over some pretty tall mountains, through some jungle and around some beaches; a nice diverse set of climates for me to enjoy. It's only about 300 Km, but most of the way there is the (no longer rare) curvy, narrow road I enjoy so much. I think (but hope it's not true) that I'm getting desensitized to beauty. There's just too much of it here to have a continual affect. The scenic views that would catch my breath and quicken my heart just a week ago are now almost normal. I'm not sure what the solution is, but it might have me going someplace ugly, or at least ordinary for a while. Now where can I find such a place? And do I really want to go there?

    Through the desert..
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    Perhaps if I spend enough time at the beach, the mountains will again become breathtaking (they still are, just not as intensely), and then if I spend enough time in the mountains, the beach will again become amazing (it still is now). Maybe it's just too much of too many things at the same time. I need to “scene specialize” for a while... maybe. It's a little funny to complain about too much beauty (or complain about anything really).

    Into the mountains.
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    Detour for a view.
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    Daily bike shot.
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    I took Mex 175 down from Oaxaca to Puerto Angel, then a tiny winding road along the coast, west to Mazunte. About halfway between Oaxaca and Mazunte, at the top of the pass (~8500 ft) is the small town of San José del Pacífico. I didn't know it at the time, but this town is famous for it's Magic Mushrooms. I was a bit curious though as I was passing through it because of all the mushroom figures and statues in peoples' yards and along the road. The town is beautiful (but was very cold so I passed through quickly) and “the thing to do” there is sit around and watch the clouds. I guess the mushrooms explain why that activity is so popular.

    San José del Pacífico views.
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    From San José del Pacífico it was all downhill, through the mountains and finally into the jungle. More beauty and excellent riding later, I was on the coast. It was getting dark by the time I pulled into Mazunte and was greeted with a familiar scene: dready hippies everywhere! After a couple of tries for a hostel (many were full of rainbow kids coming from Palenque after the solstice), I found Hostel La Isla and decided to camp on the beach there. That night they showed a movie (Life of Pi, good and very accurate to the book) on the big screen. In the dark, under the grass roof of the hut, I could have sworn I was in Thailand and not Mexico. It was actually shocking when the movie was over and all around me I heard Spanish and not Thai.

    Into the jungle.
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    Camp site.
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  18. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Out Standing Member

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    Excellent :thumb. You made a good choice. I hate cold weather.

    I spent a week there in April. Celebrated my birthday on the beach with a full moon.

    How much are they charging you to camp there?
  19. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    Hey Pete, Yeah it's really great here. I sort of got stuck :wink: I thought I'd only be here for two days, but I'm on day five now and not leaving tomorrow. It's a great place to be. I'm paying 60 pesos at La Isla, but there's a place for 40 near by. It's not quite as secure for the bike though...

    There are a bunch of rainbow types here camping for free on the beach... They just have to keep their packs with them and I like to wander light :D The only downside is the internet is slow here and I can't upload photos to update the report :eek1
  20. 0theories

    0theories Enthusiastically Skeptical

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    What woke me up in the morning confused me a great deal, as I was groggy and couldn't think. When I set up my tent after dark the previous night, I oriented it on what I thought was an east west axis with my toes pointing to the ocean (the west?). When I awoke I witnessed the sun rising out of the sea, directly in front of me. It took several seconds of searching my memory to realize where I was and another split second to realized what was happening. The bay I'm in faces directly south, so I was seeing the sun rise in the southeast (where it belongs).

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    I relate this story as it is the only noteworthy thing to say. The day was spent in complete relaxation, doing nothing, with nothing to do. My activities were limited to: drinking coffee, having conversations, meeting people, sunbathing and eating fantastic fish tacos! The end.

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