Mexico was such an experience that I could never have anticipated that I don’t even nowhere to start. As you can imagine I received many warnings of danger, death and doom as I was about to enter Mexico. I was really only concerned about the Mexico/US border city of Mexicali and I figured that I would figure out the rest as I needed to. It would turn out that I never had a moment of concern and felt exceptionally safe in Mexico. I felt far safer in Mexico than the US and I never had any issues in the US. Probably the biggest surprise about Mexico is that I never anticipated so many lifetime memories.
My expectations of Mexico was to simply bike through the country until I reached my next country. That would not be the case. I would have so many experiences that it would take me 160 days to bike 6,020 km’s from Mexicali to Chetumal (at the Belize border).
Most of my lifetime memories and experiences happened as I made my way through the north and central part of the country. The memories and experiences were so numerous that I was forced to write a separate earlier blog piece that can be found HERE. I seriously urge you to check that blog post out if you have any interest in biking through or visiting Mexico.
I should mention that I speak no Spanish. And I should also mention that even after almost 6 months in this country I feel that I have barely scratched a single surface of understanding and knowing this country let along several scratches.
6,020 km’s over 161 days
I have split my Mexican route up in 4 geographical sections:
I entered Mexicali Mexico on June 9th experiencing 115F/46C temperatures. The next 28 days would represent the hardest section of my entire bike ride (including biking through the 2019-20 Canadian winter). It would feel like I was going to die almost everyday until I reached La Paz 28 days later biking 1,488 km’s to get there.
I did not enjoy the Baja like most people who visit in the winter. I only had one interest and priority. Get the hell out of there before the heat killed me. Therefore, I did not take the time to explore this region of Mexico as one typically would explore. The Baja would mostly be an exercise of survival not exploration.
The feeling of death and beauty in the Baja
The full length of the Copper Canyon rail line is 656 km’s. I biked about 80 of those kilometers towards the end of the line. The reality is that from Los Mochis you have to get on the train for most of the way to Creel. Copper Canyon was an awesome relief from the heat of the Baja and Copper Canyon is probably the most beautiful part of Mexico that I would experience. Copper Canyon is highly 100% recommended to go visit and I had no problems bringing my bike on the train even though the website says no bikes.
Copper Canyon beauty
The North Central Mexico
The truth be told not much changes from biking from Chihuahua to as far south as Puebla. The weather was mostly perfect and I would come across a few hilly or mountainous areas but mostly nothing too extreme. Running down the center of the country is fairly flat terrain. From Chihuahua I mainly followed the center of the country to all the main cities. Chihuahua – Torreon – Durango – Fresnillo – Zacatecas – Aguascalientes – Leon – Guanajuato – Santiago de Queretaro – Mexico City – Puebla.
Geographically Fresnillo is considered the very center of Mexico. For the purposes of this blog post I am referring to anywhere south of Puebla the southern part of Mexico as like I mentioned from a terrain, vegetation and weather perspective the changes were very subtle between all the cities as I headed south.
Guanajuato – my favorite city
Probably the number one attraction going through all the cities through the center of Mexico is the cathedrals. In Mexico I would visit and photograph over 200 cathedrals and churches with 90% of them found in those cities and the north part of my bike route. My favourite cities would probably be Guanajuato, Zacatecas and Puebla. At the same time, it was hard not to like all of them all in one way or another. It was quite an experience biking into Mexico City as big as it is.
I originally planned to go to San Luis Potosi. I never made it. I am told east of San Luis Potosi is very beautiful.
Cathedrals everywhere in Mexico
The South part of Mexico
From Puebla my plan was to head south to Oaxaca, but in Puebla a realized that my tourist VISA would never give me the time for that. So, from Puebla I made a beeline straight for the Belize border. My original plans were also to head to Guatemala but with so many amazing experiences and memories in Mexico I saw no point in heading towards Guatemala either. I have never been to Oaxaca but I understand it to the be the most beautiful part of Mexico.
Biking south towards Belize would be some of my most enjoyable biking. All of it reminded me and felt like I was biking through Belize already (where I longed to be). One of my most favorite days on a bike was right on the Gulf of Mexico geographically between Coatzacoalcos and north of Villahermosa. The road brought me along the ocean through coconut forests.
In the last 12 days of my 161 days biking in Mexico I biked 1,118 km’s of my 6,020 Mexican kilometers which is almost 20% of my total Mexico route.
Because I am a fussy eater and could no longer cook for myself in Mexico and I 100% relied on restaurants for my meals I followed main roads and highways between cities. Heading south from Chihuahua I was virtually never in any kind of wilderness or isolated areas.
The main highlights that were physical or geographical in nature were surviving the Baja, Copper Canyon, biking into Mexico City and reaching the Gulf of Mexico.
As you can imagine I received a lot warnings about Mexico. I never felt unsafe for a moment. Only once did the police stop me to warn me about the highway a head of me. I never had an issue. What more can I add?
Hosts & Meeting Mexicans
I would end up having 20 hosts in Mexico only reaching out twice for hosting. Of course, I never anticipated having this many hosts. One of my hosts was even a bike ride follower who had been following my ride from the beginning for 22 months up to that point (and did not reveal that until I was in his living room).
Until I had met Marco I had no idea he had been following my ride for 22 months
I feel like I met hundreds of Mexicans that would come up to talk to me. I know I had 100’s and 100’s of cars and trucks give me friendly honks and waves. When I would visit the center of towns or cities I would often start moving through more quickly because as soon as one person would start talking or wanted a photo with me there would very quickly almost become a line up.
I also lost track of how many Mexicans bought me cold drinks or brought me out to dinner. I was given well over $2,000 pesos by at least a half dozen Mexicans. Imagine Mexicans giving a Canadian money? Mexicans are probably the most generous people that I have ever met. Once again, I strongly urge you to check out my other blog post on my Mexican experiences and generosity that can be found HERE.
Stealth camping on the Baja and the “actual” north of Mexico was not too difficult. The further south and with how many cities are in Mexico stealth camping became more and more difficult. Mexico has a lot of people and those people are everywhere (and I mean everywhere) and with so many cities the further south I went, the less camping I was able to do.
If I spoke Spanish, I would have been far more comfortable asking people to camp in their yards. But I found the inability to communicate exhausting and frustrating at times because of the number of questions that they would have about me and my ride.
Also, stealth camping would become very difficult because it would be almost impossible not to be found out and then not being able to communicate with some stranger in the dark did not sound like fun either. I was also surprised at how much of the land is actually fenced off in Mexico. I also thought stealth camping in the jungle areas would be plausible but of course the vegetation was often impenetrable.
Not Speaking Spanish
I don’t speak any Spanish and for the most part I had no trouble biking 6 months through Mexico. I always seemed to find people who spoke English. I was constantly warned that English would be more difficult to come across. I never really found that to be the case.
That being said overtime I did find the inability to speak Spanish definitely took away from my Mexican experience. I must have said “Lo siento, no hablar español” (Translated: I am sorry I don’t speak Spanish) a million times to people.
I was able to communicate with most people as I generally knew what they were asking or I had context for the conversation. Generally, you only have a problem when you have a problem but then you just use your Google Translate app.
Poking (Friendly) Fun at Mexico
There are a few things that make Mexico well Mexico.
- There are 3 potholes and 1 speed bump for every person in the country
- Mexicans can’t park
- Toilet paper hangers are always missing???
- Motels are NOT hotels
- Their hamburgers are not real hamburgers and their hotdogs are gross
- Assume the shower has no hot water
- Mexico’s favorite past time is sweeping their sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses
- Sidewalks are often a foot high off the road?
- The toilet seat is likely missing???
Where has virtually every toilet paper hanger in the entire is country gone?
Almost never a toilet seat??? And how to fix that
Who get a room for only 4 hours?
The Elephant in the Room
Mexico has more road side garbage than you can think is humanly possible. I thought the US was bad. The amount of garbage along the side of roads is horrible beyond criminal. In the year 2021 with so much knowledge at our finger tips (smart phones) and the awareness of environmental destruction virtually the entire population of Mexico as I understand it has absolutely zero concern for disposing of garbage properly or the environment. It is 100% culturally acceptable to simply dump garbage at the side of the road anywhere you choose. It is mind boggling that in the year 2021 that even the local government of towns have no vision or desire to change this cultural disaster. Very, very sad.
Also, this country could use and has the land to plant a few billion trees.
By the Numbers – Expensive!
Towards the end of my US experience all I wanted was to get into Mexico so I could start living off of pesos instead of US dollars. You can imagine my surprise when I would find out that Mexico is actually crazy expensive. I know, that sounds impossible right? Well, this is what happened when I entered Mexico.
In Canada and the US I did all my own cooking. In Mexico I realized that I could no longer cook for myself. I generally stick to 4 main foods while biking – fried eggs, Kraft Dinner, Chunky soup and hotdogs. I haven’t been able to eat fried eggs again since getting sick in Nevada. There is no such thing as Chunky soup in Mexico. You can only get Kraft Dinner at Walmart’s in Mexico. And Mexican hotdogs are gross. Now all my food became restaurant food.
In Canada and the US 99% of my water was free. Now in Mexico 100% of my water was being paid for.
In Canada and the US, I only on an rare occasion stayed at a hostel. I mostly stealth camped or had hosts. In Mexico the country is full of cities and I would always find myself in a city in the evening because I needed to eat super. While the hotels in Mexico are a fraction of the cost of a hotel in Canada or the US, I was now staying in hotels fairly regularly. Another expense that was virtually non-existent in Canada or the US.
My average daily cost of living was basically the same as bike touring through Canada and the US give or take a few dollars.
Many bike tour bloggers have mentioned that Mexico is one of their all-time favorite countries to bike tour. I am in their boat now. While I had many lifetime memories in Canada and the US that I would never have imagined that I would create lifetime memories in Mexico. At the same time there was a lot that I could imagine biking through Canada and the US. When I entered Mexico, I had no expectations. My plan was to bike from north to south to the next country. That’s it. Not have lifetime memories. Boy did I get that wrong.
With Mexico’s future
A few memories