Shakin' In Huatulco
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
One of the benefits of a long trip is that you can go whichever way you want, whenever you want. The flipside of the coin is you have so many choices and it changes daily...
Charlie and I both were unsure which way to head after Oaxaca, the only commonality being that we were both headed for San Cristobal de Las Casas. He wanted to ride south through the mountains to the Pacific coastal area, a place I preferred not to go as I'd been there three months earlier and it was brutally hot with temps up to 106º and 100 percent humidity. It had been exhausting in riding gear and the tiny Mexican roads required a slow pace and constant attention. After looking at my options to the north, I reluctantly decided to continue with him to the coast only because I'd be backtracking a bit otherwise.
But before we could get out of town, I had to walk the 2.5 kilometers to pick up my bike from my AirBNB host's other rental house where I'd had to leave it. He met me there and it felt good to be back on the bike and drying off from the walk, heading back to the hotel to load up. My stay had been poor, the room and facilities bad. I dropped off the key at a nearby hostel and found my way to Charlie's hotel. He was ready to go, but I hadn't eaten any breakfast so I grabbed a LaLa liquid yogurt and swigged it down, the cool smoothness refreshing as I sat in my sweat-soaked riding gear.
Our route out of Oaxaca was MEX 175, which led through small towns and villages, slowly climbing into the mountains and then back down to sea level. Charlie had read about a motorcyclist being robbed near the town of Salina Cruz, so he was a bit concerned. In one village, a group of women were blocking the road with a white rope, stopping every car and asking or demanding donations. I wasn't sure what they would do when I got there, but luckily one girl dropped her end of the rope and we whisked by, having a laugh at surviving our first road block from a dangerous group of teen girls.
Nearing the mountains, a whiff of grilling meat caught our attention and a roadside lunch cooked on a wood fired barrel hit the spot.
Canuck hoped to make a camping area on the beach for the night, but I knew the roads were difficult and took far longer than expected. The cool temperatures were appreciated as we climbed and twisted high up into the mist covered mountains, actually getting chilled as we rode near 8500 feet in elevation. The curves and road required constant attention and as the hours passed fatigue rolled in. Riding in Mexico is difficult and you must concentrate continually, dodging cattle and animals, potholes and road debris, cars in oncoming lanes around blind curves, people walking on the roadside and the list goes on. The total concentration and hours of curves can tire you quickly, but you can't let up until your destination arrives.
In spits of rain, the road took us high into the clouds on top of the mountains, and as we crested the ridge and began working down, I began to notice red dirt piles along the way and areas of small slides. It was then I realized that these were remnants of the previous week's earthquake off the coast of Chiapas. Passing a small village, its main entrance arch lay crumbled in a pile, cordoned off with logs and branches, as proof of the seismic activity.
The road began to have missing areas where sections had fallen away down the steep mountain, the asphalt crust protruding over the edge. Some were quickly marked with a paint line but others not. It was impossible to know how far under the ragged edge of the breakaway the earth had gone. One tried to stay as far into the other lane as possible just in case a section collapsed. It was apparent the area had been through a severe shaking.
A few miles later we rounded a corner to discover the road covered with a massive landslide and debris. A lone boy waved as we pulled up next to a front end loader, which looked to have been used to create a narrow strip through the rubble and dirt. It was passable but wet and muddy. As we waited, a small truck passed, loaded with people. The truck got stuck and we ran to help as they unloaded, all of us pushing backwards as he gunned it and got free.
I rode over first, avoiding a soft, spongy area that would have loved to eat the GS and then Charlie followed. From the other side one could see the seriousness of the slide, the mountain gone beneath the road.
As we continued on down the western slope, the oppressive heat of the Pacific side climbed to the mid 90's. We'd only gone 154 miles in 7 hours of riding and were beat from the heat. The resort area of Huatulco was not too far away, adjacent to the National Park bearing its name. A nice hotel was found with a pool and air conditioning, both of us agreeing it was well worth the money for the night.
A swim, a shower and a late meal at a nearby bar were in order and a perfect fit. We were the only patrons in the bar restaurant as the entire town seemed deserted. At the hotel I was asleep in less than 5 minutes.