Mexico, continuation and ending?
January 17th, 2019. The way in isn’t easy, but we make it to Guadalajara– the second largest city in Mexico. It’s been a long time since we’ve cycled with so much traffic, or crossed so many people per square meter. And yet, this is where we decided to drop our panniers for a month. Through a friend of ours, we found a woofing program. The deal: a free room in exchange for 10 hours of weekly work, in a community house. Pretty soon the atmosphere of the city and of the house pleases us enormously, and we decide to extend our stay a little bit. It must be said that our days are filled, and in parallel with our Spanish lessons, we integrate lots of great projects: construction of a community garden on the rooftop of the house, recovery of unsold food for a cooperative, and multiple presentations of our travel. We ended up sharing our presentation at a festival, a french school, and to top it off, we were invited to participate in a TEDx conference in Spanish! For a moment we reconnect with sedentary life, and develop a social life…
After 5 intense weeks of meetings, volunteering, and emotions, the call of the road is felt. Our legs wriggle, and we feel excited to get back on our saddles. It’s with wet eyes that we leave La Casa Moustache, our new family made in Mexico. We reach Cuernavaca, south of Mexico city (by bus), to join our friends Laurie and Diego, and finally start pedaling towards the mountains. Within a few days, we cross the states of Morelos and Puebla, to finally reach the state of Oaxaca.
We climb and descend constantly in oppressive heat. Indeed, summer seems to be coming at full speed, and we are now cycling in temperatures close to 95 fahrenheit degrees ( = 35 celcius) in the shade. We spend entire days pedaling, swallowing up kilometers with dramatic changes in elevation. We sweat with all of our beings, and to compensate we each drink almost 6 liters of water per day.
But despite the difficulties, we are happy. Happy to resume a simple life, a life of roaming and fresh water (well, very quickly lukewarm with this heat). Within 6 days and 470 km of effort, we reach the city of Oaxaca. We take the opportunity to visit the pre-Hispanic city of Monte Alban.
After a few more days in the mountains, we cycle down to the coast and rush at full speed to Guatemala. Rumors are saying that the borders will be closing in a few days. It is in Santo Domingo Zanatepec, less than 300 km (3 cycling days) from Guatemala that we are cut in full swing. The new grave: Guatemala closes its doors. It is March 15th, and the pandemic of the coronavirus (alias Covid-19A) has been making its way around the world– and fast. We decide to stop to take some time to think. What should we do? Little by little the planet begins to take stock of the health crisis that awaits us, and one by one the countries of the world are closing their borders and announcing containment. Unlike most countries, Mexico turns a blind eye and is slow to take action. But as we know, it is inevitable and it is only a matter of time. Like everywhere in the world, we too have to confine ourselves. But what should we do? Return to Europe? Or find a place here in Mexico and wait for it to be over? And for how long will it last? While all countries take drastic measures, the president of Mexico bathes the crowd declaring loud and clear: “My protective shield, is a religious image which says: ‘Stop, enemy, the heart of Jesus is with me!’. It protects me.” Everything accelerates, new rumors run about the imminent closure of airports, and at the same time our chances of returning are running slimmer. We have to make a quick decision. Do we follow our heart or our brain?
Our respective embassies confirm our doubts, so we must return. 92 hours, 2 taxis, 2 buses, and 2 planes later, we land in Belgium. It is our turn to confine ourselves close to our loved ones, with a ban on approaching them. It’s brutal. Only 10 days ago we were driving far away from all these concerns, far from imagining that our journey was coming to an end.
It’s crazy how everything can change all at once. In a way, we were prepared for it. Not planning anything, and adapting to live day by day, is a philosophy that we have been applying to this lifestyle for 8 months and 6 days. So we put this trip on hold. For how long? No one knows. A new adventure has opened, for now in Belgium. For how long? No one knows either. Do not plan, adapt and live day by day. After 8 months and 6 days of travel, we’ve learnt the lesson: when nothing is planned, everything is possible.