Arriving in San Cristobal

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A feeling of elation surged through my body yesterday as we descended the final few kilometers to San Cristobal, reputed to be one of the most beautiful places in Mexico. The city sprawls through a high mountain valley, sitting 2100mtrs over sea level. Had we really climbed several thousand meters in the last 4 days, it seems so, we have arrived!!! We knew today would be tough, we were up soon after 6am and on the road by 7.30, 1500 meters of ascent ahead along Ruta 190, we would top out at 2500mtrs. To put that into perspective, Carrantuohill, the highest mountain in Ireland, is 1038mtrs high, and the effects of altitude really kick in once you go over 2100mtrs. In other words, it it is more difficult to do anything, to breath, and certainly to cycle. But enough facts, we did it, we surprised ourselves, we congratulated ourselves, we ate pizza and drank beer (and wine). It is difficult not to feel good, the landscape takes your breath away, winding our way along, you could see forever, the mountains and valleys and high plains in the distance. This is a landsape of small farmers, coffee plantations, lush green tropical growth mixed with needle trees, ever smiling people dressed in simple traditional and very colourful clothes, carrying heavy loads on their backs with the aid of headbands, it is Nepal with roads, women washing their hair at the side of the road, pigs and chickens, looks of wonder, shy but always returning a greeting. The road twists and turns, always upwards, but we keep the pedals turning, breaking when we need to, two minutes, five minutes, twenty minutes, two local professional cyclists go by, men of wire, we catch them further up the road on their break, respect flows in both directions. Total respect to Nessa, it is the furthest and highest she has cycled, not far off for me too, never anything this intense though.

San Cristobal turns out to be more than we could have hoped for, a Shangri-La of colourful streets, beautiful buildings and courtyards, of cafes and culture in the mountains, yes there are tourists, but the place easily contains them, it is tranquill, peaceful, a paradise of sorts. We are staying in Los Camellos, a hostel run by a friendly French couple, and already have met some very interesting travellers passing through. This is not the jaded idea of a hostel we have all become tired of, but a place to rest, to meet, to exchange stories, the hostel you dream of setting up yourself. We have a huge private room, bikes stacked in the corner, there is even a mezzanine to chill in, or sleep up there if we want, and as usual it is cheap, only £13 a night.

We plan to stay for several days, and then it is only a two day ride to Guatemala. Nessa is out exploring, I can tell she loves this place, I’ll let her tell yeah all about it.

I woke at 6, it is becoming a habit, and I wondered the streets to see a mountain sunrise, always something special, and I though about Al, its your birthday today my friend, you have been on my mind these last days, you would have loved this part of the ride, eating up those hills brother.

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