Riding south from Vera Cruz to the Sierra Juarez and The Sierra Ixtlan, through the Valle Nacional


We leave Veracruz in no particular hurry, not getting out of town til nearly 10. The wind is down from the day we rode into town which is a treat. There are beautiful trees on both sides of the road dressed in pale pink flowers, but no leaves. There are lots of heavily loaded trucks on the roads stacked high with freshly harvested cane.
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I pass a few fields where I see the trucks being loaded.
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Oaxaca is the next destination for us, but we don’t plan to make the whole trip in one day even though its roughly 225 miles. We strike out for the first 100 miles or so and will what time it is when we get those done before deciding how much further we go today. We cross from Veracruz State to Oaxaca State by riding over the Papaloapan River bridge. As we get close I can see a line of traffic stopped before the bridge and all the way across it. Brian rides ahead toward the front of the line, the perk that comes from no traffic in the oncoming lane with this standstill.
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We pull in a few cars from the front of the line between two trucks and park and get off the bikes. There is a tollbooth at the end of the bridge just at the border and entrance to Oaxaca. There is a mob of people surrounding the booth and blocking it. It looks like a protest of some sort, and unfortunately, I have no idea what its about. There are hundreds of people on the other side of the tollbooth. I dread how long this might take…for all of two minutes and then suddenly the front truck starts up and the crowd parts and traffic is moving again and we are off.
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We make it to Tuxtepec in the early afternoon and aren’t really ready to stop for the day. But as we sit on the roadside and debate where to continue to a local man rides up on a small bike. He says the next 125-130 miles are extremely beautiful, and extremely dangerous. He says the road takes 6 to 7 hours to drive and that we shouldn’t try and do it today. Well, that’s that, and we stay the night in Tuxtepec, home of an enormous Corona beer plant…perfect.
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Then we head south on Highway 175 the next morning for what we know will be a long day, but hopefully a spectacular one. Roughly 130 miles to cover but we’ve been told it will take 6 to 7 hours. The land changes to a much more green and lush tropical feel just a couple of miles south of Tuxtepec. We ride south toward Valle Nacional, crossing a few rivers and passing lots of crop fields. There are fruit and vegetables stands lining both sides of the road, and I wish I could load up. After Valle Nacional we start to climb and wind along the hillsides. I can see fog across a valley and what looks like rain clouds hovering over the hills in the distance.
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The road is incredible! We climb and climb and reach nearly 10,000 feet before we start to descend later today. We ride the spines of ridges and I can see down into a deep valley to my left and just 50 feet ahead I can see down into a deep valley to my left.
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We ride up into the clouds and I can feel the temperature drop as we ride from the humid jungle below into the cloudline. It starts to rain and the visibility shrinks a lot. I can’t see the valleys below anymore, and now am just meandering along a narrow, curvy road.
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After just under an hour of rain we reach the halfway point at the top and stop for lunch of hot chicken soup and a warm up in a cabin with a roaring fireplace. The locals are watching a dubbed version of The Hobbit. Funny to hear Smaug speak Spanish. And it’s strange to be this cold in Mexico.
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After lunch I gear up for the rain and cold again and less than 15 minutes later we break into the sunshine. The road continues to climb and descend, unable to decide if it wants to drop us down to the plains below or not yet. The trees change to pines as we continue along the mountaintops and then the land dries out again and turns brown.
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Finally we start to drop down toward the city of Oaxaca. It’s been a beautiful day, and an incredible ride.
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