Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Jacobo, Markos, Y Jorge Vs. Los Espinos

So, we decided to rent bicycles...

And what could go wrong, two strapping young lads, one a bike messenger of three years in the city of brotherly love, the other an avid cyclist unafraid of puttering up the (College) Hill every night in the dark all summer. Really, what could possibly go wrong?

We started great. Two mountain bikes, helmets (safety first), locks, and a map. We found the bike path that leads out of town and headed towards our first destination: El Tule, quite possibly the largest tree in the world. After a few wrong turns, we made it there with few problems. Yes, it really is a big tree, and over 2,000 years old!

Next stop was the Pemex gas station, which, unfortunately, would play a crucial role later in our excursion. We had stopped for some shade after riding now about 12 kilometers outside of the city when we noticed our good friend Pooh Bear at the play ground next to the station. After a brief conversation that consisted mostly of ho-hums and some questioning about whether we were carrying anything sweet and sticky in our nalgene bottles (after all, he is a bear of very little brain), we took another picture together.

Then were off again. About half a kilometer further on, at about 12:30 in the rather hot afternoon, Jacob´s back tire began to deflate. It turns out we had run through a patch of thistles (good for Eor, bad for Tigger, and- as it also turns out- bicycle tubes). With expertise Jacob quickly stripped of the tire and examined the tube, found the thorns, and patched the tire. No problem, right? Wrong. Our mini travel pump didn´t seem to be able to inflate the tire all the way. Luckily, we had just past a llanteria (tire shack) just a little ways back. So we headed in that direction.

Enter Jorge, who would soon become a major player in our afternoon adventure. Jorge tried to fill the back tire using his pressurized pump, but to no avail. We soon realized that there must be another leak in the tube. Off came the wheel and tire again, and two more thorns were pulled out of the tube and the wholes were patched by Jorge.

We thanked Jorge, paid him a couple of dollars and we were on our way again. Our next stop was the 16th century church in a small town of the major road we were riding along. We stopped there, ate our peanut butter sandwiches and pondered our next move.

Just 4 or 5 kilometers away was small site of Zapotec ruins. We could see it against the hillside in the distance and decided to turn down a small dirt road that was heading in that direction. Given our previous experience with the thistles, this was probably not a good idea. As we got closer to the ruins the roads became smaller and smaller, and we soon found ourselves carrying our bikes through corn fields, down a small ravine, and up the hill towards the excavation site.

Oddly enough, there was no one there at all so we parked the bikes and began to explore the ruins. After about five minutes we could see a man with a rather large machete approaching in the distance. Unfortunately, it was not Christopher Robin.

At this point it is important to know that we left Oaxaca that morning with around 7o pesos, or $7. We gave Jorge 2o and were not planning on entering the ruin site if it was more than 30 pesos, so we would have enough money to buy water or transportation in the case of an emergency.

So, the man with the machete was coming nearer. We decided to play ¨stupid gringos¨(a role we master before the end of the day) and approach him innocently. He was the day guard for the site and informed us that we had to pay money to see the ruins. Of course we said, we just happened to come to the site off the beaten path and must have missed him as he was waiting further down the main road. How much do we owe you, we asked? 54 pesos for two. Great we said, as we scrounged through our pockets hastily. We managed to come up with 53 pesos and 50 centavos. 50 centavos short. What kind of gringos are we?

So now we had no money and 23 kilometers to cover to get back to Oaxaca. It was approaching 3 pm, we had a bus to catch that evening to Chiapas, so we decided we better start heading back. We had better play it safe from here on out, we thought. No more off-roading; one more thorn could mean disaster...

So, how about 37?

Yes, we made it about half a kilometer from the ruins when Jacob´s back tire went flat again. We had a brief conference before Jacob would ride my bike back to the Pemex station to see if he could find a cash machine, or if need be, to change the twenty dollar bill he was also carrying. I would keep walking along the highway until he came back for me.

All went well with the plan, sort of. No cash machine, but Jacob was able to exchange the twenty for about 18 dollars worth of pesos. I had made it back to Jorge´s llanteria by the time Jacob came back to me and so we decided to try and fix the tire again.

For the third time, the wheel came off and the tube was pulled out. Jorge first patched one whole, and then a second, and a third. At this point we realized there were probably espinos in other tires so we pulled them all off and began to check. Meanwhile, Jorge´s tally had reached about 13 patches on Jacob´s back tire. Jacob found at least two more in his front tire, and I pulled a couple out of both of mine as well, watching the air slowly leak out bemusedly.

Another brief gringo conference resulted in the decision that maybe taking the bus back to Oaxaca would be a better idea than riding home with wheels that were more patch than tube. Jorge seemed to agree, along with his whole family that had now gathered to watch the spectacle that was us.


Sossego333 said...

You two are hillarious!

Anonymous said...

The bicycle post was good before the pictures - even better with them! Mom/Angie

Anonymous said...

Well, I was just checking in and found out on Patrick's blog that you boys visited him. Kinda funny, the way things work. I'm glad you're getting around. Keep on keepin' on...Paz, Denny