Home of Mariachis and Tequila – Jalisco by bike

Roberto cycling through agave fields

Some agave for a change

Home of Mariachis and Tequila – Jalisco by bike
: Mexico
From Ixtlán del Río to Guadalajara
Lesson learned: Cycling big cities isn’t too much fun
Most wonderful miracle: A cup of Tequila in Tequila’s historic old town
Animals we saw: geckos, mosquitos, cockchafers
Days on the bike: 2
Kilometers cycled: 135
Average kilometers per day: 67.5
Total kilometers cycled: 28,112

Jalisco by bike

Missed the last entry? Here it comes: Geckos and Mangos – Sinaloa and Nayarit by bicycle
Blog auf Deutsch: Jalisco mit dem Fahrrad

It was a cloudy, grey morning in Ixtlán del Río, but we started the day early nonetheless. There were thunderstorms forecasted for the afternoon and we did not want to end up on a mountain when they hit in. Our legs still hurt a little from all those climbs, but we tried to hurry. I feel like we shouldn’t take thunderstorms with lightning too lightly.

Cycling towards Jalisco

Cycling towards Jalisco

We biked up through the clouds and reached a green area with vines that hung all the way down onto the road. The cicadas chirped loudly and somewhere in the forest there was a waterfall to be seen. After a while up there we rolled all the way back down into a canyon full of large fields, cows and lots of grass. On the following climb we returned to the forested areas, but this it smelled like needle trees! The deciduous trees mixed up with pine trees and provided a whole different kind of atmosphere. It was impressive to see how quickly the vegetation changed here.

Green Nayarit

The landscape changes so quickly!

Of course we came well prepared. Ever since we had gotten ourselves a smartphone, things had changed drastically. No more pieces of paper that had awkward route descriptions on them, that never seemed to match with the map or the roads in real life. No, now we had the route in google maps plus a screenshot of today’s elevation profile! But somehow nothing seemed to match again. We climbed where we should have dropped, rolled down where we should have climbed and fought the hills where it should have been all flat as a pancake. It wasn’t until we actually reached a flat area, that I realized my mistake. I had entered the route reverse and the chart was the wrong way around. That explained a lot of confusion.

Roberto cycling through agave fields

Some agave for a change

In Magdalena we left the “autopista” behind us and returned to the “libre”. Traffic was much easier and we even had a narrow shoulder most of the time. Out of a sudden there were agave fields all over the place. We had entered the next state: Jalisco. Jalisco was birthplace of the Tequila and up to this day it is the state, where the world’s Tequila came from. Trucks loaded all the way up with blue agave plants overtook us on our way to today’s target: The Pueblo Mágico “Tequila”.

Painting of the Agave harvest

Agave harvest

Most of Jalisco’s Tequila factories were situated in and around Tequila. A few years ago we had already visited a factory and learned about the process, so today we took a stroll through the historic old town instead. Although Mexico had strict laws against public drinking, Tequila seemed to be an exception. We bought a cupful of Tequila with fresh pressed orange, grapefruit, lime, ice cubes, salt, chili powder and grapefruit soda for our walk. The pretty clay cup was included in the price.

Delicious Tequila

Delicious Tequila

Since camping in towns was not an easy thing to do, we had followed the advice of a local cyclist and found ourselves a bed. A nice lady, who rented her garden for events plus a house for overnight stays, had rented us one room in said house. She had a great eye for plants and we enjoyed the view into her garden.

Teraza Premier in Tequila

Our home for tonight

The thunder woke us up, before the alarm clock did. We had gotten used to the thunderstorms every morning. Rainy season in Jalisco usually meant warm and sunny or cloudy days, and rainy evenings and nights. Only this morning the rain didn’t seem to stop.

Flooded street in Tequila, Jalisco

It’s safe to say it wasn’t optimal cycling weather. Quite good for kayaking though.

I couldn’t have been happier, this was a great excuse to give those legs an extra few hours of rest. The street outside our window looked like a river, so Roberto watched TV and I read my book. The rain was lighter by 10.30 and we got going. At least we wouldn’t need any lengthy noon breaks in this weather.

Blue Agave fields

Cycling into Tequila: One day these guys will be turned into Tequila!

We got on the bikes and the heavy rain returned. Never mind. It was only 60 kilometers and we would be at our friend’s house in Guadalajara. Traffic was getting heavier again and as soon as we left Tequila behind us, the shoulder disappeared. We were so highly concentrated, we tensed up and hurt our necks, shoulders and arms. Every now and then we would spot a truck in our mirrors and stop in the bushes. You never know if they will slow down for you, squeeze past you or not even see you. Better safe than sorry. Also we know how much work it is for a truck driver to slow down to our speed and then accelerate again.

Preparing Tequila in a clay cup in Tequila

This lady knows her drinks. She prepared a big cup full of fun and deliciousness in no time.

While we were waiting for some trucks to pass, three playing dogs ran straight towards the road. Two stopped just in time, but the first one ran right into an oncoming truck. It all happened so fast. My eyes filled up with tears immediately. It took another two cars until the dog was dead. A young man from a neighboring house grabbed the dog by the legs and dragged it away. It wasn’t his and he didn’t know if it had any owner.

Historic Center of Tequila, Jalisco

Historic Center of Tequila, Jalisco

There had been so many dead animals on the road in the past 28,000 kilometers. Oftentimes we smelled them before we even saw them. But this was the first time we witnessed such a terrible accident. It took me quite a while to calm down enough to continue cycling. It was a sad experience that kept us thinking all day, for quite some days in fact. From here on we spent more time waiting on the side of the road, than cycling the road.

Agave azul will soon be Tequila

Agave again

After 20 very hard kilometers the road opened up and so did the clouds. It was dry and there was a wide shoulder and two lanes on each side. We met six walking men with bags. They came from Honduras and were on the way to the “Bestia”, the cargo train that went all the way up north into the USA. We shared our granola bars and water. These men still had quite a walk ahead.

Bike lane in Guadalajara

Once we left the suburbs behind us, it was quite easy cycling in Guadalajara

The last 20 kilometers were hard. Guadalajara is Mexico’s second biggest city and the tenth biggest in all of Latin America. You can imagine the traffic in the outskirts. Of course there was no shoulder to be seen and the roads were narrow and full of potholes. Drivers overtook us so close and so quickly.

Cycling GDL

Guadalajara = GDL is a cyclist’s paradise. Once you’ve managed to enter it alive.

In my mind the very next car would knock away my handlebar and throw me off my bike. So we tensed up and biked as fast as we could as far to the right as we could in the straightest line possible until there was a driveway where we could stop and breathe. Long story short: today was not much cycling fun. At least it was only 500 meters of total climbing.

Guadalajara here we are! Evening out with Alicia and Douglas

Guadalajara here we are! Evening out with Alicia and Douglas

We reached the Colonia Americana neighborhood and finally all the tension disappeared. A few blocks later we reached the place we it had all begun seven years ago: Our little flat in Calle Libertad. I was an exchange student when I moved into Roberto’s shared apartment on day one in Mexico. We looked up to the balcony where we used to drink beer, laugh, dance, play card games and listen to music. The new tenants own a BBQ and a plant.

Balenario de Guadalajara

Who knew there was a public pool just out of town? Well, I certainly didn’t. “Los Camachos” – what a wonderful place for a sunny weekend!

Los Camachos Balenario in Guadalajara

Our new friend Máximo showed us around. His grandparents had founded this place and the family still runs it.

Guadalajara has changed a lot in these seven years. Back in my days the city’s one and only bicycle lane was on my way from home to my campus. Now the entire neighborhood was a bicycle-priority-road system. There were plenty of brand new bars and restaurants and quite some new towers and tall buildings.

Karla and Antonio

Karla and Antonio invited us for breakfast that turned into an all-day event

Roberto at work

We spent the mornings working and the afternoons and evenings with friends.

Only two things never changed. Monday to Saturday you’d wake up to the jingle of “Zeta Zeta Zeta Gaaaas” (imagine an ice cream truck selling you gas cartridges at 7am) and on Sunday you’d wake up to the happy melodies of the Marimba players outside the Café Lulio. A marimba is a traditional instrument similar to the Xylophone but with several people playing it simultaneously.

Tasting Travels presentation outdoors in Guadalajara

Tasting Travels talk outdoors in Guadalajara

We did three presentations in Guadalajara plus a workshop about bike travelling in the Casa Ciclista of Guadalajara, in an outdoor shop, open air at the plaza in front of a cathedral and at the Via Recreativa. The latter is an event that takes place every Sunday.

Roberto enjoys the Via Recreativa

Roberto enjoys the Via Recreativa

Tijuanense in Guadalajara

Tijuanense in Guadalajara

The city would close one of the main roads from 8 am to 2 pm and allow cyclists, skateboarders, inline skaters and walkers to cross the city safely and with fun. There were free rental bikes, Tai Chi introductions, a hula hoop stand, zumba lessons and free bike fixing stations. That’s why Sunday had always been my favorite day in Guadalajara.

Bike travel workshop by Tasting Travels in Guadalajara

Bike travel workshop in Guadalajara

Roberto had been living here for nine years and me for eight months. So clearly there were many friends to have a beer with. You can imagine: we spent about two weeks eating and drinking beer with friends.

Douglas and Quiro, the designer of our new T-Shirts

Douglas and Quiro, the designer of our new T-Shirts

Our neighborhood had changed a lot and now it was the city’s hipster center. The last time I had seen so many wooden frames for glasses, purple hair, suspenders and hand-knitted gear must have been back in Melbourne. Most cafés offered organic food.

Bike lane in the Colonia Americana in Guadalajara

Bike lane in the Colonia Americana in Guadalajara

Kin, Joana and Roberto

Do you remember little Kin? We met him in Vancouver where we visited Joana and Kenji nine months ago. How he has grown uo since then!

There was fair trade café, vegan cauliflower tortillas with quinoa and rhubarb cake. Plants were grown in rusty but pretty buckets, the walls were decorated with old retro bicycles, and the chairs were made of recycled materials and didn’t quite fit to each other.

Our presentation in front of Guadalajara's Templo Expiatorio

Our presentation in front of Guadalajara’s Templo Expiatorio

Many waiters had large tattoos and a surprising amount of them wore one side of their hair long, while the other side was shaved off. Of course there was special chocolate beer, dark summer beer with fruits, citrus beer and IPA, brewed in microbreweries that supported some good cause. Prices were rather high, but just a few blocks further you’d find an old cantina where they would sell the usual Pacífico, Victoria, Tecate and Dos XX beers for normal prices.

Our friend Zaira took us our for a walk down the Barranca of Huentitán

Our friend Zaira took us our for a walk down the Barranca of Huentitán

Climbing up the tracks in the Barranca de Huentitán

It was fun to climb the tracks back up. What a workout!

Two fun weeks with old and new friends had passed when we swung our round beer-and-food bellies back on those bikes. It was time to see what was going on in Mexico City. Read more about our bike ride to Zamora, Zacapu and Morelia, Michoacán, along avocado fields, blue lakes and flower fields in our next blog: Green Michoacán – Cycling Central Mexico


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