Thursday, October 29, 2015


Since I wasn't on the coast anymore, I was able to make my way to a few of the things in the central parts of Mexico that I had been planning on skipping. So my next stop after Teotihuacan was to make my way to Orizaba - and honestly, I wasn't 100% sure why it was that I'd marked it on my map, but I decided to head that way anyway. And I decided that, since I'd been riding like crazy away from the hurricane, I was going to take two days and actually have some time to enjoy the city, even though I had no idea what I'd spend all that time doing.

This one's going to be more of a photoessay than most - the pictures do most of the storytelling themselves.

The trip to Orizaba was pretty uneventful until right near the end - off in the distance I was able to see a mountain, which I guessed from my reading to be Citlaltépetl, the third highest peak in North America. I wish I had a picture for you, but I didn't have the GoPro on the bike at the time. Suddenly the two directions of the highway split off (always a good sign - not enough room on the side of a mountain for four lanes), and the road started heading down into a valley.

The ride was beautiful - every once in a while I'd round a corner and catch a glimpse of the snow-capped volcano over the walls of the valley, and with two lanes I never had to worry about being stuck behind a truck. Even after descending all the way down into the valley, the clouds followed me down the entire wa and were still not more than a hundred feet above my head as I rode through the valley into the the towns below.

After trying a few hotels, I finally found one that had parking available - a special deal with a garage around the corner where I could park for two days for $1 - and settled into a room. After doing my usual routine of gear off, straight to shower, normal clothes on, I headed out to check out the town. It was pretty busy given that it was a Saturday night, but surprisingly devoid of restaurants. After circling a few blocks looking for something that wasn't a sandwich shop, I finally ended up at the Palacio del Hierro.

Designed by Eiffel, metal walls and structure. One of the centerpieces of the town.
One of the many things inside the palace is a little cafe where I got crepes with cheese and mushrooms and a hot tea.

I wandered around the town a little bit more, but called it a relatively early night so I could get up in the morning and start on my plans for the day - I'd found quite a few things that looked worth checking out.

In the morning I headed to the "Teleférico" - the cable car that leaves from downtown and goes up the side of the nearby mountain to an "ecopark." Arriving at the bottom of the car, I found a little enclosure with some animals.

Other than the crocodiles here, there were also about fifty or so turtles around the edge of the pond.
I hopped on the cable car and rode my way up to the top - the car goes up to a somewhat high ridge that's between two of the cities down in the valley.

The view of the bridge over the river just as we were leaving downtown.
On the way up.
Once reaching the top, I wandered around the park for a while - there were actually quite a few interesting things to do up at the top.

Map of the park.
How I really got up there.
View of Orizaba.

Ciudad Mendoza, the city on the other side of the ridge.

Confirmed my vocab lesson from the flat tire.

Lots of flowers and landscaping and cabins at the top.
And even though part of my plan later in the day was to take a zipline, I decided to do the one they had there in the park before heading down.

Totally worth the $5.

Heading back down.
I had a plan when I got back down, but when I realized that I was right at the beginning of the riverwalk that I'd heard about, I decided to do that instead. Turns out the crocodiles and turtles I'd seen were the beginning of what's basically a zoo, with each exhibit set along the river a quarter of a mile apart or so. I wandered my way up the river, stopping to check out each of the animals along the way.

Had to climb up a wall and stick my phone through a fence to get this... but hey, it's Mexico.

These guys had just  been fed, so they didn't pose for pics very well.

The river had a bridge every quarter mile or so, all of them unique and some of them with little blurbs about the bridge on signs underneath.

One of the more interesting parts of the river.

This guy was sitting on this stick swinging himself side to side.

The reflection screwed this pic up, but these guys were posing for a family pic.

This guy didn't stop looking around the entire time I was taking pictures. Constantly checking out everything around him.

This guy was just hanging out asking to be photographed.

Waterwheel on the river that doesn't work anymore.

Not as photo friendly as the jaguar.

Didn't spit. What a letdown.
After making my way through the entire riverwalk, I caught a cab over to the 500 stairs (Quinientos Escalones) to take a little hike. I was a little bummed that the zip line was closed down, but glad I'd done the one earlier in the day. So I headed down the hike to check it out.

Looking down the stairs.
Five hundred stairs turns out to not be all that many (though someone should tell my ankle that) and when I got to the bottom, I found a trail that led off around the corner. So I followed it, and made my way across a dam and down a trail that reminded me of a more wooded Mt Woodson hike - part dirt access road, part trail through brush, part man-made scenery.

Heading over the dam.

Up the creek that (I believe) eventually leads to that dam.

View from a high point.
Eventually, I followed signs that were leading the way to "Las Sifones" - which turned out to be a little watering hole where people gathered for picnics and swimming.

I'd heard there was swimming, so I came prepared with a suit and jumped into the water myself - it was, to say the least, rather cold.

I promise this is the least weird face I made out of the sequence of pics I took.
After drying off and warming up a bit, I set off to hike back out. Made my way back up the trail, back across the dam, back up five hundred stairs, and back to the entrance, where I realized I'd made a mistake. I'd taken a cab to the park... but there were no cabs nearby that could pick me up to take me back, and I was on the other side of town. So I started walking. I made it a good 10 blocks before I found a guy sleeping in his cab, asked if he was working, and got him to bring me back to downtown. We talked quite a bit on the way back about different accents and how people talk - me complaining about how fast people talked in Mexico City, and him telling me about being a cabbie in New York (though he'd forgotten most of his English from then) and how hard it was for him to understand black people.

I spent the rest of the evening wandering around the main square and the Palacio de Hierro - which wasn't long, as it got dark very early with daylight savings time having just ended that morning.

This place is really cool.

Big band playing in the square, with people dancing salsa down in front.

Doused in butter, covered in parmesan, sprinkled with chili powder, and squirted with a lime: not a bad way to eat corn. 
I even made my way through a couple of the small, free museums in the Palacio - most not more than two or three rooms, but still pretty cool nonetheless.

The beer museum.

Space exhibit.

Dem hips tho.
After a drink or two at a bar, I made my way back to the room and settled in for the night, with the usual plans of waking up early which, as usual, didn't work out as well as planned. I still got moving somewhat early though, and this time remembered to put the GoPro on so that on the road out of the valley, I was able to get you stunning photos like this one:

...It was a little foggier this time.
The ride out of the canyon was a little harrowing, to be honest. Not much visibility, and while the road was very freshly paved, it didn't have any lines, which made it a bit harder to follow in the fog. But I finally got up out of the valley and on my way, and made tracks for Oaxaca.

And had one of the best riding days I'd had since before the hurricane. Curvy, well paved roads with good weather, not too hot or too cold, no traffic... can't ask for better. It was a gorgeous day, and I ended up riding for about 5 hours straight only getting off once or twice for pictures.

I was limited to only taking pictures where I could pull off on the side... but there were still some pretty good choices.

Beautiful hills.
Orizaba ended up being one of the better "sightseeing" days I've had so far, with a number of things that I might have considered too touristy had I not decided I needed something to fill the time.

Onward, to Oaxaca!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this looks like a really nice place. Even reminds me a bit of Asia with the flowers, all the green and the cabins.