Nearly eleven months ago I was writing about being Stranded in Fairbanks, Alaska. The last couple of weeks I’ve been close to stranded in Urique, Mexico. My two month hiatus in Fairbanks conspired to shape much of my attitude to the tour, throwing me out of sync with the seasons and liberating me from the expected schedules of Pan-Am riding. I took on the USA in winter and now I’m starting to feel the scorch of the encroaching Mexican summer. Fairbanks taught me the value of time over distance and gradations in quality of experience, lessons that have proven invaluable during my stay in Urique.
Much of the last two weeks has been spent sat in ‘my’ chair reading. Interspersed with wanders into town for groceries and late afternoon ventures down to the river to cool off. A persistent chest infection that’s apparently impervious to antibiotics has confined my body to rest but nevertheless released my mind to adventure. I have accordingly reveled in the opportunity to escape into the borderless world of words. Resignation to my condition has helped me swallow a rising bile of frustration and actually embrace the rarely found opportunity to just sit somewhere beautiful and indulge myself.
The last few days have seen huge Semana Santa celebrations with fiestas and various culturally relevant events in Urique and the surrounding villages. The local population has swollen with vacationing Mexicans and tourists alike. I have been joined in my kingdom here at Entres Amigos by a steady flow of travelers and revelers. There has been loud music late late into the night and an unmistakable attitude of frivolity in town. Just a few miles up the road indigenous Rarámuri people have come down from their hillside houses and given the intrepid traveler a real treat. All the while I’ve seldom ventured far from my chair. I’ve not been drinking alcohol for the antibiotics and not touched the local weed crop that is almost constantly smoldering around me. My focus has been on physical rehabilitation and a psychological holiday.
Perhaps I’ve been a fool to shun the celebrations, having certainly passed up some rare treats and anthropologically revealing events. But for some reason I am not in the least bothered, nor do I feel even an iota of guilt in this denial. Am I not supposed to be traveling to experience others cultures and marvel at the richness of human society? Not entirely. I’ve come to the conclusion over and over again that this tour is about me, about my own personal journey in mind as well as body. Ticking the boxes of perceived cultural relevance is not what I’m about and thus considering the situation, my two weeks turning inside myself have probably been more valuable than racing around in hedonistic celebration. Although I’ll never really know where the other road would have taken me I am currently across the spectrum from any semblance of regret.
An inspection of Shermy quickly revealed that the reason the rear brake was catching and I subsequently went though a tire is a crack in the rear rim. I put in a lot of deliberation in Yuma as to the value of getting my valve holes drilled out to take Schraders. I did it and it is this that I believe weakened the rim and caused the cracking. As a side to this I must warn you all to be wary of Mr. B’s Cycles in Yuma for I’ve found their work to be shoddy and the Manager a mechanical cowboy and arrogant money grabbing prick. Anyhow, hate aside, I’m struggling to get a quality new rim sent anywhere remotely close so I’m going to limp out of the canyon and make it as far as I can with crossed fingers. Pumping just a front brake I reckon I’m in for a real treat!
My time at Entre Amigos has exposed me to the backpacking community for the first time on this trip. I’ve had some really interesting people pass through (the infamous Cabillo blanco amongst them) and some have been a real laugh, an appreciated release from my current intensity. That said, I’m more than pleased that the last of them has now departed and my quiet peace has returned. The last couple of weeks have been given over to happy introspection and a stark reminder that beneath the bravado, excitement and shiny veneer of optimism, I am still exactly the same character that left the UK almost a year ago. This assertion is both comforting and slightly disappointing… if I emerge out of these years of travel unaffected then a part of me will consider it a waste.
After four days of successful training rides I feel ready to make the climb out of the canyon and plan to do so in a couple of days. I’m looking forward to getting back into the rhythms of movement and cannot wait to have my latest mechanical breakdown behind me and Mexico City close ahead. My trip to the Copper Canyon is working out nothing like I expected but nevertheless contributes another valuable rung on the ladder of my story.