Western Mexico Bike Tour :: Guadalajara - Zacatecas - Guadalajara - Manzanillo

Man of Fire mural Guadalajara
El Hombre del fuego / Man of Fire - mural art by José Clemente Orozco in Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara

Riding the Running Bull - Bike Tour

Dubbed "Running Bull" - not really the ideal bike for long distance cycling but we got there anyway.

Biking Route:

Bike tour from Guadalajara to the Santiago Canyon, through the desert of Zacatecas, back to Guadalajara, over Sierra Manantlán (part of the Sierra Madre mountain range) to the Pacific Ocean at Barra de Navidad and Manzanillo.

Biking Time:
11 days

Biking Distance:
1'444 km

Western Mexico Bike Tour
Bike tour in Western Mexico through the Sierra Madre mountain range with "Running Bull"

1. Guadalajara - Colotlan

Cycling through the Santiago Canyon in Jalisco state
*  first of all I had to survive the rush hour traffic of the metropolis of Guadalajara
*  the further out I got the less inviting the neighborhoods got
*  biking through the huge canyon of the Rio Santiago at the edge of the city
*  fascinating and fast ride down
*  river smelled like a sewer
*  tough way up on the other side for the rest of the day
*  because of lack of any kind of lodgings in the area I was put up in the priest's guest room of the local church!

Rio Santiago Canyon
The Santiago River snakes through this huge canyon just north of the city of Guadalajara

2. Colotlan - Teúl de González Ortega - Tlaltenango

Good food, football final and accommodation nightmare
*  I was woken up by 2 kids about to get the priest's robe
*  contributed something for the church even though in this country you never know if it'll finally reach the right beneficiaries
*  dedicated the morning to conquer an uncountable amount of hills
*  had two tortas de jamon for lunch in Teúl de González Ortega (what a name!)
*  torta chef told me that close by was an area where supposedly magnetism doesn't work and watches stop running! Furthermore they supposedly found ancient graves with indian skeletons of a height of 2 meters!
* Pachuca won the final versus Cruz Azul in the Mexican Football League
*  after this visit I didn't need to buy a newspaper anymore
*  I continued biking, passing several other villages
*  once in a while I took a break on the plazas where I usually drank a freshly prepared orange juice
Tlaltenango was the final destination for today
*  good dinner in a small family restaurant, run by the mother and her three daughters 
*  hotel room smelled terribly (toilet paper in the nose helped to some extent!) and I could hear every single word the neighbors were saying, luckily I was to tired to bother!

Zacatecas countryside
Where there is water - there is vegetation. Further north the countryside of Zacatecas changes completely into a desert landscape.

3. Tlaltenango - Jerez de Garcia Salinas

Cold desert biking
*  had several bananas in bed as breakfast
*  at 8 a.m. I was on the saddle again
*  freezing cold, torturous ride early in the morning at -5° C
*  soon I lost the feeling for my nose, fingers and toes
*  got better as soon as the sun appeared
*  police car stopped beside me, expected the worst, instead they were just interested in my trip
*  crossed 4 times between the states of Jalisco and Zacatecas
*  daily I was overtaken a number of occasions by the same delivery vans of Sabritas Chips, Pan Bimbo, San Marco and Coca-Cola
*  within a hair's breadth the San Marco driver ran me over, with an emergency jump into the ditch I could save my life
*  otherwise there was very little traffic
*  a flat plain replaced the hills
*  biking all day long between two mountain ranges
*  just the desert, cactuses and the road
*  I called it a day in Jerez de Garcia Salinas (I love those names), this place is said to have a lack of men because lots of them emigrate to the US, as a consequence it is filled with exchange offices and travel agencies offering cheap flight to the States or close to the border
* got owner's suite in a hotel as all the other rooms were occupied, a cyclist's sympathy bonus!

Sierra de Organos
Excursion to the absolutely lovely Sierra de Organos in Northern Zacatecas state

4. Jerez - Zacatecas

Zacatecas as northern turning point
*  again bananas for breakfast from the market
*  the road consisted of more potholes than tarred patches but was beautifully lined by chestnut-trees
*  traffic increased considerably, had to concentrate real hard in order avoid the holes but not coming to close to the fast passing vehicles, I noticed that they are not used at all to cyclists
*  just a few kilometers before Zacatecas I got my first flat tire
*  ironically it happened exactly in front of a Pemex (petrol) station... with a pump but I lacked any kind of repair gear
*  anyway, better here than out in the desert
*  I put the hitch-hike's thumb out and minutes later I was picked up and brought to a friend of a friend of a friend of someone
*  It was probably the smallest and worst equipped repair shack in the country at the very edge of the city
*  because the owner was specialized in truck tires, it was his first bicycle tire, but he did a good job
*  sightseeing tour in this picturesque, colonial capital of Zacatecas, beautifully scattered over the hills
*  it used to have the largest silver mine in the world!

Cerro de la Bufa Zacatecas
Cerro de la Bufa is well worth a visit, especially because of the great views over the city of Zacatecas. You can walk up or you might even take a cable car.

5. Zacatecas - Tabasco

Ancient ruins and plenty of kilometers
*  one of the employees of the hotel hold open the door for me and I cycled from the lobby out on the street
*  it took me some time to get out of the populated area back to the desert road
*  brand new country road through the bone-dry land of nopal-cactus scenery
*  visited the ruins of La Quemada or Chicomoztoc with its spectacular setting on a rocky outcrop
*  lunch: omelets with frijolitos (beans)
*  all straight for hours until I hit a rather large hill
*  challenging ride up to an altitude of about 2'000 m above sea level
*  strong wind made biking even harder
Tabasco : because of a Posada (pre-Christmas celebration) one of the hotels was full and too noisy anyway
*  the other one had a keyless room left, so they provided me with a screwdriver to open and close the door
*  I was invited for a homemade "Enchiladas" dinner in granny's kitchen
*  after 131 kilometers I was totally wrecked and ready for a good night's sleep!

Ancient ruins of Chicomoztoc / La Quemada
Mythical archaeological site of Chicomoztoc or La Quemada

6. Tabasco - Moyahua

Merry Christmas on the road
*  straight ahead on a lonely desert road
*  finally I passed a town
*  ranchero (cowboy) style rules here, the guys proudly wearing white sombreros, wide open shirts, huge belts and leather boots while parading on the main plazas
*  one place was dubbed "the city of beautiful women and progressive men"
*  this stage was dominated by hills, a warm up for the mountain range to be reached the next day
*  in Moyahua I was offered accommodation in an apartment above a grocery store
*  because we couldn't make the boiler working, I had the choice between a freezing cold shower and smell on... sorry, I chose the later one
*  modest Christmas meal consisted of some burritos!

Zacatecas desert road - Zacatecas
Lonely desert road southwards towards Guadalajara

7. Moyahua - Guadalajara

Dramatic return to Guadalajara
*  again sub-zero temperature in the morning
*  suffer from rather bad clothing and equipment in general
*  very mountainous stage
*  steep roads up and down into the valleys again
*  pretty dangerous parts with lots of debris and/or holes decorating the pavement
*  because I was very much focused on the biking I didn't really have a chance to enjoy the countryside
*  in the afternoon I travel to the edge of a vast canyon
*  I really looked forward to the descent
*  but it wouldn't last long... another flat tire stopped the fun briskly
*  there were very few cars in this remote area and for hours none of them reacted to my hitch-hike attempt
*  I decided it had to look more dramatic
*  I turned the bike upside down and pretended that I was desperately trying to fix the bike
*  only minutes later I enjoyed this huge and impressive canyon from the back of a truck
*  the bicycle was finally repaired in Guadalajara!

Instituto Cultural Cabañas - Guadalajara
One of many patios of the Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara's historic town district.

8. Guadalajara - Tecolotlan

Early morning cycling
* I started the day around 5 o'clock in order to avoid the notorious traffic of Guadalajara
* still, as it took around 2 hours to get from my centrally located home to the outskirts, traffic quickly got me
* at last I reached the big crossroads just outside the city
* now, there are 2 options to get to Manzanillo from Guadalajara
* firstly the direct route and then the longer, more scenic route
* of course drivers usually opt for the fast track and a cyclist goes for the beauty
* finally the cars got fewer and I could enjoy pedaling through a rather flat landscape towards Tecolotlan where I stayed for the night!

Degollado Theatre - Guadalajara
Teatro Degollado is in the heart of the historic old town of Guadalajara

9. Tecolotlan - Unión de Tula - Autlán de Navarro

Biking and Santana
* it was freezing cold when I hopped on the saddle again
* motivation enough to cycle as fast as possible, not only to advance but also to get warm
* first sunrays appeared; as did magically a little hut covered by banana trees where I could get some cereal bars and guava juice as breakfast
* shortly after I had set off, a scary incident happened: I was hit by the rearview mirror of an overtaking car!
* luckily enough I didn't fall but a few more milimeters and it could have been an abrupt end of the bike tour
* what a contrast, the immense cold in the morning and now the almost unbearable heat around noon
* I decided to give my body a rest in a shady park in the town of Unión de Tula
* later on followed the descent into the impressive canyon of El Corcovado
* it was all bleak and dry, only at the very bottom, lining the river, prospered green vegetation.
* Autlán de Navarro is famous to be the birth place of guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana (yes, he is Mexican indeed!)
* close by I found a seemingly quiet spot for camping
* seemingly because at night I was woken up by a terrifying creature, I was almost sure there were two wild boars circling my camp.
* but they were as frightened by my defense measures of throwing stones and shaking the flashlight as I was by their sudden appearance
* we found truce and respected each other's territory for the rest of the night!

El Corcovado Canyon
El Corcovado Canyon cuts through the Sierra Madre mountain range.

10. Autlán de Navarro - Sierra Manantlán - La Huerta

Bike tour up Sierra Madre's highest point
* early on I was active again because I knew it was going to be a tough climb up to Sierra Manantlán
* on top I was rewarded with a great view over the Sierra Madre of Western Mexico and some cookies for breakfast
* the rest of the bike tour was a piece of cake, discounting a midday heat siesta, I cycled on until sunset and camped out close to La Huerta !

Sierra Madre in Western Mexico
Jalisco state boasts very mountainous areas in the Sierra Madre

11. La Huerta - Barra de Navidad - Manzanillo

Happy beach - happy biker
* flat tire again - what's up with this Running Bull?!
* it must have happened yesterday night when I pushed the bike into hiding, most probably caused by a tiny thorn of a cactus that lined the road
* as the next piece of road was downhill, I decided to ride it anyway
* at the foot of the hill there were some houses and some farmers were standing around a fire
* I explained my problem and they pointed in unison to one of the houses
* it was still early morning and I felt a bit awkward to knock at someone's house
* but the house owner turned out to be glad to be of help
* he set up his electrical pump and the tire was quickly inflated
* I still couldn't make out any visible damage and luckily it held all the way to the Pacific Ocean at Barra de Navidad
* after a hearty breakfast at a beach front restaurant, I loaded the "Running Bull" on a boat to get to the Isla Navidad which is really only a peninsula
* it is home to an exclusive resort, The Grand Bay Hotel and its golf course
* I had a good time skirting around Mercedes, BMW and golf carts
* unfortunately the main road to Manzanillo didn't follow the coastline
* on the last bit of the bike tour I was immersed in a big forest of palm trees
* and then finally I got to Manzanillo, the alternative trip to the beach found a happy end!

Barra de Navidad Beach
Beach of Barra de Navidad on Western Mexico's Pacific Ocean

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