Cycling mexican pilgrim

Cycling mexican pilgrims.

“If you are going by bicycle to Puerto Escondido today then you will meet many fellow cyclists”, says the receptionist at my hotel. I’m a little surprised to hear that comment as I have so far only met a handful of cyclists when cycling from Mexico City to Oaxaca. The mountain road from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido is not a very used road from what I understand.

I soon learned that there is an annual pilgrimage to the small mountain town of Juquila . These days most of the Mexican pilgrims do that 2×200 kilometer trip by bicycle.

Why do the cycling Mexican pilgrims go to Juquila?

Cycling pilgrim with a cross on his back.

Cycling pilgrim with a cross on his back.

In Juquila there is a little statue of virgin Mary from the 16th century that is one of the most important virgins in the catholic church in Mexico. Once a year, in december, thousands of pilgrims travel to see the virgin of Juquila and bring home religious relics they buy next to the church where the virgin statue is located.

 

It’s almost like Tour de France.

Cycling pilgrims on the way home from Juquila.

Cycling pilgrims on the way home from Juquila.

As soon as I get off the big road and head up the hills I see what the receptionist was talking about. Hundreds, if not thousands of cyclists are passing me in the opposite direction, as they have already been to the church where the virgin is. They arrived two days earlier and they are now on their way home. It’s like the Tour de France, with support cars and large groups of cyclists together. But these cyclists are not in fancy outfits. Not driving expensive bicycles. The cycling pilgrims are ordinary Mexican village folks, on old rusty bikes.  They have cycled 200 kilometers up the mountain and they are now on their way back home.

A 400 kilometer bicycle trip like this, is very impressive when you consider that most guys use really old rusty bicycles. Most of them are clearly not used to long distance cycling.

 

It’s a party. And I am welcome as a visiting foreigner.

Friendly cycling pilgrims taking a rest and inviting me to join them.

Friendly cycling pilgrims taking a rest and inviting me to join them.

The atmosphere is really nice along the road. Groups of cyclists are often sitting by the side of the road, eating and drinking. I am often invited to sit down with them for a bite and a beer. This is really a trip that everyone takes part in. I see both very educated guys who speak fluent english and tell me a lot about this part of Mexico. But I also speak spanish to some pretty rough guys, who I am not sure are the most clean cut guys in town. But they are on the annual pilgrimage. And that turns pickpockets and prostitutes in to alter boys for the weekend.

The cycling pilgrims are almost entirely male, by the way. If women take part, then they mostly do it by running part of the way with something that resembles an olympic torch, that they take turns on carrying. That is also a show in itself to watch.

Running mexican pilgrim transporting the torch home from Juquila.

Running Mexican pilgrim transporting the torch home from Juquila.

 

No problems with accommodation along the way.

Cycling pilgrim outside one of the hotels where I stayed.

Cycling pilgrim outside one of the hotels where I stayed.

One thing that worried me when I saw all these cyclists on the road, was that the very few hotels there were on that road might be full, because of all the pilgrims. But I learned that most pilgrims can not afford hotels. They stay in churches along the way. Or in private houses where people give them shelter. Or they simply sleep under open air. I had no problems at all finding hotel rooms for the two nights it took me to cycle from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido.

 

The cycling Mexican pilgrims rock.

 

I have seen many pilgrims around the world over the years. But I have never seen that many, who were all cycling. As a long distance cyclist, I was really fascinated with all these cycling pilgrims. Turning a normally quiet bicycle ride over the mountains, into a two day religious cycling fiesta. I say this even if I am a non believer.

My bicycle on a mexican road.

My bicycle on a Mexican road.

The cycling mexican pilgrims rock.

Viva Mexico

Viva Mexico

3 Comments

  1. WOW, I Mexico always surprises me! I would like to check that out when we cycle through Oaxaca! Nice pics man! BTW

  2. What a cool story. Would be nice if more girls biked but..at least they ran 😉 I would love to experience something similar when I go to Mexico in a few months. Thinking about renting a bike in (probably) all of the places I will visit. It will be fun for sure.

  3. Hi, I am thinking about doing this ride. Just to confirm, did you ride the 131? Was it safe and were the plenty of towns to sleep in. I am thinking about doing it over three days. Thank you!

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