A magical cycling journey through Oaxaca [PART 1]

A magical cycling journey through Oaxaca [PART 1]

I cycled solo through Alaska and Canada in the winter, through the United States in the spring and arrived in Baja California in Mexico at the end of June. I traveled by boat and bus to Mexico City to pick up my girlfriend Lisa. We cycled together in Mexico, in Hidalgo, Puebla and Oaxaca.

We decided to visit the village of San José del Pacífico on the road from Oaxaca de Juárez to the coastal area, a village also known as the capital of the magical mushrooms in Mexico. I have been curious for some time about the working and use of Psilocybe mushrooms as an alternative and new perspective to Western medicine, inspired by a documentary called Dosed.

If you are not comfortable with the use of psychedelic mushrooms, I may advise you to skip these two part stories that I share here. I myself am fairly critical of the use of drugs and alcohol for anesthetizing or entertaining purposes. Magic mushrooms are completely natural and the collection and sale of the mushrooms are done by the local people and is legal in San José del Pacífico. Although for many it’s fun to randomly trip while traveling, I’m interesting in the deepening and insightful effects that this medicine can have when used with the right intentions. 

This is the first part of our cycling journey in Oaxaca, the second part continues with a deepening personal journey en our cycling to the coast. 

When it comes to dirt roads in Mexico, it doesn’t get much better than Oaxaca. Oaxaca is a state, in the south of Mexico, that connects the coast to the interior with a beautiful mountainous landscape called Sierra Sur. Mexico and in particular Oaxaca has a truly fantastic network of mountain, farm and interland roads. We chose a route that goes from the city of Puebla to the culturally rich city of Oaxaca de Juárez. Our ambition was to cycle up the classic mountain-to-sea route over the Sierra Sur to the Costa and arrive at the beautiful beaches on the Pacific Ocean.

In the middle of Mexico there is a mountain landscape that extends over almost entire Mexico. Mexico City is located at an altitude of 2,240 meters, the more eastern city of Puebla at 2,135 meters altitude and the southern city of Oaxaca de Juárez at 1,555 meters. These heights ensure that the climate is mild and apart from the rain there are not really seasons, the temperature is the same throughout the year, warm during the days and and more cold during the nights. In August the rainy season is going on and there is heavy rainfall almost daily, usually at the end of the afternoon.

Oaxaca City to San José del Pacifico

In Puebla we participated in a bicycle protest for awareness for cyclists in the city. The week before the protest, two cyclists had died in an accident with a bus. It was a very special experience because it created one of the biggest and chaotic traffic jams I have ever seen. In my country police would be directly be informed and would come in action to end it, even with arrests. Here in Puebla that wasn’t the case, at least not for this protest.

We joined an offered free tour in the center of Puebla going along the historical Spanish influence in the city that created impressive architecture. We learned how the Spanish took over and that native people were forced to do the hard work building the churches and houses. It was a very interesting tour and at the end we ate delicious local dishes such as
Mollete and Chiles en Nogada. The last one being one of the most tasty dishes I ever eat.

We cycled out of the city and in the village of Santa Domingo we both became a bit under the weather and stayed for two nights in a local hotel. In the early morning we woke up from explosions that did not come from mines or drug cartels but from the priest in the church. We found out that the creation of hard explosions is part of a religious celebration. The priest blessed a van by sprinkling holy water over and inside it. We saw people donating money to the church, but also toys at the statues of holy persons in the church.

Cycling in Puebla

The landscapes changed from green to light colored almost desert-like, with the gigantic Mexican cacti rising high in the air out of many places. We cycled on the beautiful country roads, which were often very rocky due to the heavy rainfall. We sometimes walked up for hours on the steep dirt roads and then walked down again because cycling wasn’t an option.

We came through beautiful secluded villages with farms and agave fields. In Oaxaca the famous Mescal is made from the agave.

Oaxaca City to San José del Pacifico

I put my camera on a more higher and rocky side of the road to take a picture of us on the bike. When I wanted to pick up the camera again after the shot, I stood on a loose stone and slid all the way down. The sharp stones cut deep wounds in my right tibia. I ran back to our bikes to disinfect the deep wounds as quickly as possible. Open wounds are very vulnerable to contamination from street waste from which the tetanus disease may arise. Although I was vaccinated for that, I absolutely did not want to end this journey with an inflamed wound. Fortunately, I could disinfect it properly and it healed without infection in the following days.

We decided to travel the remaining stretch by bus from Acatlán de Osorio via Huajuapan to Oaxaca de Juárez. The switch in Huajuapan was rather confusing, there was only one bus (which could take our bike bikes) a day and it left at 300AM in the night. Because this was an intermediate stop, we could not buy tickets and we had to hope that there were places for us. We stood there at 300AM and were told that the bus was full and luckily we managed to discuss ourselves in it for a ride in which we would have no seats. Standing was tough with all the loops in the road, we just layed down in the middle path in the bus and it took more than an hour before people got out and we could sit down in the newly available seats.

Early in the morning we arrived in Oaxaca de Juárez and picked up a vegetarian breakfast to eat it at a square called Zócalo. We saw the city come to life with all kinds of people walking around to sell things. Oaxaca de Juárez is a beautiful town with many paintings and art in the streets located in between beautiful mountains. The days we spent here were amazing comfortable, we ate on a roof terrace under the full moon tacos with fried grasshoppers, also called chapulines.

Oaxaca City to San José del Pacifico

The journey from Oaxaca de Juárez was special. We descended to 1,100 meters and then climbed to 2,474 meters, towards the town of San José del Pacífico. The area is unprecedented and in addition to that we saw special cacti, beautiful flowers and mushrooms in bloom because of the rain season. We crossed rivers, cycled past farmers with their herd of cows and goats.

We came closer to San José del Pacífico and saw more and more spots along the road with mushrooms images, including the well-known red with white dots. Often we also saw images or murals with the famous Maria Sabina.

Walpainting of Maria Sabina

Sabina’s sacred healing ceremonies were based around the use of psilocybin mushrooms and were brought to fame in the late ’50s.

We arrived in San José del Pacífico and looked for a nice accommodation. The village is quiet but fairly touristic. We searched a bit for forest houses, called cabañas, where you can spend the night for 200MXN to 600 MXN which is around $15 to $40 per night.

Our quest for the magical mushrooms could take a start. They are offered in many places, but an online search brought us to a reliable source, Rubi. She had the “derrumbes” species on the counter, young white specimens with brown heads and some more adult looking dark almost black. We were lucky because in the rainy season mushrooms are growing, which can be picked freshly and that makes them more reliable for proper functioning. We were informed and ordered two servings of both 400MXN from Rubi.

“They are strong,” she told us, “If you are inexperienced, start with half a dose and then carefully add something based on the journey you experience.”

This would be my first time and I already felt the nervous feeling a bit coming up. I’m not excited to offer myself up for a journey in which I don’t have control over anything. Fortunately, Rubi clearly knew how and what the mushrooms could offer and she was talking about it respectfully well bending over the mushrooms on the counter to carefully pick a portion one by one for both of us.

“These are for you,” she said to me, looking deep into my eyes. And Lisa also received a dose especially for her. They didn’t look tasty, the best thing was that we ate them raw on a sober stomach. That meant we shouldn’t eat for at least three hours before we ate them. Half a dose and if we felt no effect before two hours passing, we would ate some extra mushrooms.

In San José del Pacifico

In San José del Pacifico

That morning we went to a Temazcal, a traditional sweat lodge of the native people of Mexico. It functions as a ceremonial detox of the body. In the afternoon we both wrote down our intentions for the upcoming psychedelic journey. We ate lunch at 100PM and at 400PM we took a couple of Rubi’s mushrooms. We packed some things, such as a sleeping mat, water, tea and some sweet fruit and snacks for when the trip would be a bit too intense.

In the late afternoon we walked into the beautiful green mountainous forest high up in San José del Pacífico in search of the perfect place to experience our magical journey.