Mexico
The Route

MEXICO

Mexico is a federal constitutional republic in North America.  It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of Mexico.   Covering almost 2 million square kilometers, Mexico is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the thirteenth largest independent nation in the world.  With an estimated population of over 112 million, it is the eleventh most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country.

I think Mexico makes many people nervous.  I am not overly worried.  My route will take me down the Baja coast and then ferry to the mainland.  On the mainland the plan is to take a 330 km train ride into the interior to Copper Canyon (only accessible by train from the west coast).  From Copper Canyon the plan would be to continue down the middle of the county to Mexico City.  Outside of Mexico City is the Monarch Butterfly Reserve and then onto Teotihuacan one of Mexico’s more famous Mayan ruins.  I think it is safe to say that I won’t ride my bike into Mexico City but enter the city by bus.  I may be crazy, but not dumb.  From Mexico City I will continue down the middle of the county to put me directly on route for Guatemala to visit their most famous Mayan ruins at Tikal.  I will not be visiting the Yucatán Peninsula.

I have been to Mexico many times in the past.  When traveling to Belize I usually fly through Cancun and then take a bus to Belize.  One year I took a bus from Belize along the Gulf of Mexico and into the US and all the way up to Canada.  If I learned one thing from that bus ride is that never catch a bus during the US Thanksgiving.  I have also taken a ferry from Florida across the Gulf of Mexico to Cancun to then catch a bus to Belize.

Baja California - The Baja California peninsula is a peninsula in north-western Mexico.  The peninsulas land mass separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The Peninsula extends 1,247 km in length.  The total area of the Baja California Peninsula is 143,390 km2.  The Peninsula is separated from mainland Mexico by the Gulf of California.  There are four main desert areas on the peninsula: the San Felipe Desert, the Central Coast Desert, the Vizcaíno Desert and the Magdalena Plain Desert.

Most cyclists that ride into Mexico take the Baja route.

Copper Canyon - Copper Canyon (Spanish: Barranca del Cobre) is a group of canyons consisting of six distinct canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara in the south-western part of the state of Chihuahua in Mexico.  The overall canyon system is about 4 times larger and portions are deeper than the Grand Canyon.  The canyons were formed by six rivers which drain to the western side of the Sierra Tarahumara (a part of the Sierra Madre Occidental).  All six rivers merge into the Rio Fuerte and empty into the Sea of Cortez.  The walls of the canyon are a copper/green color which is where the name originates.

The most popular way and the way I plan to reach Copper Canyon are by train.  The train is known as the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico or ChePe and runs along the main canyon called Canyon Urique, between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, on the Gulf of California.

The Copper Canyon line is over 630 km in length and crosses 39 bridges and 86 tunnels. The track starts at sea level in Los Mochis, and will rise to an altitude of around 2,500 metres before descending into Chihuahua City at around 800 metres altitude.  This engineering marvel took almost 90 years and 90 million dollars to complete.

Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve - Countless millions perhaps as many as 120 million to 1 billion butterflies make an annual migration south from their summer territories in Canada and the USA to spend winter in Mexico’s Oyamel fir forests.  Mexico villagers call them las palomas - ‘souls of the lost children.’  The biosphere covers an area of 560 km2.  The butterflies themselves only inhabit a fraction of this area when they are in Mexico from October to March.  The biosphere is located a little over 100 km northwest of Mexico City and was only discovered by the scientific community and the world in 1975.  Deforestation is still a growing concern in the immediate area.

Mexico City - Mexico City has a land area of 1,485 kmand according to the most recent definition agreed upon by the federal and state governments, the Mexico City metropolitan area population is 21.2 million people, making it the second largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the fifth largest agglomeration in the world.  Mexico City has a gross domestic product (GDP) of $390 billion US$ in 2008, making Mexico City the eighth richest city in the world. 

I suppose if there was a city that I would be a little scared of it would be Mexico City.  I guess that is why it is best for me to stop by for a little visit.  I think it is safe to say that I will more than likely to take a bus into the city.  I don’t know if this is the place I want to take a wrong turn on my bike.