Last days in Tamaulipas-Lost in Tampico


Ciudad Victoria was a great place to rest up.  The guide book that we have by Rough Guides gave the city a weak review but we think it deserved a bit more credit.  It’s a clean city, full of friendly faces,  with ample hotels and a decent market.  Most larger cities have a market that runs all week long with a multitude of stalls selling everything one might need-fresh vegetables, meats, clothing, flowers, and much more. This part of the country is rarely visited by tourists due to the lack of sights.  People aren’t in the streets to impress anyone, they’re just existing in their everyday lives.  It gave Ciudad Victoria a laid back feeling and it was a great place to get comfortable navigating around a city.

We spent Monday morning eeking out the last hours of our hotel.  We left everything in the room and went back to the market to eat a meal of huevos con chorizo-eggs with chorizo sausage.  The dish comes with a side off refried beans and all the freshly made corn tortillas you can eat.  The waitress kept a keen eye on our tortilla supply and quickly replenished it when we were low.  The taste of a fresh corn tortillas doesn’t even compare to the mass produced crap available in your local super market.  After breakfast we swung by a small shop that only sells freshly made tortillas to stock up.  Bryan is allergic to wheat so he makes his sandwiches during the day on tortillas.  Mexico has been a gluten free paradise with most meals consisting of corn, rice, beans, and meat.

We checked out of the Hotel Fiesta and got on our bikes to pedal out of town.  It’s always a pedal into the unknown these days.  We never know whether the ride out of a town will be easy or difficult.  Leaving Ciudad Victoria proved to be easy, it seems that most people live outside of the north end of the city.  Within a few kilometers we were back in ranch land.

We rode our steel ponies 47 kilometers on Monday directly into a headwind.  From now on we’re going to get an earlier start as the days heat up so fast and we like to quit in the early afternoon.  It’s a great time to relax in the sun, read, and reflect on the day.  We started looking for a place to camp around 3pm and saw what looked like a random asphalt parking lot in from of some trees and tall grass.  We scoped it out and it was a great spot, near the highway but tucked in so we couldn’t be seen. We leisurely cooked dinner and slowly watched the stars come out one by one.  Then we ducked into the tent and we were asleep by 9pm.  The day was so full and we were exhausted.

View from our campsite

It’s getting really hot now.  Riding the asphalt with sunshine blaring down makes for some serious heat.  We are now half way to the equator.  We crossed the Tropic of Cancer on Tuesday morning. We thought that now that we’d crossed the line it would start to get more tropical-well think again.  We continued to ride in desert like conditions and application of sunscreen was needed throughout the day.


Desert riding

We camped right off the highway again on Tuesday night.  There was a cut in the highway with a little dirt road that paralleled it.  The road was washed out and not drive-able on the edge of fenced ranch land.  A great location to rest.  We pitched our fly from the tent as a sun shelter.

We camped around the corner on the right side of the cut. Note the barely visible mountain in the distance. It was so neat looking but we couldn't get a better shot. It was super foggy the next day and it wasn't even visible.

Sun shelter

Sunset in the desert

Wednesday morning we got on the road early for us-8am. It was foggy so we put our reflective stripes on and blinking red back lights.   The traffic was light and could see us well.  It felt great to ride in the moist fog, a complete contrast to the previous day’s temps in the 90s.  We pedaled hard all day and managed to ride 88 kilometers, our biggest day in Mexico thus far.  I (Debi) started to get nauseated in the end of the day from the heat.  We started looking for somewhere to camp but there were people everywhere as we were approaching the largest city in Tamaulipas-Tampico.  We found a hotel and settled in for the night.  It was a good call as we were both exhausted.  It’s an adjustment to ride in these temperatures for our northern bodies!

Thursday we only had less than 50 kilometers to get into the city of Tampico.  The landscape changed drastically and we finally started to see flowering trees, green foliage and water in the creek beds.  The traffic and the construction started to get heavy as we approached Tampico.  Buses, taxis, and trucks were constant.  We reached the outskirts of Tampico unscathed.  We were feeling the adrenaline as we raced down hills behind buses.  We stopped in front of a Wal-Mart, we were feeling disoriented and our map wasn’t helping.  We got some directions from a friendly man who told us to go “derecho”, which I thought was “right”.  But it’s actually “straight on” and not “right”, “right” is “derecha”.  How confusing!  Needless to say we took quite the detour through a residential area of Tampico.  About an hour later our sidetrip was over and we finally got reoriented. We managed to find our location on the map and realized we only had a few more kilometers to go to get to “El Centro”-the center of town where we were planning to stay.

Approaching Tampico, oil refineries on the horizon

We blazed through rush hour traffic, staying behind buses in the right lane where most other traffic avoids.  We found the hotel we had researched easily on the street Juarez.  We shuttled our gear and bikes to the second floor, paid for 3 nights at 190 pesos a night (approx 15 dollars) and we just laughed and laughed.  Each situation is so temporary!  One moment we’re lost in the suburbs of Tampico and the next we’re shutting the door and turning on the fan in our little room.  Wild!

Tampico is a bustling port on the Gulf of Mexico.  The streets are alive with people, taxis, buses, and loud music froom retailers.  There’s two plaza-Plaza de Armas and Plaza de La Libertad. Each has it’s own charms and we’ve enjoyed people watching in both.  The Plaza de Armas has a large cathedral and a large ornate pavilion. Street vendors walk around with toys for children that squeak and we are approached frequently by women with roses and children selling gum.  Many people hang out in the Plazas with their loved ones just soaking up the scene.

Plaza de Armas

Downtown Tampico, with view of port

There’s a huge market in Tampico and we’ve eaten all of our meals there.  The best deal is “comida corrida” the meal of the day which usually costs about 2 US Dollars.  It consists of soup to start and then a plate with rice, beans, and some kind of meat, either fish, pork, beef, chicken.  Also included is an all you can eat stack of hot corn tortillas.  It’s so yummy and we’ve been visiting different vendors each meal. When we’re looking for somewhere to eat the food vendors shout out to us what they have and get rather aggressive waving their menus  and begging us to eat at their place, at times there’s multiple vendors yelling to us pleading for us to eat at their establishment.  It’s overwhelming!

Veggies and fruit at the market

men braiding garlic in the market

Friday afternoon we packed our backpack for the beach.  We went a couple blocks from our hotel and got a “colectivo” a car that’s like a taxi but runs a set route and stops to pick up passengers until it’s full.  For less than a dollar we were both brought 15 kilometers out to the beach-Playa Miramar.  Downtown Tampico doesn’t have beach access as they’ve built up the port and oil refineries so the town beach is a ways away.

Hanging out on the beach was lovely.  It was deserted due to the weekday and we enjoyed some quiet time in the sunshine.  A few vendors walked the beach and we were approach by a young boy selling crab cakes-we bought 3 for about 1.50 US and wished we had bought his entire basket.  They were so good!

beach livin'

awesome crabcakes

finally some beach time with a book

We’re planning the next couple weeks of our adventure and it’s looking like excitement lies ahead. As soon as we leave Tampico we enter into a new state-Veracruz.  Our next stop will be Papantla, a town famous for it’s proximity to the ruins of El Tajin and the Voladores de Papantla-men who perform by flying through the air attached by ropes to a small elevated platform.  We’ll spend a couple days there.  Next we’ll try heading up into the mountains to check out Xalapa, a university town.  After that we’ll be back on the coast in the city of Veracruz, which apparently has one of the most beautiful “zocalos”- town centers in the country.  We have further plans, but we’ll stop there and save it for future posts on the blog.

We’re having a great time and it’s terrific to be deeper into Mexico.  It’s just getting more colorful by the day and we love being near the coast as the fish is so fresh.

We’ll blog again when we get to Papantla in the end of the week.

Debi and Bryan


8 Responses to “Last days in Tamaulipas-Lost in Tampico”

  1. 1 Gary Kenyon

    Hey Bryan,

    This Gary- Jennifer’s husband. How are you. I finally was able to get time to reaqd your blog here. I really am enjoying it. I must say I am envious. I wish you both well, and a continued safe trip. I will read more with anticipation of what lies ahead (forgive me if this old man has his adventure through you two.
    Debi- never met you, but glad there was a picture of you here. Hope to meet you one day.

    Take ,


  2. 2 Kate Cross

    I am amazed by your adventures together. They will cement your relationship forever. Love to you both.

  3. Ooooo the beach and the food, I am so CELOSA!!!! Today we are having a heat wave, its 45!

  4. 4 Mom

    Did I see all of “us” sitting on the chairs relaxing and thinking of absolutely nothing????? What a wonderful journey for all of us to share vicariously through my very favorite twosome.
    XXXXXOOOOOO for both of you

  5. Wow- as always, I am loving reading about your adventures! The pictures are always a vivid complement to your descriptive writing. Love that pic of the large, squarish mountain! Reminds me of Devil’s Tower…. What does it sound like at night when you were in the rural, ranch land areas? Are there many loud insects?

    Continue to enjoy and be safe!

  6. 6 Matt Green

    Amazing stuff guys!

  7. 7 Pat and Dan

    You guys rock. We feel so privileged to share in your journey; thanks so much for setting up this blog. Wishing you all good luck and good times.

  8. Hello again,
    The river you crossed is the Rio Panuco. Tampico is the second largets port in Mexico, second to Veracruz. Our home is only 3 blocks from the base of the bridge on the Tampico side of the river.
    There are a lot of beautiful sites all around Tampico/Madero. Some caves, cenotes and casadas.
    Ya’ll have fun and be safe.

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