Long day in the saddle with a break to see a pile of old stones.
We left Tulum and found ourselves heading inland on a paved road with far less traffic and jungle all around us. The birds singing exotic song, hundreds of butterflies seemingly following us, huge locusts sunning themselves on the road and the occasional dead hairy spider.
The road was long straight and flat so easy riding made interesting by the wildlife.
We stopped at Coba, an old Myan ruin. We were told we couldn’t take our bikes in but as soon as we entered we you the gate the touts tried to hire us old rickety bikes, dam cheek.
The ruins are scattered over a large area with the only accessible ones within a 1.5 mile walk (bugger if we was going to pay to hire a bike) we are not sure about the history as we had to do the tour with no guide, they resembled other Asian sites we had visited. The best thing about this site is it has a really tall pyramid and you are allowed to walk up the steep steps to the top.
This is a nice site to visit but without a guide it’s just a load of old stones.
We had thought we might stay in this area but as it was only 2.30pm when we had finished wandering aimlessly in the rain we opted to cycle another 18 miles to Chemax as we could see it had at least one hostel on maps.me.
Chemax was our first non tourist town we had been to in Mexico, we drew a few stares and the kids enjoyed shouting Gringo at us, the residents were all friendly.
We had very little cash and there was no ATM in this town. We did find the accommodation but the owner turned us away as he had no rooms.
This meant cycling another 18 miles onto Valladolid, on route we where given a gift of a large bottle of Pepsi from woman passing on a tractor (I kid you not). We were now on a road with a few more cars but a nice hard shoulder to ride on. 18 miles is a long way when it’s added to the end of your day, it was dark when we reached town. In total we cycled 65 hard, sweaty miles.
Valladolid was having a party, the main square was busy, a band was playing and locals dancing in the street. A great atmosphere plus the cathedral was lit up well, it’s weird seeing all this nice stuff whilst soldier’s are patrolling with weapons and flack jackets on.
Ginette throughout Mexico we have seen a very high military presence. In one of the local towns the Mayor was dragged from his office, tied to a car and dragged through the streets. Apparently the locals were punishing him for not fixing a road that he had said he would fix. I don’t advocate this type of behaviour but can you imagine this in the UK.
We ordered a pizza for dinner, it was huge we only managed to eat half of it and although we took half back to our accommodation it ended up in the bin the following day.
No Chichen Itza but a Cenote in Yokzonot.
Researching the cost of the entrance fee for the Mayan site Chichen Itza that we had been heading for we found it had escalated from the 75 peso up to a stonking 480 peso due to a new tax the government, this is about £18 each ouch. We have also found out that there are many other sites around so we are giving this cash cow a miss.
Ginette – in fairness we had visited a site called Coba the previous day which has been described as one of the best Mayan sites in the country and it cost a fraction of the price of Chichen Itza.
Many of the hotels and tourist attractions claim to have governement taxes but there seems to be no consistency in the tax added. For example it is possible to see two similar hotels in the same town with significantly different tax added to their advertised price.
We had a nice cycle ride in the hot sun, riding past the entrance to Chichen Itza. It was really hot and we had to stop frequently in little shops to get a cold drink and cool down in air conditioned shops.
We stopped at a tiny town called Yokzonot, we stopped there because there is an Ecolodge and there is not a lot in the way of towns and hostels in the area. We could have camped but it would have been unpleasant in the heat.
Ginette – It is not only the heat that puts me off camping there are lots of giant bugs around, we’ve also seen squashed snakes and spiders on the road and we are unsure what is scurrying away when we pass the bushes on our bikes but it is big enough to make a lot of noise. Added to that I’ve read accounts of the police waking campers to check for drugs and drug dealers waking people to steal money and believe it or not kidneys. We can usually find accommodation for less than £20 so we’d be stupid to camp unless there was no other choice.
The town had its own Cenote, this is a water hole which was / is part of an underwater cave system whose roof has long since fallen in leaving a huge round hole with very deep clear fresh water in it. It had changing rooms, a restaurant, a zip wire over the top of the hole and a set of wooden steps taking you down to the water. You wouldn’t be able to get in without the steps unless you abseiled in as the sides are shear cliff faces and very high.
The water was crystal clear and it was a bit disconcerting swimming and not being able to make out the bottom even though you could see the edges of the cliff disappearing deep below but far beyond .
The entrance fee was only 80 peso (£3.20) and it was a surreal experience especially as there were only 3 others in the water.
Ginette – The room we had should have been luxurious but it felt kind of eery, the water in the bathroom didn’t work, so much for paying for a sunken spa bath facility and there were wood carvings on the wall that were a little freaky added to this by the side of my bed was a mirrored dressing table and the windows had blinds that we could see through. The accommodation was set in wood land and I kept thinking I was being watched either through the blinds or through the mirror. We both didn’t sleep very well.
Gary cooking in the on site restaurant, you can’t see from this picture but there were giant ants crawling on the shelf behind Gary urgh.
Free Mayan site
The place we stayed in last night should have been great, we had a spa bath and an outdoor pool however we had a trickle of water so no way to fill the bath and the pool was empty, there were no staff at the hotel so we made the best of it. We had a nice large room with aircon but somehow we both felt like unwanted guests.
We didn’t have far to cycle, we were still in the jungle with sporadic small towns that we stop at for a cold drink, we can hear some pretty large animals scurrying away from us as we pass possibly large lizard or maybe snake (we have seen a large snake roadkill). Another large roadkill today was another hairy tarantula, all these sightings make it harder to get Ginette to camp.
The heavens opened so we sheltered under a tin lean too attached to a small house, the owners kept popping there head out the window to see we were OK, I have a photo of an elderly lady staring out at me with a twinkle in her eye.
We stopped in Izamal (according to Mexico tourism, it’s a small magical town known as the city of the Three Cultures or City of Hills) the place is famed for its cobbled streets and yellow painted buildings.
It has at least three remaining Maya pyramids and an impressive Franciscan Monastery. We were able to climb to the top of the tallest pyramid, standing on them you can only marvel at the effort required to build such a big structure with no machinery and wonder how many lives were lost.
Ginette – the town had a special charm, although the paint work was a little tired probably last painted back in 1993 when the pope visited we liked it. We stayed in a lovely hostel with a great big room and modern facilities. In the town there are horse and floral carriages to transport people around the various tourist sites.
Ginette has seen a job that she fancies so she spent the afternoon writing her application, it a long shot as she would have to interview via Skype but still worth trying, after all she needs a good job when we get back to keep me as a house husband.
Ginette – bloody cheek. Gary is right, it is a long shot but CEO jobs in the third sector don’t come up that often in Bristol. I particularly like what this charity offers so rather than living with any regrets I have decided to apply. If nothing else it has provided me with an opportunity to update my CV and think about what I want to do when we get back to the UK.
16th and 17th October
City break in Mérida.
A very hot sunny day cycling along a quiet road through small towns, we stopped at each town for a cold drink. Today we struggled to find cold still water so had a lot of fizzy water which is not my favourite drink. At one of the small shops we were entertained by some cheerful and lively Mexican music. in the rural towns people are taxied around by motorcycle carts or use bicycles, everyone is really friendly and we are often waved it is very welcoming.
As we approached the city the road became busier but the cycle into the city wasn’t to bad as we found a long stretch of bus/ cycle lane.
Our hostel was basic but OK however the WiFi was not working so at some point we would need to find a cafe as we had made no plans for the stages. We had a wander around the city and I purchased my first new Tee shirt of the trip. The 40 mile ride this morning was taking it toll on us and instead of enjoying the sights of the city we were a bit tetchy. We decided to stay another day as we felt we was not doing the city justice.
Ginette – we arrived in the city at about 2pm got changed and went out to explore, crazy! in the UK if we’d cycled 40 miles in the heat we would have headed straight for a bar to reward ourselves not send ourselves out on a culture trip. I tried to read the plaques and take in some of the culture but felt weary, hot, tired and hungry. As Gary said instead of enjoying the experience we felt like it was a bit of a chore. I was glad that over a beer we decided to stay another day and really learn about the city rather than rushing off and not really understanding the Mayan culture.
We had lunch out in a bar called La Neigreta, it had live music and was a busy place. When my food came out it was covered in a black sauce, I am not sure what’s in this sauce but I am not keen on its taste and unfortunately the meal I had the night before was also covered in this black sauce Yuk.
Ginette – we had been looking forward to the food in Mexico, but the menu has been quite limited to tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas and burritos, all served with meat. In most of the places we’ve visited the tortillas have been cooked on the same griddle as the meat and are very greasy. There are a few veggie options including cheese, cheese and perhaps if I’m lucky avocado and a bit of salad. I’m hoping our options will improve as we continue to cycle north. I am craving some green vegetables.
Thursday morning we went on a free walking tour, the walk itself is just around central plaza but goes into the same buildings we halfheartedly walked around yesterday, this time was more interesting as the guide kept us informed about our surroundings and the city’s history.
We found an Internet cafe and booked a different hostel as well as setting plans for the next few days.
I get bored easy in cities, so will be happy to move on again.
Ginette – I was glad of the rest although I don’t feel particularly tired my left leg was covered in a heat rash and my feet were swollen from all of the walking and cycling. I loved learning about the Mayan culture, it was interesting to learn that it is obligatory for children to learn the Maya language in schools. I spent 3 hours in the afternoon resting in the room, researching a little more about the culture while Gary played his Ukulele. In the evening we went for a nice walk to Merida’s equivalent of the “Champs Elyse”.
To Muna via Unam, an anagram cycle trip.
Ginette was not very well in the night and didn’t sleep well hence she wasn’t ready to go till around 11am, I thought maybe we would be staying put but she wanted to soldier on.
It had been raining heavy in the night and the morning, I had breakfast at the hostel with a nice Dutchman and the Barcelona born hostel owner which was a nice way to pass the morning.
I have been adding an exercise routine to my day for the last month of some press ups and sit ups, I obviously get plenty of fitness from the cycling but we both notice that I lost a lot of my upper body strength hence the extra exercise regimen.
When we set off our kind hostel owner and his lovely wife gave us some of the apples and oranges from their own trees and fed us a Papaya also from the garden. The rain had stopped but cycling along there were huge puddles in the roads. Getting out of the city was busy and not great fun as our route took us down a busy road past the airport, which remained busy up to Unam after which we found ourselves on a main road but with far less traffic.
We spotted another dead large hairy spider and a red and white striped snake, we have jungle either side of us but it’s pretty dense so you can’t see any wildlife so these road kills remind us there is life out there.
We are in a small town called Muna, we stopped here due to the time of day and the fact that a huge thunderstorm with streaks of lightning were pounding away overhead.
Ginette – it is exceptionally hot during the day, it usually rains in the late afternoon and during the night but there is little relieve from the humidity. The heat really saps our energy and we find ourselves constantly seeking shade and cool drinks.
In the news this week there have been some violent clashes between drug gangs and police resulting in many deaths. We wouldn’t mention this but we have seen coverage on the BBC news. At present we are on the opposite side of Mexico but we are heading in that general direction so will take care to avoid the hotspots.
Ginette – Mexican people are generally really smiley and welcoming, far more so than other areas we have cycled in South America. It is a shame that the drug cartels cause so much trouble for the country. Fortunately for us they prefer to kill each other and as tourists on bikes we would be very unlikely to encounter them.