Date: 21st February – 27th February 2012
Where: Tulum – Punta Allen – Felipe Carillo Puerto – Bacalar – Chetumal – Corozal (Belize)
Distance: 610 to 818 miles
The same morning as Sarah’s bike arrived back from Cancún, we got moving South at last! Leaving behind all the high end beach side resorts we entered the Sian Kaan biosphere reserve where the road quickly deteriorated into sand. The remainder of the day we plodded along to Punta Allen with sea 20m to our left, and lagoon 20m to our right. However, we were stuck in the middle with a view of trees and little else. That night we camped under the most fantastic star-scape we’d yet seen.
The next morning our faint hope that a boat may take us to El Playon (the other side of the lagoon) was proved true, and thus we were treated to a veritable speed-wildlife tour. The other side it was clear we were being dropped in the middle of nowhere. Thus ensued a 40 mile struggle with an atrocious track, mosquitoes and horseflies. It turns out you can’t outrun horseflies. By now a paranoid Geoff (bee incident, see earlier post) was turning to jelly, letting out the quote ‘just put the tarpaulin on me’ at one particularly buzzy moment. Both sides had casualties by the end of the road, Sarah’s panniers were missing her nalgene water bottle and one of Geoff’s panniers was missing a retaining clip. One of the brighter moments came when an enormous blue butterfly, the size of a hand fluttered across in front of us. Evidentially horseflies don’t bother butterflies!
Felipe Carillo Puerto was a boring town, made slightly ironic by school children asking us to fill out a ‘why don’t tourists come to FCP?’ questionnaire whilst we gorged ourselves on tasty tacos.
The next day actually took the next few days as we encountered yet another vicious headwind. The highlight being a random kayaking session on a lagoon. By the time we arrived in Chetumal near the Belize border we were physically and mentally exhausted. We cleaned our bikes and headed out in search of fish, eventually cornering a tasty fish soup. The following day, and we had safely negotiated our first border and were in Belize!
Date: 14th February – 20th February 2012
Where: Valladolid – Cancún – Valladolid – Coba – Tulum
Distance: 501 to 610 miles
With Sarah’s bike issues, our first task in the charming town of Valladolid was to find a bike shop. After 3 hours of walking we at last found someone who could tell us the answer we knew anyway, but didn’t want to accept…we had to return to Cancún! We consoled ourselves with a dip in Cenote Zaci in the middle of town, and caught the bus first thing the next morning.
The bike shop diagnosed that the bottom bracket (bit between the pedals that goes round a lot) needed replacing, and they sorted next-day delivery and gave us free bikes to get around town. That night we stayed back in our original hostel (different room), and the next morning did the only thing that there is to do in Cancún…go to the beach and relax. Admittedly, it was very pleasant, and fully refreshed, we headed to the bike shop, but the part was not there, so we checked into our hostel again (different room again). The blog was updated and made ‘live’ the next morning, but the part still didn’t arrive and it turned out it had been sent normal-post (average 5-days). In despair we caught the next bus to Valladolid leaving our email addresses with the bike shop.
The next day we went on a circuit of nearby cenotes with the highlight being swimming in the Cenote Samula. By now we wanted to get moving, so Sarah got on a bus and Geoff saved 30 pesos (£1.50) by cycling the 35 miles to Coba in time for lunch (re-spent the 30 pesos refuelling his stomach). We visited the ruins that afternoon, with Sarah blagging a bike with no brakes off a friendly local. At this site it was possible to climb to the top of a huge temple with awesome views down over the rainforest below.
We had the same plan the next day for the short trip to Tulum, and Sarah had a comfortable trip with air con and the company of a like-minded traveller called David, but after 3hours of cycling on a straight road straight into the sun and wind, Geoff was not keen on anything other than relaxing in the s**t hostel we somehow ended up in. We swore we wouldn’t stay in a hostel in Mexico again.
The next day we moved to a different hostel, and were glad of it with cheap bike hire to the ruins (very busy) and the beach (gorgeous warm water). It got better as three cycle tourers rolled into the hostel as it was getting dark:
Cycle touring doesn’t happen much in Mexico, especially by Mexicans, so the Twitter Trio were rare indeed. Miguel, César and Chumel met on twitter and by all accounts had come from as far apart in Mexico as possibe to share a dream of cycle touring. That night Geoff had beer and pizza with them as Sarah had the great news that her bike was fixed and had got on the first bus to Cancún. At half past midnight a very sleepy Geoff woke up in a bus station slightly tiddly just in time to greet a very happy and relieved Sarah. We hope we don’t have too many more prolonged waits for parts.
Date: 11th February – 13th February 2012
Where: Mérida – Sotuta – Piste – Valladolid
Distance: 371 to 501 miles
We set off from Mérida keen to get peddling again and managed to escape the one-way system without much pain. When stopping to buy degreaser, we were given a free road map of Mexico by the owner…we have no idea why, our entire route so far was about 20cm on this map, so it was hardly going to be useful!? However just 2km down the road our feelings of scorn turned to happiness as we found a completely new shiny highway in our path. The road map quickly set us in the right direction & we rolled into the main plaza in Acanceh in good time. Our luck was in! Our first genuine Mayan temple rose up before us (it was quite small actually, but we were still excited!).
Leaving the town we started to see signs for cenotes (large limestone sink-holes) & were quickly distracted by a signpost claiming 1.5km to the Ban-Mil cenote. The bumpy track tested Geoff’s bike for the first time, and we were a little disappointed when we arrived with sore bottoms. A small hole in the ground with a tree and a rusty ladder as the means of descent. Closer inspection revealed a huge cavern filled with stalagtites and evidence of ancient Mayans (hand-prints etc) and that the tree was in fact rooted to the base of the cave. Happy with our random discovery we set off in high spirits, that was until Geoff felt something in his hair & casually brushed it aside. One or two sharp pricking sensations & then Sarah’s voice came loud and clear: ‘RUN!’ (or ‘PEDAL’ for the pedants). Both putting pedals into over-drive a brief glance over the shoulder showed a whole swarm of bees coming at us. Turns out you can out-run bees on a bike. Geoff had 3 bites in all (ear, knee, bum) & thankfully Sarah just managed to escape, in fact a lucky escape all round. We trundled into Sotuta in the late evening light to see men practising lassoing round a log on the village green & the whole place had a nice vibe to it. Unfortunately it had no rooms. We were given two options: camp in the graveyard or stay in a dingy room in hammocks with a cat & 10 kittens for company? Not wanting the faff of putting tent up in the dark we went for the room. A random experience best told with photos.
The next day we set off for Piste and made it in good time, having the most delicious whole grilled chicken that night. Early the next morning we braved Chichen Itza, and thought it was nice, but not so spectacular. By midday we were ready to head off for Valladolid, but by now Sarah was starting to notice looseness in her bottom bracket which was worrying us greatly. Luckily Valladolid seemed to be a lovely town to get stuck, and we slept well that night.
Date: 8th February – 10th February 2012
Distance: 371 to 371 miles
On Miguel’s recommendation we awoke to find ourselves in a real Mexican city. None of this Cancun rubbish. Tourists were easily outnumbered by Taco stands and the daily buzz filled the air. Imagine every clothes shop & pharmacy blasting out music non-stop, combine it with busy workmen digging up every road and pavement, and mix that with thousands of eager shoppers. Then put it all on one street, and we thought India was a cacophony! The packed main plaza, simple yet beautiful cathedral and market were highlights of this city. The food was great too, especially the cochinita pibil with a bit of lime squeezed on top
It also gave us some time to do more menial tasks, like finish setting up this blog, fix mudguards (again), clean chains, post some things home that we didn’t need & and buy Jaf some swim shorts to replace his weight-saving speedo idea. Some grams just have to be carried!
Date: 2nd February – 7th February 2012
Where: El Cuyo – Rio Lagartos – Las Coloradas – Rio Lagartos – Dzilam de Bravo – Bella Mar Restaurant – Mérida
Distance: 119 to 371 miles
Still in the excitement phase of a new place, new leg muscles, new food, but same roads…straight roads are starting to get boring. Luckily the first day of this leg was fantastic for bird-watching (see Cyclo-twitching page). Was also a rather shocking incident when a frog jumped out at Sarah, followed by a 1ft snake of some description, which thankfully retreated just as quickly back into the undergrowth. A few days later this was trumped by Sarah obliviously cycling past a coiled snake at least 2 inches in diameter & Geoff then running the poor serpent over with his tank tyres. Oops. This was towards the end of our longest day so far (79 miles) so I guess we were both a little tired.
The previous day we’d cycled out to Las Coloradas from Rio Lagartos searching for flamingos, but instead finding a crocodile, mountains of salt and a deserted circus with a tame monkey. Everywhere is closed, all a little strange, but lots of friendly people.
After leaving the half-asleep town of Dzilam de Bravo it became clear why everywhere was deserted. New hotel complexes littered the coast as we approached Progresso. Tired by the sun we saw a restaurant with possible sea views. Before long we has arranged to stay the day and camp there that night on the beach. Our host gave us great food & a relaxing day. A proper rest day. The next day we completed the leg to Mérida with a tailwind at last, passing the umpteenth ‘Flash Gordon’ graffiti on the way. Every town has it on at least one wall! Geoff is considering renaming himself Gordon, as Geoff is apparently difficult for Mexicans to pronounce (they seem to like ‘Jaf’ instead). This also gives him the chance to sing Queen songs all day long.
Date: 31st January – 1st February 2012
Where: Cancun – Kantunilikin – El Cuyo
Distance: 14 to 119 miles
After a hearty mug-full of granola and milk whilst our maps were printed, we set off with a slight tail-wind for Kantunilikin & El Cuyo. Three things quickly became apparent:
- Despite the flat swampy terrain, Kantunilkin was a long way away!
- The road-builders of the Yucatan are related to the Romans (no corners, big noses)
- Every village overflows with coca-cola. Who needs a healthy diet when you’re cycling everyday!
The next day we set off for El Cuyo and the day’s chain of events was set in motion…taxi overtakes us, 2 hours and we’re in taxi occupant’s home, just managing to avoid a Mexican soaking, mucho fresh orange juice from their tree, soon need pee, nearly onto a procession of leafcutter ants, near end of day, need food…mmmm freshly grilled chicken, meet Canadians, recommend chicken, set off, arrive in El Cuyo on beautiful causeway, re-meet Canadians, get invited for beer, get distracted by beach, fall asleep, zzzzz.
Date: 29th January – 30th January 2012
Distance: 0 to 14 miles
On 29th January 2012 after a combined sentence of 10 years in Coventry, we both managed to escape to Mexico. No sooner had we evaded the customs officials and found each other (mental note: there are two terminals at Cancun airport), then we found ourselves in an even worse nightmare…Cancun! We promptly dived for cover inside the bike box hastily piecing together the pieces of Geoff’s bike into some semblance of a machine that would at least get us to the outskirts. Before escaping Coventry part deux, we took a small detour to the beach (14miles of endless hotels), tightened pedals at a decent bike shop, before ending up in a cheap motel with a contender for the most uncomfortable mattress in the world.