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Heading South at last

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!

Our first dirt road down the coast to Punta Allen

Catching the boat to El Playon, easy cycling!

Cycling the swampy, foresty, bug-hell to FCP, hard cycling!

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!

Early morning Kayak on the Rio Hondo lagoon

In Chetumal, the last town before the Mexico border

Locals enjoying the blue waters of the river near the Mexican border

Zero km to Belize!

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Waiting for the Mexican postal service

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.

An inviting chair in the evening light, Valladolid main plaza

Sharing an inviting chair, taken by a monkey

A trinity of visits to Hostel Laurel, Cancún

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.

Sun streaming through into Cenote Samula

Geoff enjoying the otherworldly experience of swimming in a Cenote

Sarah enjoying the best tacos in the world, Valladolid

Carnival Time! Valladolid

Sarah showing how steep it really was, Coba

Sunset over cocodrilo pier, Coba

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.

WIth the ruins of Tulum (including gifts of JLR: glasses and handlebar bag)

The many bikes of Sarah

The Twitter Trio: César, Miguel, and Chumal

Escape to the beach

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:

  1. Despite the flat swampy terrain, Kantunilkin was a long way away!
  2. The road-builders of the Yucatan are related to the Romans (no corners, big noses)
  3. Every village overflows with coca-cola. Who needs a healthy diet when you’re cycling everyday!

Swampy terrain on the road to Kantunilikin

Straight roads with yellow flowers everywhere

A dusky introduction to Mexican sandwiches, Tortas, in Kantunilikin

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.

About to set off from Kantunulikin

Stopping for Coke on the way to El Cuyo

Friendly taxi occupants in their home

The Yucatan Yellow Flower Tree

Leafcutter ant (leaf-carrier in this case, it forgot to cut it up!)

El Cuyo causeway (causeways seem to be a trend for our cycle touring trips!)

Practising long exposures on the beach at El Cuyo

Reunion in Cancun

Date: 29th January – 30th January 2012
Where: Cancun
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.

Re-united in Cancun

Assembling the Beast

Geoff & the Caribbean

In the courtyard of the hotel