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Searching for the Mayans

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.

On the road again

Acanceh plaza with church and Mayan ruins

Sotuta horseplay and Circus at dusk

Sotuta evening light

Sotuta ‘5 star accomodation’

“Welcome to your room, please, do sit down”…”Mwhahahhaha”

A bad night’s sleep (incidentally the clock didn’t work)

Temple of Kulcanan, Sarah, and the Leaning Tower of Geoff, Chichen Itza

Hoop at Chichen Itza for some game which no-one really knows much about…

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A chance to recover in Mérida

Date: 8th February – 10th February 2012
Where: Mérida
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!

Spot the tourist! On the streets of Mérida

Relaxing in the main plaza

Mérida meat market panorama

With our great hostel find, Nomadas

The Northern coast of the Yucatan

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.

Straight roads get kinda boring after a while (nice birds though)

Straight roads get kinda boring after a while

Dali trees on way to Las Coloradas

Salt mountains, not what we expected!

Las Coloradas beach

Geoff’s new cycle helmet

Rio Lagartos at dusk

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.

The blue blue coast of the North Yucatan

Now that is a plate of Ceviche, mmmmmm!

Our sea view at the Bella Mar restaurant

Our sea view at night complete with tent and pissing dog

Flash, AhAHHHHH!

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