We slept quite well in fact and didn´t wake up until after 7:30. Last night I had another small incident. My speedometer froze and I had to restart it. I lost all the data but luckily I remembered most of them so I manually put them in. After scrambled eggs breakfast we hit the road again. It was a very scenic ride right next to the coast on one side and thick green vegetation on the other. We stopped at a small viallage and I couldn´t resist the temptation to go for a dip in the Mexican Gulf at least once. The water was quite chilly and least compared to the Carribean plus it was very sandy. Nothing like the azure blue waters on the other side of Yucatan peninsula.
As I was changing wet clothes another group of Guadalupanos rode past. There was about 7 of them. We quickly got ready and decided to catch up with them. After several kms we did but they were so painstakingly slow we didn´t even get the chance to talk to them apart from regular HOLA. On thing was really weird though. They were all wearing their “uniform” but it was so hot that day and I could see them all sweating like hardworking dogs. They all had long jogging outfit with a picture of Virgin of Guadalupe. After we overtook them we caught up with 2 other Guadalupanos, from a different group. They were from Panaba and they told us they came all the way here in just two days – it´s about 500 k to Panaba. Well, if that´s true they should try Tour De France. Anyway, they were a bit faster than us but not that much. After a while they left us far behind but even then they´d have to ride for 12 hours a day at the same speed if they were to make it this far in two days.
We entered Sabancuy through a long bridge over the Laguna de Terminos and went straight to waterfront restaurant. We had Pargo, a biggish fried fish. One was more than enough for two of us plus tortillas and rice. As we were sitting there I noticed a cyclist coming towards the town. I don´t even know why but I run out of the restaurant and stopped him. He turned out to be a Mexican cycling across the whole of Mexico in just three months. His name is Jorge “Noala” Guerra. Three months ago he started in Mexicali which is very close to the US border and his destination is Cancun. He´s a musician, a surfer, a cyclist, a traveller simply an adventurous world spirit. His girlfirendis already in Tulum looking for a flat for the two of them. They´re going to stay there for half a year or so to see what the life is like in the south of Mexico. He joined us at the restaurant we´d just had lunch at and we spent almost 2 hours talking about almost everything. Yes, he speaks good English. It was about 3:30 when we decided to leave but before I let Jorge try mu bike. He almost fell. By the time we were ready to leave it was quarter past 4 and there was no point in going anywhere since it gets dark here just after 5. The decision was made to stay and camp on a beach in Santa Rosalia on the other side of the Laguna De Terminos. When we told him about our plans he suggested going into one of the loacal hotelsand asking how much a room for three would be.
Here I have to explain our financial situation. Nadya has a small one bedroom flat near Moscow which we rented out for exactly 15 000 Russian rubles. This is roughly 500 US dollars depending on the conversion rates. Apart from that Nadya had sold her car which brought in about 200 000 rubles. We gave half of it to her parentsand used a little bit of the second half to buy some equipment. The rest of it we want to keep for for the unforsen circumstances and the return flights to Europe. I used to make decent money in Moscow teaching English and I spent most of my savings on the equipment – the bikes, water filter, new tent etc. So here we are left with just 500$ US for a month. If you convert it to pesos it is roughly 6000 pesos. Divided by 30 days in a month we get a sum of 200 pesos per day for two people. This is enough for a night in a very cheap hostel/hotel but no food or any other things. That´s why we can´t afford staying in hotels.
We politely refused Jorge´s proposition even though he said it wouldn´t be more than 100 pesos per person. Few hours back we´d told him that this is sort of a honeymoon for us and now he suggested paying for us as a wedding gift. His situation is slightly different than ours. No, he´s not rich either but because he´s almost at the end of his journey ( only about 700 km to Cancun) he knows exactly how much he´s got left and how much he can spend. We gratefully accepted under one condition that it wouldn´t be more than 300 pesos for all three of us. When we come back home we´ll be the ones helping weary travellers.
Eventually we found a hotel with three beds in a room for 300 pesos. We all had showers and I taught Jorge how to make recycled wallets. We also gave him the felt earings that Nadya makes. After that we went out looking for Don Cruz – el brujo (wizard?)We found his house but the must have been asleep already. Back in the hotel room Jorge and I talked for a while and went to sleep around midnight.
The boys were up and out of town before us. After breakfast I cycled about 3 km searching for my flag but no luck again. That day we rode slightly less than 40 km to Champoton. The ride was very uneventful but for the stopat a remote beach wehre we found lots of coconut trees and after several unsuccessful attempts managed to get 3 of them. We ate one right there after which we peeled off the other two and took them for later.
In Champoton we spent the afternoon hanging around the main plaza. We were about to leave when I heard the call of mother nature. I walked around for about 20 minutes until someone told me to try the local market. I got there almost ready to drop it in my pants. I rushed into the first cabin and did what had to be done. What a relief!!! I had been given very little toilet paper which I was hoping to compensate for with some clean water. Surprise, surprise!!! No running water in the sink. It didn´t matter. I was just happy it didn´t end the other way.
We rode out of town and towards Sabancuy. In Champoton we had a choice of a shorter way through escarcegaon a very busy highway or a longer loop through Sabancuy and along the coast. The longer and more picturesque is what we chose and found ourselves a place to sleep at just 6km afterChampoton. We walked into a rodside restaurant to have some coffee and learnt that the owner speaks very good English. We talked for a while which led to some free beers and what´s more free shower. It was just a huge plastic barrell full of cold water but it helped anyway. Few hours earlier we noticed several palapas on the side of the road. We picked up one closest to the restaurant and put up our tent. Bad choice as it turned out. There was a road bump right in front of it and all the truckshad to slow down and gear up again after it. They made so much noise I could hardly imagine falling asleep. After a while we both miraculously did and slept soundly until the early morning.
We left Campeche well rested and full of energy for the next part of our trip. Our next stop was supposed to be Champoton but we only made it to Seybaplaya. When we crashed on a bench in the central park a group of 5 boys appeared out of nowhere. They showed us a nice beach 3 km outside the town where most tourists go to chill out. Since it´s winter here, there aren´t many of them. The beach is quite isolated with some palapas and surprisingly clean water. It was cold though. We stayed there for about an hour, collected some nice shells to make a picture and decided to head back to town. That´s when I realised that I´d lost my Slovak flag. Bummer!!! It made me feel a bit dispirited and I tried looking for it on the way back but to no avail and ever since I´d been riding flagless 😦
Back in town the boys took us to a hotel where we paid 20 pesos for showers. We rode past several boys fixing their bikes outside on of the houses. It turned out one of them lives there and the other were getting ready for their pilgrimage. 12 December is a big day for all the Catholics. The day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. During the weeks prior to 12 December a number of Roman Catholic Mexicans make their pilgrimages to nearby town and its churches. Some are running, some are cycling or biking and some go in big groups mainly on trucks. We´ve met quite a few different groups riding past but this was the first time we actually saw them leaving their hometown. They all collected outside the church on the main square and wer sayijng goodbye to their families and just about everyone.What really stroke me was when one of the boys put a huge statue (1.5m)on his shoulders and mounted his bike. First thing that crossed my mind was how on Earth is he going to cycle with that thing on his back? We´ve also talked to some of them before and learned that they usually do somthing between 300-600 km there and back. Anyway, few minutes later they were all gone, even the one with the statue of Virgin of Guadalupe on his back.
We were told we can put up our tent under the roof at Palacio Municipal. An hour later another group of cycling pilgrims arrived. Tehy parked under the same roof and went to church. They got back 15 minutes later. For the next 2 hours I was wondering where they were going to sleep since their luggage was really tiny and all they could have had there was 2 blankets at most. I was right. They all had a blanket or two and spread some of them on the tiled floor and used the other one to cover up with. I´m justy guessing but they must have been cold especially in the early morning. I woke up around 5 feeling chilly ´cause I hadn´t zipped up my sleeping bag. Anyway, around midnight all of us switched off the imaginary lights and went to sleep.
Campeche was mere 20 km away and we did it no time at all. As we rode into the town a beautiful cycle path was laid right in front of us and along the sea. We quickly found Plaza principal and send a text message to Octavio – our couchsurfing host. He came two hours later apologising that he´d stayed up late the night before and didn´t wake up until about half an hour ago. He took us to his spacious 3 bedroom flat only 10 minutes away from the centre. We were offered a couch in his living room along with all the comforts of his house – huge flat screen TV being one of them.
Campeche city is beautiful though a little bit dull. All the houses in the historical centre are painted in different colours by the municipality. However, they are only painted on the outside and as we later found out the insides can be quite monstrously empty or dilapidated. The Plaza principal is surrounded by a splendid church on one side and very picturesque buildings on the others. One thing that we´ve noticed in the centre is that there are very few advertising sings on houses, so you might be walking around looking for a cafe and unless you pass right in front of it you wouldn´t know that it´s there. I guess this has to do with the fact the the historical centre is part of UNESCO world heritage.
We stayed here for full 4 days. Most of the time we just lingered around. We went to the cinema. I spent two days trying to find medicine that is supposedly produced here in Mexico. I went to three different pharmacies but they didn´t even know what I was talking about. I later found out that you can only buy this medicine on the internet since it´s considered to be an alternative nutritious supplement.
On our third day we went to check the remnants of what once must have been a very effective defence system against pirate assaults – the city walls. Campeche is known as the walled city. In the past it used to be attacked by the pirates and buccaneers a lot and not always did the walls and fortifications help to protect it.
In the evening, we went to a very pleasant cafe of Chocol Ha recommended by Octavio. Chocol Ha means hot water in Maya language. This was our last evening in Campeche.
The alarm went off at 6 but it was really hard to get up. We eventually did and after little breakfast, a quick tour of the house we said hello and goodbye to Igor and his dad. We were out of town before 7.
Today we passed a number of small towns, none of them very interesting though. Except for Hacelchakan.
Hacelchakan main square/park
Igor recommended this place for breakfast – mainly pork and turkey sandwiches. There were a couple of fast food restaurants at the main square with a lot of people munching on their meaty brekfasts. We had one each and concluded they were very tasty. There are loads of stylishly cut trees in the main square, which help to create the atmosphere for a morning pork sandwich ;).
The next town, Pomuch, was the place we wanted to have our midday nap at. First we went to an open football field with a lot of boys playing football. They surrounded us but were so unpleasant that after a while we left. Few hundred meters down the road was a tiny stadium protected from the Sun by a huge roof above. We thought it was going to be a great place to rest at, especially because there were no people there. I even managed to doze off for an hour or so but then the same boys turned up and commenced a game of football. This was it. We quickly packed and moved on to find a quiet place most preferably in a shade. At the end of the town, there were some trees giving a lot of shade so we pulled our inner tent and set it up. No we didn’t get any sleep. It was too hot. Now, I understand why a hammock is a better option here, at least during the day. You catch every little breeze and it cools you down a bit. While in a tent you just sweat like a dog. We left an an hour later. Hot, hot and hot again. The last house of the town had some coconut trees right next to the road and after we checked there was no one at home, we shook off three big coconuts. We had two of them right there and took the third one for later. Tonight we’re sleeping in Hampolol, some 19 km before Campeche city. First time ever the Palacio Municipal was closed and they didn’t even have shower at the local police station. Luckily, we have our Advanced Elements camping shower(3 gallons model). We used the police toilet/shower (without shower) room to set it up and comfortably washed off the day’s dirt. After quick dinner they showed us a place next to the church where we were allowed to camp. Tonight is also the first time we are sleeping on grass rather than on a concrete floor.
Camping in Hampolol
It feels good. Tomorrow, we are going to ride to Campeche where we are already expected. We’re going to couchsurf again, this time with a guy called Octavio.
Even without Octavio, our plan was to stay here in Hampolol overnight, then go explore Campeche during the day and finally ride to the first village after Campeche to save money we’d have to pay for a hostel in Campeche. Nadya’s sleeping already and I’m ready to go to. It’s 10:30 pm.
We slept for 12 hours straight after which we felt a little bit refreshed but still far from full recovery. The breakfast was very nutritious, at least I’d like to think so. French baguette with real butter, some ham, cheese and coffee. We were going to take it easy today. First we cycled some 10 km to Grutas Calcehtok (Caves Calcehtok) and then wanted to do 13 more to Maxcanu. The first part was hard especially when we had to climb 2km up to the caves. Shame or not, we had to push the bikes. The legs just wouldn’t do it for us. The caves are huge.
Grutas Calcehtok entrance
They’re a former cenote, which dried up after a meteorite hit the ground not far from here and all the water disappeared. They are not really looked after. We went in with a local guy who had some head lamps to share with the visitors. I was surprised how much I actually understood of what he had to say. He explained that the caves were used by the Maya people as the last bastion against the conquering Spaniards.
He pointed out several defence walls and loads of pottery fragments left behind by the Mayans.
inside the caves
We walked around for about an hour and he showed us some pretty huge stalactites and stalagmites. The humidity inside the caves is incredible. You can actually see water floating in the air.
After the caves we rode down to the village of Calcehtok where we had lunch and were contemplating our options for the rest of the day. 13 km to Maxcanu was really hard to imagine, such great was our exhaustion. I think out of desperation, Nadya came up with an idea of energy drink and hoping it’ll do the miracle. It did, even though we didn’t know about it until we mounted our bikes again. The tiredness was gone. Not completely but our legs didn’t feel 100 kg each anymore. When we got to the point where we had to take a turn towards Maxcanu we quickly agreed on riding to the next town instead. The road was much better and wider so we could ride next to each other. We passed Calkini, which we thought was too big for camping at Palacio Municipal, and cycled to Dzitbalche 10 km further. Just before Calkini my speedometer showed 1000 km.
First 1000 kilometres
Our first thousand. I would’ve never said I’d get on a bike one day and ride such distance. It turned out they don’t have neither shower nor toilet at the Palacio Municipal. As always we were surrounded by a crowd of people and a number of questions were fired at us. One of the guys, Igor – Mexican not Russian, spoke decent English and showed us a hotel where we paid 20 pesos for a shower. We learnt that he’s a primary school teacher in Cancun and that’s the reason why he speaks English. After that, we found a ciber and he went home to ask his dad, if we could stay at their place for the night. He returned half an hour later to take us to his house. His father was already sleeping. They have the most beautiful house we’ve seen here so far. This is mainly because his dad is a carpenter and all their home furniture was handmade either by his dad himself or one of his employees. Igor’s mum passed away some 9 years ago, so we got to sleep in her room. The room was small and very simple but with a style. It was dominated by a double bed, though not long enough for my 185 cm. We slept like kings, at least that’s what it felt like.
Merida was far behind and we were cycling towards Uxmal – one of the two biggest Mayan archeological sites here in Yucatan peninsula. We rode 70 km that day until we came to Muna. It’s fairly big with a park full of birds (hundreds of them) right in the middle of the town. One of Nadya’s pedals literally fell apart and was holding together by one screw only, so we got a new pair and changed them right outside the shop. We slept at Palacio Municipal again but due to its size there are some offices that open at 7 and don’t close until after 10, which prevented us from setting up our usual sleeping arrangement until very late. Both of us feel that we’re in some kind of cycling crisis. Riding has become incredibly difficult and every kilometer feels like two.
We had a natural alarm clock at 5:30 – the birds singing their morning songs. It was amazing but for the tiredness. By 7:30 we were lagging up the steepest hill we’ve come across so far and were cursing the bicycles, Mexico, hills and everything else. Uxmal is only 17 km away from Muna but it took us more than hour and a half to get there.
Uxmal is really big and it’s well worth visiting.
The pyramids are much bigger than let’s say those at Ek ‘Balam. They look awesome in the midday Sun. There’s loads of Iguanas there.
I guess we were lucky because we found a big one which wasn’t scared of us and eventually ate some banana peel straight out of my hand. Also, if you ever visit this place watch out for the bats.
hundreds of little bats
In order to see them you need a flashlight because they are hiding in holes inside the pyramids. After about two hours of walking around, our stomachs announced themselves and we quickly headed to a nearby restaurant. After lunch we rode anther 30 km to Opichen – a small town on the way to Campeche. Altogether it makes 57 km but it felt like 200, really. We had some beer and were sleeping before 7. I hadn’t been so exhausted for years. The Palacio Municipal is probably the best one of all we’ve seen. There are two floors and we had the whole second one to ourselves with a view of an old church and the park.
We stayed here for 3 days. I have to say straight away that we didn’t do much sightseeing. We mostly relaxed at our hostel. Hostal La Casa del Tio Rafa (The house of uncle Rafa) is run by Barry, a Canadian who moved to Merida 11 years ago. We enjoyed that place tremendously, thanks to Barry mainly. The place owned by Barry along with his Mexican partner Rafa. Barry’s almost 60 years old. He´s full of life and has very charming personality. He’s got plenty of stories to tell and he’s a great listener, too. We spent a lot of time talking to him. The fact that he’s not an employee at the hostel makes a huge difference. He keeps it very clean and cozy. We highly recommend this place if you ever come to Merida.
First two nights we spent in a private room for the price of a dorm and the last two in the dorm but for a discount price of 75 pesos instead of 90 per person per night.
Merida is the capital of Yucatan state and the biggest city in the south of Mexico with its 800 000 inhabitants. It’s fulll of life. The fact that we didn’t do any tourist sightseeing doesn’t mean that we didn’t explore the city. There had been quite a few things on our agenda. We needed to buy a new headlamp, white gas for our stove, new shorts and a cap for me since the old one stayed at Tumbem Kuxtal. We also wanted to ship our hammocks back to Russia and get some decent maps of Campeche and Chiapas states, where we’re heading next. To accomplish all those things we had to go to different parts of town. Instead of cycling, we walked a lot and I can say that this is by far the most beautiful city we’ve seen so far. It has loads of huge haciendas, mansions that are sights on their own. The city is also full of tourists which contributes to its cosmopolitan atmosphere.
We left Chabihau early again. There’s not much to say about the cycling except that as we were approching Progresso, there was more and more life in villages. Maybe one more thing: the road got much wider after Telchac Puerto and we were able to ride next to each other because the shoulder was wide enough to do so. In Progresso, which is a biggish town on Mexican Gulff coast. We had some lunch and then moved next door for a cup of nice coffee. Our main task there was to withdraw some money since we almost run out of pesos in Xkalax and were counting every peso for the next 3 days. We got there with 40 pesos, enough to have lunch for two in a local fast food joint. While drinking our delicious coffee we got to talk to an American couple who live in Merida. Gosh, they are so scared of everything. They just kept telling us about all the negative, unusual and dangerous things here in Mexico. We made them buy four wallets and said good-bye. The decision was made to sleep in the last town before Merida to save some money. We reached Komchen at 5:30 and crashed on a bench near Palacio Municipal. It turned out that there was going to be a concert that night organizad by the Evangelical Church. The guy who organized the event offered us his house to stay at under one condition – that we wait until it finishes . We were drained but there was nothing else we could do. 5 o’clock wake up and 90 km that day did its job. Nadya literally fell asleep on my lap and I could hardly keep my eyes open. After the concert people started dispersing to their homes (around 10:30), one of them, Tomas, suggested that we stay at his place instead. We were so tired we’d have agreed to anything just to be able to go to sleep. We followed his car to his house and after a short talk went straight to bed. In his house, they use fans to blow the mosquitos away while they’re sleeping. They are noisy though, and I can’t say that either of us had a good sleep. In the morning we learnt that they took us in because they’re deeply religious people and believe in helping others. We said ¡adiós at 10 and cycled off towards Merida.