Five days ago we tore out of Cuernavaca and haven’t stopped to catch our breath since. Aside from a one-day layover in Oaxaca, Alex and I have been burning fuel on a mad tear. According to my odometer, that’s somewhere around 1,300 miles in six days; all of it in 85F+ degree weather. I’ve been wearing the same outfit since we left and the smell is getting unbearable. I would change, but I only have three shirts and I want something to get into when we finally do stop.
It’s been a good ride. Great roads, breathtaking views, and constantly evolving scenery. Tuesday took us back into the jungle, but in a much more rural setting than we had yet seen. We plotted a route on Google that meandered towards the Caribbean and went for it. The first 120 miles took over four hours as we crossed the same mountain range yet again making our way north. We rode through town after town full of subsistence farming across some of the strangest fields I have seen. Old man steering a donkey pulling a wooden plow with a wooden yoke up a hill? Yes. And we are riding through on $5,500 dirt bikes with all the conveniences money can afford… and bitching about the heat.
The actual rode was again amazing. The trees often grew overhead and sometimes within several feet of my helmet as I whizzed underneath them. With no shoulders and no shoulder maintenance, the jungle grows up very high as soon as the tarmac ends at the white line. Although it doesn’t seem very safe, it absolutely immerses the rider in the jungle. The long overhanging cliff bands had the same effect. At one point we rode through a canyon the width of two lanes with vertical rock faces towering up on both sides; there were vines hanging in all directions. If it were a movie, I would have grabbed a vine from the bike and swung up into the next adventure (but I don’t think my traveler’s insurance would cover Tarzan acrobatics injuries).
Near the end were some of the worst road conditions I’ve seen in Mexico. While following a river gully at times there would be an entire lane missing. Thankfully, the Mexican government had actually put up some warning signs before we came flying around the corner. There were also sporadic sections of dirt and gravel throughout the last 25 miles with deep potholes thrown into the mix. We ride these bikes because they were built for such conditions, but it’s still nerve-wracking to realize at 60mph that the section twenty feet away is suddenly changing to dirt and rock. Just slam on the brakes, downshift as many times as possible, and then begin the balancing act.
Eventually we came out of the mountains and we haven’t seen them since. Outside of a small town called Teapa we finally hit a main highway and started making better time. Tuesday night Al and I ended up in Ciudad del Carmen. The city is on the end of a long spit on the Caribbean coast and its main industry seems to be oil. We talked to an oiler during dinner who works on the rigs; he likes his two weeks on, two weeks off gig and he’s paid very well for Mexican wages.
Riding in the sun all day exhausts me. Al and I woke up at 6:00am Tuesday morning and went to bed at 10:00pm. We passed the evening resting, facebooking, and drinking over a gallon of water each.
6:00am this morning I still wasn’t ready to get out of bed. We waited until 7:00am and then geared up. It was 80F degrees when we left at 7:45am from Ciudad del Carmen. Twenty minutes into the ride my turns weren’t feeling very dialed. I looked at my rear tire and of course it was nearly flat. The old Shinko probably had a few hundred miles left on it, but there on the side of the road seemed like as good of a place as any to finally put on my brand new Pirelli. With just one calculated and deliberately slow try, I got the new tire on with a brand new tube inside. Al helped me out at the end to make sure we didn’t start the pinching madness. It only took forty minutes!
After that we were moving again towards Chetumal. We have been debating the Yucatan for weeks now and we finally decided to compromise on it after Eddy and Lizzie told us it was a must-see. Instead of going up and around through Merida, Cancun, and Playa del Carmen, we are cutting straight across the base to the eastern coast and then heading north. Today we did the bee line to the east coast and we’re staying in a hostel here in Chetumal. Tomorrow we are going three hours north to a traveler’s paradise called Tulum. Tulum is a couple hours south of Cancun and apparently a much better alternative than the spring break party up north (not that I have a problem with spring break). The word is sandy beaches, crystal clear water, and plenty of tiki bars in Tulum.
Today the ride across quickly jumped into the triple digit temperatures. Forget about wetting the undershirts, Alex and I used the gas station water hoses to completely douse ourselves inside and out today. The ride was pretty tame, although at one point we were riding through flurry of butterflies. The butterflies were everywhere in every direction; and at 60mph, that includes splattered across my sunglasses several times. It’s quite traumatic cruising along only to have my depth perception stolen away by a huge winged insect sprawled across my lens. I wiped him away, but his guts were glazed over my glasses and were spewing onto my face. I pulled over, cleaned everything up, and put my visor down after that.
Tomorrow in Tulum we will take a well-deserved break. Aside from relaxing on the beach, we need to change oil and buy some gas cans for Belize (we don’t plan to pay $10/gallon). After that, we will backtrack back through Chetumal and into Belize. Eddy and Lizzie are not far south and it would be great to shack up with them again.
It’s good to be here in Pirateland. So far the Caribbean is everything the movies portrayed. Lots of sandals, palm thatch palapa huts, and pristine beaches. We’ve only been buzzing through so tomorrow I intend to add ice cold beer to the scenario and really let it set in.
It’s windy here on the beach… I can only hope there is some windsurfing coming my way. I know it’s somewhere out there; my former boss JaK from Hood River, OR is currently looking into wind business opportunities in Belize. Alex wants to go work the mines in Australia when this is all over. I just keep thinking about the Columbia River Gorge.