Bacalar - Uxmal (the agouti trail) - Triplogue

Thursday, 2 January 1997, Merida to Izamal, 50 miles

Mexico seemed so dull after Cuba, full of cars and outrageously prosperous. The cars in and around Merida were a plague, but I have to admit the Whoppers we scarfed down at Burger King in Wannabuyahammock Square tasted pretty good.

Our goal for the day was Izamal –a flat, featureless ride through fields of agave. Even though we fought the wind the whole way and didn’t set off until the heat of noon, the ride seemed pretty painless. It didn’t take us long to figure out that the pope had visited Izamal a few years earlier. There were faded newspaper clippings framed and hung everywhere, and the entire town had been sanitized and painted a signature shade of yellow. We found a funny little motel in the outskirts of town, run by a guy who collected animals. Outside our door there was a monkey tied to a tree and some owls in a cage. The room next to us was occupied by an unfriendly middle-aged homo couple from Italy. They had passed us in their car several times during the days ride, but seemed entirely oblivious to us when we rolled into Izamal.

After a glorious shower, we did the tourist thing, visiting first the huge convent that Izamal is famous for, and then the towering Mayan pyramid which commanded a view for many miles; one could even see Chichen Itza, some forty miles away.

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This is not an aqueduct, but the Pope thought it was

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Mexicans trying to explain Mayan culture dubbed this observatory the "Snail"; go figure.


Friday, 3 January 1997, Izamal to Chichen-Itza, 49 miles

We got an early start the next day in order to visit the ruins of Chichen-Itza in the afternoon; even the monkey was still asleep. At dawn we carboloaded with tacolike things (so many Mexican food names, and they seem to vary from town to town) in the marketplace and hit the road. Our goal was to get as many miles under our belts as we could before the wind kicked up. At about mile 15, before 8am, it hit, perhaps stronger than previous days and coming straight at us.

The first town out of Izamal was painted with the same yellow paint that must have been left over from the pope’s visit. In the second village we stopped for refrescos on the plaza and mused upon Coca Cola’s ingenious –and ubiquitous advertising in Mexico. Here the road to Chichen-Itza split off, becoming a roller-coaster affair which buckled and twisted through the undergrowth –a hell of a lot more fun than yesterday’s ride. I nearly got flattened by a pair of horses dashing across the road in a topetown called Quintana Roo. Other roadside sightings include no fewer than two freshly-squished foxes (extraordinary considering the dearth of traffic), several hunters on their bikes with their hounds following, and endless miles of stone fences enclosing fields of agave. In Dzitas we turned towards the South and got serious relief from the headwind. About ten miles down the (undulating) road we crossed the super highway connecting Cancun to Merida, and we were instantly transported from Mexico unto some other place. Car after car zoomed by us towards the famous ruins, each with a license plate proclaiming "Avis", "Budget" or "Thrifty." The hurriedness of the cars’ occupants was almost palpable as they tried to squeeze as much as possible into one day before heading back to Cancun.

The we entered Piste, a Mexican village that is far from typical, deluged with screaming billboards, tour buses and high-speed traffic. The unpleasantness of the polace teamed up with the intensity of the sun to make me headachey and cranky. Compounding this was the enervating process of finding our intended hotel, the Mayaland. It involved asking many people and backtracking a couple of times, and when we finally reached the "reception area", it was nothing more than a palapa and a guy with a walkie-talkie. He told us to wait and we felt stupid. But after a while we were able to follow a golf cart to the actual reception area. Within thirty excruciating minutes we were in our glamorous room overlooking the ruins. A swim, lunch and a couple of beers made me feel much better, but I still didn’t have it in me to be a tourist, so I sent Fred out to scope it out while I basked in soliturde. He returned far earlier than I had anticipated, though, and dragged me through an illegal entrance to the site, displaying more energy and sparkling attitude than was fair.

Saturday, 4 January 1997, Chichen-Itza to Valladolid, 32 miles

The next morning we sneaked into the ruins and had them to ourselves for over an hour. I was impressed by the extent of the restorations and the carvings. After a few hours, though, we felt like we had pretty much seen the place, and headed back to our hotel to pack and jump on our bikes.

The road to Valladolid was a nightmare, heavily-trafficked and without a shoulder. The headwind felt especially brutal under these conditions. An underground swimming hole was a welcome stop along the way, although I could have dealt without the urchins in the parking lot screaming "watch bicycle!" and scamming for pesos. Valladolid itself didn’t seem like anything special, but it was crowded with daytrippers from Cancun seeking the "real Mexico." We had read that the road from here to Cancun wasn’t a viable option for cyclists and booked passage on the next available bus, some three hours later. To kill time we checked out the Cenote Azul in the center of town, and had a lengthy repast in a café which looked over it, periodically checking to see that our bikes weren’t being molested by the scruffy youths hanging out in the parking lot.

Cancun was like a bad dream, full of speeding cars, fat tourists and fast-food restaurants. Upon arriving we were approached by a Frenchman who proposed a room nearby. He didn’t balk for an instant when I told him we’d prefer a room with a big bed. We thought we’d check out the homo scene that night, but I was unable to find the page I’d ripped out of the Spartacus Guide, and I took it as a sign that we needed an early night’s sleep anyway.

5-8 January 1997, Isla Mujeres, 42 miles

We watched the sun rise over the high-rises of Cancun’s "Zona Hotelera" from our place’s breakfast room before hitting the road. The ferry ride to Isla Mujeres didn’t take long, and since we’d be staying there for three nights, we were more particular than usual in our selection of a room. We scored big-time with the Rocamor, a funky little place perched above the crashing surf. We quickly learned that the place to be on Isla Mujeres was on the beach (which even included a homoesque section full of smiling rent-a-boys), where we spent the better part of four torpid days vainly trying to fill in the gaps of our cyclists’ tans and familiarizing ourselves with the geography of the local happy hours.

On our first full day on the tiny island, we exhausted the place’s touring and cycling possibilities by 11am, having visited the lame Mayan ruin and a nearby snorkeling spot at the opposite tip. After that, it didn’t take us long for us to learn that neither of us is cut out for beach vacations. The days seemed excruciatingly long for want of things to do. Reading, writing and drinking were our chief activities on Isla Mujeres. I suppose we attained our goal of decompressing after so many days of riding, but I think we both would have preferred more riding.

We were almost relieved when the day came to leave for the airport. I was intent on getting there by bike, while Fred kept wailing about a taxi. Our extremely limited funds necessitated the former option, though the pedal through the heinous Hotel Zone against an evil wind under threatening skies was anything but fun. It seemed to take forever; indeed, we were late checking in. The woman at the counter charged me for both the boxes and the transport of the bikes, and I was too tired to argue with her.

On the plane back home, I could think of little else but our next bike trip.

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ahhhhhh! The view from the Rocamor.

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