The ruins at Ek Balam, near Valladolid, Yucatan


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Page 10: The End of our Cycling Tour, February 16 - 18

On February 16, early in the the morning after our arrival near Bonompak, Wally lay awake brooding about our next move. We were in agreement that we should not ride the bikes farther along our planned route. The failure of our blown-out, patched tire was certain, with no replacement at all, and we might be stranded in areas with sketchy public transportation.

Barbara did not want to skip Las Guacamayas and Las Nubes in the Lacondon jungle. However, Wally was worried that it might be difficult, and would certainly be a lot of hassle, to travel for several days with bikes we couldn't ride four big panniers and 2 more rack bags.

Finally we agreed (amicably) to give up and return to Palenque by van. We were able to cycle a few kilometers back to the main road and flag down a combi. The bikes went on the roof (left).

The ride back to Palenque in a van with the driver, 12 adults and two children, was really wild; the driver was a speed demon. We made it back safely in time to catch a bus to San Cristobal de las Casas.

The road from Palenque to San Cristobal is incredibly hilly, twisty, and stunningly beautiful. Our bus ride was marked by one long drawn-out event. Just before Agua Azul, we ran into a Zapatista roadblock. Actually we ran into a very long line of buses, cars and trucks and were stuck for nearly an hour. None of the Mexicans seemed the least bit concerned. We saw a few Zapatistas in non-descript, vaguely military uniforms strolling up and down the long line of vehicles, mostly smiling and chatting. Eventually we walked up the line ourselves to see the actual roadblock. As we approached, we noticed lots of chickens being grilled by the side of the road. Just as we passed the Agua Azul turnoff, everyone started rushing back to their vehicles. The roadblock was being lifted, and we were moving on.

I had wanted to photograph the roadblock. I don't think the Zapatistas mind a little publicity, but I was able to get only one vague shot out the dirty window of the bus (right). At the roadblock, we saw just one Zapatista man with a gun — all the others were unarmed, but we suppose someone needed a gun in order to stop traffic in the first place! We went by too fast for a photo of him, which may have been just as well. As we passed through, we noticed that all the grilled chickens were gone. Perhaps when the food ran out, the Zapatistas decided it was time to call it a day.

Before dark we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas. It's a beautiful town, popular with travelers, high enough in the mountains to be chilly at night, and sometimes even in the daytime in winter. It's a wonderful town for walking. One day we got quite far away from the main tourist areas, and we were pleasantly surprised to see that San Cristobal, everywhere, is one of the neatest, cleanest towns we have ever visited.

Left, heading away from the historic center. Below left, Avenida Real Guadelupe, in the heart of the popular tourist area. We stayed at the inexpensive Posada San Antonio on this street — basic but clean, with a nice staff, wireless internet, and the best shower we've enjoyed in weeks! Below right, the same street on the night of the full moon.


We called on Rod Alfonso and his wife Hileana, the son and daughter-in-law of a friend from Woodstock, Vermont. They operate The Kitsch & Bagel, a popular restaurant, and La Posada del Abuelito, a little hotel.

In fact, we'd aimed to stay at their posada when we arrived in town, but we had only the address of their restaurant, and it happened to be closed and getting dark. Anyway, we met Hileana at the Kitsch & Bagel the next day, and she and Rod kindly agreed to store our bikes until April.

We had a day to kill, waiting for our overnight bus, and Barbara went on one of her very infrequent shopping sprees. It was the right thing to do, because San Cristobal has wonderful arts and crafts. Below left, Barbara prowling through the famous crafts market at Ex Convento Santo Domingo.

Right, a woman in the market works on the beautiful embroidery for which Chiapas is known.


We enjoyed San Cristobal so much that we'll try to spend a little time there when we come back for the bikes, and we hope next time to stay at Rod and Hileana's posada. Below, the cathedral at San Cristobal in the evening.

As a bike tour, this was only partly successful, because the tour ended about a one week and a couple of hundred miles sooner than we had planned. However, we saw some wonderful places. And the end of our cycling was by no means the end of our trip. We left San Cristobal on Friday evening, February 18, on the overnight bus to Pochutla, Oaxaca. Arriving a week early at the beach consoled us for the things we missed.

On the next few pages, we'll show our favorite hangout on the Oaxaca coast, then some more traveling around San Cristobal, and finally a visit to Isla Mujeres, just off the coast by Cancun.

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