The ruins at Ek Balam, near Valladolid, Yucatan


Pages  1  |  2 |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7 |  8  |  9 |  10 |  11 |  12

Page 9: Carretera Fronteriza, February 14 and 15


February 14 is our granddaughter Nicole's birthday. We were far from telephones and the Internet. Nicole, when you finally see this web page, know that we wished you a super happy birthday, and we send you loads of love. (Presents must wait till our return.)

Nicole right with sister Jasmine in the bucket of Dad's excavator

Barbara and I didn't agree entirely about whether to do this route. I'd originally planned it, but then a number of issues worried me. The road, as its name implies, runs parallel to the Guatemalan border, and a Mexican cycle-tour leader from San Cristobal de las Casas urged us not to do it because of security concerns. Also, I had read a description on a website of long, dull stretches through largely deforested countryside. Finally, accommodation on the carretera is sparse.

However, Barbara was undaunted and clearly wanted to push on. So of course we pushed on. Everyone we asked in Palenque said the road was safe enough, and we figured that we'd find accommodation when we needed it.

Monday, the first day, was a magnificent surprise, the most beautiful day of cycling we've enjoyed on this trip, perhaps on any of our tours in Mexico. Getting away from Palenque was difficult. We needed to start on the road toward Ocosingo and San Cristobal, and it was HILLY. At one point I suggested we might want to consider riding back, downhill, to Palenque and taking a bus, but we persisted. The photo below left is on that road, though obviously not on a big hill. After about 13 kilometers we turned onto the Carretera Fronteriza, there was almost no traffic, and it was just beautiful, below right.

The Carretera Fronteriza was by no means flat; in fact there were a few substantial climbs, but also great descents, and it was nothing like as tough as the road from Palenque to San Cristobal — which I now believe we could not have done. I seemed to be taking photos every few minutes. Below are a couple more.

About 20 kilometers along the Carretera Fronteriza, we turned off to visit a waterfall, Wejlib-Ha .There were good places for swimming, but it was still a beautiful, cool morning, and we weren't motivated to jump in.


Right, part of the falls of Wejlib-Ha

Below, cycling a rough lane back to the carretera

Somewhere along the day's ride Barbara had a blowout. It was the same tire that she probably damaged at Chichen Itza, it had blown once before, and I'd already patched it once on the inside, so I threw it away and mounted the first of our two spares.

Also, somewhere along the way we realized that we were in Zapatista territory. We cleverly inferred this from the sign on the right, which says,roughly, "You are in Zapatista rebel territory. Here the people lead and government obeys. Trafficing in arms, growing or consuming drugs, selling intoxicating drinks, illegal trafficing in wood, and destruction of nature are strictly forbidden."

We stayed the first night in a little hotel that was not in any guidebook, nor could we find anything about it on the internet. It was Hotel Camino Verde in Ricardo Flores Magon, an ejido (communal village) that is not even a dot on any map we've seen. It was soon after kilometer 54 on the Carretera Fronteriza, about 68 kilometers (42 miles) from our start in Palenque. The only reason we knew of its existence was an image Wally found by searching along the road on Google Maps. The hotel was there, below left, just as Google pictured it, cheap, clean, and run by a very pleasant lady. Although our room was bare-bones, it had good beds, and there was a comfortable and attractive living area just down the hall, below right. There was even a restaurant downstairs where we had dinner.

Before dinner we walked around the dirt lanes in the village. There was a little store, a school with children practicing soccer drills, and tiny houses with chickens and pigs here and there. We also visited a little vivero, plant nursery, cultivated by the same lady who ran the hotel.

The second day of our ride along the Carretera Fronteriza began well but ended badly. Below, we were off around dawn, and it was a beautiful morning.

At first the cycling was fairly easy, but about 40 kilometers into the ride, there were reasonably difficult climbs, as the road cut through a range of hills. Fortunately it had become mostly cloudy, so heat wasn't a problem.

We almost skipped the Carretera Fronteriza because of all the comments to the effect, "Oh, Chiapas, that's too dangerous." But one hears this about all of Mexico, and it's not a fair generalization, even if there are serious problems here and there. We found nothing but friendliness (and occasional laughter at our strange bikes) everywhere we went, including the Carretera Fronteriza. Had we been deterred by needless worries, we never would have experienced the scene below.

The first sign of trouble was when Wally's front tire blew. The tire looked pretty bad; there were places where we could see frayed fabric. So we mounted our second (last) spare tire on Wally's bike. Still, we kept the blown one since we had no further spares and we hoped it could be patched in a dire situation.

The dire situation arose just an hour later. We reached the turnoff to Bonompak and Lacanja Chansayab, a Lacondon village with accommodation where we hoped to stay. We made the turn, rode a few kilometers, and Wally's rear tire blew. It was in terrible shape, worse than the front tire. In hindsight it's obvious that we were remiss not to have been checking the tires all along, but we have ridden literally thousands of miles on the same model tire on other bikes, and they've never failed.

At this point we had no spare left at all. We tried a patch on the inside of the tire that had blown just an hour before. We also added two 20 peso notes to the weakest spots on the inside of the tire. In sum, three tires failed before we had gone 1,000 miles, and we had brought only two spares!.The roads had not been bad at all.

We had to stop at the first little restaurant with cabanas that we found. It was run by a Lacondon co-op. When we went to bed, we weren't quite certain what would come next.

<< Previous page         Next page >>


Pages  1  |  2 |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7 |  8  |  9 |  10 |  11 |  12