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
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.
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
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