Wednesday, 1 December 2010

At least my arse was happy!

On Wednesday the 1st of December after spending 26 days or so in Flores it was time to leave.

With an overpriced ruck-sac on my back, a small day bag in my left hand and a “cardboard box” covered in duct tape weighing in at over 20 kilos in my right hand I walked from where I was staying to the tour company offices and waited for the minibus. Thankfully it was only about 200m but it was far enough for my right hand to start to hate me!

The minibus turned up and by the time all the gringos had been picked up it was certainly full! Thankfully I had a window seat so I could at least have “the wind in my face” as the bus travelled towards the mountain town of Coban.

The 1st half of the journey was along a flat road with a dodgy river crossing on a makeshift ferry at the town of Sayaxche at the mid point. About an hour later the mountains appeared and the road started to twist and turn uphill. Some of the gradients were steep enough that if I had been on my bike, I would of struggled to push the bike up them, let alone cycle!

As we continued the temperature dropped and the rain drizzled down. The bus stopped in the small town of Chisec for a fag break and the only part of my body that was happy was my arse! Everything else was demanding to be stretched. Whilst I was standing around enjoying the view and the sweet taste of a full fat marlboro I felt a soft touch against my lower arm. Turns out a couple of young kids were “fascinated” by my hairy arms....

Finally after 6-7 hours on the road I reached Coban and it was raining. This was bad news for the cardboard box! 50 metres from the bus park was a business hotel (it was also the nearest) so I thought “damn the expense” it will have to do. Turns out it was super cheap, Q110 a night, en-suite room with cable TV, a huge bed and free wifi....bargain!

I spent two nights in Coban, it may of stopped raining at some point but if it did I was probably watching TV.

On Friday the 3rd of December I got onto another “tourist minibus” and spent several shitty hours on the road to Antigua. We passed through Guatemala city, which was nice because now I can say I've been there (its a shithole of a place...think certain parts of south London!). I got to Antigua just before 5pm and got a room in the Ummagumma hostel. For Q50 a night I have a room with 4 walls, a ceiling and a floor but with no windows...which isn't a problem for me. I also have the joy of a shared bathroom and a somewhat run-down looking rooftop bar where the local “herb” was on display later on in the evening. It also has free WiFi which is a bonus.

After a few hours of chilling out I decided that as it was a Friday night I would go and hang out in the local Irish! It's closed down, so instead I went for a bimble along cobbled streets and passed painted houses. Eventually I found myself in a bar called “Reds” and it was an okay place till I discovered how much they were charging for a beer (Q22 for a bottle is a little overpriced). So I headed back to the rooftop bar at the hostel where the beer is just as cold but is a more reasonable Q15 a bottle.

I have no idea how long I will be staying here but on Monday I'll be spending thousands of Quetzales in the local DHL office to send my bike back to England.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

bugger....not again!

Wednesday 24th of November

So, this looks like this could be the end...once again I stop turning the pedals before I want to. The last time it was down to the threat posed by packs of feral dogs in Turkey. This time its down to a particular bit of my body letting the side down.......Damn you right knee!!!!

Which is surprising really because I thought that if did happen it would have been my left knee (given the fact that all it does is creak) or my ankle or possibly even my arse! I guess that it could just be old age or maybe when I “landed” my paraglider last year I damaged it without realising, I mean I was in quite a bit of pain at the time.

As to what has gone wrong...when I load my knee there is pain directly behind the kneecap and along the sides of the knee. Not a huge amount of pain but enough to make me go “mmm”. So as you can imagine cycling up a hill is going to increase the problem (walking up and down the temples in Tikal didn't help much either) and the knee will only get worse. The last thing I want to happen is for it to suffer a catastrophic failure halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere. (and then have to return to England for surgery and months of rehabilitation because I have really gone off sofas). It could happen 1000 miles from now, maybe 500 miles or even on the second climb of the 1st day back on the road

Now I could carry on with the bike, taking it easy by using a bus to travel up all the gradients and only cycling along the easier “flatter sections” but have you looked at a topographical map of Central America recently!

Right now I am still in Flores and I was planning to go out on the bike tomorrow for a easy 20 miles just to finally make up my mind. However I don't think it is absolutely necessary because earlier today after seeing the local “bone man” for treatment I walked into the centre of Flores. This meant walking up an short but slightly steep incline for about 50m. When I reached the top my knee was telling me all I needed to know.

Now comes the swearing.......for fuck's sake what a cunt my knee fucking truly is. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. God damn motherfucking knee why the fuck did this have to happen. What a bastard, what a complete and utter fucking bastard! Fuck you knee!

Thursday the 25th of November.

This morning I went out on the bike for what could be the last time. I headed towards the town of San Andreas because I knew the road. The 1st 8 miles were flat and easy and it allowed me to get nicely warmed up before I crossed the river. Once over the river the road started to go uphill for about 4 miles to the town of San Andreas. I was thinking that by the time I reached the town I would have my answer, well it turns out that I got my answer after about 1 mile.

I sat down at the side of the road and said to myself “oh well it was fun while it lasted”. Even with an unladen bike my knee didn't want to cope with the strain. The ride back into Flores was a slow affair, I wasn't in a rush and this was “THE LAST RIDE”.

With time to think I came up with a cunning plan for South America starting next spring!

Mind you it could be worse, I mean, I could just be reading this whilst clock watching on a Friday afternoon at work....Man, that would really be depressing!

A few days before all this happened I was having my usual breakfast in the Cool Beans café when I wondered where Alain was. I thought that maybe he would be nearing the Guatemalan border soon. After a short while of trying to remember his website ( I saw that his latest entry was from San Ignacio! An hour after sending him an email I got a reply. He was actually in Flores!

It was cool to see him again (and once again laugh at the amount of gear he was carrying) and a few days later Christmas came early for Alain. A lot of my gear isn't worth shipping back to England as the resale value is to low and the shipping costs are high, so Alain got his hands on 4 pannier bags (his were held together with duck tape) and several other bits and bobs. He was a very happy chap!

As for me it's now Sunday (the 28th) and I never thought that it would be this difficult to get my hands on a large cardboard box

Monday, 1 November 2010

Hello Guatemala

After a really good 10 nights in San Ignacio it was time to leave the town and the country of Belize and go and say hello to Guatemala.

I left the hotel just after 8am and cycled 30 metres down the road to the café. I had an extra large “breakfast of champions” and as the hour approached 9am I put my crash helmet on and started cycling to the border. 10 minutes later I was off the bike as the ¾ mile climb out of town was to steep to do this early! At the top I was back on the saddle and the rolling countryside was pleasant and the tarmac was smooth.

Just over an hour later I reached the border town of Benque and had a long and lazy rehydration stop...there was no rush. Leaving the town behind the border wasn't far away and once the small climb was conquered I free wheeled to passport control.

The formalities were just that and the Belizean exit tax was 3 times more than the fee for the Guatemala visa...sometimes that's just the way it is!

Once I was officially in Guatemala I crossed the river into the border town of Melchor and found a hotel on the main highway at the top of the hill. It only cost Q150 a night (there are 12 of those to £1) and it seemed nice enough. As soon as I had checked in the 1st thing I did was walk across the road to the convenience store attached to the petrol station. The only down side to hanging out in Belize is a complete lack of marlboro cigarettes....I had missed them so much!!!

From here its about 100kms to Flores, which might be to far for me right now (in the last 52 days I have spent 7 days on the bike covering a massive 230 miles) and I also have no idea what the terrain is like. However 40 miles down the road on the north-east shore of lake Petan is the small village of El Remate which has many I have a choice.

After a relaxing nights sleep I was on the road just after 7am and going out of town it was smooth and flat but I had an idea that it would soon be changing....and sure enough it did! I was passing through woodland and grazing pastures as the road meandered up, down and around the rolling countryside and an hour into the day I had my 1st “damn I really am an unfit bastard” climb. It was short but the 1st section was way too steep for me, so I got off the bike and walked it! Back on the saddle I managed the downhill section with ease and carried on.

Another hour passed and the 2nd climb presented itself. It was only about 1 mile in length but it was done sitting on the saddle....yippee!

By 10:30 I was half way there and so I had a long relaxing stop and enjoyed the very cold bottles of coke.

Carrying on the road continued to go up and down but as I was heading towards a lake I thought that at some point the road would head downhill. At the crest of each steep little rise I told myself “that's the last one it's downhill all the way from here” and after saying that countless times it turned out to be true......but only for about 1km, then it stayed flat.

Turning right onto the Tikal road I cruised the few miles to the village of El Remate on the north-east shore of lake Petan, I quickly found out that there was no ATM but the place I decided to stay at took visa....which is why I was staying there because my wallet was lacking in Quetzales. It costs Q205 a night which includes either breakfast or dinner and the room is nice with a bench and hammock outside in the shade. The large garden is well maintained and it also has great views of the lake and the sunsets here are fabulous.

On Thursday , after spending a full day in the hammock, I was back on the road to Flores. There were two roads to the small island town, one was south for 35kms and the other went around the lake and was 10 miles longer....I chose the latter!

The morning was overcast with low grey clouds blocking out the warmth of the sun and it was a chilly 22oc, it felt so good! Leaving the hotel with a small gift of a carved wooden toucan from the owner I turned left and headed around the lake. Two corners and 800m later the tarmac ran out and I wouldn't being seeing it again for another 15 miles.

The dirt road was bouncy, full of potholes and lots of sharp pointy fist sized rocks poking up through the mud and gravel. At least the road was quiet so that when I was weaving my way all across the road I didn't have to worry about traffic. Several times along the road it pitched skyward at such an angle that even if it had been tarmacked I would of struggled. The fact that the road resembled a washed out river course meant that I was off the bike pushing its heavy weight up the road whilst becoming weaker with every footfall.

There were several small villages along the road and I came to the conclusion that a gringo on a bike was definitely a curious sight to behold.

Finally after 3.5 hours of sweat and toil I turned a corner and there before me was sweet beautiful tarmac! Stopping at roadside shop for a well earned long rest, I was sucking down my 2nd ice cold gaterorade when I became the unwitting goal of a game that the gang of small kids had just invented called “poke the gringo” :)

Back on the saddle there was a steep downhill blast to the village of San Jose before a longer climb up to and through the village of San Andres. Cresting the rise I stopped pedalling and enjoyed the 3 mile free wheel to the river. There is nothing better than sitting on the bike with stationary pedals as the speedo hits 30mph.

Crossing the river it was about 7 miles to Flores along a flat road with just a hint of a tail wind

On the lake shore opposite the island is the town of Santa Elena where you will find not a single signpost to let you know which way it is to Flores but I went with the flow and guessed correctly when it was time to turn left. I crossed the causeway and found a gringo hotel on the edge of town (it only takes 10 minutes to walk across the town and therefore the island) that charged Q50 a night for an okay room (after Belize I think it's time to reduce my hotel bills).

I had only cycled 32 miles today but I was wiped out. However the bar downstairs is open till midnight so I should be able to recover.

In the morning it was overcast and cold enough for me to wear my fleece....happy days are here again!!!! After a lazy breakfast I was sitting on the terrace with a great view of the lake when it stared to rain....damn, it's like being back in England!

Come Monday morning this old dog is about to learn a new trick

The next day was Saturday and after having lunch in the Café Yaxha (these are the guys that took my money for next weeks Spanish lessons) the German owner mentioned that the local football team was playing in the afternoon and would I like to go...hell yeah! Jumping out of the tuk tuk with about 15 minutes to go before kick off we all found a place in the stand and waited. The team play in the 2nd division (think Slough Town quality) and the small pitch was surrounded by a 10ft high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire whilst a small contingent of soldiers lurked in the shade. Personally I thought it was a slight overkill...

With 10 minutes to go to half time the home team were 3-0 up and the opposition were suddenly down to 10 men after a really bad “studs up” challenge ended in a straight red card. Now the chain link fence made sense....In the 2nd half the home team were taking it easy but with less than 10 minutes left to go, 2 quick goals by the away side woke them up. They managed to “hang on” for the win.

Sunday morning found me having breakfast at café Yaxha before going on a full days tour to a couple of Mayan sites. Both of them were on the road to Belize so it was a case of deja a vu. The 1st site was called La Blanca and it was only about 10kms from the border. It was different to any other ancient site I've been to because the archaeologist only started their excavations here six years ago and are still on site today. New discoveries are being made everyday, like the skeleton they found yesterday. Our guide loved his job (although he never called it that!) and his enthusiasm was infectious.

After a slow bimble around the site lunch was provided by one of the local families. They take it in turns throughout the week to feed the staff working on the site and the tourists that come and visit. Then it was back in the minibus heading away from the border towards the next site. This gave me the chance to stick my head out of the window, like every dog seems to do, as the minibus made its way up the climb that tortured me 6 days before....damn, its a lot easier with an engine!

Several miles down a dirt side road was the Mayan site of Yaxha. Its located on the shores of a lake and there are literally hundreds of buildings. Most of them are still tree covered mounds but the ones that they have excavated and restored (which costs a lot of money to do and then look after and guard) are pretty awesome.

Moving through the site with foxes, woodpeckers, turkeys, butterflies and howler monkeys for company (plus one or two mosquitoes) we walked along dappled sunlit paths from one temple or palace to another. A few of the taller un-restored “hills” had wooden steps snaking up their flanks, the views were fanwowtastic. However, the guide, who has been here before, saved the best till last.

Climbing up the wooden steps that went up the side of the large fully restored temple (but with I ain't going up those stone steps on the front) you finally got to the top and as you were getting your breath back the views took it away again....

Right now it's Tuesday of Martes as the Spanish speakers call it....and my head hurts! (why didn't the British Empire rule over what is now called Latin America, it would make life a lot easier) It's my 2nd day of learning Spanish and this old dog is struggling with a new trick. Thankfully my teacher has the patience of a saint. However...for some reason I've had a complete brain freeze with two words. The 1st word is the Spanish for bicycle and the 2nd is for the number 40. Now it could be a complete coincidence but.....

Now its 21:30 and I'm in La Cueva bar (its the one below the hotel) sitting on a barstool banging my head against the bar hoping it will help get my head around “ser” “estar” and things that are close, near and far away..........…....Its now the early evening on Monday 15th of November and today I started my second week of trying to learn Spanish, I am a glutton for punishment. I've also moved from my hotel to a room at the school. It's a lot quieter (there is no bar below me and no gringo backpackers nosily moving around) and I have a nice shady courtyard to relax in. I'll be here in Flores for another week before moving on. Having looked at two different routes I have come to the conclusion that the route that goes into the mountains via the city of Coban is one that I would not be able to manage purely on the bike. The climbs are long, which isn't the problem but the gradients are just that little to steep for me right now. As I don't feel like going on a bus any time soon it looks like I'll be staying in the lowlands as I head towards the Rio Dulce and then the Honduras border, where there is no way around the mountains on the road to the town of Copan.

The café: and the school:

I almost forgot to mention the fact that I did finally get around to going to Tikal

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Heading to the border

It had to happen...after 21 days I finally managed to prise my fat arse off the stool inside the Barrier Reef Sports Bar and place it onto the water taxi that took me off Caye Caulker and planted me in the shithole that is Belize city.

I spent two nights in the city because there were clothes to wash and buy and a visa needed to be extended but finally on Thursday 21st I got back on the bike. It had been 24 days since I last spent a day in the saddle and the 50 odd miles to Belmopan, the capital of Belize was going to hurt....

The road was mostly flat, bumpy and boring. It was also damn hot, I mean really hot! However after several hours of slow cycling and lots of stops for rehydration and shade worshipping I made it to the outskirts of the capital. That was far enough for me and the 1st hotel I came across was the one I was going to be staying in. As it turns out it was expensive but it did have a super quiet and very efficient a/c unit and a fully loaded wide-screen it wasn't all bad.

The next day it was only 23 miles to the small town of San Ignacio and after a small lie in I was back on the road for about 4 hours. The road spent most of the time going up and over gentle rises and small hills which completely wore me out....3 weeks of doing nothing ruins the fitness! I arrived in the town just after midday and got a hotel that had A/C and TV which also happened to be opposite a bar...strange that! I had an early night “in” enjoying the coolness of the A/C and the firmness of the mattress on top of the large bed.

The next day it was Saturday and after watching two football matches and one game of rugby I finally got out of bed and went to get something to eat. It was then that I found out that a hurricane was heading across the sea to Belize. Looks like I got off the island at the right time and I was in the best place in Belize to ride out the storm. The hurricane was due to hit the country on Sunday afternoon and until then I chilled out and relaxed.

On Sunday afternoon the rain started, a gentle drizzle cooling down the heat of the day. The old saying “of the calm before the storm” is absolutely correct. By the evening the wind had picked up and at just after 19:30 the power went out! Unlike areas near the coast (i.e. Belize city) the effects of the hurricane were just a few trees blown over and a few sections of corrugated iron blown off a couple of roofs. The next morning nothing was open and there nothing do to except lie in bed and wonder when the power would becoming back on....the answer was 8pm!

On Tuesday I was booked on to a caving trip but due to the hurricane's rain laden downpour they were all shut! Therefore I walked to the outside of town to the nearby Mayan ruins of Cahal Pech, perched on the top of a tree covered hill. I was the only tourist there and I had the place to myself. It was a small site but I enjoyed the ambience.

The following morning some of the caves had reopened. The waters had returned to their normal levels and the work gangs had cleared the paths of the fallen trees allowing the tourists to return. There were 3 of us on the day trip, myself, an Swiss bloke called Lars and a crazy Dutch girl (is there any other kind?) mysteriously called Ms Q. After a drive of about 60 minutes sitting in the back of a pick-up like a red-neck we arrived in the car park and picked up our tubes! An easy 45 minute walk found us at the edge of a narrow river, its milky blue waters were cool and refreshing. All of us got onto the tubes, some with more difficulty than others (yes Ms Q I'm talking about you!) and then linked up in a row, feet under the armpits of the one in front and headed off downstream into the underworld.

The 1st cave we tubed through was about 800m long, our headlamps reflecting off the water and the quartz in the rock ceiling as we floated along in the darkness. Then we re-emerged into the sunlight and up ahead was the next cave. As we came to the cave mouth the water turned white and all off us went “butts up” and we navigated the rapids. This cave was about a mile long with a few twists and turns and even a waterfall half way through near a opening that allowed the sunlight into the huge cavern.

Eventually we saw the sunlight of the entrance and left the cave and the darkness behind. We carried on floating downstream and the rays of the Belizean sun warmed us up chasing the cold chill of the caves away.

The following day Lars and Ms Q went to the ATM whilst I had a nice long lie in. The day after I went to the ATM but due to the overnight rain the tour guide abandoned the trip before we even got to the 2nd river crossing. The water level was rising very fast, 3 inches within 5-10 minutes.

The next day was Saturday and once again I made out like a red-neck and headed to the ATM (or the Actun Tunichil Muknal cave to give it its full name). The water levels had gone back done to their usual level and after about 60 minutes walk through the jungle, crossing the river 3 times we made it to the entrance of the cave. The ATM cave is a “wet cave” and to gain access to the cave you have to swim about 20 metres from the cave mouth to the 1st bit of “land” or rock to stand on. After that it was a case of climbing, squeezing, wading and swimming upstream further into the cave system. The water was ice cold and amazingly refreshing, well for me at least!

At one point the guide told us all to turn off the head lights and placing one hand on the shoulder of the person in front of us we waded deeper into the cave in complete darkness. After what seemed like an aeon the guide told us to turn our lights back on and the views were fantastic. (go and check out the pictures!) We carried on over small waterfalls and through narrow gaps before we got to the turn off and the climb up into the “dry area” of the cave. The river itself carried on for another 3 miles before disappearing into the depths.

Climbing up about 20 meters we stopped and after removing our shoes we carried on in our socks. The cave was viewed as an entrance to the underworld by the Mayan and their priests and here in the dry area were offerings and sacrifices. The artefacts have been left exactly where they were found and the “holy offerings” contained in clay pots were “on show” just how a museum would do. There were 3 chambers to “discover” and the second one was a huge cavern about half the size of a football pitch.

Sadly all good things must come to an end and after about 2 ½ hours in the cave we retraced our steps leaving the underworld behind and emerged reborn into the sunlight and the land of the living. Sitting down in the nearby “picnic area” I was enjoying a long lazy cigarette when I discovered that I was right on top of a solider ant trail. I found this out when they started to bite me!

In the evening I hanged out with Ms Q and bored her with stories of my travels (she's only on a 3 week holiday) and then faced up to the fact that like her I to would soon be leaving San Ignacio.

Today is Sunday 31st of October and tomorrow its the start of a new month and for me a new country. From San Ignacio it's 11 miles to the Belize/Guatamala border, so it should be an easy day!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

On a sand bar

It's Tuesday the 12th of October and I've been here on Caye Caulker now for two weeks.

I was planning on catching the boat back to the mainland today but when I was in the sports bar last night watching the Monday night football game (American style) I was unable to come up with a good reason why. So I did what I always do in situations like this....tossed a coin! The coin came up heads three times in a row and this morning I did the same thing and once again it came up heads three times in a row, you don't ignore these things!!

The “tag line” for Caye Caulker is “Go Slow” and I've almost come to a complete stop! That's not to say that I haven't done anything, because I have. However if you don't count drinking beer, eating food, lounging in a hammock or the sofa then all I've done is gone diving for three days.

The 1st day's diving was in the Hol Can marine park which is about a 20 minute boat ride from the island. It was okay, saw some rays, a shark and a turtle. The second day's diving was on the “house reef” just a mile or so off shore and it was enjoyable. The third day's diving was a 3 tank dive, starting with the famous blue hole! The viz wasn't that great and at a depth of 42m the guides didn't let us stay down for that long. Probably because most people diving were novices with less than 10 dives, so for me with over 300 dives I was disappointed with the bottom time. Mind you the dive itself was a disappointment! The next dive was on lighthouse reef and that was good and following a long surface interval on Half Moon Caye we dived the aquarium, which was the best dive out of the 7 I've done here. Loads of fish, good looking coral and great viz!

um...that's it....I need to do stuff to be able to write about it.

mind you when I finally get back on the road the 1st day on the saddle is going to hurt big time!!!!

and then there is the knee to worry about, I've gotten used to the creaking sound but now it has started to “pop” as well....

Monday, 13 September 2010

On dirt roads heading south

I left Chetumal on Monday 13th of September and very lazily cycled the 7 miles to the border. The day before I was online trying to work out if there was a departure tax when leaving Mexico by land, some websites said yes, others said no.

When I reached the border crossing I was unsure where the passport control was but a middle aged man in a small concrete hut shouted out “passport senior” and I had my answer. Turns out there is a departure tax and it was set at 200 pesos. By some strange coincidence that was the exact amount of money I had in 1 and 2 pesos coins.....handy that!

With an exit stamp in my passport I crossed the Hondo river and entered Belize. One mile down the road was the immigration and passport control office. After 4 ½ months of not really understanding a word of what people were saying it was nice to be in a country that had the good fortune to have been conquered by a decent empire....everyone speaks English!!!

With a 30 day visa (no charge) in my passport I got back on the bike and cycled the 10 miles to Corozal, a not to impressive small town by the sea. However it did have a good local bar and for the 1st time in who knows how long I stood at the bar, smoked fags, drunk lots of cold beer and talked a load of bollocks with the locals (it's a guy thing!)

After two nights in a slight dive of a guest house I was up early and eager to get back on the road. Sadly, Kevin was in town and as he was a tropical storm with winds gusting up to 50mph I decided to spend an extra night!

Finally on Thursday I got back on the bike and headed out of town on the main road. After a mile or so I turned left onto a dirt road and spent the next 5 hours cycling the 30 miles to the small fishing village of Sarteneja. The day was hot but the road was flat, although very bumpy in places. The traffic levels were great, 8 cars in 5 I had the road to myself, which was good because I was meandering all over it weaving around the potholes and following the shade. After crossing two rivers by means of a hand cranked ferry and seeing my 1st Belizean crocodile and drinking several litres of water I finally arrived at my destination.

Its called “backpackers paradise” ( ) and do you know what, it is. Me being me, I went for the en suite cabana, unpacked my bags and then checked out the hammocks! Later on, before dinner and the 1st cold beer of the evening I discovered whilst locking up my bike that I had a puncture. This time it was a proper puncture that didn't require the inner tube being plunged into a sink full of water in order to find out where the hole was. Bizarrely I was quite happy about it, after 3500 miles I finally got my 1st “proper puncture”!

I'm not to sure how long I'll be staying here but one thing is for sure it will be longer than the 3 days I had planned to.....well it turns out that I spent 6 nights. There were books to read, hammocks to lie in and food to eat. There was also the Shipstern nature reserve nearby, which was mostly waterlogged and full of mosquitoes.

However all good things must come to an end and so on Wednesday 22nd I got back on the saddle and made my way to the town of Orange Walk 40 miles away. The gravel road was mostly smooth but damn was it hot! I found a hotel that had what I needed.....A/C and relaxed!

The next day I was going on a day trip upriver to the Mayan ruins of Lamanai. The boat was small and the river was quiet, the trees along the banks reflecting in the still cool waters of the New River. It took about 2 hours to travel the 30 odd miles and along the way the keen eyes of the guide/boat driver spotted several crocodiles, lizards and near the Mennonite settlement of Shipyard a couple of spider monkeys, which came onto the boat and helped themselves to someone's bananas.
When we got to Lamanai we had an early lunch before walking around the site. Out of the 700 odd buildings here only about 10% have been explored and only 6 are open to the public, the rest have yet to be restored. Have to say it was a top place although the climb up and down the largest temple was testing.

When I got back to the hotel the lass behind the counter told me that hurricane Matthew would be dropping by in 68 hours....looks like I'm here for the weekend! On Friday afternoon the weather forecast had changed and Matthew had been downgraded to a tropical storm, so only 40mph winds then.....

After a very lazy long weekend of rain and wind I got back on the bike on Monday the 27th and cycled the 56 miles to Belize city. The road was flat with lots of straight bits but I found it hard work to get my speed into double figures! Several hours later I was about 5 miles from the city, sitting down on the river bank having a rest whilst the sweat slowly trickled down my face. I was flexing my knee listening to the sound of it creaking when the voice inside my head whispered “the knee ain't going to get you to Panama” and for the 1st time I found myself agreeing with it!

I finally got into Belize city and found a hotel 30 seconds before the thunderstorm broke. When it was over I went and got a ticket for the next morning's boat ride to Caye Caulker.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Into the flatlands?

From Palenque its about 500 miles to the diving Mecca of Cozumel Island. So it's 10 days of cycling with a few days of sightseeing thrown in...should take me about 2 weeks then.

The 1st day I had planned to only cover about 40 miles to the town of El Zapata...I didn't even get that far.

By the time I had carried my bike and bags down to the hotel lobby I had already broken into a sweat! The road out of Palenque was across gently rolling countryside and after a few hours I hit the main road and turned right. The theme of the road continued past small woods and grass chewing cattle. After 4 hours on the road I had covered 31 miles (it's a lot easier when you're not climbing) and it was midday and hot. The town of El Zapata was 12kms down a side road and I was having a cold can of coke outside the petrol station wondering if I was in fact going to El Zapata or continuing along the main road instead. In the end I decided to carry along the main road and was just about to mount my bike when I saw that 80m away in the corner of the petrol station's large forecourt was a small hotel....fantastic!

For 250 pesos I got the largest hotel room in Mexico I've ever been in and it had A/C, what a bonus! The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging the hours away. When I went outside for the occasional fag by the time I had finished my arms were glistening with beads of sweat, It was like standing in front of a blast furnace. Me thinks that I am going to have to keep a close eye on my hydration levels. Just after 7pm I was hungry, as I was bimbling to the restaurant on the other side of the forecourt I looked skyward and watched in wonder as a huge electrical storm surged low across the horizon, its jet black clouds swirling in the strong winds. By the time dinner was served the storm was overhead and sounding angry.

In the morning I was up early and on the road just after 7am. The rolling countryside of yesterday was replaced by a flat waterlogged landscape and Romanesque roads. 10 hours and 76 miles later I came across the next hotel...I was knackered! A cold shower and a 2 hour lie down watching TV whilst the A/C cooled the room helped (but not that much). Tomorrow, due to today's high mileage I only have about 30 miles to travel to get to the large town of Escarcega, should take me about 6 hours :)

Well it turns out it only took me 4 hours. I'm having a day off the bike or more importantly a day out of the sun! Plus I need to once again go to the bike shop and get not 1 spoke but 2 replaced!!!!!

This never happened when I cycled across Europe but then I did have a German made bike!

After a day of rest I wasn't ready to get back on the road but I did never the less. The sunrise was spectacular and it was the highlight of the day! The road started out flat but that was soon to change. Usually when going along a flat road I bimble along at 12-15mph but today it was hard work to manage even 10mph. The reason was the strong headwind! It's the hurricane season right now and there was one out in the gulf of Mexico, this meant that were I was, whilst being 200 miles away, I was still being affected by it.

Then the dips happened! The rolling countryside whilst being nice to look at was a bitch to pedal across. The road stayed straight but the gradients were steep. Each “dip” was no more than a 1000m climb but in a strong headwind and in temperatures heading towards 40oc it was soul destroying. 4.5 hours after leaving the hotel I had only covered 30 miles and it was 11:30. I pulled into a shop and spent the next 30 minutes trying to cool down (somewhat unsuccessfully). I asked the lass behind the counter how far the nearest hotel was and when she answered part of me wished that I had never asked the question. Damn! was 30 miles away....oh boy!!!!!

Back on the bike it was hard work, forget about 10mph, I was working hard to manage 8mph and that was on the flat bits. An hour later I was in desperate need of shade, I stopped at a bus shelter and rested the bike against the long bench seat. As for myself, I laid down on the seat, my head resting on the front pannier....I had given up! (if only for an hour)

By 5pm I came to a small village called Conhuas near the Mayan ruins of Balamku. Stopping for a much needed drink I asked the question and got the answer. For 250 pesos I got a small thatched hut which had a bed and mosquito net in it (but no fan) whilst the nearby shower and toilet block had no water. Still, it was better than sleeping at the side of the road.

Following a somewhat smelly and sticky night I only had about 35 miles to the town of Xupjil, where I knew there were several hotels. The day was pretty much like the one before except the wind was stronger and I was weaker. The hours and kilometres passed slowly whilst the sweat trickled down from my head and slowly made its way to my shoes.

Around 1pm I stopped in the small village of Becan, I only had about 5 more miles to go!! After a couple of cold drinks I was back on the bike relieved in the knowledge that there wasn't much further to go. A couple of miles down the road and I was bimbling along quite happily when I approached a couple of young men at the side of the road. One of them was sitting down in the narrow shade of a large bush whilst the other one was just standing up. As I drew level with the upright man he swung a metal bar at my face! I'm guessing his plan was to knock me off my bike then unconscious before robbing me of all my possessions. Thankfully I have very quick reflexes so instead of the pipe smashing into my face it impacted heavily with my crash helmet, breaking into two pieces in the process. Immediately I found lots of energy and accelerated away with the guy giving chase. After 20m he gave up and badly threw the other half of the pipe at me. At this point I stopped, looked back and was giving serious consideration to getting off the bike, going back and beating the crap out of the guy. The two guys then choose that instant to disappear into the dense undergrowth and I, now with a cooler head, decided to carry on.

A short while later I arrived in the town of Xupjil, got myself a very nice hotel room (500 pesos pn) turned on the TV, watching the San Marino round of the MotoGP and relaxed as the A/C cooled me down.

The next day I woke up and turned on the TV.

The following day I was back on the road and it was “only 70 miles” to Chetumal. I was hoping there was a hotel about half way there.

The road was still being a bitch. The undulations were steep and the wind had gotten even stronger, It was hard work! After several hours I reached a small town which was about at the midpoint. Sadly there were no hotels...looks like it was going to be one hell of a day. ¾ of an hour later I saw a sign for a hotel and 15 minutes later I was at the turn off. Now it was decision time, I could either carry on peddling the 30 miles to Chetumal or I could cycle the 4.5km down the side road to the hotel. It wasn't just any was a luxury resort hotel i.e. bloody expensive!!

30 minutes later I was checking into the Explorean Resort Hotel @ Kohunlich. It's an all inclusive hotel with isolated bungalows, infinity pool etc. etc. I had already steeled myself, so when the lass told me how much it was a night I didn't even flinch (however when I got to my bungalow I did whimper just a little bit...I mean 2700 pesos a night, that's a week's accommodation in one day). After a shower and a lie down I had a welcome introduction thingy.

Everyday they lay on an activity and today's was a twilight kayak paddle in a wetland lagoon. Even though I was drop dead tired I agreed to go. Following a plate of “whitey soul food” I whiled the 90 minutes away on my fantastically comfortable king size bed till it was time to go on the excursion.

We were on the water just as darkness approached and in the glow of the head torch there were loads of eyes looking back, mostly frogs but also one crocodile. After an hour or so it was completely dark and we all turned off the lights, laid back in the kayaks and checked out the milky way...WOW! By now I was absolutely famished and when we got back to the shore and out of the boats some 30 minutes later nothing had changed. Thankfully, on the shore of the lagoon a table had been set for dinner, illuminated by oil lamps and a log fire nearby.

The food was fantastic and the night's sleep was blissful.

In the morning I really didn't feel like leaving so I spent the day by the infinity pool on a day bed under a parasol. When it got to hot...I did mention about the pool already!!!

Before a late lunch I had an 90 minute hot stone life is good :)

The next day I really had to leave, my wallet couldn't stand the strain any more. Turns out it was actually 40 miles to Chetumal and as there was no wind for the 1st two hours by 9am I was halfway there. After that I started to take it easy.....

I found a okay hotel with A/C, cable TV and wifi and settled down for a restful long weekend. After two days of pondering I decided that I couldn't be arsed to cycle the 200 odd miles to Cozumel (I was only going there for the diving) so instead on Monday morning I'll be pedalling the 10 miles to the Belizean border instead.

Friday, 6 August 2010

over the hills and far away

On Friday 6th of August I left Salina Cruz and the coast behind. The road was flat and straight but the wind was gusty and always in my face! It was only about 30 miles to the town of Juchitan and my legs, for some reason, were being very lazy so it took a while. I finally arrived at some point in the afternoon, got a hotel room and then chilled out.

The morning came and I got on the saddle and headed south out of town along the Pan American highway towards the small town of Zanatepec, 55 miles down the road. The conditions were the same as the day before except my legs weren't being lazy they were just really tired. As the day wore on, the heat and humidity increased. Also, yet again, another spoke went “ping” making it the 3rd one to go in the last 4 weeks...not so good especially now that I have a big fat mountain bike tyre on the rear wheel (for some reason my front wheel is fine)

With 5 miles to go I found myself in 6th gear on the flat whilst my body was getting ready to wave the white flag.......I arrived in the town and asked a local where the hotels were. It was only another 1000 metres along the highway. Halfway there the heavens opened and by the time I had covered the remaining 500 metres I was soaked to the skin.....but the hotel had A/C, which made me so happy.

15 miles down the road was the town of Tapanatepec and hopefully a bike mechanic. After a restful night I hoped my legs were feeling better.....erm....they weren't!! on the brightside out of the 3 bike shops in town, one of them was open on a Sunday. The hotel near the main square was good enough and the rest of the day was spent doing nothing at all. Tomorrow I have a mountain or two to climb and in this heat........

The following day I was on the road by 7am, cycling out of town under a clear blue sky. A mile down the road and it started to go uphill and I started to go down through the gears. Five kms and 45 minutes later I had reached the top of the hill and enjoyed the views and the small blast down the other side. From here on in, it was uphill for another 4.5 hours (and 18 miles). The road slowly twisted and turned its way up the side of the mountain and as the minutes passed the temperature increased. The 1st two hours were fine but after that the air I was breathing in was as hot as the air I was breathing out! The water I was carrying was now warm and there was no way to cool down until I got to the top of the climb. As the kilometres passed by the amount of time between stops diminished until it started to get ridiculous.

Finally I turned a corner and entered the small village of Riza de Oro, I was so happy! I rested and rehydrated for 45 minutes before getting back on the bike at midday ready to enjoy the downhill blast into the valley. Six hundred metres later the road stopped going downhill and started to go uphill once again....another 4 miles were spent going uphill before I finally crested the last rise and went downhill for lasted for 2 miles....I was not happy!!!

The nearest hotel was in the town of Cintalapa which was still 30 miles away and the road whilst being quite straight was undulating with steep gradients. By 16:30 I had reached the town and the afternoon ride under a hot sun had really worn me out. It was one of the hardest days on the bike so far. I found a very nice hotel with A/C, cable TV, wifi and a balcony for smoking on. In the evening I went for a walk around the town, stopping for a few slices of pizza at one street stall followed by a couple of cheese burgers at another before finally finishing off a hot dog at one stall next to the hotel...yes I was quite hungry! 

In the morning I woke up and turned on the TV....

On Wednesday the 11th I was back on the road. The city of Tuxtla was 50 miles down the road and I had two climbs along the way. The day was overcast and hazy and compared to most days it was cool. The 1st climb of the day was about 5 miles long and due to the weather I found it easy and most enjoyable. The second climb of the day took place just after midday and my energy levels were lower so it took a bit longer. Halfway up the heavens opened and the rain came down. For the 1st time in Mexico I put on my rain jacket! By the time I got to the top I was starting to get cold and going downhill in a thunder storm with water gushing down the road didn't get me any warmer! However, it was the 1st time I had been cold since I left England and I was actually enjoying it. Two minutes later I stopped enjoying it and really wanted to get warm again! Shortly after that I stopped under a bridge for half an hour as the rain continued to pour down. The storm was directly over my head and the brutal sounds of the thunder and lightening affected the primordial part of my brain with cowardly results. The rain finally eased off and I still had about 10 miles to go but as it was mostly downhill on a freshly laid dual carriageway it was most enjoyable. Arriving at the outskirts of the city it started to rain once again and the 3 lane road was half covered by a 2 to 3 inch stream of muddy water. Unable to see the potholes was a worry, dodging the insane minibus taxis was another matter! I saw a sign for a hotel, whilst it was expensive (£22.50 per night) it was nearby to a Oxxo shop, a steakhouse,dominoes pizzas and a subway restaurant....sweet! 

When I got in the room I turned on the TV in time to catch the last 15 minutes of the 1st half of the England V Hungry match....good timing I thought! During half time I had a super hot shower and when the match was over I bimbled over to Subway's!

The next morning I had a nice lie in before going downhill for 12 miles to the small town of Chiapa de Corzo where you can catch a boat to ride up the 1000m deep Sumidero Canyon. It wasn't until I was crossing over the bridge at the entrance to the canyon that I remembered that I had been here before the last time I was in Mexico.

From this town it is 70kms or 45 miles to San Cristobal which is 1670m higher up in the sky. I'll mention here also that San Cristobal is in a valley, so the climb over the mountain is going to be a big one....looks like I may spend two nights here, just to give my legs a real good rest.

On Saturday 14th I left Chiapa behind and headed uphill across the valley to the side of the mountain. The early morning sun had yet to crest the ridge and so I started the climb in the cool shade. The road was easy and the climbing was enjoyable (but still hot and sweaty) and a few hours later I had reached the top and was now of the ridge of the mountain. Stopping to enjoy the views of the valley below me I turned on my gps to find that I had only climbed 600m. That meant I still had at least one kilometre still to go. The road went downhill for 500m and then once again went uphill. 

So far I had covered about 14 miles and so still had another 30 or so to go.

By now I was under the hot sun and the climbing whilst not being super steep was still enough of a gradient for me to pedal at a somewhat slow 4.5mph. By midday I was almost out of water and starting to run low on energy as well. Thankfully I came across a small village that was only a few hundred metres off the main road. Stopping there for a break I managed to clean the only shop out of all their bottled water (3 x ½ litre bottles!) while at the same time I was able to give the locals something to stare at...

Back on the road and the gradient was starting to take its toll on my legs one kilometre at a time. Soon I didn't have to worry about the sun any more as I had reached cloud base and was now cycling in the clouds. Two hours later I was having a “thank **** for that” rest outside a roadside shop the clouds released their water and it rained heavily. After 30 minutes the rain eased off to a light drizzle and so I got back on the bike, now wearing my rain jacket and continued uphill.

Around 4pm my legs had decided that 3.2mph was as much as they could possibly mange and I wasn't really in a position to argue. The rest stops became more frequent and somewhat longer. Each time I got back on the bike it became harder to carry on but as I was in the middle of nowhere I didn't have much of a choice. About an hour later I entered the large village of Navenchauc and my legs were begging me to find a hotel...sadly there was none. Chatting to a local shop keeper he informed me that it was only 20 kms to San Cristobal, which I already knew but that there was only 3kms more uphill action till the road went downhill all the way into San Cristobal. Damn, that lifted my distraught and disheartened spirits.

Rehydrated and smiling I slowly climbed the 3kms and when I saw the microwave relay towers I was so happy (they are always at the highest point of the road). Once I passed them the road turned a corner and went downhill and at the very next corner I stopped at the side of the road, sat down and had a fag!

It was now 6pm and I had been on the road for 11 hours and had cycled 35 miles all of them uphill. My gps told me that I was 2450m above sea level (new personal record) and as I was at least 6m lower than the “summit” it meant that I had climbed 2000m in one day. Not bad for a fat, beer swilling, chain smoking lazy bloke!

Back on the bike, I was smiling as the road flowed smoothly from one bend to another downhill through the clouds and into the warm sunshine of an early evening. Two miles later I entered a small town and as I came around a bend in the road the smile left my face...the road started to go uphill!!! 


After 500m my legs were waving the white flag and so I got off the bike and slowly walked the 2 miles up the hill, with my head bowed as I didn't have the energy to look up any more. When I finally reached the top it was 7pm and I was almost at the point of complete exhaustion.

Mind you the 5 mile descent to the city limits of San Cristobal was fantastic!!!!!

Arriving at the city limits I stopped outside an Oxxo shop, sat down with a can of coke in one hand a marlboro in the other and grinned and chuckled like a loon. (spending 12.5 hours on the road covering 45 miles of which 38 were uphill will do that to the sanest of men!)

By 20:30 I was showered, dressed and walking slowly to get something to eat and drink. By 10pm I was in asleep.

The next day was a Sunday, so I had a long lie in but by 10:30 I was walking out of the hotel door in search of coffee. It was during my second cup of the black stuff that I realised what the date was. Turns out yesterday was the one year anniversary of my accident...what a way to "celebrate it"!

This is the 2nd time that I've been in this town, the 1st was back in 2004 and nothing much has changed.. Well there are more pretentious restaurants and lounge much for progress! My original plan was to stay here for a few weeks and learn some Spanish, however after looking at a calendar I found that I only have about 8 weeks left on my 180 day visa. So it looks like I'll be learning Spanish in Guatamala instead.

I ended up staying here for 6 nights which gave my legs 5 days of rest. There are many day trips you can make from here, I made zero! I did walk around the market, even buying myself a new wallet in the process. On my penultimate night I managed to find the local “Irish bar”, it had 2 X 1 drink offers and unlike every other bar in town you could smoke at the bar...damn it!! However all good things must come to an end and on Friday 9th I got back on the saddle.

The next place I was heading for was Palenque which was about 130 – 140 miles away and 2000m lower down. Sixty miles from San Cristobal is the town of Ocosingo, near the Mayan ruins of Tonina and so that was were I was heading.

Leaving San Cristobal there was a long slow climb out of the valley before turning left onto the Palenque road and continuing uphill. After another hour of slowly going uphill the road made a gentle descent into a valley. Four miles later the road once again went uphill. For the next several hours I transversed one valley after another. Sometimes the valley was 2 or 3 miles wide whilst other times it could be less than 500m wide.

What I'm basically trying to say is that I spent most of the day going uphill!!!!

Around 3pm I emerged from a short gorge (going uphill of course), turned the corner and saw that hundreds of metres below me was a wide valley with the town of Ocosingo at the bottom. I was, to say the least, relieved. Stopping at a shop for a drink I sat outside and admired the views. It was only 10 miles to go and I was knackered, it looked like it would be downhill all the way. Getting back on the bike I got up to speed and then free wheeled. About 1.5 miles later the road started going in the wrong direction....uphill!!!!! After a tiring 20 minute climb, proper order was restored and I was free wheeling once again. Several corners later I was once again going uphill. This was getting beyond a joke! A weary 40 minutes later and I was going downhill one more time all the way into the town.

By now it was 16:30 and the 1st hotel I came across (on the outskirts of town) was the one for me! The hotel was quiet and had cable TV, it only cost 130 pesos a night.

In the evening I had meat in the restaurant next door, grabbed a few cans of beer and watched TV in my room whilst listening to the thunderstorm. Come the morning it was still raining but only a light drizzle.

By 9am I had travelled the 10 miles or so to the ruins of Tonina by minibus. I had two cups of coffee in the car park waiting for the rain to stop before giving up and getting wet. The ruins consist of several secondary structures next to a very large 7 tiered pyramid structure, clustered with various temples. The steps up were wet and narrow but climbing down was more difficult (I still don't fully trust my ankle). About 3 hours of wandering and picture taking I headed back to Ocosingo. I checked out the centre of town and was glad I wasn't staying there. I then went into a internet café to check out the road to Palenque using the “terrain feature” on google maps. I came to the conclusion that tomorrow is going to be one hell of a day!

The following day....(and it was 80 miles to Palenque)

It was about 1000m to the main road and after 500m I was walking up a 25%gradient...I only just made it :) After a quick blast downhill to the valley floor I was cycling along the flat at about2/3rd's of my normal speed, things were not looking good. One mile later down the road the 1st climb started. Two hours later I was at the top and I'll admit that some of the climb was spent pushing the bike. After having a rest and a drink outside a shop, it was downhill but not for too long.

Then it was once again uphill, then downhill, then uphill, then downhill, then uphill...I think by now you're getting the general idea. Finally after 4.5 hours and 20 miles the road went down hill for about 10 was glorious.

So, five hours on the road with 30 of the 80 miles covered....luckily for me about 12 miles away was the tourist trap of Aqua Azul, along a stretch of river are numerous cascading waterfalls but more more importantly a bed!

After a rest at the bottom of the hill it was time again to endure the agony of the climb. I was finding it really hard going, my legs refused to pedal any gear higher than 1st and I was heading uphill at an abysmal 3mph, apart from when my legs decided to not want to pedal at all, forcing me to walk! Eventually, soaked to the skin in sweat, absolutely knackered I reached the top of the mountain. Going down the other side intoxicated by the bliss of the “free wheel” I passed a road sign that meant I only had 5 miles to Aqua Azul...happy days!

Sadly a few hundred metres later I went over a bridge that straddled the river and winced as I saw the road disappear uphill. Six hundred metres later I was walking and continued to do so for the following 3 miles under the hot Mexican afternoon sun. reaching the top the road levelled out and so I was able to pedal, abet slowly.

Half an hour later I came to the Aqua Azul turn off. After a 30 minute rehydration stop I headed along the side road. Three miles later I was in Aqua Azul and man was I worried!!!! The three mile road to get here was tight, twisty and very steeply downhill, there was no way I would be able to cycle back up it!

1st things 1st....a bed was needed and I found one about 500m from the river's edge. I was sitting outside the hotel, after checking in, having a fag wondering on the best way to cool down. It was then that it started to rain...looks like I found the best way to cool down!

I had a ice cold shower (which was wonderful) and a long lie down but by 5pm I was hungry and so I bimbled to the restaurants that line the river.. following a large meal and a couple of beers I found that:
(a) I didn't want another beer (shocking!!!!)
(b) I was very tired 

Back in my room I was watching a film, lying on my stomach with my head resting on the pillows when I curled my right leg towards my buttock. I was rewarded with excruciating pain as the tendon in my thigh spasmed. The same thing happened with my left leg, then the arch of my right foot got cramp, painfully! I've think I've broken my lower body...and don't even get me started on the weeping sore on my arse caused by sitting on a sweat soaked saddle all day (if you would like a picture, email me and I'll send you a picture!) Still it could be worse...but right now I'm bot sure quite how?

The next day I woke up but decided against getting out of bed fore a few hours. However by 10:30 my desire for coffee and cigarettes overcame my lethargy and I walked the 500m to the restaurants, slowly. After a leisurely breakfast I walked upstream along a stepped path admiring the numerous waterfalls. Then it was back to the restaurants for lunch, afternoon snacks and dinner. It was during the afternoon that I came up with a “cunning plan” for tomorrow!

In the morning I was woken up before my alarm by the dawn chorus, which wasn't made by birds singing but by dogs barking and howling...mmm. On the bike I made my way up the uncyclable hill but after 100m I stopped and got off. 15 minutes later I was at the top helping the taxi driver get my bike out of the boot! It was the best 50 pesos (or £2.50) i've ever spent, well apart from those pack of condoms I brought back in the 80's the day I lost my virginity...but that's another story!

After a second class breakfast at the shop (that's a coke and a fag by the way) I started to pedal around the corner....the road was going downhill!! The views across the valley were amazing! The sun was shining and the lower half of the valley was shrouded in clouds. As I made my way downhill I entered the clouds and the mist was cooling and wonderful. After 8 miles the road levelled out and I was bimbling along the flat lands …...within the hour I was a 1/3 of the way to Palenque! 

A few hours later I came to what I thought could be the last climb. As I had loads of time before it got dark or started to rain I took it easy and by that I mean I mostly walked up the hill because I didn't have the energy to pedal. Eventually I reached the top, there was no fanfare! On the descent down the hill I could sneak peeks of what lay ahead, the Yucatan peninsula....flat as a table cloth!

Towards the bottom of the mountain I came across a shop at a road junction....30 minutes and 1.5 litres of water later I felt refreshed. Now it was only 5 miles to the centre of town....downhill! Back on the saddle the road meandered for several hundred metres before turning a corner and straighten out. Ahead of me the road went uphill...what!!! It was only a for a few hundred metres but as far as I was concerned it was a mountain. This was last climb in Mexico and damn it I was going to make it to the top in one go! I did but it left my knackered.....

Arriving in the centre of town I found a hotel that had what I needed....A/C and cable TV!

Following a ice cold shower (there was plenty of hot water but I didn't want it) I flopped on the bed, turned on the TV and breathed out slowly....I was tired!

When it got dark I managed to drag myself out of the hotel and went for a bimble. The “high street” was less than a 100m away and the place looked nicer than I remembered. I found a restaurant with sport on the TV, looked at the menu and ordered the largest steak they had...with an extra large portion of chips! 12 minutes and 33 seconds after the food arrived it was all gone. Man was I hungry!!!

The next morning I checked out my arse and tested the strength in my road weary legs and decided that a whole week off the bike was definitely in order.

The only thing to “do” here is to visit the nearby Mayan ruins, which I did for the second time. Apart from that....I did mention that my room had A/C and cable TV!!!!