Campeche, the west coast of Yucatan, halucinogenous Palenque and crossing the mountains on top of a pick-up truck
After 50km we reach Campeche – historical town with fortress walls around the center and as usual, nice colonial architecture. In the middle is a big church which is the main turistical attraction (from outside nice, from inside nothing special).
There is only one hostel and we meet there the punkers from France (we stayed at the hippie camp in Tulum together). We internet and around our feet a small kitty is trying to attract our attention with scrubbing us. We void the transaction cancelling request (we have a dilema with this, but we got the gasoline and wouldn’t be fair to not pay for it). We make many photos in the centre – there is a lot of paintings on the walls and sculptures in the streets and we send a package full of Cuban cigars home to Slovakia (the allowed amount of cigars is 10pcs, we are sending 37 – we will see:)).
We leave the town early in the morning. The road goes at the Carribean coast (turquise water at beaches full of garbage). We stop at Champoton where Jan buys me an adjustable stem – I have a Christmas :). While he is mounting it I talk with a girl from Germany who sold everything at home and moved to Mexico to live with her boyfriend who she met during travelling in Central America. She dreamed about living in a big family and improving things with her inovative ideas – in reality they live with other 9 people in a house whose hardly talk to each other and people in village don’t support any changes.
After a cheap food and over expensive beer (don’t buy enything which is not mentioned in menu!) we move further. After 10km I stretch my hand with thumb-up and a big pick-up truck stops – our first hich-hike! We put the bikes on the back and enjoy the wind in the air. After 15minutes we stop. Fortunately this is not the final stop, but the mother needs switch her arms… yes, we are going from the baby hospital and the fresh father-driver doesn’t have red eyes from any drugs, but because he was celebrating the birth of his first child. And he doesn’t drive so carefully because of us, but because of the two treasures he is carrying inside – and we are happy with them :). We sleep in a summer house in the middle of square (it’s starting to be a custom) and there is a lot of life around us in the village.
In the morning the alarms rings and we are suprised by the dark night around us. The time has changed again (2nd time this month) and our smartphone adjusted the clock, but wasn’t intelligent enough to wake us up with a dawn. We start without breakfast – we will find something on the way. It’s hilly and without villages. I’m nervous and feel a big deficit of sugar – Jan has to feed me as soon as possible! We knock on closed shop, they open and I eat a whole can of evaporated sweet milk which makes me calm again (during bicycling I get to know my body better – what gives it energy, how it reacts on different food and what does it do when something is missing).
At noon the temperature rises to 40 celsia and we stop in the shadow of a bus stop. While Jan visits bathroom I stop a big pick-up. This time we sit inside and get a ride for 200km. The driver is a perfect guy who buys bananas in Chiapas and takes them back – this 800km trip makes 2-times a week. We talk about traditions, culture, food and he buys mandarines with chili – in Mexico they eat even the fruits hot.
He drops us 30km before Palenque. The way goes uphill but the nature here is beautiful. These hills are nothing compared to what smiles from the horizon – huge mountains from here to lake Atitlan. Before the entrance to ruins we find a cabana village in the jungle (cabana is a small cottage with roof from palm leaves mostly without water and not always with electricity). For 30pesos we sleep in our tent directly in the “center” (we regret this already the first night, when we hear two different loud musics from different bars till 3am). We meet the French punkers again, get to know many other people and between them also Beni – cyclist from Germany. He came for 3 months to central america and in Tulum he met a girl cycling from Canada. She inspired him to buy a bicycle and he’s been cruising on two wheels in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala for 2.5 months. Only with a tent, sleeping bag, one pair of clothes and a temporary passport (everything else he lost during one night in Belize) he is definitely one of the happiest travellers we’ve met. We talk and drink 1.2liter beers for 35pesos (finally a normal price) till the midnight.
In the morning we make a walk around this interesting place. Some houses are inhabited year-round, some are for rent and somewhere people camp. Everything is in a real jungle with multilevel trees, many plants and with scary sounds coming from everywhere (screaming monkeys, lots of birds and insects).
One guy from the last night (of course we don’t remember a name) invites us for a trip to a river. At first it looks like a spontaneous action of friens but then he tells us he’s a guide. Fortunately we ask in advance for all the expenses.
We are five – we, guide, Italian girl and Mexican-French Luis with his kitty. He is telling us his story which is hard to believe. He won a casting for reality show “Walking man” and he walks through Mexico (till now he made 5000km). He doesn’t have money and carries 40kg (?) of technical equipment for shooting his travelling. He will get the sallary and a house after fullfilling the contract. He crossed dessserts, jungles, swamps… ate snakes, worms, bugs… run away from animals, burned his tent… he’s got so many unbelievable stories and if it is true, we will see him soon on Discovery Channel (BTW: he found the kitty 3 weeks ago in a garbage bin and now they are travelling together).
The ride in colectivo is beautiful – up and down, hills, grass fields, everything is green… I’m not sure if I should be happy or cry that in a few days we will do this on bicycle. Our guide explains us why Palenque is so popular tourist town – mushrooms (no shampions:D). They grow on cow shit and the effects of them are know since Maya times. They were used durind a rituals and when hunting. They cause halucinations and sharpen senses. Nowadays is a good business for locals because many tourist come here to “mushroom” themselves.
We reach the river after half an hour. Francesca and Luis continue a little further. Our guide looks for his bathing suite which he forgot in the colectivo and we discover it here – water, nice surrounding, screaming monkeys and nobody else around us. And the fun begins … we jump from a 15feet waterfall, then from next one, we swim under branches, walk barefoot in jungle, cover ourselves with mud and dry on sun, join another stream and swim against it and enjoy a water massage under a waterfall. This is one of the most magic and beautiful places in the world – and all only for us!
After a rich food in the camp Jan realizes that we don’t have our phone … somebody in the taxi will be happy. Everything is backuped and there was only the mexican SIM card but we lost our GPS tracking.
In the morning we talk with Beni (we get tips for the Guatemalan mountains) and go to see the ruins. These are big and neat. There are description of the buildings and we can climb many of them. For all money we have with us we buy a painting on leather which is a copy of a crypt. We run out of water and 3 hours of Maya architecture are really enough. We go to cool down in a nearby waterfall in the jungle.
In the afternoon we buy the most cheapest phone in the town and during drinking beer we think about our travelling. We don’t feel satisfaction from it and we are not sure if we wanted this. We are just observers who move from one place to another. We don’t create deeper human relations and don’t learn anything new… we realize that we need a vacation (longer stay at one place) and for that we have to get to lake Atitlan as fast as possible.
Before sunrise we pack things and pedal for 6hours uphill. The surrounding is beautiful and we have plenty of time to observe it (with the lowest gear we move slower than walkers) but it is difficult to really enjoy it in this moment. We have a rest in a shadow of a big tree and try to stop some car (without success). After 20minutes we give up and see that our bicycles are ready for a great moving of nations – we put them to an ant house!
Jan gets a flat tire in the afternoon (again, the puncture restistant tape didn’t help) and during the repair I stop a small truck. In the back is a cage for transporting cows so we are litereally standing in shit :D. We climb up big hills and we can fully enjoy the view to the valley. The ride ends in a village and after 5km more (like one hour by bicycle) we stop another car. He gets us 40km to a village where we stay for night.
Plan for the next day is to cross the boarder. After 5minutes we stop a big truck. The driver is like Schumacher and we pass everybody. Fresh air in 100km/h is cold and with the adrenaline in our blood we just laugh. After half an hour we stop for breakfast (milk with rice – yammy), we tie the bicycles in the back, wear jackets and continue this crazy ride through the mountains :). The clima changes and the air smells after pines. There are coniferous trees all around us and it’s colder here. They drop us just before San Cristobal – known tourist city because of beautiful architecture and arts.But our goal is different so we continue the opposite direction.
We enjoy the downhill which we didn’t need to climb and before it starts to go up we stop another car :). I fall through the floor of the pickup while loading the bicycles and create another mark on my foot. Desinfection needs to wait till we are dropped in a town because to hold the bicycles and ourselves is a fulltime job.
Small stop for food, one hour of bicycling and another car (our tactics of hichhiking: we bicycle and when we see in the mirror a big car, we straighten arm with thum-up :) … no losing time without moving). This pick-up is the smallest we’ve till now stopped and filled with a big hose, but we manage to fit our bicycles with all our luggage to the back. We are inside and the driver tries to persuate Jan to allow Jesus to his heart.
Last couple of kilometres before the boarder we go again on two wheels. We pay 25USD/person for leaving the country and continue the “10minute-long” road across the neutral zone. After one hour (!) of bicycling uphill we finally reach a big market and the border of Guatemala :)