The ride from San Cristobal to Palenque was not only cold, but also long and tiring. By bus, because of some road block (popular sport in some areas of Mexico), it takes about 9h. I did that in 4h10m, taking the short road and smoothly bypassing the board with nail laying down in the middle of the road so the cars can’t pass. Thanks to some “magic” couple I met in San Cristobal, I decided to skip Agua Azul and go instead to Roberto Bario. I met a German guy, with an Austrian DL650 bike riding the same road and we spoke a few times. How I envy a suitable bike for the road… I could barely keep up with him in a straight line, but the tight mountain curves deemed my long bike useless for I had to brake hard or scrape the footrests really hard.
Palenque welcomed me with a cloudy weather, but still way warmer than San Cristobal. I was able to heat myself up the first night and recover after a serious stomach trouble (will never mix so many fruits and beer again). My plan was to spend there two nights, but I ended up spending three. The first day was the day I saw the ruins. Big, pretty well preserved, but not so many tourists or sellers. One could walk around some stone walls, climb some of the ancient temples, and have some really nice views of the jungle. The ruins you have to pay for (temples and official buildings) are just about 20% of the huge city of Palenque, the rest of which mostly found in the surrounding jungle, reclaimed by nature. It was a nice visit, and I left with a good impression about the ancient civilization that once built the city. The rest of the day I rode to “Roberto Bario”, a place about 30km from my hostel “El Panchon”. At first I wanted to take the tour bus, hoping to meet new people, but I was about 30min late for the only bus that goes there. The waterfalls are really amazing. Only 20pesos for the entrance, but totally worth it. My only mistake was not taking a swimsuit. However, I walked around quite a lot, especially on the edge of the waterfalls.
The second day in Palenque was meant to be a special one, with a flavor of funny mushrooms. I spoke with Gabriel who organizes this jungle-walk tour, and he only had another person the next day, reason why I spent another night there. We left at 10:30 from the restaurant and spent about 5hrs walking in the jungle, on paths known only to him and the locals. And since it was late morning, we started with a refreshing bath in a waterfall. He spoke of plants, birds and animals, telling a story of a jungle he once knew, but still alive and in a continuous change. We crawled through a cave, a former mayan house with trees growing on top, spoke with the monkeys, and ate termites (they kinda’ taste like celery). It was an enriching experience, but the 5 big mushrooms I ate never kicked in. So I was only dizzy and yawning a bit, but I took the whole rest of the day relaxing and talking to the second Romanian I met in my trip: a girl from Timisoara travelling with her Turkish boyfriend. It is good to practice your native language at times.
I left Palenque early, aiming to reach Merida. Expecting a tiring ride of ~550km, I found a lovely place to spend the afternoon, right before Campeche – a former fishermen village on the side of the road. Hung my hammock, took a naked bath and had a good rest. My only neighbors were the pelicans and the occasional car passing on the road. The hostel in Merida was the cheapest I could find, but a bit expensive for what it had to offer. Wish there was a straight road to Valladolid so I don’t go around that much. A night in Merida was welcome though, and I was ready to continue my exploration journey the next day to some of the nearby cenotes (sinkholes). Started with Homun, a village where all the tourists from Merida go to for a day trip and a bath. And since I ride with my backpack on the bike, I wanted to find accommodation before going for a dive. Spent about 1hrs asking the locals for a place to stay, but I could only find the “luxury hostel” in their village, with way over the top prices. Disappointed, I decided to risk it and leave the bike outside while I check one of the cenotes. Probably not a famous one, since I was the only person there other than the cashier. Paid 25pesos ($1.5 USD) for a cold bath, alone in a cenote. Not very beautiful, quite dark, but it was my first: cenote Bal-Mil.
With another disappointing experience, and wet swimsuit, I start riding towards Chichen Itza. Had a tasty lunch in a restaurant (I can’t say I like tacos that much, and I was sick with them already) and spent 100 pesos to spend the night in my own hammock on the Eco-Hostel 14km away from Chichen Itza – a hammock was 25pesos in Chacahua, a private hostel room was 100 pesos in Palenque. No other cheaper choice. I planned at least half of the next day to see Chichen Itza. I knew it is crowded, so I packed up and got there at 8:30am. The place is definitely a tourist trap added to the UNESCO heritage last year. You pay an insane amount of money for Mexico just to get in (235pesos) where you’re surrounded and molested by various sellers who take every piece of shade with their selling stands. Plus there’s not much to read (info boards are missing key information) and nothing to see other than the well preserved or rebuilt buildings/pyramids. No, you can’t climb any, or even go too close to them. Even though I took my time, the whole visit took me a little over three hours. Can’t say it was a pleasant walk in the nature either, since the sun was burning pretty hot.
So here I am, leaving Chichzen Itza with a somehow bitter taste, but happy that I saw Palenque first. I reached Valladolid in the early afternoon on a cloudy day and walked around the city for a bit. But right after finishing with sorting the pictures, these folks come to the saem hostel: Ally, Alex and their friend Lisa. We first met in Oaxaca, then again in San Cristobal and I had no idea they are coming in this part of Mexico, and neither did they know I will be here. And yet here we are, staying at the same hostel. I feel that great memories are about to be created!