Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 19:05:50 -0700
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - 960916.rpt
Sunday September 8
Today was a no-travel, do nothing, off-day. I explored more of the town
around the plaza, then found a small restaurante for breakfast, afterwhich I
found a shaded bench in the plaza and brought my journal up to date while
watching the activity around me and perfecting my "no gracias" to the local
Mayan women and children who constantly approach you to buy their crafts and
After lunch I explored more of the town and found a cheaper hotel to move to
for the night. After moving the bike it was time for more people watching i
the plaza. One young lad selling newspapers asked what the thing I was
typing on, so I told him it was a computadora and let him type his name into
the editor. Oof course then he had to enter his age (8), and the names and
ages of his two sisters. and then I had to enter my name and age. I asked
him what he thought my age was and he said 20. Of course most travellers on
this circuit are probably closer to that age than to my 37 years.
Even though we talked for almost an hour yesterday morning, we were sort of
rushed by the guy waiting for the use of the phone and my need to get on the
road. So after dinner I decided to try calling Noemi again. I had
discovered that I could dial the Sprint toll-free number from the Mexican
LadaTel machines after all. I had tried once before and it hadn't worked.
who knows why. I may have done something wrong. At any rate this time it
worked. That's good to know since you don't get charged the service fee lik
you do if you make the call at one of the long distance "stores".
Interestingly enough though, I got a Sprint operator who insisted that it wa
not possible to charge such a call to either my Visa or American Express
cards, despite the fact that a previous Sprint operator had placed such a
call for me. However, for some reason, I can't call the Sprint # and then
charge the call to either of my Visa or American Express cards. The PIN
codes don't seem to be set up properly. Calling is never easy from Mexico!
Tomorrow it's on to the ruins at Palenque, with stops at La Cascadia de Agua
Azul and the Misol-Ha Cascades. The guidebook says it is a 4-hour drive by
car, and even knocking off an hour by bike, given that I want to stop at the
other places Ii plan to get an early 6:30-7am start.
Monday September 9 54930
Temp: 10:30am 100F 3pm 105F
Happy Birthday, Mike, from Chiapas!
Today's routr took me from the cool chiapan highlands back doen to the hot,
humid, muggy lowlands. Agua Azul and Misol-Ha were both in the lower Chiapa
hills before hitting the lowlying flatlands.
The waters at Agua Azul were running chocolate brown due to recent rains, so
although it was 100+ in the sun, I declined to take a dip. However a few
tourists and quite a few locals did venture in the waters. It took a bit
over an hour to hike up along the numerous cascades to the plateau at the to
and then return. The hike up was pleasant as most of it was shaded by the
large trees and there were cool breezes and mists off the cascades. at the
top there was a 3-person, hand powered tram that woiuld take you across the
river for a small fee. I turned around at that point. Once again there were
many stands lining the parking area and portions of the trail to the top,
selling refreshments, food, crafts, and trinkets. Small children approachre
you as you passed to buy their items.
Misol-ha was actually much nicer for swimming. There wasa a nice pool at th
foot of a 100 foot waterfall which was nice and clear. Surrounded by jungle
it was very picturesque. And the swim was a refreshing relief from the 105F
Frequently along the roadsides there were small piles of brush being burned,
and other spots the roadside would be burned for stretches of 50-100 yards.
I think this was just the way the roadside was kept clear of the foliage, as
this area consisted of scrubby jungle growth. Which remids mw, several days
ago I passed one such burn which apparently had gotten out of control. When
I passed, flames were 5-6 feet high in the brush on the left side of the
road, and thick gray smoke was blowing across the road. I entered the smoke
and it quickly got so thick I couldn't see more than 3 feet in front of me.
Then it would clear for a moment and then get bad again. It went on like
this for about 50 yards, the smoke stinging my eyes, and I could literally
feel the heat of the flames through my Aerostich jacket. I could barely mak
out the headlights of an oncoming truck. It was a bit scary. I was glad
when I got through it.
Then on to the town of Palenque, about 5km from the ruins of the same name,
where I got a room in the Hotel LaCroix, just off the town plaza, for 70
pesos. Since my jeans had gotten pretty muddy in the hike up along the Agua
Azul Cascades, and since up till now I had only hand washed things, I decide
to do a load of laundry. Supposedly there was a Lavanderia Automatica in
town. I found it, but had forgotten that an automatic laundramat in Mexico
usually just means it has automatic washing machines, not that it is
self-service. My laundry would be ready at noon tomorrow.
Since this was a fair size town, but not so big as to be a pain to get aroun
on foot. I thought there might be a good chance I could find an auto-parts
store to buy some feeler guages to replace the set which somehow disappeared
from my tool roll. I found a set, ironically made in the USA, for 60 pesos.
It's always funny to see how prices work out. 60 pesos is about 8 bucks,
about what you would pay for such a set of feeler guages in the US. But the
60 pesos was also almost what I paid for my hotel room, which in the US woul
be expensive for a set of feeler guages.
Tuesday September 10
Happy Birthday Sweetie!
A storm moved in last night as I was going to bed around 10pm and it rained
heavily on and off throughout the night, accompanied by thunder and
lightening. This morning the skies were still a bit overcast, though patche
of blue were showing through.
Got to the ruins as they opened at 8am. The mists were still rising off the
surrounding jungle and the tour bus crowds had yet to arrive. The Temple of
Inscriptions at Palenque is one of the more photographed pyramids in Mexico.
Lush green lawns surrounded most of the ruins. Trails to several of the
ruins led through the wet, dripping surrounding jungle. From within the
temple at the top of the Temple of Inscriptions, 60-some steps led down to
the tomb of Pakal, which was not discovered until the 1950s. Unless you're
an amateur archaelogist and want to examine all the carving and mosaics in
minute detail, a morning is adequate for exploring the site. By 11:30 I was
walked out and it was getting hot, even in the shade. Up till then, it was
not bad if you were in the shade, but walk around in the sun and you were
soon drenched. Fortunately there were no mosquitos. In the parking lot, as
I was getting my stuff together to leave, a family (mom, dad, and teenage
son) from Marin California walked up and we talked for a while.
I headed back into the town of Palenque to gas up, pick up my laundry, and
have some lunch before headed north towards Campiche. When I got to the
laundry, they hadn't even started my laundry yet, despite having promised it
as reflected by my receipt, by noon. She said to come back at 2pm. I said
no, give me my things, and left, very much annoyed.
After lunch I left Palenque at about 12:30, with a planned destination of
Ticul in the state of Yucatan. It would be a high mileage day, more than
250, but on the Yucatan Penninsula, most roads are very straight, and I was
able to keep the needle at 65mph most of the way. From Palenque, the road
headed north-northeast through country where most of the jungle had been
cleared for cattle grazing. At the town of Escarcega, the road turned north
till it hit the Gulf Coast at Champoton. From there the road more or less
followed the coast to Campiche. A few areas along the coast there were
small, narrow white sand beaches, but for the most part the beaches were
Due to confusion in a road construction area, I missed the turn-off to head
inland to Ticul. and found myself approaching the old walled city of Campich
on the Gulf Coast. It was late enough in the day that I decided to call it
day, and with the aid of the Guidebook found a cheap hotel in the old sectio
of town, down near the waterfront. I'm glad I missed the turn, since
Campiche turned out to be a really nice old city, and even though it has a
population of amost 180000, my hotel, the Hotel Castelmar, was near several
of the old baluartes (bulwarks) which were part of the old wall which had
surrounded the city. Only the baluartes stand today; the rest of the old
wall itself has been torn down.
Two of the baluartes houswd small museums and another a small tropical garde
and these were open till 8:30 at night so I had time to visit them and the
Puerta del Mar (Sea Gate) which was the sole access to the city from the sea
when the walls were standing. There was a warm breeze blowing in off the
Gulf and I strolled along Avenida Ruiz Cortines, the street along the Gulf.
It was dark, and the wide walkway, lined with benches seemed to be a favorit
with joggers and couples enjoying the evening.
The plaza, originally just inside the old walls, was now several blocks from
the waterfront. It too was full of school kids hanging out and couple
strolling and sitting. Shoe-shine stands occupied the intersections of the
main walkways through the plaza.
Wednesday September 11 55316
Temp: 7am 80F
Walked up to the Plaza and had breakfast at the Cafe & Restaurante Campiche.
Had a terrific local dish, Huevos Motulenos - a tortilla topped with beans,
two fried eggs, ham and peas, the whole thing topped with salsa and with
fried bananas on the sides. Delicious.
After replenishing my peso supply at an ATM machine I called Noemi to wish
her a 1-day late Happy Birthday. I had tried the night before but got the
answering machine. I also made a couple of phone calls to try to figure out
the situation with Sprint and my Visa or American Express Cards. It seems th
original information I had been given was incorrect; I could not call the
Sprint toll-free number and then charge the call to either of those credit
cards. I would need the Sprint account and PIN number, which I had signed u
for before I left home, but had not arrived at the time I had left. With an
luck that information will have been forwarded to my parent's address and
I'll be able to get the information I need in a couple of days when they
return from their vacation. Until then, my choices are paying TelMex's long
distance rates which are expensive, or call collect via Sprint, but I can't
use the latter to access my ISP with my modem. So no email until I get the
I checked out some of Campiche's old mansions before leaving in late morning
On the way to Ticul, I stopped at two ruin sites, Kabah and Sayil. Both are
in the area known as the Puuc Hills, or La Ruta Puuc, which includes 5 or 6
main archaeolgical sites, of which the largest, best preserved, and most
well-known is Uxmal. The most notable ruin at Kabah is the Palace of Masks
while Sayil is known for El Palacio. The area flourished from 600-900AD,
with Uxmal probably being the major city in the area encompassing the
satellite cities of Kabah, Sayil,Xlapak, and Labna.
In Ticul I experienced a "full" hotel for the first time. My first choice,
Hotel Sierra Sosa, didn't have any more singles (for 40 pesos), only doubles
for 60 pesos. Instead I headed for Hotel San Miguel a couple of blocks away
where I got a room for the bargain price of 25 pesos. It was nicer than som
rooms I paid 70 pesos for.
Ticul has motorcycles. And mopeds and scooters as weLl. All types, 2-stokes
and 4-strokes, most of them older, and of makes I'm not familiar with. You
frequently see women riding passenger sidesaddle on the back, Or entire
families of 3 or 4 people crammed on one cycle. Women pilot them almost as
much as men, though usually on the smaller cycles or scooters.
On my way into town, I was following the signs to the Pemex station, when I
became lost in a maze of back streets. I saw a young guy on a '90 Suzuki 90
and I asked him "Donde es el Pemex estacion?" (Where is the Pemex station?)
He looked at me as if I was speaking Russian. That's always a bit unnerving
especially when it was such a basic question. So I rephrased it, and
pointing to the bike's fuel tank, said "Gasolina". This he understood, and
laughing her said "Vamos", and indicated to follow him. That little exchang
will teach me to try to be eloquent in my use of Spanish. He led me through
the streets until we arrived at the Pemex station. Then we did what
motorcyclists do all over the world, we talked about our bikes. He instantl
recognized mine as a BMW and chuckled at its clattering valves compared to
his quiet water cooled engine.
Thursday September 12 55460
Temp: 11:30am 90F in the shade
Went to the major site of Uxmal, and the lesser siter of Labna. Most of the
lesser sites charge 10 pesos admission with free parking. Uxmal was the mos
expensive to date with a parking fee of 5 pesos and admission fee of 30
pesos. I got to Uxmal a bit later than I wanted, at 8:30, and there were
already 5 or 6 tour busses. When I left around noon there were at least
twice that number. Some times I think I'm in Germany. German tourists are
everywhere. For every tourist of a different nationality, there are probabl
15-20 Germans. Most are part of large tour groups, though there are also a
lot of young Germans travelling in pairs or small groups. The two structure
Uxmal is best known for are the Pyramid of the Magician and the Govenor's
After Uxmal I went tp Labna which has an arch which is better restored than
the one I saw yesterday at Kabah. Labna also has a long, well restored
stretch of the raised, limestone-paved Sacbe, or ceromonial road, which
connected many of the cities in the Puuc Hills.
A common image seen throughout the ruins in the Puuc Hills is that of Chac,
the rain God. Chac masks, with their long, curved, elaphant-like noses,
adorn the corners and doorways of many buildings. Chac was of great
importance, since the Puuc Hills are very dry, with few ready sources of
water such as springs or rivers. The Mayans relied on what rainfall there
was, and devised an elaborate system of lime-lined reservoirs and cisterns
(chultunes) and natural depressions to capture and store the rainfall.
Several good examples of chultunes can be seen at Labna. It is stilll
somewhat of a mystery of how the mmaya survived in an area with so precious
litttle water, and in fact one theorey as to why the region was ultimately
abandoned is that there was a severe drought which forced the population to
leave. another theory is that the rise to greatness of Chitza-It