Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 19:06:02 -0700
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - 960929.rpt
Tuesday September 17 55684
The Anthropology Museum was interesting and informative, despite most
descriptions being only in Spanish. It had many well-preserved Mayan
artifacts recovered from the various sites, and quite a few photographs of
the early discovery and excavation of some of the sites. There were aerial
photos of some of the sites I had visited, including Uxmal, Kabah, and Sayil
which helped visualize the sites since they are on such a large scale. It
was relatively small and an hour and a half was more than sufficient.
I made a wake-up call to Noemi, since this was her last day in California
prior to taking a several-month contract in Washington D.C. The night befor
I called Sprint to find out what happened to my Sprint FonCard. They had
just sent it 4 days ago, about 4 weeks after they said it would be sent! I
was able to get the account number and PIN number over the phone, so long
distance calls back home should be easier now. Wwhile standing at the phone
booth talking with Noemi, I had set a full bottle of purified water on the
top of the booth. When I hung up the phone and went to get the bottle, it
was gone. It had never been more than 2 feet from my head the whole time,
but still someone managed to snag it.
At breakfast in Parque Hidalgo, I again ran into the local English teacher.
and it was interesting to see local prejudices at work. I told him I was
going to ccelestun that afternoon, and to that he replied thst while I shoul
definitely go there to see the flamingos, that under no circumstances should
I eat in any of the restaurants there as they were all dirty and unsanitary.
After a quick shower back at my hotel, I checked out and left Merida, headin
west 60 miles to Celestun on the coast. On the way, in one of the small
villages along the way, I passed a purple VW beetle rented from Hertz, I was
to run into the couple driving it that night at dinner.
Celestun is a small fishing village located on a spit of land between the
Gulf of Mexico to the west and a large lagoon to the east. It is in the
lagoon, a 20 minute boat ride north of town that the pink flamingos have
their nesting grounds. Tourists come here for the flamingos and not for the
beaches, since the wind off the Gulf makes the water choppy and stirs up a
lot of silt. Most tourists make it a day-trip from Merida. I saw at least
small hotels in town, 3 of them on the beach catering primarily to tourists.
The nicest 2 of these were multi-story structures, but these had experienced
sever price inflationfrom when my guide book had been published, and a singl
room at each was 120 pesos. While this was only $17US it was more than I
wanted to pay, so I went to the 3rd hotel down the street which had about 12
rooms on one level, two out front by the street, and the rest in back around
a courtyard facing the beach. I got a room in back, with bath, for 60 pesos
Access to the back was via a hallway with several corners. They turned out
to be to tight to get the bike around. After a couple of failed attempts to
negotiate the corners, I gave up, backed the bike back out, and parked it in
inside the front gate of the hotel. I took my usual precautions of locking
the saddlebags and topcase, U-lock through the front wheel and forks, and
then putting the bike cover on. ii also locked it to a pole with my cable
lock. I really wasn't worried too much avout the bike, since it had taken
such effort to get it inside the gate to begin with. In fact, Till that was
done, I was as usual, at the end of the day, drenched in sweat, and my pants
which had started the day freshly machine washed for the first time on the
trip, were now the dirtiest they had been yet, from the sweat and having
rubbed up against the green white-washed walls of the hotel's hallways.
After a shower I walked down the beach which was lined with beached fishing
boats. The fishermen were still unloading the days catch. Some young boys
wer playing baseball on a makeshift field on the beach. A little farther
down the beach was a bar/restaurant facing the beach, and I went in for a
couple of beers. while sitting there enjoying the constant, cool breeze off
the Gulf, two Caucasion women came in and sat down at the table next to me.
I had seen them in Merida several days before. They were from Norway, and
had flown into Orlando, Florida and then gone west through New Orleans to
Brownsville Texas where they had crossed the border. They were travelling b
public transportation, bus primarily. They had been in Mexico for several
weeks now, but knew essentially no Spanish, and had trouble asking for the
bill (La cuenta, por favor) from the waiter. They were in Celestun on a day
trip, had just returned from the boat ride to see the flamingos, and we
talked for about a half hour before they had to catch the bus back to Merida
After they left, Alberto, wearing a white Panama hat, walked up. He ran the
restaurante/bar, and also organized tours to the flamingos. He had studied
English locally and his English was a little better than my Spanish. Of
course he wanted to practice his English and I wanted to practice my Spanish
so we conversed in a combination of the two. each of us lapsing back to our
native tongue when we were stumped in the other. It was interesting getting
his perspectives as a local businessman. He said the government tourist
bureau frequently visited his restaurant and told him his prices were too
low, that he should charge such and such for this dish, or this many pesos
for a beer. and he said he would reply, "Why, my costs are such and such,an
these prices are fair." Another problem were the tourist magazines in citie
like Merida, which when writing about the flamingo boat trips, would say tha
a boat holding 8 people would cost 150 pesos, when in fact the price was 180
pesos for the boat, and while the boats can hold 8 people, if that many are
aboard, the boat rides too low in the water to get close to the flamingos.
Alberto said that they have had cases where the tourist insisted on putting
people in the boat, but then refusing to pay after the trip when they
couldn't get close to the flamingos because the boat was too loaded. The
boat captains will now not take more than 6 people.
Their menu had one-line English translations for each item. One item was
fish stuffed with shrimp and "sea shells". Sea shells? I figured it wasn't
the crunchy things oysters lived in, but was it pasta, or what. Checking th
accompanying Spanish word, caracol, in my dictionary, revealed they meant
snails. I pointed the confusing transation out to Alberto who made a note o
I hadn't been ready for dinnner before, and by the time Alberto and I got
done talking, this restaurant was closing, so I walked doen the beach to one
that was still open, arriving at the same time as the couple I recognized as
driving the VW rental bug, so we grabbed a table together. They were Walter
and Ilse from Austria. They had taken a boat out to the flamingos after
arriving that afternoon and had to split the 180 pesos between the two of
them. I had been told that early in the morning, 6 or 7, was best, but
Alberto had told me that right now that was low tide, so it was better to go
a bit later in the morning around 10:30. Both had traveled in Central and
South America previously and I got some leads on various places to see and
stay in several countries.
Both had previously had a bad experience with Lariam, the malaria medicine I
was taking, having suffered serious depression while taking it. this trip
they were not taking any malaria medication, instead relying on religious us
of insect repellant. Even so, they said, they were still covered with bites
as was I. I was hoping my malaria medication was doing what it was supposed
to be doing, though I was also using repellant as needed.
Wednesday September 18 55759
Temp: 12:30pm 118F in sun
I had decided to average the advice I had been given and to show up at the
bridge 1 mile east of town where you hired the boats, at 8 to 8:30. Walter
and Ilse said they might go out again, if a boatful could be put together.
When I arrived, I was the only one there, so explained to the boatmen that I
would wait for other people to arrive to split the costs with them. About
8:45 a middleage woman and her parents, who were from Merida, arrived, so I
joined them on a boat, and we headed out. The boat trip was about an hour
and a half, and took us out to the flamingo nesting grounds. While we didn'
see the thousands of birds which are evidently here during the peak, we did
see several hundred flamingos up close. A spectacular sight. We also went
by several islands where many types of waterfowl were nesting. and a small
lagoon fed by a freshwater spring, which was clear, cool, and perfect for a
After leaving Celestun, I had to return through the outskirts of Merida
before heading north to the coast and the town of Progresso, somewhat of a
coastal beach resort for Meridians. On the way I stopped at the
Dzibilchaltun archaelogical site. known primarily for it's long sacbe
(ceromonial road), the Temple of te Seven Dolls, with windows and doorways
precisely aligned on an east-west axis, and a large 40 meter deep cenote,
which now is used as a swimming pool. The cenote was a refreshing way to
cool off after the hot ride.
In progresso I got a room for 70 pesos at the Hotel Real del Mar, located
right on the Malecon, the palm-lined boulevard which runs along the beach fo
Thursday September 19
Spent the morning having breakfast and strolling through the blocks
surrounding the plaza, 5 blocks or so off the beach. In the afternoon I
retired to the beach where I alternated between the sand, the water, and the
shade of several beachfront restaurants. The water was pleasantly warm, and
the beach sloped so gently out into the Gulf, that one could wade out for
several hunded yards before the water got up to your neck. Progresso is
known for it's long muelle (pier) which extends a full 6.5km (4 miles) into
the water. so large container and crise ships can stop at Progresso.
While Progresso may be the local beach resort, given that it was midweek in
mid-September, there were delightfully few people, tourists or local, around
And few vendors peddling their wares on the beach, though there were a few.
One young guy was selling hammocks, and after trying to sell me one for some
time, he finally got the idea that I wasn't going to buy one and moved on.
Later in the afternoon he came by again and said he had only sold 2 that day
that it was very slow. We then talked about various other topics for about
hour before he said he had to get back to work, and headed off down the beac
to the nearest clump of sunbathers.
Replenished my peso supply at an ATM machine. The 1st one I tried wouldn't
work, and a clerk at that bank, said only Visa and Mastercard, or their
bankcard, would work in the machine, and that it was the same at other banks
in Progresso, and that ii'd have to go to Merida to find a machine which
would take my ATM card. That bummed me out, but a block down the street I
found another bank and machine and tried it and it worked! Go figure.
Again, as for most of the othewr ATMs I've used in Mexico, this one was in a
small room accessable both from the main bank lobby, and from the street.
However, since my first experience, I've noticed that the door to the street
is controlled by a card reader of its own, and that swiping your Attmm card
through the reader opens the door. So contrary to my first guess, I think
most machines are available 24 hours.
Friday September 20 55825
I left Progressso at 8am, headeds for the ruins at Chichen Itza, about 90
miles away. Ants had gotten into the bag of pastries I had bought the night
before, so I decided to ride a while before stopping for breakfast or lunch.
Had an early lunch at a small Launcheria in Piste, the nearest town to Chche
Itza, at 11am, while I read the guide book's hotel reccommendations. This
being a prime destination for the hoards of Cancun tourists, the prices
reflected it. I paid 125 pesos for a room at the Hotel dolores Alba, 3 km
west of the ruins. It was a nice hotel with its own restaurant facing a
small, circular, blue-tiled swimming pool in it's courtyard. After a quick
shower and dip in the pool I headed for the ruins. But first I had to drop m
bike in the gravel parking lot while taking it off the centerstand. I had
just filled it up with nearly 12 gallons of gas, and I let it lean too far
away from me and over it went. Fortunately no one was around to witness the
faux pas, and surprisingly I had litttle trouble in getting it upright again
However in the process I grabbed the lower edge of the seat and ripped out
the rivets holding the seat latch to the seat pan. for the time being the
seat is just sitting atop the frame rails. There are enough other things
wedged around it in various places that I don't notice any difference.
I arrived at the ruins at 11:30 and immediately was depressed immediately.
There was a long line of tour busses out front and hoards of tourists, were
getting out of them. Undoubtably tere were hoards more already inside. I
had a feeling I wasn't going to enjoy Chichen Itza. Rather than fight the
heat of the day, I retreated to the cool of the air conditioned theater. It
was showing a series of videotapes on various archaeological sites throughou
Mexico, including Chichen Itza, and numerous other sites I had already
visited, including Palenque, Uxmal, Teotihuacan, and Tula. A few were in
English, but most were in Spanish with English subtitles. One or two were
solely in Spanish. They were very interesting, and finding myself reluctant
to venture out into the heat and crowds, I watched for about two and a half
Once outside I did manage to take in the major structures and sites,
including the 75 foot high pyramid El Castillo, the ball court, the largest
in Mexico, the Sacred Cenote, 60 meters in diameter and 35 meters deep and
used for human sacrifices among other things. and El Caracol, the
El Castillo is actually the Mayan calendar in stone. For example each of the
four staircases has 91 steps, which when you add the top platform adds up to
the 365 days of the year. tomorrow is the fall equinox, when a special
effect takes place on El Castillo. The shape of its various levels, and its
orientation with respect to the setting sun, causes shadows to be cast on ot
north staircase which appear to be a serpent descending the pyramid. There
is a stone serpent's head at the bottom of the stairway which completes the
illusion. The effect is almost as good in the week preceeding and following
the equinox and large crowds of people hung around after the official 5pm
closing to see it. By 5:45 you could see the effect, and the guards were
starting to herd people towards the exits. El Castillo also contains a
pyramid within the larger external pyramid. A set of slippery (from the
moist, humid air inside the pyramid) stone steps led up inside the pyramid t
a small room containing a red throne and a reclining Chac-mool statue.
My original plan had been to look at some of the ruins late in the afternoon
and then return first thing in the morning to see the rest. However I saw
enough this afternoon and the prospect of dealing with more crowds in the
morning was sufficiently distasteful, that I decided I would not return in
I saw a couple ride up on a red and white R100GS-PD.as I was entering the
visitor center, however by the time I left at 6pm the bike was gone. I
couldn't see what type of plates they had.
Had dinner at the hotel's restaurant since there was nothing else near the
hotel and I didn't want to get on the bike and ride the 2 miles in to the
town of Piste. It was actually very nice. The tables were on the deck
facing the pool which was lit and had several brightly colored balls floatin
on it's glimmering surface. Linen tablecloths, candles. The only thing
lacking for a very romantic dinner was sweetie. Every so often a bat would
swoop down over the surface of the pool to catch some bugs and you'd see the
water ripple, I guess either where the bug had been or where the bat touched
the surface. A light breeze blew the floating balls in a circular pattern
around the pool.
There were several other couples and a party of 6 dining as well. As I was
finishing desert a single woman came in and sat down at the table next to
mine. We got to talking and her name was Beverly and she was from London.
She was travelling solo, by bus, on a two week vacation in the Yucatan.
Turns out she works for Walt Disney and is a producer of Saturday morning
childrens TV shows. Before Disney she worked for the BBC.
Earlier today, for the 1st time in weeks I thoughtr about work. I don't
remember anymore what triggered it, but then for some reason I tried to
picture my office at work, and couldn't! It took several attempts to bring
the image back. That's good!
Saturday September 21 55931
I expected the hotel and restaurant to be deserted this morning since I slep
in till 9am. For the 1st time this trip, I didn't sleep well last night. I
just tossed and turned all night. It was hot, but not moreso than many othe
nights. I'm not sure why. About an hour after I turned out the lights I wa
jolted awake when a bird or something tried to fly through the louvers on th
window into my room, but the screen kept it out. Then sometime in the middl
of the night a loud whooshing sound awoke me and something landed on the bed
I'm not sure how high above the bed I jumped. I had hung my Aerostich jacke
on a plastic coat-hanger about 6 feet from the bed. I guess the plastic
hanger had sort of collapsed, allowing the jacket to fall off it ans slide
down along the wall, while somehow launching the hanger through the air onto
the bed. Maybe those occurances were why I didn't sleep well.
Just as I sat down to breakfast, Beverly walked in, having slept in as well,
so we has breakfast together. I took the morning off, lounging in the
hammocks by the pool, taking a quick dip in the pool, before taking a shower
and checking out of my room at noon. Then I left, heading east towards
Yucatan's Carribean coast, but with a planned destination that bight of the
village of Coba, near the ruins of the same name.
45 minutes later I was swimming again, but this time 40 feet underground, in
the cool crystal-clear water of the Cenote Dzipnat. Cenotes are natural
limestone caves which collect rain water. Sometimes their roofs have
collapsed, leaving them open above, other times they have only a small
opening to the outside. They were important wateer sources for the Maya in
this arid area. Access to the cenote was via some narrow stone stairs
leading down to a walkway bordering the water. The pool itself was about 50
yards in diameter, and directly above the pool was a 6 foot opening fringed
with green foliage.
A risk anytime you swim in unknown fresh water is schistosomiasis, a
parasitic worm which can penetrate unbroken skin. The guidebook I had
suggested going for a swim, then covered it'as legal ass by stating:
"Swimming in stagnant cenotes is an excellant way to contact the disease;
whether Cenote Dzipnup has the snail larvae which carry the worm eggs I can'
say, so you're on your own." Other tourists and a lot of lo locals were
swimming, plus it looked so inviting, so I took a swim. I guess I'L have to
reread about the symptoms of Schistosomiasis, though I do remember it's not
pleasant and if left untreated can cause major problems. Gary Andeen's
daughter (Gary is a co-worker at SRI) contracted it while working for the
Peace Corp in Africa.
In the parking lot at Dzipnup, I ran into a couple I had seen numerous place
over the last several weeks, thuugh had not had a chance to talk with them.
They wer from Italy, had bought a VW bug here in Mexico four months ago, and
had travelled throughout Central America. I had seen them for the first tim
in Palenque and thet were also headed to Cobah and Tulum as was i, so we'd
probably see each other again. I said one of these days we'll have to get
together for dinner and they laughed.
About 80km west of Cancun, I turned south towards the ruins at Cobah and
Tulum. Up till then, since Merida, I had been travelling on the main highwa
between Merida and Cancun, though on the free highway, not the toll road.
Most of the land along that route had been cleared of jungle and was being
used for crops or small-scale grazing. Once I turned south off the main
highway, however it changed, with the majority being uncleared, with only
occasional patches cleared for agrriculture. As throughout most of Yucatan,
the road was predominately straight, with an occasional curve thrown in. Th
foliage grew right up to both sides of the road. It gave the impression of
riding down a green hallway, with a ceiling of blue sky and white clouds
I arrived in Cobah around 3pm, had a late lunch in a small launcheria near
the entrance to the ruins, then walked back to the village and got a room at
the Hotel El Bocadito for 50 pesos. Bocadito means "Little Mouthful" which
may seem like a strange name for a hotel, except that it is run by the same
family who runs the Restaurant El Bocadito next door.
As quite a few of my previous rooms have had, this one also had wall hooks
for a hammock. Since tomorrow I would be getting to the Caribbean coast and
I planned to spend several days in a palapa along the beach, I thought it
might be a goof idea to try out for the first time the hammock I had bought
at home and brought with me. I hadn't even hung it up at home. How's that
Ever since Merida I had been rebuffing the hammock vendors by telling them I
already had one. I did admit to a couple of them whom I talked with that I
had actually bought it in the US and they thought that was funny. probably
also stupid, though they were too polite to say so.
Well, when I got mine hung up in my room, I began to regret not having bough
one of the high quality hammocks available at very good prices in Merida.
The one I had seemed a lot smaller than some I had seen being peddled on the
streets of Merida, and I seriously questioned how I was going to manage to
stay in it all night. I may have to check out some local stores for
hammocks, though I'm sure prices will be higheer than I could have had in
There are delightfully few tourists here in Cobah. There is basically one
small hotel in the village with about 10 rooms and I'm the only person
staying here. There is another large, expensive hotel closer to the ruins
which is targetted at the tour bus crowd. I believe it is actually run by
the same company which runs the Club Med chain. For the most part, I haven'
seen any of the people staying there. They don't seem to venture out of
their comfortable tourist cocoon.
Sunday September 22
When I turned the palmtop on this morning, it greeted me with the message
that today is Sweetie and my anniversary. 3 years since our first date, a
2-up ride on Noemi's R65, with Noemi at the controls, to the Grandview
restaurant overlooking San Jose and the Silicon Velley. When we got back to
my place I installed speakers in her helmet. Very romantic, huh? 3 years i
by far the longest I've gone out with any woman.
This anniversary raises very mixed feelings in me. I think Noemi is the onl
woman I've truely been in love with, and certainly the only one I've thought
of marrying or spending the rest of my life with. And leaving on the trip
without her was the toughest thing I've had to do. I don't know how many
times each week I think that if Sweetie were along on this trip we'd be
having the times of our life.
On the other hand, before I left on this trip, we sort of agreed to breakup
on this anniversary. Sounds wierd, right? Especially when neither one of u
wants to breakup. I view it as more of a trial separation, giving each of u
the opportunity to do some self assessment, evaluate our priorities, and wha
is important in our lives. Even if I wasn't on this trip, we probably would
have needed to do something like this. Because, although we really have one
major issue between us, it is a major one, and that is kids. Noemi wants
them, while I do not. Unfortunately, it's not an issue that can readily be
What does it all mean? I'm not sure. Each of us is free to see other
people, but neither of us has much interest in doing so. Logisticly, in
terms of phone calls, letters, etc., not much will change.
Walked to the ruins, and was there when they opened at 8am. Since it was
Sunday, admission was free. This particular site has 3 main groups of ruins
each separated by 1 to 2 kilometers of jungle. I saved the **** group
containing the Grand Pyramid for last. This pyramid, at ** ft, is the
tallest pyramid of all the ruins on the Yucatan Penninsula. It was 15
minutes after I got to the top of the pyramid, at 11am, when I saw the 1st
other tourist at the site. A welcome change from Chitzen Itza. As I walked
the 3 km back to the main gate, I passed numerous tour groups on their way
in. Cobah really leaves you with the impression of a vast city. Many of th
buildings remain unexcavated, and the jungle surrounds the sites. Walking
between the sites, one is walking down paths cut through the jungle,
generally with a canopy above you. This kept the hot sun off me for most of
the morning. I saw several large 4" spiders, with large red/orange bodies,
and several snakes as I walked along the paths. From the top of the tallest
structures one was looking out over the jungle, towards several lakes to the
south and east.
After a shower back at the hotel and lunch, I rode the 50 miles to the
Carribean coast and the ruins at Tulum.
This area was another good example of how quickly things can change and guid
books become out of date. I had known the prices in my book would be out of
date, since it was a 1991 edition, purchased several years ago when I starte
planning this trip. However I had been finding that the infrastructure
(i.e., roads, parking, admission gates) at many archaeological sites was now
completely different than described in my guidebook. It was clear that many
such sites had had substantial upgrades and improvements made in the last
several years, and that the amount of tourism in the area had grown
substantially as well.
My guidebook described getting to the beach cabanas near the ruins by taking
a road south from the ruins parking lot. You couldn't even drive to that
parking lot anymore as there was now a remote lot and shuttle busses
delivered you to the ruins. The road south from the old parking lot was no
longer in use and was gradually becoming overgrown with weeds. To get to th
beach cabanas one had to take a new road in from the south.
I went to the Cabanas Santa Fe where I paid for 2 nights in a cabana for
70/night. These had a concrete floor, with a thatched roof, and wood pole
walls, a locking door and matress on a concrete pad. Mine is 15 yards from
the beach. Showers and baths are shared.
Ran into Walter and Ilse, who had been here since Friday. They had to leave
in a couple of hours to go back to Cancun and catch their flight back to
Austria that night. Had a couple of beers with them to celebrate their last
few hours of freedom.
There's definitely other people here, but most are travelers, not tourists.,
i.e. the tour bus crowd.
Of the 15 or so people i talked with so far, 2 were Canadian, the others wer
European, with quite a few from Eastern Europe, including Hungary, and the
former East Germany.
There's a small restaurant/bar located a hundred yards or so off the beach,
behind the cabanas. The prices are very cheap, especially when one consider
that its predominately foreigners who eat there. But i think that's part of
the difference between a tourist hangout and a travelers hangout. Most of
the travellers staying here are travelling for weeks or months, or even
years, and are on a relatively tight budget, and wouldn't eat there if the
prices were not reasonable.
Nick, a British chap with tatoos over his left arm and shoulder, seems to be
a wandering soul type of person. He's travelling in a mid-size RV, but is
heading to Belize where he evidently can arrange the sale and paperwork
transfer. He does photography and finances his travels with the occasional
photojournalism piece, among other enterprises. A very likable chap.
Carey and Donald were the Canadians from Toronto. He a 42 year old separate
ironworker with 2 kids, she a 24 year old nursing student with 1 more year o
studies, part-time waitress in a topless bar, though she herself did not
dance, and freelance model, who has done some posters for Molsens and
Budweiser in Canada. She and Donald were neighbors in the same apartment
complex and were just platonic friends, in Mexico for a 2 week vacation.
I had dinner with Carey and Donald and 2 British woman who just arrived toda
from Belize. Carey was definitely the Cancun-type and it as Donald who got
her to go on this, for her, roughing-it type of vacation. However they had
been here at Tulum 1 day having spent the previous 5 days north at Playa del
Carmen, and Carey found the bugs and crabs on the beach here diatasteful.
The beach also had a lot of seaweed on it which she didn't like, so they wer
going to return to Playa del Carmen tomorrow. The cabanas were cheaper ther
as well. The 2 british women were headed there as well. I had been planning
to head in that direction after a couple of days here near Tulum, so I'll
probably run into them again up there.
After dinner a couple of us wandered over to a disco/bar on the beach, one
cabana complex south of ours. There were about 20 people there, though
everyone was outside at the tables and chairs on the beach. Ran into the
italian couple there.
Tommy, a free-spirited Swedish guy, had been travelling around the world for
the past 15 months. He had just experienced some difficulties with the
border guards at the Belize-Mexico border. He was carrying in his pack a
small skeleton replica, he had bought for some reason or another in South
America, and he had a tough time convincing the guards it wasn't real and
that he had purchased it legitimately. One really does run into some
Monday September 23
It rained heavily at about 3am this morning, accompanied by strong winds and
heavy thunder and lightening. Watching the lightening through the gaps in
the pole walls provided interesting visual effects.
In the morning, there were a couple of small puddles on the floor of my
cabana, but the bed had remained dry.
Up until the storm it had been quite hot and sticky, and I simply lay atop m
youth hostel sheet-sack. With the storm, the temperatures actually dropped
significantly, and for one of the few times in the last 2 weeks I got cold
and crawled inside the sheet-sack.
Got up at 6am and watched the sun poke its way through the clouds over the
eastern horizon. The skies here were clear blue, and by 8am it was already
becoming warm, though with a nice breeze.
About mid-morning a small front moved in and it remained mostly overcast for
the rest of the afternoon. It rained several times during the morning and
At about 2pm, after waiting for a shower to pass, several of us decided to
visit the ruins at Tulum, which was a mile or so north along the beach. The
consensus of the group was to take the free "rear entrance" into the ruins,
via the beach, rather than pay the 20 peso admission at the main gate. So w
walked down along the beach. The last 200 yards or so involved rock hopping
as the sand beach gave way to a steep, rocky coast.
The ruins themselves, compared to other Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, are smal
and unnoteworthy. What makes them spectacular is their location. The city i
located right on the coast, overlooking the clear blue waters of the
Carribean Ocean. The city is surrounded on three sides by a stone wall with
5 gates. The 4th side is the beach, which except for one small sand beach i
the middle, is a steep, rocky cliff of some 50 feet. The largest structure
in the city is the fortress-like structure perched at the edge of the cliff,
overlooking the ocean.
Tuesday September 24 56070
My destination for today was Playa del Carmen, about 50 miles north along th
coast. Many people I've talked to have said the beach is a lot nicer. Afte
a leisurely breakfast at the local restaurant, I begin to load up the
motorcycle. While doing so, a young German woman comes over to ask about th
bike and my travels. She is just here for a 3 week vacation, but back home
in Germany has a BMW F650 Funduro. It's her 2nd bike, having been riding fo
about 3 years. She saya ultimately she wants to do a trip such as mine.
As I put my riding gear on, I could see rain coming in over the ocean, and
within 5 minutes of getting on the bike I the rain had caught up to me.
Since I was not wearing the bottom half of my Aerostich suit my pants were
soon completely wet, but the rain was warm and I knew that within several
minutes I'd be in the sun again, and they would dry out quickly. 45 minutes
later they were dry.
There was a military checkpoint at the intersection of the main highway alon
the coast, with the road to Cobah and the road to the beach and the Cabanas.
I had passed through it twice upon my arrival 2 days ago, and again this
morning. I'm not sure why they were posted where they were, whether it was
for drugs or political reasons, given this was a prime tourist area near the
mega-resort of Cancun. Probably both reasons. At any rate, as was my usual
experience, the young recruits were far more interested in my motorcycle and
GPS unit, and where I was from and headed, than in searching my belongings o
hassling me. I actually kind of liked such checkpoints. I'd often end up
talking with the soldiers for 10-15 minutes until they realized that a line
of vehicles had built up behind me and they would then wave me on with a
smile. I'm sure the people in the vehicles behind me would think, "Poor
motorcyclist", thinking I was really being grilled. If only they knew they
were really waiting while the soldiers and I talked bikes, GPS systems, and
At Playa del Carmen, my destination was La Ruina Cabanas, which was the
budget place in town. However Playa is a town which has grown very rapidly
from a sleepy fishing village several years ago, to a "poor persons" Cancun
beach resort. It was also where one boarded the ferry to Cozumel, off the
coast. Because of the recent growth, my guidebook was completely out of dat
with respect to the town and didn't say where La Ruina Cabanas were. So I
had to park the bike and walk along the beachfront to find them.
When I returned to the bike a half hour later, it was on its side. From wha
I could determine by talking to several nearby people, a tour bus had clippe
it while turning a corner. It had apparently happened not more than 5
minutes before I had returned. Of course the bus didn't stop. A man walkin
by helped me pick the bike up, and at first I thought everthing was fine,
until I went to apply the front brake. The lever came loose in my hand. Th
lever itself was fine. However the aluminum perch, which slides onto the
handlebar, and to which the lever is bolted, was broken right where the
lever's bolt goes through. Great! I carry spare levers, but not a spare
perch. I'm able to jury-rig things using stainless-steel safety wire,
sufficiently to get me the 3 blocks to the Cabanas. I debate contacting the
police to file some kind of report, but decide it would be too much red-tape
Before I can locate the Cabanas office I run into Carey who says Donald
decided to sleep in his hammock in the open air building and that if I like
can split the room she has and give her 25 pesos per night. Rather than pay
50 pesos for a room myself I accept her offer. As it turns out all the othe
cabanas were full so my only other options would have been to hang a hammock
for 25 pesos per night or pitch my tent for 20 pesos per night. Showers and
bathrooms are common.
After unloading my gear I take a closer look at the damaged perch, and
conclude that while i probably could repair it using JB-Weld and safety wire
and that such a repair might even last, given that I was in a reletively
large town and one where I didn't mind being stuck for several days, I shoul
try toorder a replacement part shipped in from Cal BMW back at home. So I
call Cal to order the part and try to arrange shipment. I give Joe all the
information for shipping and agree to call back tomorrow to check on the
Wednesday - Sunday September 25 - 29
The part is being shipped by DHL but won't arrive till Monday, so I'm stuck
here in Playa, on the Caribbean coast until then. Life is tough.
Many of the afternoons are broken up by typical tropical rain showers. You
see a cloud approaching, and when it gets overhead you get a heavy downpour
for 5-15 minutes, and then the sun is back out and within a half hour
everything is dry again.
Swimming in the ocean, lying on the beach, beach voleyball, cold beers in th
beachfront bars. Thats's what my days consist of. There's usually from
20-30 people staying at La Ruina, between the cabanas, the hammocks, and
tents. There's usually a communal dinner cooked by a German guy who's been
here several month, and which costs 8 or 9 pesos. That's how he earns
spending money for himself. A really good deal, when you consider my lodgin
and dinner is costing me 35 pesos a night, that's less than 5 dollars.
By Friday I find that I'm wishing the part could have got here by today so I
could get on the road again. Too many days in one spot and I get itchy to
move on. Also the tourists. While this is no Cancun there are lots of
tourists and travellers and it's not the real Mexico in my book. All the
same, Playa is a beautiful spot and if I had to be stranded somewhere waitin
for a motorcycle part I can't think of a better place to be. But by Monday
I'll definitely be ready to move on.
There are a handful of popular bars and nightspots, but they charge
outrageous prices for a beer, anywhere from 7 to 12.5 pesos per bottle,
whereas a local store sells the same thing for 3 pesos. For the most part I
avoid them, though friends at La Ruina convince me to go several times, but
I'm not the bar-type. Carey definitely is the party-type and Thursday,
Friday and saturday doesn't even make it back to the Cabana, so I have the
room to myself.
Thursday night there was a complete lunar eclipse.
Believe it or not, across the street from Cabanas La Ruina, there is a small
cafe which is open 24 hours. They have 2 large TVs out front and mornings
show CNN and in the afternoons and evenings show movies. They make great
fruit licuados, basically milkshakes.