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May 28th, 2012 | Mexico

Back on the Road… The Ride to Palenque…

It had been almost two weeks since I had sat astride a fully loaded Big Fella…

I was up at 5.30 am and began loading the last of my kit onto the bike, while Roberto gave his drivers their instructions for the day… We shared a last cup of strong black coffee together, and chatted about the route we had planned for me the day before…

Early morning outside Villa Martinez, and we are ready to rumble once again...!!

As usual after a long lay-off, I had decided to make a big ride to get myself and the Big Fella right back into what we do the best – chewing through the miles and taking big bites out of the long roads that always lay ahead of us…

My farewell to Roberto was a short one…. One minute we were standing next to the bike, and then after a quick hug and a “Hope to see you in New Jersey in September…!!”, I was on the bike and riding past him as he filmed my departure…

Roberto Martinez, a good man and a good friend, with a cast-iron liver...!!

As I left Playa, the Big Fella reminded me of just how far we had come together...!!

I had enjoyed a wonderful stay with Roberto, and count myself lucky to have whizzed past him in the driving rain and howling wind, on my way to Punta Arenas in Chile, where we stayed at the same hotel, and began our firm friendship…

I would be taking his greetings with me to his family in Oaxaca, and was looking forward to meeting them…

I tore down the 300 km of southern highway, heading back to Chetumal, where I had enetered Mexico from Belize…

I kept a wary eye open for the Federales who patrolled this stretch of road and “took no prisoners” when it came to law enforcement…!!

“If they catch you doing something wrong, be ready to pay a big fine…!!” Roberto had told me before I left…

“And this is not Peru…!! Don’t try and outrun them, they will shoot you for sure…!!”

Despite the heavy cloud that was about, I managed to get to Chetumal without having to trouble my rain gear...

Having already covered 200 odd km I was hoping to reach Escarcega in time for lunch... I figured 500 km was good enough for a morning's ride...!!

Around the towns of Mahahual and Bacalar, pineapple sellers make juciy drinks while you wait....

After refueling and having a quick breakfast of coffee; scrambled eggs smothered in cheese with a side order of mashed beans; and more coffee, I headed due west, skirting the border with Belize, and then riding parallel to the Guatemalan border on a road that ran straight as a die, towards the Gulf of Mexico…

To get out of the heat, I rode the Big Fella right under the roof of the roadside restaurant I stopped at, much to the dismay of the waitress and the other patrons...!! I tried to explain that I was "exempt from normal rules and regulations", but they did not understand what I meant...!!

The mashed beans would come back to haunt me later.... I think the owner of the restaurant might have had something to do with it, after I parked my bike amongst the tables...!!

A wide open road amongst the lush, green, and tropical countryside on the border with Guatemala... Conducive to "low-flying"....!!

Just before the small town with the unusual name of Nicolas Bravo, I ran into a rainstorm of epic proportions…!! For about ten minutes I crawled along at barely 30 km/h, peering through the driving rain and praying it would end soon..

Slippery when wet....!! NOT conducive to "low-flying"...!!

It did…!! Minutes after clearing the front that was heading away to the north, I was in blazing sunshine again, and sweating bullets…!! The heat was like a hammer blow, the type that curls the hair in your nostrils, and makes you feel as though you have your nose an inch away from your super-heated engine…

There was still a long way to go before Villahermosa, before which I would take the turnoff to Palenque...

We zoomed through Tomas Aznar and Xpujil, and numerous smaller settlements before entering the National Reserve of Balam-Ku, a vast eco-park that encompasses an area right up to the Gutaemalan border, where it joins the National Park that goes south as far as Tikal…

Thousands of ancient Mayan villages have been found there, and this area has been carefully protected to avoid being plundered by private antiquity collectors…

Great place to have lunch near Escarcega.... They serve Snickers and Energade with a smile...!! And even give you a plastic chair to enjoy it on...!!

I stopped in Escarcega for lunch and sent Roberto a text message to let him know how I was doing…

His reply was swift… It read;

“Do not take your t-shirt off…!! There are too many guys there dressed as woman…!! And do not bend over for any reason…!!”

Apparently, Escarcega is the capital of Mexico’s transvestite community, servicing the “needs” of the truckers who haul goods from central Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula…

I sent a reply saying that I had begun to wonder why all the “women” in town had seemed so friendly, and received another short reply saying,

“Leave NOW, or expect an Encounter of the Third Kind…!!”

I did not hang about to enquire what he meant by that, but assumed that it might not be all that pleasant…!!

I had already covered over 550 km at that point and was surprised at how easy the ride had been up until then… Apart from a few places where the road had been torn up and was being resurfaced, I had enjoyed a trouble-free ride with not too much traffic to contend with…

After the heavy downpour, the roadsides were flooded for most of the area east and west of Escarcega....

The only discomfort was caused by the intense heat and humidity, which was only alleviated by the speed I had been riding at… Each Time I stopped for fuel, the sweat poured off me in rivulets, drenching my t-shirt, and dripping off my nose and ear-lobes…

My helmet began to smell as though a goat had slept in it…!!

A cattle farmer's dream....!! Lush green pastures under a blue sky, with a hint of more rain to come....

About 50 km from the Gulf of Mexico, we joined the Mex186, and ran south-west towards Villahermosa, crossing out of the province of Tabasco and into Chiapas…

This region is known as Mexico’s Garden of Eden, and the landscape through which we rode, once we left the main highway and turned south for Palenque, was as lush and verdant as any I had seen so far… The trees grew bigger, the farms I passed held large herds of healthy cattle and small colourful flowers bloomed on the roadside…

Out of Tabasco and into Chiapas.... The state with "Maravillas Naturales"....!!

I reached Palenque after ten hours on the road, and four stops for fuel and/or something to eat… I had covered 785 km on my “opening day”, and was happy with the ride… The only little niggle I had was with the Big Fella’s fuel consumption…!! I had lost about 15% of my range on a full tank, and now firmly believe that the mechanic in Lima had not set my valves correctly…!! We were burning far more fuel that I was used to…

Palenque at last...!! It had been a good first ride after a two-week break in Playa del Carmen...

There was no point in waiting for the next service (which would be in Tuscon, Arizona, and was almost 4 500 km away) to have the problem sorted… I would waste a few hundred dollars by doing that…!!

I asked Roberto to look for a mechanic in Oaxaca to reset the valves and planned to stop there to have the work done…

The chances of making it out of Mexico on my current set of tyres was also beginning to look a bit bleak, which was a worry, as I doubted whether I would find a set of Michelin’s in northern Mexico, and had hoped to get a set much cheaper in the USA…

I rode through the town of Palenque and out towards the ruins, where I had been told there would be many hotels to choose from…

There were, but the cheapest one I could find was asking between $80 and $120 for a basic room without internet…!! I headed back into town, thankful that the hard ride I had made had got me to Palenque with more than an hour of daylight to spare…

I found the Hotel Avenida in the bustling main street just after the big traffic circle at the edge of town, and managed to secure a room close to the recption, where the Wi-fi signal was stongest…

A large secure courtyard below the street level also took care of any security concerns that I might have had…

I was all set to visit the Mayan ruins of Palenque…

Today was a special day for me in more ways than one…

Not only was it the anniversary of the first day that I had met Patricia in Bali exactly a year ago, and something that I had hoped we could celebrate together, but also, when opening my email later that evening, I discovered messages from both my daughters waiting for me…

A wonderful end to a long, hot and exhausting day…!! So much to celebrate…!!

©GBWT 2012

2 comments to Back on the Road… The Ride to Palenque…

  • Mark Behr

    Your first photograph and the second last paragraph of this post make me extremely happy for you. You started off with an umbrella sending you off with the ultimate love letter and then you received letters from loved ones as you celebrated your new love. There are no coincidences – just revelations and I believe you have just received multiple blessings for the rest of your travels.
    Look forward to hearing more. Be safe and enjoy yourself. Your Aussie family is excited for you as you get closer to your goal.

  • Tony

    good to hear you’re back on the road

    ride safe

    cheers

    tony

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