The road from San Cristobal to Palenque was shit and when you ask me why, I say because of the Topes. By now we are ‘used’ to the Topes and we know that when we come to a town, we have to slow down in order to keep the bike whole, but we are not used to Topes just popping up in a curve, in the middle of a long straight stretch of road where there are no towns in sight or just anywhere in camouflaged versions so we don’t see the buggers! This is what the road was like, diving into a turn, running over a Tope, wanting to go a bit faster on a straight stretch, running over a Tope and you can imagine Seb’s mood after a few hours of this…
To make things worse, we arrived at the Cascadas de Agua Azul and we were stopped by a few people to pay the entrance fee, which was 15 pesos per person, not bad you would say, no that’s true, but when we continued down the road towards the waterfalls, we were stopped again to pay another entrance fee. These guys said that the previous fee was a hoax and that they were real, but this certainly didn’t improve Seb’s mood at all and when they told us that we had to pay 30 pesos per person, it got even worse, and they didn’t provide a receipt, as the previous ones did. “Yes but the first ones are Zapatistas”…
Oh well, this is Mexico and it has only been the first time something like this has happened to us, so actually that’s not too bad and when we saw the waterfalls we instantly felt happy again. The falls at Agua Azul are huge, not in height, but in sheer size and they are spectacularly beautiful. You were allowed to swim in them, but only at the bottom and the water did look temptingly blue and green, but in the end we decided not to and just take some pictures and ride on towards Palenque.
The waterfall consists of many small waterfalls making up one big part and the surroundings have a fairytale effect on the whole place.
We decided to camp near the entrance of Palenque in a campsite and do the walk of the ruins in the morning. We wanted to go on foot because we had heard that it was only 500 meters to the entrance, but in the end it turned out to be 2 kilometers up the hill to the main entrance, but hey some walking never hurt anyone, right.
They say that the site of Palenque is only medium sized but when it covers more than 2,5 square kilometers, we think it’s a sizable place to visit. By 2005 they had only cleared 10% of the total site and they still believe that over 85% of the original town is covered up in the nearby jungle.
Palenque gets an annual rainfall of 2160 mm and is constantly a humid 28°C, so I think we were lucky to see a very blue sky the day we went to see it.
Here you can see some parts of the original murals they have managed to preserve under these harsh weather conditions.
They keep the buildings very clean and keep an eye out for scoundrels like us apparently. When you enter, you have to pay an entrance fee and if you want to take videos, you have to pay an extra fee, but since we only wanted to take pictures, we didn’t pay the extra fee. When Seb was putting up his tripod to take a good steady HDR picture, some guys popped out of nowhere and told us we couldn’t use the tripod unless we paid the extra fee. Seb being the total grinch that he is, refused to pay the fee and put his tripod back in the bag and when he wanted to take a steady picture he just used the ruins to put his camera on.
When we went down to see the small waterfall we found out that it was actually a shortcut to our campsite, so we were very happy that we didn’t have to walk back up the hill to the main entrance and then walk back down the hill to the campsite. The walk through the jungle was very peaceful and quiet, but I still wonder how these ‘small’ Mexicans from way back when used to climb these stairs since they always seem to be made for giants and even we sometimes have problems going up or down.
Kim seems to be enjoying her walk in the jungle.
After leaving Palenque and heading in the general direction of the coast, we noticed that one of the front shocks on Seb’s bike was leaking oil and this is never a good sign. When Seb was taking turns, he found that the bike wasn’t as stable as it used to be and all this combined made us think that it was time to get his shock fixed.
This is why we made a small detour to Chetumal because this was the biggest sizable city in the neighborhood. We went to a local Honda dealer, but all they said was that they only did maintenance on smaller bikes and they didn’t have the spares to fix ours, they didn’t even bother to look at it, so we took off again and headed to a local Kawasaki dealer where they seemed to have some bigger bikes. One of the mechanics instantly came to look at the shock and tried to figure out what part he needed to fix the problem and after looking it over, he said he would have the bike fixed in one hour and a half! Now that’s what we call service!
A mono shock on the bike does look strange…
Sure enough, after having lunch around the corner of the Kawasaki dealer, the bike was fixed and ready to go and (touch wood) it hasn’t leaked since, even when it has some Kawa spare part in it. Update: It’s leaking again, so we’ll need to find an official Honda dealer soon somewhere to fix this (under warranty!)
We decided we still had some daylight left and we felt we had earned our time at the beach, so we decided to push on towards Mahahual, a ‘not so touristy’ seaside beach place and when we saw these signs, we knew we were getting closer…
We booked ourselves into a small cabana with only a bunk bed inside, but located right next to the ocean and oh boy, what a place. This is the beach right next to our ‘resort’ and it is a welcome change from being on the bike the whole day. And we pushed it again, all this for 520 pesos. 😉
Our first day we had some very dark clouds hanging over us, but it didn’t rain and it was still quite nice and warm outside so we can’t complain at all.
Seb has all the things he likes in one: the beach, the sun, the sea and off course his bike!
The clear blue water looks inviting every time I look at it.
On the day with the dark skies, we decided to go snorkeling, so we went to a local dive shop to rent some snorkeling equipment. Seb has been a diver in the navy so he is used to diving and snorkeling, but Kim is slightly afraid of fishes (and no she doesn’t know why) and the only time she ever went snorkeling was 12 years ago in Egypt where she scared away all the fishes in the neighborhood by splashing very hard with her legs… This time Seb was going to teach her how it was done. The first few minutes Kim had a total panic attack because the bottom of the ocean wasn’t deep enough, hence the fishes were too close… After some calm words of Seb, she calmed down a bit and hand in hand we went further into the ocean. By the end of the snorkeling trip Kim was enjoying herself very much and even pointed out some cool looking fishes to Seb, even though the water was very wild and the sand made the sight a bit blurry. So Kim is over her fobia of fishes (almost) and is looking forward to her next snorkeling trip, but she is still far away from her first dive…
After leaving Mahahual, we decided to go back to Chetumal before crossing the border into Belize because Seb needed a dentist because one of his fillings had fallen out and we thought that a dentist in Mexico would probably be a bit less expensive than one in Belize. We had put an address of a dentist we had found online into the GPS but we decided to go and look for the prices of hotel rooms because you never know how Seb would feel after a visit to a Mexican dentist. When we wanted to check out a local love motel, a car pulled up next to us and the driver said: “hey this is a motel, not a hotel. Are you looking for a hotel?” We knew it was a motel, but we told him that we were looking for a dentist and a cheap hotel. They guy said this wasn’t a problem, because he knew a cheap hotel right next door to his wife’s dentists. So off we went, following this guy and his family through the streets of Chetumal in search of the dentist and the cheap hotel. In the end the guy delivered, and how! The hotel was very fancy but cheap, something we love and the dentist was really right next door!
The dentist could see Seb immediately and said that he could fix the problem, so we dumped all our stuff in the hotel room and Seb went with some hesitation to the dentist. The room was sober, but nice and everything looked very hygienic.
In the end, the dentist (Enrique) did a real good job on Seb’s tooth and we only had to pay 500 Mexican Pesos, so we were very glad we didn’t have to do this in the United States.
Talking about the United States, the country where so many people had almost managed to scare the living daylights out of us before coming to Mexico, we thought we might just do a little ‘inventory’ about Mexico:
1. we are still alive and nobody here in Mexico tried to kill us, or gave the impression they wanted to (except maybe that one lady in the restaurant where Seb didn’t leave a big tip at the end of the meal)? Yes there is a problem with drug related violence but that is primarily between gangs.
2. no police official nor soldier has tried to bribe us in any way, the only thing one of them wanted to know was what we had stored away in the panniers (and after the very thorough explanation from Kim who tried to name every item in the panniers, the guy gave up after the content of pannier one).
3. no one tried to jump in front of the bikes to get run over in order to get some money from us (unless you count all those vendors who are standing on top of the topes who try to sell you fruit and drinks, but they only seemed to hassle the cars and not the bikes)
4. almost everyone was nice to us and helpful and nobody wanted any money in return (imagine that). If you do your best to speak a little spanish, they appreciate this a lot and will help you. (Like in most countries actually) We almost never ever used any English while in Mexico.
5. Mexico is only as dangerous as you make it! We loved Mexico from the first day until the last, the only downside sometimes is the filth in the streets and the fact that they like to burn everything, ranging from their farmlands, to the grass at the side of the road to the garbage they collect, so the country seems to be in a constant smog/fog/haze. Other than that the nature is gorgeous, the people friendly and the food good (if you tell them you don’t like spicy food, because otherwise you won’t taste anything for days…)
6. We hate the f#cking topes. We do understand the implementation of them at the entrence of villages/cities and so on, but not in the middle of nowhere and certainly not in the curves of beautifull mountain roads. This being said, instead of putting speeding camera’s all over the European cities, they should just put some topes, I assure you that this would be a lot more effective (but then hey, no more income from speeding camera’s so it isn’t about security after all probably…)
7. We shall not forget Mexican Love Hotels…
So after more than 5 weeks of Mexico, it’s time for a new country!