Mexico

Day 22 – Hasta La Vista, Mexico

Having planned on camping the night before, we had stocked up on eggs and bread.  So, we cook up a wonderful breakfast next to our Cabana, and say goodbye to Michael and Isabelle.

It’s also time to say goodbye to Mexico, and hello to Belize.

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Our cute little Cabana

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Adventure Bike Corral

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How often do you see a Bat Crossing sign!?!?

An hour and a half later we roll up to the border.  I’ve already researched the process, so I hope it goes smoothly.  We go to immigration and turn in our Tourist Cards.  There is some confusion as Rebecca’s doesn’t have a receipt attached to it (it’s part of her plane ticket, which they won’t accept).  So, we reluctantly pay the $35USD fee.  I’m sure the immigration officer will buy his wife something nice with it.

The next step is to remove the temporary import on the motorcycle, and get my deposit back.  I’m told to go across the road to another building (customs – aduana).  Once there I discover that they cannot refund my deposit at this particular border, but can do so at one about 2 km away.  I’m a little irritated that the gentleman at immigration didn’t know this as I had shown him my temp import papers.  But, my biggest concern isn’t that, it is that we no longer have Tourist Cards, and we have been stamped out of Mexico.  The girl assures me this won’t be a problem.  I chuckle to myself, knowing it won’t be HER problem at least.  I can hardly wait to see what happens at the other border if we have to go through immigration without Tourist Cards.  $35 USD each this time!?

As I leave the building and head back across the street to the bike I’m told I can’t walk that way.  I guess I’ve technically already left Mexico.  Instead, I have to enter a line of about 100 people waiting to cross through a security checkpoint.  It’s 1 pm, and the heat is unbearable.  This, combined with the stupidity of the red tape is making my blood boil.  I join the line, and several locals keep telling me to cut to the front, and go through a different gate.  As I walk towards this other gate, another guard tells me “no” and points back to the line.  Unbelievable.  A few other locals in the line explain to me to just cut to the front of this line as I have no baggage to be looked through.  Once at the front, the original guard who told me I couldn’t walk across the road waves me through the gate.  It would have been so much easier to just let the gringo cross the road and get on his bike…

So, with the heat at 36 degrees, the humidity at 100%, and my frustration level at 11, we head off to find the other nearby border.  It’s not too far away, and the immigration officer who greets us there is just as confused as us.  He wants to see our Passports and Tourist Cards.  We explain they’ve been cancelled and stamped out, and that we just need to get the deposit back for the bike from the Aduana.  He eventually directs us to a building 3 buildings down from his.  Arriving there, they want to inspect our luggage.  I try to explain that we are not arriving from Belize, and that we are not trying to enter Mexico.  They want to inspect regardless, and see our Passports.  I’m very frustrated, and trying to explain we just need to go inside the Aduana and cancel the Temp Vehicle Import.  They still want to inspect the bike first.  The guard points at one pannier.  I open it and he looks inside, lifts up one bag, and nods okay.  He really never inspected anything, but it did take me 5 minutes to undo all the gear strapped on top of that pannier and rear rack so he could glance inside that particular pannier.  He now directs us to a different building, back in the direction we had already come.  Arriving there we finally find the first helpful person, who directs us to an entirely different building (walking distance from the original immigration officer).

We’ve finally found the right building!

I get my refund, they take a photo of the bike’s VIN #, and we’re done… at least the Mexican side.  Now we have to enter Belize.

I’m not sure I have any patience left… but here goes.

We arrive at the Belize immigration and customs office – it’s air conditioned.  They give us a map of Belize, ask how long we’re staying for, stamp our passports, and make a note of my bike in mine to ensure I take it with me when I leave Belize.  There is a small fee for all this… I can’t remember how much because I was simply in shock how easy, friendly, and efficient the whole process was.

The next building after entering the country sells vehicle liability insurance.  We drop in there to get some for the bike.  The gentleman at the counter there is friendly, give us lots of recommendations on things to see and do, offers cold water, and we joke around with him in his air conditioned office.  15 minutes and $30 USD later we’re on our way to enjoy Belize.

What a difference 100 yards and a familiar language make.

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Finally in Belize!

Clearing the border town we stop at a roadside restaurant (Slim’s) for lunch, and experience even more Belizean hospitality along with the national dish of rice and beans, with tender, fall off the bone roast chicken.  I think I’m going to like Belize!

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Slim’s Roadside Grill House

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Rebecca enjoying a Belizean beer

Categories: Belize, Mexico | 1 Comment

Day 21 – Ruined Day

Getting up early seems to be the best course of action to avoid the heat of midday.

Today we want to see as many of the inland Mayan sites as possible.  Quite a few are clustered together, and we’ve been told that we can camp at Calakmul – a very remote ruins in the middle of the jungle.

In the morning we visit Kohunlich, which is very park-like.  We’re the only ones there, and it’s such a different experience to the tour groups of Tulum.  Just as we’re leaving we wave to another couple who are just entering the grounds.  Tag – now it’s all yours to see.

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Kohunlich all to ourselves

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Unlike Angkor Wat, very little of the details remain on the ruins

Next is Becan, which for me wasn’t a priority, but actually turns out to be quite nice.

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Rebecca on top of Becan

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The Mayans never figured out keystones for arches

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Climbing back down Becan

Following that (and just a few kilometers away) is Xpuhil, which is very different than most sites as it has 3 towers, and sort of reminds me of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

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Xpuhil, with its 3 towers

Then, after a roadside lunch, we head for Calakmul.  We’ve been told that the 60 km road into this site is treacherous, and slow going, and we’re getting a bit late in the day.  At the road entrance you pay a road toll, then at km 20 you pay the entrance fee for the ruins.  At this point you can hire a van to drive you in, or do it yourself.  If you do it yourself, they warn you about the road, and take down your ID and license plate.  We ask about camping and are told that we can camp here at km 20, but not at the site itself.  That doesn’t sound fun at all…

The road in, although not great, isn’t the worst I’ve ridden in Mexico.  The only scary part was one of the vans coming the other way like a bat of our hell, that we met in a curve.  At the sites parking lot we see a pair of 650 Adventure bikes, and as we’re taking our riding gear off the owners emerge from the ruins.  We chat with them for a bit, but recognizing that it’s getting dark, we part ways.  They are from Quebec, and tell us where they are staying just a few km back on the main road.  Maybe we’ll end up there tonight if we truly can’t camp.

Inside the site for Calakmul is very impressive.  I’m fascinated watching highways of leaf cutter ants along the main path, and we see a number of strange birds during the hike in.  We climb to the top of the main temple, and the view of the surrounding jungle is stunning.  As the sun starts to set we hear Howler Monkeys nearby.  When we finally walk back out to the bike nobody, including staff, are left.  Just us.  Maybe we should just set up camp?

If the guards 40 km away hadn’t taken down our license information, maybe we would have.  Rebecca has visions of them busting in during the night to kick us out, so we decide to go find the 650 couple and the cabanas they have uncovered.

The ride back out at dusk is beautiful.  I’m familiar with the road now, and doubt any maniac tour vans are coming in, so we have the road to ourselves.  We make it out just as the sun goes behind the mountains, and not long later we see Michael and Isabel sitting at a roadside restaurant.  We join them for dinner, and then follow them back to the cabanas.  What a great end to a day.

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Almost to the top of Calakmul

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The famous jungle view from Calakmul

Categories: Mexico | 2 Comments

Day 20 – Sticky Hot Tulum

Last night we had a nice meal back up the road from our campsite.  The PIAA driving lights made the run back and forth in the dark seem almost like daytime, and even made the potholes show up better than during the ride in early that day.

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Our beach in the morning

We wake up early to the sounds of the ocean and birds, and slowly pack up the tent.  The Overlanders are up as well, and we meet both couples.  One if from the Netherlands, and the other from Switzerland.  They have been on the road for several years, and the couple from Switzerland built their overland truck themselves after buying a decommissioned army truck frame and engine.  Rebecca is blown away by the idea of living in a self contained 4 wheel drive vehicle, that can drive 2000 km on a tank of fuel, generate it’s own power, purify it’s own water, and contain enough food for a week at a time.  We agree that later in life, this will be our lifestyle.  No schedule, no set plan, just an idea to see the entire planet, one country at a time, until we bore of that place and decide to roam somewhere else.

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This looks like the way to travel in retirement!

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Ton and Anneke’s home built Overlander

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The places they’ve been

But enough dreaming, we need to get on the road to inland Mexico.  Today is “Ruins Day”; to show Rebecca some of the amazing Mayan sites that I had to cut out of my itinerary due to lost days earlier.  On the way out of Tulum we see a big BMW GS parked next to a restaurant on the side of the road.  I pull over, figuring this will be a great spot for breakfast, and to meet the other traveller.  It turns out that he and his friend are from Mexico.  As he is checking out my bike I show him the Mexico City BMW club sticker.  He laughs and says he knows them well.  I ask about Paco, and he laughs again.  Paco is just up the road, and coming down for breakfast!

A few minutes later up rolls a big GS in a jaguar print paint scheme.  I don’t know who is more surprised to see who, Paco, or me!  We chat for a bit, and then he and his group are off to the north to go to some islands.  Sometimes it amazes me how small the world is.  The fact that I can make a friend in a city almost 1000 km away, and then run into him almost 2 weeks later, is stunning!

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Paco and the Jaguar bike

With smiles and full bellies, we head up the road to check out Tulum; famous as the only Mayan ruins site that overlooks the ocean.  Once there we realise this is overrun with tourists, and the heat is almost unbearable.  We do a quick lap of the place, take a few pictures, but overall we’re not very impressed.  The ruins aren’t much to see, and if it wasn’t for the ocean, they’d probably have been left hidden in the jungle, only seen by archaeologists.  The highlight of the whole thing were the coconut popsicles we found from a vender at the exit.

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Riding along the ocean

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Tulum chaos

So, next we make our way inland towards Kohunlich.  We have been told that just before the ruins is a really nice hotel.  As we get close we see the place and pull in to see about a room.  The price is $10500 pesos per night… only $1000/night USD; not really within our budget, but I’m sure as my friends in Mexico City said, it is nice.

The hotel is nice enough to recommend a place back down the road we had come that is only 300 pesos per night.  Now we’re talking!

Categories: Mexico | 1 Comment

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