Filling in the gaps in Mexico, now with more insanity!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by climberevan, Dec 23, 2007.

  1. Cloud9

    Cloud9 I was HERE?

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    Nice to see so travels on the east side of Mexico. I've been wondering about that side. Seems not to many Advriders go that way.
    #61
  2. DRglidarn

    DRglidarn Panzer pilot

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    +1

    Great ride! I like the style of your report:thumbup
    #62
  3. ldeikis

    ldeikis Dirty daydreamer

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    These are the sorts of roads/towns I like to read about (and daydream of going back to). Keep it up.

    Luke
    #63
  4. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

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    Having made it to the SE corner of the Yucatan peninsula, i decided to go through Belize and into Guatemala. Both border crossings are reputed to be easy, and i haven't been to Belize before.

    Laguna Bacalar, north of Chetumal, was a nice surprise: perfect clear water and free camping right near the shore. I stopped at Cenote Azul, a free cenote that is 180m across and 90m deep for a swim.

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    Bacalar is turquoise like the Caribbean!

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    As i've said, the Mexicans take their politics very seriously. This sign was torn in half by a disgruntled opposition party.

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    At the Belize border crossing i met 3 other motorcyclists, Roger (from AL), Janet, and Curtis (from TX). Roger was on a Buell and Janet and Curtis were on a GS. They are all veterans of many trips, including to Africa and South America, and i stopped to chat. We ended up going through the border together.

    The Belize border officials should teach everyone else in Central America how to do things. The process was smooth, free, and fast. By the way, you don't need to get the expensive spray--we all drove right past and didn't hear anything from them. Also, i bought insurance, but was never asked for it by anyone.

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    I rode along with the guys toward Belmopan, their stop for the night. They offered to let me share hotel rooms with them, so i couldn't say no! A real treat in Belize was decent beer! Belikin comes in a stout version which is actually quite good, and a really welcome change after the Mexican swill i've been imbibing for almost 6 weeks.

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    Belmopan is a strange place--it appears to have no clear centre. We wandered around a bit and finally found the market, which is pretty nice but small.

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    The architecture is very different here. They use much more wood, and often the houses are on stilts. Metal roofs on even the poorest looking dwellings were another change.

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    I saw more road bicyclists (a former passion of mine) in 27 hours in Belize than i had in the whole of Mexico. I later learned that there are regular road races there, so it must be pretty popular.

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    This Guatemalan border crossing was EZ as well. The nice new building was almost empty, and we breezed through. We couldn't escape the spray this time. Total cost was about $8.50, and we had to pay the $18 to leave Belize.

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    Here are Janet and Curtis on the still unpaved section of road from the border toward Flores. It was what i'd call a fair dirt road, but not smooth, and the guys on big bikes were riding about 40-50kph. I ripped along it at 70+. It's nice to have a light bike with lots of travel sometimes.

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    Famished, i stopped for something to eat. The girl said she had tacos, but this is what i got. They are like little sandwiches with meat, cabbage, and ketchup between tortillas. Strange, but not bad.

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    In Flores we stayed at a pretty nice hotel--the nicest of my trip, for sure. This is the view from the room:

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    We met Wolfgang, who with his partner was travelling the Americas for a year or more. His old bike was imported from Germany, and was loaded very heavily. Tires preoccupied his mind.

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    Speaking of tires, they are much more available in Guatemala than Mexico. I have seen, even in relatively small towns, a selection of dual sport tires in 21, 18, and 17" sizes. They have one that looks like a Pirelli Scorpion as well as K270s. If i had known this i may have waited to buy tires here rather than trying to get them from the US.

    Next time: more ruins, more dirt, some mud, and a really, really cool campground/restaurant/hotel/ecolodge.
    #64
  5. Sundance

    Sundance Adventurer

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    Keep up with the pictures and report. This is making it really hard to be at work, let alone 29* outside. A palapa, hammack, and a bottle of 1 barrel sounds so good.
    Thanks for sharing your adventure.

    Todd
    #65
  6. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Where are the border crossings located that you used?


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    No problems with skeeters sleeping like that???

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    :lurk
    #66
  7. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

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    re: security. This is a question that i am asked extremely often. My reply is always that the vast majority of people in most places are honest and live by the golden rule. That said, i am always conscious of my surroundings and don't camp where i feel less than completely safe. My two strategies are: camp in a place that is extremely remote and to which no one has seen me go; and camp in the middle of a town after checking with the locals to see if it's okay. The former strategy really only works when there are long stretches between settlements, such as in the North. The second works in small towns where there are unlikely to be any real miscreants. From what i've been able to gather, the risk of an actual confrontation with an aggressive criminal in Mexico is exceedingly low. Guatemala is a different story, and i am more careful here. Overall i feel that the risk of losing some of my property is somewhat higher than when i travel in the US, but life is full of risks. Actually riding the motorcycle is far more dangerous than camping beside it.

    The tips i can offer for urban safety are: speak spanish, and make yourself known to the locals. For example, when i park in an urban area i park in front of a sidewalk stand selling something or in front of a market stall. After buying something from them, i ask if they can keep an eye on the bike. They never say no, and i've never had any problems using this method. When i leave the bike unattended i put my jacket, boots, and tankbag inside of a Pacsafe mesh thing and cable it to my helmet and to the bike. A determined thief could still get whatever he wants, but i'm not parking in really nasty neighbourhoods. As far as riding around in town goes, i can't imagine having any trouble unless i go to a really, really bad part of town. In DF (Mexico City), the police are a real threat (bribes), and i don't go there.
    #67
  8. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

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    The borders: Chetumal is the main access point for the Belize/Mexico border, on which there is only one crossing. The Western Road in Belize goes through Belmopan and San Ignacio on its way to Melchor de Mencos, the Guatemalan town on the border. This route has no other options....

    Normally i'm somewhat unaffected by mosquitoes, to the great dismay of some of my former travelling companions. Several nights here, however, have been somewhat unpleasant. I have a sleep-sheet and a head-net, and they protect me partially, but a total cover would be the best option. In Tikal there was some kind of really tiny mosquito that hurt a lot, and which still itches badly 2 days later. Normal bites only itch me for 20 mins or so, but these ones are much worse. I'm ready for the highlands!
    #68
  9. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

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    This post will catch me up, so i'm going to have to get back on the road, i suppose.

    From Flores i headed around Lake Peten Itza via the dirt road that leads to El Remate. I had planned on staying there, but decided to continue to Tikal and try out their campground. The lake is beautiful, and like the others around here, very clear.

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    From El Remate the road is paved to Tikal. It's a good road, and has some fun curves. After entering the national park, where the gate guys asked me to drive slowly, it's another 17k to the site. Watch out for the animals!

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    The campground is really nice, and only about $3.50. I ate at a nearby restaurant, which serves ok and expensive food.

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    Tikal is a huge site, and since everyone is probably bored with Mayan ruins by now, i'll just post a few shots.

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    The thing to do there is to get in early (for which they want another $7 on top of the $20 entry fee) and watch the sunrise from atop a high temple. I waited until the gate opened and caught the tail end of the beautiful sunrise along with everyone else.

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    From Tikal one can continue North toward Uaxactun, another site only accessible by dirt roads. There are several other ones in that area, but apparently it's not dry season.

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    The road to Uaxactun was pretty good overall, despite some pretty wet sections. The ones going farther, though, looked pretty bad, and after my rear tyre got clogged i decided that 150k of that would be too much.

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    I ate a pretty good meal there before heading out. It was venison soup, the first time i've encountered it here.

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    Just south of Poptun there is a really great place called Finca Ixobel. They have basically created a travellers' waystation that is extremely well designed. I'm hanging my hammock there for under $3. Their food is expensive, though it's the best i've had in Guatemala by far.

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    Next time--who knows? I'm caught up now, so i don't know where i'm going next.
    #69
  10. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Thanks for the info!
    :clap
    #70
  11. pdedse

    pdedse paraelamigosincero

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    I've slung my hammock here! Twas april of 1990, I was returning home after spending two years in Costa Rica. Nosiest night I ever spent--jungle bugs!! Deafening. But not a single skeeter. Really enjoying your report!
    #71
  12. pdedse

    pdedse paraelamigosincero

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    A few days before my visit to Tikal pyramids, a lady died after she fell some 100 feet off a ledge as she was backing up to get a better photo of the sunrise!
    #72
  13. Alpinist

    Alpinist Adventurer

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    :clap :clap :clap :lurk :lurk :lurk :lurk :lurk
    #73
  14. bananaman

    bananaman transcontimental

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    I met Wolfgang a couple of days ago. He got his new tires. He really likes TKCs and he found a set here in in Guatemala City. He complimented me for carrying an extra set. As loaded down as his 100PD is, carrying tires wasn't much of an option.
    #74
  15. PirateJohn

    PirateJohn Banned

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    That's interesting, because I am sure that if you follow cycle racing you know that Mexico has a fair tradition of racing, witness Raul Alcala and Eddy Merckx deciding to ride his Hour Record on a wooden outdoor track in Mexico City.

    At any rate I've seen riders training around Monterrey (Alcala's home) and some other riders wearing Windsor jerseys and with a Windsor-logo'd support vehicle near Mazatlan.
    #75
  16. Sundance

    Sundance Adventurer

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    I need more! :evil I gotta have more cow bell. And your ride report.
    #76
  17. climberevan

    climberevan planning the next journey

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    When i last checked in i was near Poptun, Guatemala at the Finca Ixobel. I stayed there 3 nights enjoying the tranquility and partying with the people from this bus:

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    It was a good time but i had to leave eventually. The plan was to head a bit south, then cut across on dirt roads toward Fray Bartolome de las Casas, then Lanquin, then Coban. My first attempt at finding the cut-across road was not successful, and i ended up turing around after about 15k when the road turned into a total mud-bog. Navigating without Bicimapas or even a good paper map is somewhat more difficult....

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    I rode a bit farther south on the pavement and found the road to Fray from Modesto Mendez. It was substantially better than the more northerly one, and i made good time. My hotel in Fray, described by the Lonely Planet as the best in town, was one of the crappiest i've stayed in on this trip. At least it was quiet and cheap, but they had no running water....

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    Overall this day was really fun. I rode about 100k of dirt, and saw some really beautiful terrain. The following day, however, was to bring the truly crazy road i've been looking for for a while. Stay tuned!
    #77
  18. Sundance

    Sundance Adventurer

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    :lurk
    #78
  19. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    Looks like fun :thumb

    :lurk
    #79
  20. haggeo

    haggeo Been here awhile

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    great report :clap
    #80