Motorcycle Travel 48
A Quick Run to Merida
South out of Progresso I went to find some lunch in Merida. The traffic in the city is quite intense, and the roads are difficult to navigate. I rode through the city square mid day and hardly moved anywhere for 45 minutes. I didn’t take many photos because I was far too busy trying to orientate myself.
It is however a great city with an interesting history. There is a lot of colonial influence everywhere you look.
And they have a massive cemetery on the east side of town.
I walked around the streets a while, explored the side roads on my bike, and got some grilled chicken at one of the 10,000 places serving it street side. It was a little too hectic to hang out though, so I headed a little further south to quieter scenery.
Setting up camp in the sticks, typical:
The only thing I had really wanted to see was the northern coast, and since I had done that, I meandered back across the Yucatan towards Chichen Itza. I had passed close by previously, but didn’t stop in. Time to check it out.
Ok, now what. Get some water and check the maps.
The Northern Yucatan Peninsula
I used to follow the motorcycle travel blog of a fellow ADV Rider (stickfigure) who has done some great ride reports down through Central America. I had the opportunity to cross paths with him at a beach bar and exchange notes and beers. I wanted to ride up to the national park (Ria Lagartos) on the north coast of the Yucatan, and he had been through there. He confirmed which trails were worth the effort and I solidified my route.
Getting from the east coast of the Yucatan to the north coast without going to Cancun is a total PITA. There are only a few roads that go diagonally, one of them is blocked by security and wouldn’t let me through, and the other two are seemingly impossible to find. I’ve since found some back roads that circumvent the security stations outside Playa del Carmen, but they aren’t mapped. They look something like this:
On this occasion I succumbed to unfamiliarity and went north to Cancun….. ugh.
I hate the pavement routes, but before long I was in the coastal town of El Cuyo and ready to rip along the beach in search of flamingos!
Just like Stickfigure promised, I found some of the most fun riding in months!
Long sandy stretches that hugged the beach.
And lots of entry points to hop onto the beach and let the gas drain.
Sometimes there are cemeteries in the strangest places. I always stop to have a look.
The bird sanctuary is what I came to see, and the fantastic riding continued right through the middle of it. There are large bays of very shallow protected water where all the birds hang out. There are towers scattered around the park for bird watching, but they were all locked. I think you have to be a part of a tour group to get access to the towers. Like always, I take the self guided option.
Flamingos in the distance!
Found them. They just stand around a chill out. Way to be.
Did I mention how great the riding was out here?
At one point I dumped the bike and the cheap Mexican hose connector snapped. Go figure. The second I bought it I knew it was crap.
Thankfully I carry spare everything! I removed the T and fuel filter and ran some new hose. Much better.
Some of the water in Rio Lagartos is bright pink. I’m told it is because of all the salt in the area, but that doesn’t sound quite right to me.
After I scared off all the birds I browsed around the town of Rio Lagartos and got a cheap hotel for the night. Beach front with wifi.
The town was quite slow, and once the sun went down there was no one around. So the next morning I packed up and kept moving.
The pavement out towards Progresso was surprisingly enjoyable.
There are coconut farms everywhere in the Yucatan.
And makeshift trawlers.
Cheap ocean front fixer-upper properties can be found for dirt cheap all along the coast here. I stopped to peek at a few. They were all destroyed by a hurricane a few years back when the beach was washed away. There were some squatters living in this one.
Progresso is a nice little town. It has a cute downtown area with nice cafes and people walking about, as well as a couple touristy bars along the water. An enormous pier jets way out into the ocean, I tried to ride out, but was denied access. I’m told the cruise ships occasionally pass through and tie up.
More Motor Stuff
I managed to collect all the parts I needed for the motor, then got to work.
Still Hanging Around
Greetings from southern Mexico!
I’ve been down here a while now and couldn’t be having a better time. I have no specific timeline for getting to Ushuia, I am in route and just enjoying life as it comes. I’ve been on the road since September and have nothing but time.
Last night I was sitting at a little restaurant having some tacos. A cute mexican girl sat at the table across from me and ordered food. We catch each others eyes. I say hello, she asks if I’m here with a friend. I say no. She motions that she might join me. I invite her over and she moves to my table. This should be fun, I love meeting new mexican girls. Things go south very quickly.
We do the standard greetings – who are you, where are you from, mucho gusto, etc. I’m having a beer, she only has food.
“I’d like a beer.”
Are you going to buy me a drink?
Opening up the Motor
As I mentioned the XR isn’t so healthy. Aside from it’s bent axle, oil lines, and the dozen other worn out and broken parts, the motor is also toast. There’s no compression, so I got to tearing it down in a makeshift outdoor garage.
Relaxing in the Yucatan
Ten of my college friends were in town for the week. It was a great time, as it always is. Typical vacation resort type place.
We explored a bit and checked out some cenotes (underwater caves), did some cliff jumping, and toured some of the Mayan ruins.
Mixing in the Hotels
I camp most of the time, and go to hostels other times. Occasionally it’s fun to splurge and clean up in a nice hotel.
Arriving in Playa del Carmen
I was trying to decide between sleeping for a few hours behind the gas station, or to keep on keeping on. It was cold, foggy, and late. In typical fashion, I kept going. And I am extremely glad I did.
Every once in a great while I get to experience an incredible serene and transcendent moment while on my motorcycle. Two previous events that come to mind are; riding through the dark in Bahia de Los Angeles with an incredible breeze in spring of 2009, and shutting off the bike while coasting down all the mountain passes in northern Pennsylvania in summer 2007, again at night. In this case it was descending down out of the mountains towards the gulf coast. On a slow curvy road over the course of an hour I dropped from extremely high elevations near the volcano, down through the canyons, to nearly sea level. The temperature kept increasing, flickering lights were scattered across the hillsides, and the glow of the moon illuminated the entire landscape. It was one of those beautiful numinous moments that most people miss out on. I’m convinced there is something about night riding that brings it out. But it’s more than just darkness, it’s a perfect combination of weather, location, spirit, and I suppose, being self aware.
Around 3am or so I hung up my hat.