Our destination for the day was Palenque which meant that we would be driving all day in the heat. As soon as we rode out of the mountains near Mexico City the day before, the weather had turned hot and humid. Now we finally felt like we were in the jungle! The ride there was fairly boring and we stopped just outside Villahermosa for lunch and to replenish our pesos at the ATM. When we finished our meal we came out to find the two lane highway completely backed up with traffic. ARRGGHHHH! Our first real battle with the infamous Mexican traffic was about to begin.
Sadly, we did not film this debacle but suffice it to say that it was like playing the latest video game on the Playstation! Rather than sit in miles and miles of traffic, Mexican motorcycle riders are graced with the special powers of “if you can fit through that gap then you are allowed to do so”. We began what can only be described as a death defying, harrowing, exhilarating and crazy ride in, on and around every obstacle in our way. The beauty of the crappy Mexican roads is that there is no actual defined shoulder so our bikes could be ridden in the ditch/sand-pit/gully/grass/weeds and trash strewn underbrush that borders them. So off we went, dodging obstacles like people, soft sand, embankments, potholes, cars, buses, other bikes and the occasional bus that was taking on passengers. At one point, we cut through a gas station and actually drove BETWEEN two semi-rigs that were parked next to each other with about a five foot gap between them. The driver had his door open and had quite a shock when two bikes whizzed by him out of nowhere. In the end, we spent the better part of 20 mins getting out of what surely would have been a two hour traffic jam due to a truck breaking down. It was a truly odd, fun and memorable experience and it reminded me of my younger days spent weaving in, out and around traffic in Bermuda.
We arrived in Palenque late in a day that was about to get even more interesting. We rode through town looking for a hotel and ended up driving all the way into the national park because we couldn’t find anything suitable. On the way there, Alex spotted a campsite so we checked it out. $2.50 per person to camp was a selling point and Alex loves his camping (me not so much) but I begrudgingly agreed to stay. It’s an adventure right? Hell yes, it turned out to be quite an adventure! The campsite was nice where we set up our tents and they had a restaurant on site. Turns out the price of the camping is more than made up with the price of the food! The restaurant itself was a beautiful outdoor setup that would have been more in place on a Caribbean island. It had a very tropical feel. It also had very cheap beer to chase down our tequila shots 🙂
After dinner I went back to my tent and about 20 mins later Alex appears and says that he has met some cute German students who invited us to have a beer with them. Hmmmmm… That boy! You can’t leave him alone for five minutes. So, off we go to the bathroom to freshen up. Now, when I say bathroom what I really mean is a mosquito infested, concrete shack with nothing but a few cobwebs holding it together. The toilets had no seats or doors on the concrete stalls. Toilet paper… Yeah right! The showers had no hot water and I swear the cold water was piped in straight from the North Pole. I screamed, danced, held my breath and farted a lot to try to keep warm while putting one body part at a time under the stream of water. In the end, I got somewhat clean and also shrunk my balls to the size of raisins.
We shared a couple of drinks and some laughs with the two German girls who turned out to be on a year long medical internship. Who knew German univerisities sent their student on internships in Mexico of all places. The girls were very nice but their Spanish was better than their English so I struggled a bit to communicate. We wished them good night an hour later and crawled into our tents for some rest.
Now by rest, I mean a night of tossing, turning and screaming in the middle of a dense, desolate jungle that was the location for the 1987 movie Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was so much noise during the night that I could have gotten more sleep while being water-boarded! We had our resident drunks who insisted on talking loudly and shouting out names and God knows what else whenever the mood struck them. We had the local “Shaman” who had moved from California in 1977 to live with the local Indians and was promoted to Shaman when the Indian one died. He liked to bang on his bongo drums in the middle of the night. Then we had the camp dog who was more afraid of it’s own shadow than anything else but decided that he needed to bark all night long. Of course, all his barking made me paranoid and I had a terrible nightmare about something that was outside my tent trying to get me. I remember waking up in the night shouting “HELP ME, HELP ME”. No-one came to help 😦
It was a dream but it was also true for we fortunately had a camp turkey… Yes, I said turkey. This butt-ugly creature wondered around the camp all night making some hell inspired gobbling sound that has to be heard to be believed. Then we had the monkeys… Vile creatures! They came into camp around 3am and sat high in the trees screeching some bloodcurdling cry that resembled the sound of my bike crashing in Copper Canyon. And finally, we had the local rooster who’s internal clock said to crow at dawn… And by dawn I mean 5am when it was still pitch black!
So, after a lovely night of “sleep”, we got up. I went to pee and was promptly greeted by the Shaman who sat half naked on the toilet pooping. Ok that’s enough! Quickly, we packed up and rode off deeper into Palenque National Park to see the first of our Mayan ruin sites. The site itself was stunning. Again, simply amazing what these civilizations created all those years ago. My pictures could never do it justice. Check out my blogroll for more info. After seeing the site we made our way back north and eventually hit the Caribbean coast near Campeche. It was so nice to finally see the open ocean again and to feel the sea breeze against my skin. It made me miss home and it also made me realize how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful paradise. We settled in Campeche for the night with our goal the next day being more Mayan ruins while making our way to Merida.