Another day in paradise?

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November 24th 2010
Published: December 25th 2017
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THE road in Sian Ka'anTHE road in Sian Ka'anTHE road in Sian Ka'an

This was one of the better stretches
Geo: 20.125, -87.45

Even here in Tulum there can be days one might prefer to forget, so if you are suffering in cold or wet conditions in England it might cheer you up to hear that problems can arise in paradise.

Friday 19th we decided to hire bikes for 3 days. We had already checked out where and how much etc so all we needed to do was go and collect them. We planned to pick them up at 9am when the shop opened, ride back home to get used to them, and then decide how we would spend the day and pack a rucksack accordingly. “Simples” as the meercats would say. If only we had been as smart as meercats!

After setting off we were pleasantly delayed by a procession in the town square (more info in blog – Independance Celebrations) so we stopped and watched for a while before collecting the bikes at 10am. Slight hiccup as they tried to give me a bike without conventional brakes – it was necessary to peddle backwards to stop. My brain doesn't work that way but seemingly Jim's does as he could manage fine. Luckily (or maybe not in light of what followed) they
View from tower in Sian Ka'anView from tower in Sian Ka'anView from tower in Sian Ka'an

Note the threatening clouds - at least we reached home before the rain.
eventually found one with brakes fixed to the handlebars and we were off. That's when it all started to go wrong, I can see with the benefit of hindsight. The second we hit the saddles we were so overwhelmed with the joy of mobility, sanity departed. We decided we might as well ride down to the beach road now that we had wheels, some 3 kilometres and find out exactly where Mateo's (our neighbour) restaurant was located. When we reached the restaurant we thought we might ride a little further down the beach road, unfortunately not noticing the tail wind which was speeding our progress. After 3 more kilometres we saw a sign to the Sian Ka'an Biosphere (a national park area), which we really wanted to visit. As it was only another 5.7 kilometres, we carried on. At this point we remembered we had not packed the rucksack properly as we had planned to go straight back to our room, so we only had one bottle of water, no food and not a huge amount of money. But never mind, once we reached the park we could top up on water and food.

Eventually we entered the park (after about 10 K) and found there was only a gatehouse where we could pay the entrance fee, no facilities or shop. I asked how far to the Visitor's Centre and was told 4 K. We started, and soon realised it would be a difficult ride as the road was not surfaced and was full of potholes which, because of heavy rain overnight, (it is the tropics) were flooded. It was tough! Each kilometre seemed more like three and by this stage I had regressed to childhood and was asking the dreaded, “Are we nearly there yet?”, question every 100 metres. I was really thirsty and hungry, as was Jim, (we had finished the water some time ago), and the constant potholes and puddle avoidance really strained our joints. After at least 5 K we came across the first sign – Visitors Centre 5 k – so much for the 4 kilometres indicated by the gate man! Finally we arrived after some 20 K and much discomfort.

However, relief was short-lived. The Visitor's Centre consisted of one man, toilets with no water, a few display boards, no shop, food or drinking water. I felt like crying. It did have a very nice wooden
The deserted beachThe deserted beachThe deserted beach

Only we were crazy enough to battle against the wind
tower which gave a wonderful view over the jungle to the sea, rivers and mangrove swamps but I have to say I wasn't able to appreciate it, especially as by now the wind was so strong it was necessary to hold on to the rail to avoid being blown over. We could not have gone back without food or water but luckily the man told us that there was a fishing lodge 2 kilometres further on where we could eat, so on we went.

On reaching the Lodge, Jim held the bikes while I went to find someone, as the whole place looked deserted. I should mention here that in the course of the ride we had been through many puddles, some so deep they almost reached the midpoint of the wheels, and the result was that we were spattered from toes to chest with what I think potters call slip, a mix of fine whitish clay and water – not a pretty sight. I had walked around to what looked like the restaurant and bar on the beach, when the owner came out to meet me, obviously wondering what the disreputable looking stranger was up to. After saying hello, I
Still haven't identified this characterStill haven't identified this characterStill haven't identified this character

We spotted him when we stopped for a rest.
asked if there was any food available. There was no-one else around and the restaurant looked closed but I think he took pity on me as, after a long pause, he said he could only do some quesadillas. What a relief! I said quesadillas would be perfect. I collected Jim and the guy showed us where to leave the bikes and we followed him into the restaurant, where there was a sign saying do not enter if you were damp or had sand on you. I stopped and said “I am sorry” and just indicated my front down to my shoes, and the wonderful man just said “No problem” and showed us to a table.The restrooms had warm water and towel napkins for drying hands. I realised the Lodge was more luxurious than our usual eating places.

The food tasted superb and the only worry then was did we have enough money to pay? Luckily, he was happy to accept some stray dollars that were lurking in my purse as we did not have enough pesos, or Jim might have still been there washing up.

The return journey was a nightmare as the wind was really strong. At times I had to walk, as it was like trying to ride into a solid wall. I know Yucatan is flat and hot but I kept having flashbacks to the climb up Ditchling Beacon on the London to Brighton bike ride, and at other moments I could only see Omar Shariff crossing Siberia in the snow. Honestly! It was that bad. But enough whining – we made it, after over 5 hours riding and 45 k that seemed more like 70. Perhaps the most painful aspect of the whole experience was acknowledging that it was totally self-inflicted. Wisdom from another discipline says, “Plan the dive, and dive the plan”. We had a plan which we metaphorically tore up and tossed over our shoulders 5 seconds after getting on the bike. We might have felt like 10 year old kids at that point, but I can tell you, we knew how old we were by the time we finished.

And the final straw was that we did not see a single bird in the whole time we were in the Biosphere.


25th November 2010

Dear Sue and Jim,i am sorry you had such a bad ride! but the way you have narrated this has made me laugh, not because it was tough but for the expressions you use:0)I glad you are fine, but what can I say that is Mexico for you1 I am gla
d you enjoyed las quesadillas... I bet they tasted really well.Take care.Aranza x

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