When I leave San Cristobal it’s already noon. Since Mexico also switched to daylight savings time the last weekend I still have more than seven hours of daylight. I have planned to reach Palenque within three days and want to stop tonight in Tonina. It’s a little town close to Ocosingo which also has some impressive Maya ruins to offer. The tour to Tonina will be 106 km and since it’s going mainly downhill I’m pretty positive that I will be able to make it in time.
The first km out of San Cristobal are pretty tough. It’s already very hot and it’s going uphill for most of the time. But after I leave the outskirts of the town it turns into a smooth ride. After 16km I turn right onto a gravel road. I have a mixed feeling about it, since roads which start with gravel often end worse with deep potholes, big rocks on the road and steep climbs. However they also often have a lot more to offer than the regular highways and it’s also the case this time. Except for a few stretches I really enjoy this road and the wonderful mountainous scenery. When I climb further up on the road I ride into the clouds (or mist). It’s an almost mystical scenery when a group of women approaches me. They are wearing long capes and with their machetes they are carrying the look like Jedi knights appearing out of the mist. It’s the last time for that day, that I enjoy the ride. Shortly after I decline and am about to get back to the highway the trouble starts. You can read about my story how I got robbed here: http://www.america-by-bike.com/no-tengo-dineros-i-got-robbed/.
The next day I start late and without breakfast from Ocosingo to the ruins of Tonina. Already before I reach the place I can see the ruins in the distance. They look impressive, even from several km away. When I reach there I lock my bike and enter the park. Since my thoughts are still turning around the events yesterday I decide to have breakfast in one of the restaurants here and write down what had happened yesterday. It takes me about one hour to finish my breakfast and update the blog. Then I climb up the ruins and enjoy the spectacular views over the landscape. This place is not overrun by tourists like other places and is therefore a great start to explore Maya ruins. It’s basically my starter for Palenque which will be the main course.
Next stop of the day are the cascades of Agua Azul. To get there, I have to ride back the 15km to Ocosingo and take the apparently dangerous highway MEX199 again which leads to Palenque. It’s a stunning road with spectacular views over the tree covered hills. Since I’m still a little bit shocked from the events yesterday I only stop a few times to take a photo to not raise any interests for my equipment. Especially on the uphill section I feel uncomfortable since it makes it more difficult to escape a dangerous situation. Fortunately this day is without any issues and when I get followed by running and laughing young kids I slowly start to enjoy the ride again. I have to remind myself, that the vast majority of people here are absolutely lovely.
In Agua Azul I meet Martin from Switzerland – another cyclist. He started one day earlier from San Cristobal and was already staying in Agua Azul for the second day. It’s nice to finally have a companion again to talk about yesterday’s misfortune. He is riding his bike already for more than two years and has overcome some strange and dangerous situations already as well. I actually forget to properly explore the cascades and take some pictures – but it seems that just talking and socializing are more important for me now. In the end I will leave this place without any photo.
For the next day we have decided to ride to Palenque together. In order to avoid the afternoon heat during the big climbs we planned to leave early. But not before I took a quick bath in the cascades. I actually wanted to do that already the evening before, but we had spent too much time talking and it got too dark to still jump into the water. A refreshing dip into clear blue water in the morning is anyhow the best to start the day. It’s 7:30am when we push our bikes out of the campground. The first few km are already super hard. We have to climb roughly 300m to get back to the highway MEX199. Riding down this road yesterday evening was fun, but as a cyclist you hate to go a road back up again which you descended the day before. The road and scenery today are as beautiful as the day before. I think it’s not exaggerating to say, that this is the most beautiful road I’ve ridden so far in Mexico. But it’s also one of the hottest roads I’ve ridden. Especially during the climbs we are desperately looking for any shade we can get. Luckily we’re not under any time pressure at all as we starting early enough in the day and so we can take a few breaks to drink and recover.
When we finally arrive in Palenque it’s 3pm. We stop at a big supermarket to stock up our supplies. Since Martin’s stove is currently broken I suggest that we can cook a big portion of pasta on my stove for the both of us. With beer, pasta, some vegetables and snacks we continue our trip to the campground “Michol” close to the ruins. We pay 40 Pesos each for a roof covered campsite with flush toilets, cold shower and even free WiFi. The place seems to be also pretty popular amongst some hippies who party till deep into the night. We want to get to the ruins early tomorrow and so we decide to sleep early.
Even though we went into our tents early I sleep only until 7:30am. Our plan to reach the ruins before the first busses loaded with tourists is obsolete. After a solid breakfast and pre-packing of our stuff it’s already 9:30 when we finally enter the gate to the zona archeologica. I’ve seen a few ruins sites during my travels but this is definitely the most impressive one so far. The white stones of the temples build a nice contrast to the flush green jungle which had covered the buildings for so many years before they got discovered and excavated. The howler monkeys which hide in the trees around the temples make a lot of noise and we finally spot a little family with their baby in the trees when we are about to leave the place again.
When we finally return back to the campsite around 1:30pm I decide that I want to stay one more night before I continue my journey to the border of Guatemala. Martin leaves later in the day with the bus back to San Cristobal and so I will be travelling on my own again until I meet another companion again. Most of the time I prefer cycling alone but for the last two days I was absolutely glad to share the road with someone else.
Confidence and trust are back. The journey continues. But for sure I will be more cautious from now on.