Palenque was my last big highlight in Mexico. Originally I also wanted to cycle the Yucatan peninsula. But as I already spend more time in Mexico than initially planned I decided to skip this part. Instead I took the Ruta Maya from Palenque which follows the Guatemalan border. There are not many cities or villages on this road and several years back robberies were not uncommon to happen here. Since I had the recent incident I checked several online sources of other travelers who had recently done it and also checked with the tourist information in Palenque. They convinced me, that I should be save on this road since there are several military checkpoints along the way.
So I finally went off on April 8th with still some mixed feelings. At the one hand I’m really excited to ride through the jungle and experience the rough and untouched wilderness but at the same time I’m still questioning whether I’m maybe taking too many risks. The first few km out of Palenque are familiar since I ride back the way I came from a few days earlier. After 16km I reach the crossing where the highway MEX307 – the Ruta Maya starts. For the first day I’ve only planned to do a bit less than 40km and stay at the cascades of Welib-Ha. Again it’s a very hot day and the mainly flat road doesn’t provide many opportunities of shade. I reach my destination around 4:30pm which gives me plenty of time to still enjoy the natural pools to refresh and cool down my body. The place seems to be very popular amongst the locals and there are also a few other travelers here but I’m the only one staying for the night. Again I have difficulties to get a proper sleep since the temperatures are not dropping considerably during the night.
The next day I head out the place around 8:30am and continue my ride towards Bonampak. The terrain stays mainly flat and the temperatures rise to above 45 degrees during the day (measured by my bike computer and not in the shade). I make several stops whenever I approach a little village with a kiosk or a restaurant. The first half of the day I see a lot of cattle. Either on the green meadows or in one of the many trucks passing me. When I get closer to Bonampak the vegetation changes more towards a jungle with trees overarching the street and finally providing some shadow – at least from time to time. Bonampak lies a few km off the highway in dense jungle. Unfortunately I’m not allowed to camp right in front of the ruins. When I try to cycle the final kilometers to reach there I get stopped by someone who looks like an official and he explains me, that I have to stay in one of the villages I just cycled through. I return and luckily there are plenty of campgrounds to choose from. After I had setup my tent and taken a shower I cycle to the only kiosk in that village as it seems. I’ve ridden more than 110 km today and want to treat myself with a cool beer today. Well, not in this place. They don’t sell alcohol there and so I have to be happy with a Liquado (kind of milkshake).
First stop the next morning are the ruins of Bonampak. In order to get there I have to take a dirt road for 9km (and back). But you’re not allowed to drive there with your own car and have to take one of the shared taxis instead. Since I’m the only one in the morning to arrive at the taxi stand they tell me I would have to pay a special price of 350 Pesos (compared to 100 Pesos for a shared ride). I decide to have a coffee first and wait if some other travelers arrive to share a ride with. Unfortunately no one shows up for the next 30 minutes. When I pay my coffee in the restaurant I ask whether the rule, that you cannot use the road also applies for cyclists and the waitress explains me, that I can use the road for a fee of 70 Pesos. It’s still a lot, but since this money is meant to support the community (cooperativa) I chose for that option. When I jump back on my bike and turn onto the road towards the ruins one of the taxi drivers shouts, that I cannot use this road. I reply, that I just paid for it in the restaurant and that seems to please him. 45 minutes later I arrive at the ruins. They are not as impressive as Palenque or even Tonina but they are famous for its wall paintings. And these are actually quite impressive. The pyramid is surrounded by dense jungle and as in Palenque you can hear the howler monkeys in the trees. They seem to be attracted by these places it seems. After one hour of exploring the place I continue my ride. Back on the highway I have to do quite some climbing through the lush green jungle. It’s one of the most beautiful parts I’ve cycled in Mexico and I’m feeling happy I chose for this route now. I stay on the highway till shortly after Benemerito de las Americas – the only bigger town on this route – where I turn right to follow the Ruta Maya along the Rio Lacantun. I finally end the day in Las Guacamayas after more than 130km today.
Since there is not much to do in Las Guacamayas as it seems I continue my ride early in the morning. After 30km cycling this morning I join back on the MEX307 and I’m very close to the Guatemalan border again. My plan is to reach to Las Nubes today and therefore I have quite some climbing to do. In the end it will be more than 1800m I’ve climbed and 112km distance I’ve covered. At the entrance of the town I stop a little kiosk and start talking to the owner and her son Victor. Victor is also running some cabanas and since I want to stay two nights in order to explore the cascades properly I feel better with a cabana where I can lockup my stuff and choose for that option. Also 200 Pesos per night seem to be a very fair offer. Victor explains me where to go to explore the river and the waterfalls and directs me also to a spot where the locals go for swimming. But since it’s already getting dark I decide to take the regular shower today and jump into the water only the next day.
After I enjoyed Las Nubes for a full day with hiking (and biking) to all the interesting spots I continue to ride towards the Lagos de Montebello. It’s less than 70km to get there but also more than 2100m of elevation gain I have to manage. Luckily the temperatures become more moderate the higher you get. I find a nice camping spot at the lake Tziscao at a restaurant. They don’t provide showers but I can jump into the lake instead. After the hot nights in my tent for the past couple of days (except for the cabana in Las Nubes) it’s the first time since long that I actually have to use my sleeping bag again during the night.
The next day is my final stage in Mexico. From Lagos de Montebello it’s mainly going downhill today and so I can mostly enjoy the 110km ride this day. My final night in Mexico I decided to spend in a hotel in Paso Hondo which is just a few km away from the border. Another big chapter of my journey is coming to an end now. It was such a pleasure to ride through this amazing country and encounter all these amazing people – except for these few stupid ones in Chiapas. My original plan was to stay only three months in Mexico and now I ended up spending more than four months here.
Next destination: Guatemala