You may have noticed that we aren’t pedaling exactly South these days, since we turned the corner in Chiapas and headed almost due north into the Yucatan Peninsula. The Yucatan is a big chunk of land in the Southeast corner of Mexico that is geographically and culturally distinct from the rest of Mexico, so of course we had to ride it.
Even better, my (Daisy) parents came down from Bellingham, WA to meet us for a week of rest in the capital city of Merida. The logistics of meeting someone on bike tour can be daunting, but somehow we managed to arrive in Merida on exactly the same day. In order to pull this off we had to put in some really big days on the Yucatan. Luckily, this place is flat as a pancake.
We left Palenque early on Christmas morning. This meant that the traffic was light, as most Mexicans are Catholic and stay home to celebrate with their families. It was also dumping rain for most of the day, so we had little option but to ride ride ride all day. The roads were flat, and would have been uninteresting if it hadn’t been for the incredible birdlife. We saw many types of large birds from herons and egrets to hawks. For lunch we stopped in a giant roadside palapa (palm-roof building) and had Mexican-style eggs with tortillas while the rain poured down outside.
It cleared by evening, but we were in a pretty isolated area and there were no settlements or hotels to be found. We kept riding and riding, hoping to find something, but nothing appeared. Finally, after a whopping 97 miles we found a gas station. They informed us that the next town / hotel was another 10 miles up the road, but they also gave us permission to camp at the gas station. So we spent the night camped at the gas station: another first for the trip.
We hoped to have the next day be a little more relaxed, but again we rode over 90 miles. This time there were small towns to stay in, but I insisted on a hotel. My stomach is still nowhere near 100% and the idea of camping in some town square without a bathroom was just too much. Unfortunately there were no hotels for the last 50 miles of road! We ended up in the super-budget rooms in a busy Mexican town on the Gulf of Mexico. Can you believe that, we made it to the Gulf of Mexico!
We slept very well and even allowed ourselves to sleep in, since the next day was only about 50 miles to the capital city of Campeche. The road wove along the coast through tiny towns and along water that was lovely and calm. The city of Campeche was also lovely: the historical center had been completely restored in pastel shades and pretty buildings. We spent a long afternoon wandering the streets and climbing around the old walls that used to protect the colonial city. That night Jason ventured out into the square around 10pm to find the whole place hopping with Christmas cheer and enough flashing lights to make just about anyone sick.
From Campeche it was just two more reasonable (50-55 mile) days into Merida. We rode through the flat and seemingly endless roads of the Yucatan, mainly listening to books on tape and dreaming about cooking in a kitchen. There was more rain, too.
A highlight was meeting two more touring cyclists in a turn lane on the highway. We stopped for a nice chat and learned they were two Australians on their very first bicycle tour. It was great to chat with them, and we invited them to come visit with us in Merida.
When we finally reached Merida we found a big spread-out city quite unlike the other Mexican cities we’ve visited. It seemed to sprawl on forever, and there were opulent mansions with security guards neighboring abandoned mansions whose glory was clearly lost decades ago. With very little trouble we located the house my parents had rented and happily settled in. My parents didn’t arrive until very late that night, but arrive they did. It was so great to see their faces again! We’ll post parental photos in the next update, for now, a few pics of Merida mansions!
Next up: highlights from our time in Merida, and the ‘unveiling’ of a big development in our journey. Spoiler alert: no one’s pregnant.