February 21, 2009 GMT
Winter in Mexico!

Winter in Mexico!
21 February 2009.

The ride from the Moralia area to Valle De Bravo is a pleasant one, it goes through the mountains and the views are beautiful. Valle De Bravo is not very touristic during the week and it's quiet nice to walk around town, visiting the local market and trying out different Mexican banana shakes. Balam offers us to stay in his house, we met his family, ate together and talked about travel adventures and Balam's experiences with the Indian culture of North America. We have met him over three years ago in South America, not for long, but he opened his house for us as if we know each other for a long time. Balam develops tracks and campsites and one day we followed a track in a nearby park. The walk was nice and cool, it took us through thick jungle and to a lake were we relaxed.
Together we celebrated Andy's birthday with dinner, wine and two bags of his favorite chocolate raisins. Andy worked on the bike and I prepared the next bit of the route.
Balam, and your family, Thank you very much for having us!!

We hit the 134, a road with nice scenery heading South to the coast. It was hard work for Andy to ride the sidecar through this mountain area and I felt like a scrambled egg. The road has a dangerous camber, so we were all over the place.
We found a 'ballinario', a swimming pool, where we asked if we could camp. No problem. It was sticky hot, but we didn't had the guts to jump in the water, it looked so unhealthy to go in there. The ants had attacked our food before we could start eating it, barking dogs kept us awake all night, but it was still nice to camp again. We could see the stars through the mesh of the tent.

We kept following the 134 along the coast and enjoyed the views, then we joined the 200. We saw for the first time the ocean, the blue coulors were so intensive, it almost blinded us.
At the end of the day we drove through Acapulco and it felt like we were back in America, it gave us a culture shock, we didn't expect all this luxury and modern buildings after having seen pure poverty in the form of wooden shacks, working kids and a lack of clean water and good food.
(By the way, while I am writing this I get covered by sawdust....I look up and a giant fluffy bumble bee is creating a hole, by using it's teeth, in a beam which is supporting the roof. If it continuous so fanatic as it does, the roof will collapse at the end of this week).
While we are on the road we also hunt for bearings and try to cope with the busy traffic. We hit more 'topes' (sleeping policeman) than there are stars in the universe. Along the road there are loads of palm trees, plantations, farms and Brahman cows. Sometimes we are higher up in the mountains.

We stayed 2 nights in Zipolite, near Puerto Angel. It has a beautiful beach, to many backpackers and European looking faces, but also restaurants on the beach with firers at night, so romantic. When we were looking out of the 'window' of our hut, we had a great view on the beach were naked men, wearing only a hat and sandals, were jogging. For Andy, a proper English man, this was a bit to much.

One day we entered the town of Nitepec and got caught in a blockade. All the roads into the center were blocked by horses and carriages, buses and trucks. We couldn't escape, so I took my helmet off and asked what was going on. People were angry because of the high fuel prizes, but it was no problem for them to let us through. Now we were caught in the middle of this blockade! Luckily a taxi driver waved at us, so we followed him through parts of the town where you normally don't want to be and by the time I was wandering if following him was a good idea, we reached the right road out of the town.

Following a very windy road towards San Cristobal De las Casas the scenery changed and also the people: higher mountains overgrown with thick jungle, colorful indigenous Maya people in traditional blue and purple cloth, carrying big stacks of wood on their backs, adobe houses, men on horses and pigs and donkeys crossing the street.
San Cristobal has cobbled streets and loads of hidden tienda's (little shops) behind open doors, but the river we crossed to get into the center is full of dead swollen up dogs and the sewage runs into the streets. People are begging or trying to sell you things every five minutes like hammocks, jewelery or other local products. We find finally a bolt that we were trying to find for weeks. And we have a little hold up in this place because I got the famous shits again (too many banana milk shakes? ).

When we are back on the road again we are on the Maya route, Children had put up ropes on the road and tried to stop us, so they could sell fruits. I had to slap some small quick hands who were trying to grab stuff out of the sidecar, so Andy kept driving over the ropes, without stopping.

After a few days we arrived in Palenque, which was full of backpacker campsites and expensive hotels, but we found a real nice campsite with only one person on it. Bruno from France, over 10 years on the road with his Toyota Landcruser. Nice company, full of humor and also full of disgust about France (for sure he will never settle down there again). In the jungle behind the campsite howler monkies were hopping around and acting like a circus artist.
Palengue is very famous, so it's a tourist hole, you get sick of the tourist buses and the hassle from people who want to sell you souvenirs or want to 'look after' the bike. We didn't take that 'offer', which means you have to pay, so when we came back from visiting the ruins, we discovered that the Gremlin bell was stolen. Something that was a very special and appreciated gift, so we were very pissed off.
Palengue is impressive, big, interesting, full of Maya buildings, but it's also full of people selling souvenirs, it spoils it completely. We should have known better.

The Maya route rolls into a flatter countryside and offers more than enough ruins to visit. You find Chalakmul 60 kilometers into the jungle and the Maya temples are very high and interesting. We climbed two of these temples in the burning heat and on top of them we had a super view over this ancient city and the jungle canopy. Worth the sweating, climbing and trying to overcome our fear for heights. And not many people there. We saw exotic birds and in a distance we noticed big monkeys playing high up in the trees.

We stayed on an Eco campsite, you could wash yourself with brown water by using a bucket. We hadn't had a decent wash for 6 days, I made it seven. We found a hotel in Xpujill, where we took a long, long shower and watched TV while eating crisps, chocolate and cookies. Spoiled buggers!

From here we drove in one long day over partly bad roads to X-puha, to camping Bonanza at the Mexican Caribbean coast to meet Simon and Lisa. The four of us were at the same time in South America, but we never had met. So we spent over a week together on a beach with shiny white sand, opal colored water, palm trees and interesting people. Simon and Lisa are very good photographers and I had the honor to read some parts of Simon's articles he was writing and I am over the moon about his style (don't stop writing Simon!!). He is also very good at imitating Michael Jackson's moonwalk, very funny, but also fantastic, because there has been times that he couldn't walk or had a broken neck.
Our computer broke down, died finally. Together we went to a big store and with their knowledge and Spanish we bought a little laptop, so we can be in touch with the outside world and friends and family again. Simon has big brains for computers and he fitted some programs on it, which are great to use for us.
We studied the kite surfers, got sunburned in the shadow and were sweating our bits of while we were reading books. Wintertime in Mexico, how horrible!

Five days ago we left the campsite and the police and army checked us a few times. Their excuse was that they check for explosives, but we know by now that they are also curious. Just for fun and to stop them searching any further I had put some pads (the ones we girls use once a month when we have to deal with our 'female curse') in my bag in the top box. The effect is great when they open it...like if they just burned their hands! With a red face full of horror they want you to cloose the box and they don't want you to open anything else.
We also got stopped by the police because we were driving in the middle of the road, the camber was very dangerous. They drove behind us for miles (we hadn't noticed the police car) then they overtook us and after 5 minutes they stopped. So it took them a while to decide that. We listened very 'patiently and respectful',so we didn't get a fine, but had to continue on the right side of the road, driving 35 miles an hour. All this to avoid giving them the opportunity to wait for us and give us a fine.

We are back on the nice campsite near Palenque, so we can sort ourselves out before we go into Guatemala. We have again good company, Katharina and Thomas from Germany and Bruno is back. Andy has noticed some broken spokes and is sweating away repairing them. I am washing, writing and thinking about my sister, who I had contacted by skype this morning, after she had a shoulder operation. That is one of those rare moments that I don't want to be here, but want to fly in my own personal space shuttle to visit her and than go back again to continue the trip.

Will be continued.

Posted by Maya Vermeer at 04:14 PM GMT

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