February 16, 2011 GMT
Mexican Caribbean Coast

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Modified Bike

There have been some interesting motorcycling sights spotted in Mexico, grandmothers looking perfectly composed riding side saddle on the back of a scooter, a family of four on a scooter with a baby wedged between the parents and a toddler standing on the footplate and numerous weird and wonderful modifications. My favourite modification to date has been splitting the bike in two at the forks and using the front for steering and controls with the back positioned to power one side of a trike, the third trike wheel doesn‘t have power or brakes. A large flat load carrying surface is created and I have seen a couple adapted to take a wheelchair.

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Outdoor Latin American Dancing Is Popular With The Oldies

I had lost a filling in the USA where obviously it was far too expensive to even think about getting it fixed. It wasn’t painful and I intended to get the tooth refilled in Mexico or Costa Rica. I then lost a second filling while in Oaxaca, Mexico so decided to seek out a dentist. The owner of the Merida hostel I was staying in recommended someone and after the initial examination one tooth simply needed refilling but the other required a root canal. I wasn’t sure what a root canal procedure was but I do now, a long two stage filling that requires a lot more anaesthetic than a standard filling. The standard filling cost 42 pounds ($61 USD) while the root canal was a whopping 222 pounds ($323 USD) which is probably more than I would have paid in England. The good news is that despite the dentists bill after five months of travelling in Mexico my savings have increased slightly so for the first time on this trip I have been able to live and travel on the rental income from my house in England and not had to dip into savings.

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Celestun Beach, Gulf of Mexico

I rode out to Celestun from Merida to take a boat trip and see a flock of pink flamingos, fortunately the ride was enjoyable with some good scenery finishing on the Gulf of Mexico coast. I could have taken a coach tour from Merida which included the boat trip and lunch for $40 USD so expected the boat trip alone to be considerably less. When I arrived at the boat landing I discovered that I couldn’t join a boat tour but could only hire a boat and driver / guide which was going to cost $60 for a one hour trip. I decided that I didn’t want to see pink flamingos that badly and after a second visit to the beach returned to Merida. I can see pink flamingos at home at the nearby Washington Wildlife Trust!

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Chichen Itza Pyramid

I stopped at Chichen Itza another popular Mayan ruin site between Merida and Valladolid with lots of tourist coaches in the car park and when I got there a queue of over a hundred were waiting to click through the turnstile entrance. Once inside the site was large enough to accommodate everyone and although there were lots of souvenir sellers lining the pathways they weren’t pushing their wares at you the whole time as I had been told. One guy from a tourist group, presumably forgetting which continent he was on and confusing the dead Mayan religion with the still practised Buddhism was loudly asking for “a Buddha” from one of the Mayan traders! There should be a test prior to issuing passports to avoid such embarrassments!

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Chichen Itza Iguana

In the Yucatan Peninsular the rain seeps through the porous limestone to form underground pools known as Cenotes. These underground pools were the water supply for the Pre Columbian Mayans and presumably still supply freshwater today. A number of them are accessible for swimming. The Dzitnup Cenote near Valladolid has a small hole in the roof which casts a beam of sunlight onto the water although the day I went it was overcast so I didn‘t get to see it at its best. On the return five mile ride to Valladolid wearing only a regular shirt and trousers it decided to rain, it was only a light shower but it seemed a little unfair that I happened to be riding the bike when the first rain I have seen in over four months fell.

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Cenote Dzitnup On A Good Day.... I Didn't Have The Shaft Of Light

I was in two minds about going to Cancun, a city that has been developed over the last forty years from a small fishing village into one of the worlds premier seaside resorts famous for the USA spring break invasion of wild partying students. However Cancun was the last opportunity to visit a BMW dealership until I get to San Jose, Costa Rica over 2000 miles away. There wasn’t any spares that I desperately needed but decided to replace the mirror stolen in Guanajuato and get a few other bits and pieces as I try to guess what might go wrong. The parts were almost twice the price they would have been in the USA because of the high Mexican import tax so if your heading this way stock up in the USA.

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Cancun Hotel District

The Garmin GPS holder failed during a short ride to Cancun beach. It had given trouble on the way north through Canada to Alaska eight months ago when the GPS would turn itself off intermittently as the damp weather got into the electrical contacts. Cleaning and a blast of WD40 would cure the problem for a while but I ordered a spare which has lived in the bottom of a pannier for over six months as once I got into the drier USA summer the problem disappeared. The humidity of the Caribbean seems to have caused the problem to reoccur and cleaning and spraying with WD40 didn’t fix it but fortunately I had the spare. I’m swivelling the holder upside down and further under the windscreen when parking to try and protect the new holder electrical contacts from any rain.

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Tulum Beach

The road from Cancun to Tulum is a straight four lane dual carriageway which passes a number of resort hotels and although following the coastline rarely gets close enough for a sea view, the road does get you to Tulum quickly though.

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Tulum Mayan Ruins

At Tulum the remains of a Pre Columbian Mayan fortified town sit right on the cliff top overlooking a narrow beach. Walls were built on three sides of the town with the cliffs down to the beach protecting the coastal side of the town. The town continued to be occupied by the Mayans for seventy years after the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors and its final demise is thought to have been brought about by Old World diseases introduced by Spanish settlers killing most of the Mayans.

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Tulum Ruins Beach Once Used By The Mayans To Land Their Boats

The ride to my final Mexican destination, Chetumal along highway 307 wasn’t particularly exciting. A long straight road with no changes of scenery but it was in good condition and did the job of getting me to my destination. I have been unable to load my GPS map for Belize and am waiting for a response from Garmin otherwise I will have to resort to the old fashioned paper maps and stopping to ask directions once I reach the towns. Even if I get the map installed correctly, all Garmin has to offer for Central and South America is their world map which only shows national borders and major roads so I will be trying even harder to avoid the bigger towns.

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I have enjoyed travelling in Mexico for the last five months, the people have been great, including the numerous police and army personnel I have met at checkpoints who are doing a difficult and dangerous job while the “war on drugs“ continues. I have only had four relatively minor negative incidents and three of those were in the last couple of weeks on the touristy Caribbean coast. I had a mirror stolen from the bike in Guanajuato when I had (foolishly?) left it parked on the street overnight. At an army checkpoint on the Yucatan Peninsular I was asked for a bribe by a young soldier, he was smiling and I think just trying his luck, I dodged the issue with my tried and tested “No Habla Espanol” (a badly phrased version of “I don‘t speak Spanish” I believe). At a hostel in Cancun I was asked to pay $5 USD a night over the proper rate by a worker from New Zealand, fortunately I had checked the price on the internet before arriving. He claimed he had made a mistake but I later saw the rates written on a board behind the reception desk. And finally when I was buying my ticket to enter Tulum ruins the ticket seller tried to short change me but he handed the extra $5USD over when I tapped on the glass.

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Chetumal Near The Belize Border

The next stop is in Belize which I’m passing through fairly quickly on my way to Tikal and Flores in Guatemala. I had heard that Belize is expensive compared to neighbouring countries although I have met travellers recently who have just left saying that they found reasonably priced accommodation and restaurants.

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at February 16, 2011 01:42 PM GMT

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