What We Thought of Cycling Yucatan - Grampies' Road to Ruins - CycleBlaze

What We Thought of Cycling Yucatan

Our main goal in this fairly short visit to Yucatan was to see if it would be a good place to cycle during the winter months in future years. The main thing we were looking for was quiet and reasonably safe roads. This we definitely found. Even the biggest road, 307 down the east coast normally had a good shoulder, and although busy and noisy was not unduly dangerous.

Other roads, leading west, like 180 or the Tulum-Coba road also could be busy and noisy at times, but similarly were not unduly dangerous. Finally, there were many smaller roads which were quite peaceful and which took us through sleepy towns that were a delight.

So on roads, Yucatan gets a thumbs up.

We were sensitive to quite a few other factors, and these came out both positive and negative.Here is a sentence or two on each one:

Plus Factors

Weather: While we often found the heat and humidity to be uncomfortable, this was not all the time and not so extreme. After all, we did come to avoid getting frozen in the north. There was almost no rain, and what did fall did it conveniently in the evening or night. At those times it was a deluge, but quickly over.

Food: The quality of food in Yucatan is high, though we suspect we gained weight or became somehow bloated with the abundance of corn and bean products. Bakery was interesting but generally soft and weak. Fruits of course were great. Food was generally very economical, with a restaurant main dish averaging $7.

People and Safety: Except for one sullen boarding pass taker at the airport, every single person we addressed or smiled at in Yucatan returned the gesture. That applies to friendly greetngs from road workers, police, waiters, people in the street, kids, ..everyone! At no time did we feel the slightest personal threat, and while we locked our bikes on occasion, we did not lock them when stashed somewhere on the grounds or somewhere inside a hotel.

Sights: The Mayan sites here are the obvious attraction, and we enjoyed seeing them. After a while we felt we had the idea and lost the impetus to see more and more. Cenotes also are great and we did check out half a dozen. Actually going in to the water is a bit of a chore for us because of being left with wet clothes, but we really enjoyed it when we did put in the effort.

The tropical plants and animals  and the tropical seas are always a thrill for us, and there was lots in that area to experience here. The boat ride to the flamingos was a real highlight as was the monkey sanctuary. Cozumel was a real beach and surf experience, (though it is laughable to think that we neither went on the beach nor into the surf)  and having access to it on a bike path was incredible.

Culture: While some aspects of the Mexican culture were annoying (see below) there is no doubt that we experienced something much different from what we are used to at home or in Europe. If you include the Mayan crafts in culture (which you must), then this was a blockbuster cultural place to visit.

Length of Day: This is a bit of an unusual one to mention, but the day length here, even at its shortest, was about 12 hours. That is  hours more than we have at home in this season, and gives lots of time for bicycling.

Minus Factors

Environment: We felt we had to use bottled water here, not least because the locals do too. This involved dozens of plastic bottles and we hated that. Next time we will try filtering, but we know that too has limitations. We needed about 6 litres of water per day. At about 70 cents per litre that is a noticeable cost of $150 for the trip. While we often bought water in 1 1/2 litre bottles, 180 litres is still a big pile of bottles.

We are not clear on whether warnings about Mexican water are leftovers from the past or are still relevant. If there is a problem, does it extend to larger towns or is it just in villages. What exactly is the problem with water systems and why do even locals not seem to trust the water?

Garbage is the next factor. Except where assidously cleaned by big resorts, roads were heavily littered with garbage all along. This is so different from what people try to achieve at home that it constantly disturbed us.

Noise pollution was a big factor. Motorcycles are a very common mode of transport here, and even the quietest of these is loud. The people also love to play loud music - from amplified speakers in stores and homes to discos and bars.


Merchants:

Almost all restaurant or shops station someone outside to try to draw in customers. This can actually be convenient if for example you are wondering what is one the menu in a given restaurant. And each person out front  is very friendly and accommodating. But if in a block you need to pass a dozen of these, it cumulatively amounts to harrassment.

Most shops do not post prices, and you can be 100% sure that if you have not done your homework you will pay too much. That means you have a lot of work to do to fairly buy anything, and that work is in itself a cost. You can always of course just pay what is asked, kind of like "Buy it Now" on eBay.

Dusty Tumble Down: Outside of the tourist resorts you will find a lot of dusty tumble down homes, restaurants, and shops. These can scarcely be called a minus factor, because they are part of the essence of the place. On the other hand there are places in the world where whole towns are just beautiful. It is a matter of taste as to which is more interesting or pleasing.

Tourist Information: Most places marked tourist information are just trying to sell tour tickets and have no other information. Government run tourist information is rare and is in any event useless.

Hot Water, or any water pressure: Budget accommodation may not feature hot water showers, and will not think to mention that. That's because locals are not big on hot water in this normally hot climate. Some places also really lacked really usable water pressure. even for cold.

Lock you in: Many countries or states with wide income disparities are hung up on security. That shows up in a lot of security guards and a tendency to barricade doors and windows, and that is what we found in Yucatan. That's all fine until you get barricaded in, causing a health and fire risk.

Worker empowerment: Perhaps because jobs are hard to find or perhaps due to management styles you will run in to workers who will not step an inch outside of normal procedure. This showed up when I tried to double my coffee cup to avoid burning my hand from the hot liquid. Nope, one coffee, one cup! Or when I tried to order a mushroom and pepperoni pizza that also had two other mystery ingredients listed in Spanish. I could not get them to make it with just mushroom and pepperoni. Also prices were quoted as 2 for 1, and I could not buy just one. That time the worker did have the idea of reducing the size from medium to small and then selling me two smalls. Good thinking inside the (pizza) box.

Overall: The merits far outweighed the demerits. We hope to be back next year, and we will make it a longer tour!

What's next? We want to go and cycle more in Europe as soon as possible. But it is still cold there. In March the average low in Netherlands is 1 degree C and the high  is 6. In southern France, e.g. Marseilles, that is 7 and 16. We need to start in Netherlands because we have arranged to buy two bikes at what has become our favourite shop, in Apeldoorn.  (More bikes? All will be explained in the next blog!) We could then pedal like crazy toward the south, or break our hearts and take a train. Our timing really depends on Dodie's coming knee surgery.  If we wait for it to happen, then we are grounded for a 6 month recovery period. And if we take off early, then we may freeze on the roads, while if we delay, the hospital may call while we are deep in Provence or somewhere. 

Tomorrow we will talk to the medical people, and make a decision. Stay tuned! 

Until then, thanks for 'Blazing along with us!

Thanks to Doug Loten from Day 16 near Telchac Puerto for this shot.
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Glen AdamsI hope all goes well for your up and coming knee operation.
Thank You for sharing another adventure.
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1 year ago
Fern DavisThank you for another great ride and for the wonderfully written and informative journal. I look forward to your upcoming European tour.
Safe travels.
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1 year ago
Graham PerkinsGrampies Rock! Congrats on completing another amazing trip, and thank you for sharing. Hoping the engineering change on Dodie's knee goes well. Cheers.

Graham
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1 year ago