Day 3: Cancun to Playa del Carmen - Grampies Yucatan Return: Winter 2023 - CycleBlaze

January 2, 2023

Day 3: Cancun to Playa del Carmen

Bring In the Marines!

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Jorge slept in, so we slinked off, leaving just a note. The way to Playa del Carmen is really just a straight shot down Highway 307, but our track wanted to take us for a bit down some parallel roads. They turned out to be rough and bumpy, so we jumped onto 307 as soon as we could.

307 turned out to be little better, with construction having ripped up the shoulder quite a lot. We knew it would be like this until the airport, because it is always like this until the airport.  This has been true for all the years since we first ventured on this road.

Jorge's street on the bit away from the shops
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Strange church-like structures down Jorge's street
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Ok, this is rather rough, let's switch to 307
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307 - swell!
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At some points beside 307 we did find a few smooth access roads
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It took about an hour to bounce and dodge 8 km to past the airport. But at that  point the shoulder becomes reasonable, even if the traffic remains heavy.  Last year I formed the impression that the flow of traffic was like a conveyer belt formed by the quiet and gleaming white VW and Toyota vans.  They swarm down 307 and deliver the tourists to resorts to be relieved f their (mostly) US dollars and returned to the airport. But this time, though the vans were certainly there, the dominant creature on the highway was the giant semi, often with double trailer, blowing noisily past.  Blowing is really the word, because these often hit us with a blast of wind, threatening to topple the bikes if we were stopped.

A big feature of Yucatan  is the number of roadside food stands. They are really everywhere, and are well patronized by everyone from workers to families, to us!

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Another big feature is the large number of adventure parks and hotel complexes created by the company behind what may be the original, Xcaret. Each of these places uses some variant of the "X" in its name. The first along 307 is XAVAGE, which is always good for a photo from the road.

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At XAVAGE
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See the "X"?
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"X"!
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Classic Xcaret billboard.
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The road also had other fun stuff, like a Tequila Tour and a Crocodile Zoo, claimed to be "interactive". We declined to interact with their crocodiles, and pedaled on.

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At one point we came to a fruit and veggie store that was large and indoors and claiming to be gourmet. It was all true, and Dodie came out with some super fruits.

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Temperatures now had reached 40 degrees, but did fall back to 38 degrees. We were seriously wilted, despite drinking litres of water. Dodie spotted  the place pictured below, which was a large beer outlet. She asked them if we could just sit at one of their shaded tables, and they agreed, even bringing us a holder of napkins. Here we ate egg and cheese sandwiches we had made last night, and also some of our fruits. The fruits were amazing! The flavours were so intense that actually the fruit was almost unrecognizable. Those nectarines tasted like passion fruit, or something!

Shady table!
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Most of the fancy places had huge entry facades, usually well landscaped, and one with a large fountain. Here below is Vidanta, which seems to host Cirque du Soleil.

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The big thing we liked about the fancy resorts was that many had bus stops for their workers, arriving and departing by Collectivo mini vans. As you see below these were very shady. By now Dodie was really suffering from the heat (me too!) and had begun to cramp up in both legs. We then took every chance we had to stop and rest in the shade. I found the benches were long enough to stretch out, and I got several good naps on them.

Thanks, luxury resort.
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We did not see a lot of wildlife along the busy road, but there was this bird, and also a vulture checking put our progress.

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Scott AndersonTropical kingbird?
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3 weeks ago
Bill ShaneyfeltTo Scott AndersonAgreed
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3 weeks ago
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At one shady stop, we ran into Juan and Pasquel, workers at an adjacent cement works. Juan sympathized with Dodie's cramped legs, and charged off to bring her a remedy. This turned out to be some aloe vera that he had freshly cut nearby.  We have found the local people here to so far be super sweet. As of right now, they are scoring 100% - everyone without exception has been great!

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Despite Juan's efforts. Dodie's leg cramping got worse, and we had to repeatedly stop to wait for the pain to ease.

Oh, Dodie....
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One good thing that came up was a roadside stand with mango and also coco frio - cold coconut with a straw to drink the water.  Coco frio cpuld work well for the cramping. There was also mango, that we got as well. Both products were being prepared right there by the road. The mangoes were Atulfo's, which anyway are tangy, but these were intense. Not sour, mind you, just intense.

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We told the coco frio man about our trip, but were surprised to find that he had never heard of places in Yucatan like Merida, the capitol. I mean Yucatan is the next state over from here in Quintana Roo, but one would think people would have heard about it. Obviously not, if you spent your life making coco frio.

We had bought three bits of baking at the bandshell market last night, but found it fluffy and oily. Dodie warned that that would be all we would be finding. So it as surprising to hit a French bakery along the way. It was pretty good, but of course Dodie was right, we do not expect a lot of French bakeries in Yucatan.

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We carried on, with the road not too bad. But we did notice that no attention whatever is paid to the needs of bicycles here. Everything in or about the road is there with cars in mind. Speed or warning bumps, for example. Look at those guys below. Not even too friendly for a car, but a serious hazard for a bike!

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We didn't have to continue on 307 all the way to abreast of the centre of Playa. Instead we turned off, and headed for a cycle path that we knew carried on into town. We used an overpass over the highway, allowing a view of how busy it always is.

307 near Playa del Carmen
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Once we were entering town, we passed though a gas station, where the attendant jokingly asked if we needed a fillup.

We are not big gas users!
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While deeper in, the town is totally (totally!) overrun with tourists, the outskirts are still normal. I shot this grocery store because when we told Joni over the phone last night that we had got some abarrotes, she denied knowing what we were talking about.  Joni is 100% fluent in Spanish, so maybe it was our pronunciation. Abarrotes, Joni!

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Laurie MarczakJust means "grocery store" yeah?
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3 weeks ago
More of the "normal" part of Playa. Each town along 307 has a normal and a crazy tourist district.
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The start of the bikeway.
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Up until now were were just heat exhausted and crampy, but a further test was on the way. Dodie ran over a branch of a thorn tree, and of course it got her. - Right in the rear flat proof tire!

When I pulled this out - hisssss!
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We were abut 50 blocks from our hotel when this happened, and at first we thought we would just walk it. For a bit we could observe the thickening of the tourist throngs, and the soon to be wall to wall restaurants.

We thought we might come back to this one, but in fact it was way far out.
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Oh, they are thickening up!
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Finally we realized that the hotel room where in principle we were not supposed to bring our bikes could be a poor place for a rear tire repair. And anyway, the tire was starting to peel off the rim. So we pulled over and had at it. Unlike with the broken valve stem, we had a chance here, even without taking the wheel off. Rather we looked at the photo of the thorn to see where the  puncture was, and proceeded to pull the tube out around that area. We would then use Dodie's cheek to sense the hisss.

By now we were in the middle of the fairly dense tourist traffic, so they had something to look at. But we also attracted two police, who watched from afar, and also two quite heavily armed marines, on patrol.  The marines wanted to help, so we explained what we were doing - in sign language.  They stuck with us through the whole ordeal, which took about an hour!

We started off the project alone.
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But the Marines showed up to give us a hand. No, the bike did not get shot.
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The marine who is standing up was sporting a hand granade. I pointed out to him that this was dangerous, and checked that he knew how to handle it. He said he did! See the less involved police in the background. Fixing a flat on the main drag of Playa is very safe!
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Found the puncture!
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Dodie looks like she is handing out the next assignment!
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With the flat fixed did we ride on? No. The cycle path had become a pedestrian only path. So we joined them for the 15 blocks. It was a kaleidoscope of restaurants and souvenir shops. Many many people stopped to ask us where we were from and what we were up to. That included tourists and also good English speaking locals who are posted outside shops to engage the passers by. Some people were advertising taxi services, and looked at us sadly as we passed with our bikes.

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Always amusing are the Jewish guys who work the crowds doing touch-up bar mitzvas on any lapsed believers they can find. I got a "booster" like this in Paris - it was interesting.  Google Lens can not make much sense of their flag.  It is likely nonsense anyway!

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In addition to walking with flags, the Jewish guys have some fixed functions too. The sign fine print says they will be doing candle lighting at 7.
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Ah yes, Senor Frogs. There are at least two branches along the strip.
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A nice set of statues depicting Mayan activities, half way down the strip.
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Oh oh, the crowd is building. We are near our hotel now.
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The sort of peaceful retreat of the Maya Turquesa hotel. It cost the most we have paid in Mexico recently, and we had to spend an hour getting them to find a controller for the AC.
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By the time we hot our hotel room we were absolutely and totally exhausted.  But of course there is tomorrow's Booking to find, and this blog to write. (And water to filter). Fortunately were were too tired to want to eat. But there was one thing - tire tubes. I volunteered to make the walk to Walmart. The way passed city hall, which still had some very impressive decorations on the go:

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Approaching what my GPS said was Walmart, all I could see was a block square parking lot, with a giant faceless block square concrete box resting on top. I skirted around three sides of the block and still did not see the familiar Walmart sign. But people were ascending a concrete ramp to the concrete box, with a purposeful aire, and I confirmed with two Mayan ladies that this was indeed the place. They thought I was an idiot.

It look Walmart-like from here....
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I had rather thought that Walmart would bring their Walmart-y thing to Playa, and that I would be able to find everything from the needed bike accessories to cheap shoes and bug spray. But no, Mexico had brought its Mexico-ness to Walmart, and the place was as scattered as a Ma and Pa abarrotes outlet. I tracked down a few workers and asked about bike tubes, but got either dunno (what is Spanish for dunno?) or directed in circles. One worker actually walked with me in circles before conceding that they have no such thing. I did find some desultory kid's bikes for sale, but no a singles accessory!

I trudged home, and now I had really had it. So we were now both wasted. It took me a couple of hours in the hard won AC to recover and write this. Meanwhile Dodie struggled with Booking. They are listing places with prices that they say include all taxes and charges, and when you come to pay, the amount is magically boosted by as much as 30%.  For Tulum, we just decided to pay whatever and fight about it later. But soon a message came that our credit card had been declined. We just gave another credit card, saving phoning the first card to say wtf, for when we have more strength. Dodie did say we should call them before leaving to warn that we would be traveling with their card. But the card is one that maintains balances in ten currencies, and is branded Air Canada. I argued that they would obviously know we were using the card for travel. Yeah, sure.

Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 63 km (39 miles)

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Sue PriceOh my! I hope you are able to find tubes soon!!!
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3 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceWe passed three closed bike shops at Playa early this morning! But there is one coming up in Tulum!
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3 weeks ago
Kelly IniguezWhat a day! It's a good thing you are experienced tourists and can roll with the punches.
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3 weeks ago