Day 4: Playa del Carmen to Tulum - Grampies Yucatan Return: Winter 2023 - CycleBlaze

January 3, 2023

Day 4: Playa del Carmen to Tulum

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Last night while writing the blog I thought it would be nice to have some coffee. So I ventured out into the street in front of the hotel.  What a scene! There were hundreds, maybe thousands of people milling about, and filling up the dozens of nearby restaurants. I walked for a little bit, but could not spot the calm OXXO I needed to get just one cup of coffee.

This morning we left the hotel (the Maya Turquesa), which by the way is a one star with a three star price, and again stepped into the street.  This time it was totally calm and empty, and showed none of the spark and excitement that were there with the throngs.  buildings are unremarkable - it was the people that made it hop.

Dodie calmly turned a corner and went directly to the OXXO. How does she find these things?

One star hotel with three star pretentions.
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So calm and unremarkable.
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Breakfast at the hotel was totally basic for Mexico - juice, toast, and scrambled eggs. As we cycled through town, we passed by where the real people were breakfasting. Rather than wait around for juice and toast at a hotel, we should join them.

The real breakfast spot.
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Back up on 307, we tackled what we knew would be a rough stretch. It's bad north of Playa and worse to the south. What we had was a goodly amount of shoulderless  cycling on a high speed four lane highway.  I guess that's two in each direction, but sometimes there were up to four in our direction. You can see that on the first photo below. The road also featured chewed up bits, speed disks, and longitudinal cracks - great for throwing you off balance. I was thinking about how callously the Mexicans ignore the safety of cyclists (and pedestrians). However it's unlike in the States, where the callous disregard is kind of aggressive. Here it is softer - the society probably just can not afford it.

I was running various thoughts like this through the not terrified portion of my mind, until I arrived at this thought: When an expert skier tackles the slalom on the expert slope, they do not grouse because the gates are hard to make or the slope is bumpy and steep. As expert skiers, this is what they can and should cope with. So, I thought, (good thing there is no one else in my head for fact checking!) that we are expert touring cyclists. We have 60,000 or more km of experience. We came to 307 having cycled it before. So what's our beef?

We join the fray on 307.
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(Looking back) just here we have our own lane, and should be able to dodge that crack.
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OK, so maybe we have no beef, but let's explore the fear for a bit. The temperature climbed quickly to about 38, and we were cycling put there in the full sun. Dodie noticed that on the other (northbound) side of the road, trees and brush we shading the roadway. She proposed that we shift over and ride there, facing the traffic. At first I rejected this, because of the facing the traffic bit. To have instant death approaching at about once per two seconds is easier to take when you can't see it coming.  But staring down each of hundreds - thousands of rampaging cars and trucks would be too much for me. We carried on in the sun, with Dodie progressively wilting, until I said let's try it. Just crossing was a bit of a challenge, but we did it. Dodie is mentally tougher than me, and she seemed able to cope with the situation. So I just kept my head down, and stayed on her tail. 

But now while Dodie is apparently fine with certain death lurking just inches away, she properly balked when it was lurking zero distance away. What caused this was that the shade giving brush was overgrowing the already narrow shoulder, forcing us out into the roadway. We shifted back across the road!

Here we observe certain death approaching, just on its side of the line. But see the nice shade!
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And here we are4 forced to join certain death, on the wrong side of the line.
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A welcome break came when we stopped at a supermarket. This gave Dodie some time to cool off inside, and I chose a shady spot outside. In this situation in France, this is the arrangement where I will get a French lesson, as someone will be interested in our funny bikes and packs.  This was similar but different, as I attracted Rolande, a lady from Canada that has lived here 18 years. It turns out she is originally from Val D'Or, in Northern Quebec. So yes, it turned to a French lesson. Rolande now owns a hotel in Playa, so she was able tp give us some inside story about the high (23%) level of hotel taxes here, and the extent to which Booking does or does not reveal these as extra charges in the listings.  Anyway, Rolande says she has the best and most reasonable hotel in town, so we will look her up when we pass back through Playa in a  month.

Our new contact in Playa
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Beyond the grocery, our shoulder became excellent, mostly all the way into Tulum. The road was still aggressively noisy, but the lane for us was good.  We also saw a few interesting and beautiful things:

A long, colourful hedge.
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Paintings on the side of an overpass.
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Overpass art.
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Workers beautifying the roadside, They made good use of the machete, but also had chainsaws and string trimmers.
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We also saw something like this near the Cancun airport. They are small miscellaneous Mayan ruins, protected by a shelter.
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We continued to pass pretentious properties = adventure parks, hotels, and such, with giant landscaped entrances. Below is pictured the "Tulum Country Club", with its large curved entry gate. They were watering the grass when we arrived.

Dodie samples the facilities at the pretentious country club.
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We rolled into Tulum, where the road is congested and rather chaotic. We passed the Aki Supermarket, which is a landmark for us, being situated at the turnoff for both Coba and the Gran Cenote, which is where we want to go and swim tomorrow. But for now we continued, toward the centre of town. We had a eye open for a bike shop, but also continued generally toward our hotel. It is called Lo Nuestro Petit Hotel, but we were calling it the Cosa Nostra, because we felt they ripped us off on the taxes. We found the place, and guess what - a bike repair right beside. The man in the shop did not understand our phones rendering of "bike tube", and we were at a standstill until I looked beside him and found a bucket of them, all 20 inch, I think. The good news is that were very thick, and had threaded stems! Bad news is that as 2.25 inch models, they will be a bug to fit into our 1.75 inch tires. Tomorrow we will check for another shop as well, but we suspect that 2.25 is the size that beach type bikes like, and so might be all that is available.

Ok fella, what's in that bucket?
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Threaded stem, heavy tube.
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Ah yes, 2,25. And the word is "camara"!
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The Cosa Nostra, next door.
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Lots of room in the room.
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Beautiful sink!
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Outside our door, a locked courtyard where the bikes can charge in peace.
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Except that charger that died and came back to life is dead. This time we are going to clip off its valuable connectors and ditch it.
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fter the day's ride, our clothes were drenched in sweat. We rinsed them and took showers, and headed out on the town. It was evening now, with things cooled down, and stalls out  - cooking supper. Our hotel is in a little neighbourhood again, and not on the strip. Families were out, and everything was so pleasant. We began to enjoy things again, after a quite hot and brutal day.

We turned left instead of right and were in the marquesita (filled crepe) type area, and not the asada/taco side.
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In the square the grackles had come to roost, and were very loud with their cries.
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The Christmas decorations were still up in the square, and were very fancy and pleasing. The style is identical to that of Playa - the tree and a tunnel of lights.
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Because we had missed the type of supper stalls we would have liked, we walked on, to the strip. We settled on a jerk chicken place. I had first sampled jerk chicken while working as a consultant in the Cayman Islands, but really this is a Jamaican specialty.  The kitchen staff had some good charcoal grills going, and also posed nicely for a photo.

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We mostly had eaten our stuff before remembering a photo, so we cobbled this together. The small piece of corn is some of our elote - grilled corn. And the fries got swapped in instead of the coleslaw in the combo plate, because I begged for them. The rice is rice and beans.
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Dodie read my mind and advised against my getting ready to be proposed  stop at the gelato place on the way back. The combo jerk dish was so large that gelato   did get vetoed, even by me. There is a chain of gelato shops called Aldo's in this region, and we do have to try it. Maybe tomorrow!

Today's ride: 63 km (39 miles)
Total: 126 km (78 miles)

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Laurie MarczakWere the birds as crazy loud in person as they were in the recording? Seemed like you'd have to raise your voice to be heard over them!
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3 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesYeah, they really were that loud!

Abarrotes is just groceries. No doubt about it. How about my new advanced phrase: " pegamento para parche de bicicleta"!
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3 weeks ago