The Route - Grampies Yucatan Return: Winter 2023 - CycleBlaze

December 28, 2022

The Route

We discovered the Yucatan peninsula a few years ago, when we first went to Cancun and then took a "chicken bus" south along the Caribbean coast, the part known as the "Mexican Riviera".  It was all new and strange to us then, as we disembarked at Playa del Carmen and walked in a bit of a daze to another bus station to find the chicken bus for further south. Tourist outlets like Señor Frog tickled our fancy, but that was the limit of our exploration of the place.

We must have been quite young and inexperienced in those days (like, only in our 60's) because it was a revelation when we found a cycling blog describing a trip that penetrated the peninsula to the west, reaching Valladolid. Somehow we had never thought of trying a stunt like that. It seems strange to think of it now, but then again it used to be thought "crazy" to try cycling across the U.S.

The whole Yucatan, it turns out, is a magical place, featuring the remains of the former Mayan civilisation, quiet jungly roads, cenotes, and a cuisine unique from the rest of Mexico. It looks like this:

The Yucatan peninsula comprises three states, only one of which is called "Yucatan" and has both Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico beaches.
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On the map, the little pyramids designate Mayan sites, and I think the blue diamonds are the major tourist destinations. Overall, the place looks like an interesting playland, and it is.

Last December we set out to explore Yucatan with a focus on food, but not all food. Rather we were after "Poc Chuc", which is pork marinated in bitter orange and grilled. Poc Chuc turns out to be a Yucatan specialty, and is not much found in Quintana Roo or Campeche. We crossed Yucatan, finding a fair number of Poc Chucs, but the quest came to an abrupt end when Dodie crashed her bike in the hills (the "Puuc Hills") south of Merida. She crashed her bike, cracked her head, and broke her arm, making it impossible to further explore the hills, to see the Mayan site Uxmal, and of course to cycle back to Cancun.

It took Dodie some months to heal after the crash, and indeed she still suffers some effects of the concussion. But by Spring we went to Germany, Austria, Italy, and Czechia, and in the Fall to England and France. We are now ready for another "crack" at the Puuc Hills!

We will land at Cancun and follow the Caribbean coast a bit, probably as far as Felipe Carrillo, before striking out north and west, and ending again at Celestun, on the extreme west. The route details are a bit tricky because as it happens the Yucatan playland is not evenly covered with places to stay. There are some long stretches, in fact, that offer absolutely nothing.

Have a look at the Booking.com map:

There are lots of places to stay, if you are in the right place!
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The pins that contain a cityscape drawing are for places with many properties, while the blue pins with white centres denote a single property. It's easy to see that unless you are near a city or large town, there is little to choose from.

For example, let's say one would start out in the hotel rich area of Progresso, north of Merida. On the map below, this is where Maruteli Spa is marked. From there, try to get back east, say on Highway 176.  The map below shows it, up to San Felipe (which is Tzimin) in the west. It's a distance of about 180 km.

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Now let's zoom in on that Highway 176 on the Booking map, looking past Temax, and Buctzotz. There is not a darn thing along the whole stretch. It's weird, because Buctzotz for instance, gives the impression of being a real town. And it is, we were there, it's just that there is nowhere to stay, and not in Temax either.

Booking desert east of Merida.
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Keeping these kinds of Booking problems in mind, we will still find a way to get out to Uxmal, so Dodie does finally reach the place, and to generally cycle the breadth of Yucatan, trying to experience everything we can find!

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Sue PriceI hope you make it to The Pickled Onion, which is a short distance from Uxmal. We loved it and the owner, Valerie Pickle is a delight!
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceDodie just checked out options near Uxmal on booking.com, and The Pickled Onion is waaay beyond our price point. We generally look for accommodation about 1/2 or less their cost and there seem to be other less costly nearby options . Somehow paying so much for a place to sleep doesn't appeal to us. We seem to border on being tightfisted!
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1 month ago
Leslie and Rob CookeI'm glad you are heading back to the Yucatan. There really is so much to discover if you can get the accommodation figured out. I've used airbnb a few times in the area to find something suitable (affordable).

Just outside Muna is el mirador which offers basic accommodation. I've never stayed but I've been eyeing it up for some time now. It's only 14km from Uxmal. Actually, is this near where Dodie crashed?
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1 month ago
Kelly IniguezI have come around to the rule of averages on lodging. I have long wanted to bicycle Highway 141, only 65 miles from home. Unfortunately, tiny Gateway, CO was discovered by the Discovery Channel founder, and developed into a fancy resort. Rooms there are $400. a night for locals, if you show your driver's license. That is far too much money for my sensibilities! The mileage and elevation gain is beyond my fun zone without stopping in Gateway. Finally, on our 2020 border to border tour, we did ride 141 and stop in Gateway. Over the entire cost of the trip, the high room price averaged in. I was very happy to finally see the beautiful red rocks of 141 by bicycle. It was worth the money.

Looking at it as an average has helped me explore some roads that otherwise would have been out of reach.
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4 weeks ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Leslie and Rob CookeMuna to Uxmal is 14 km. Dodie crashed about 2 km from Uxmal, which has The Lodge at Uxmal. That's where we had our booking. They were coincidentally among the few that refused to cancel the booking in the circumstances.
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4 weeks ago