August 18, 2015
The bombs started again at 7:30 this morning, so I figured I might as well get packed and get moving.
New headlight bulb, checked spokes and other things for looseness, air pressures, adjustments. All good.
After a little bike maintenance, I walk over to the kitchen to get some breakfast, then finish packing up. As I roll the bike towards the gate from the hostel into the street, I suddenly hear english. After three days, suddenly there were people here that spoke english, and they were speaking to me. Two guys from the states. Two ladies from Cork, Ireland on a two week vacation. As I put on my jacket and helmet, I ask them where they are headed.
“Well, Palenque we hope. We were supposed to go on a tour today but can’t go to Palenque today. The town is shut down. There’s a big strike. Nothing is going in or out.”
“Of Palenque?” I ask.
“Hmm. Well, I’m on a bike. I’ll see about that.”
I roll out into the street. It is eerily quiet outside the hostal gates. No cars move. All intersections are blocked by taxis and colectivo vans. I spend the next hour going the wrong way down one way streets, over curbs, down sidewalks, and squeezing between parked taxis. They’re aren’t trying to stop me. They have no beef with me. I’m just a casualty. But they aren’t going to move for me either. Can’t set that precedent.
Main Street of San Cristobal. Nothing moving this morning except a few motorcycles.
Colectivos block the streets in protest. They didn’t mind me riding down the sidewalk to get around them. I wasn’t their problem.
At the edge of town where the highway enters into town is the largest roadblock. I try to squeeze between two vans but I’m too wide. As I look for another way around the driver of one of the vans tells me to go through where I just tried.
“No puedo. Estoy mas grande” I say. I can’t, I’m too big.
“Puedes” he says. You can.
I wedge myself in. He waves me forward. Hey, it’s your van, amigo. A little less paint but I’m through.
Ya gotta do what ya gotta do. The van got the worst of it.
The highway out of town looks clear. I sail along for 9 km. Then as I cross a bridge, a guy on a motorcycle coming the other way waves at me. He is telling me to turn around. I look ahead and the intersecrion is blocked with hundreds of people, some with large banners. The guy on the bike tells me not to go there.
So….I go there.
Time to put on my happy face. Flip up the front of my helmet and smile big.
As I roll slowly towards the crowd, two guys run out from the side and block my path. Suddenly I’m surrounded by about 30 guys with large sticks.
“Buenos dias” I say with a smile.
No response. No smiles. These guys are not happy.
“Puedo voy alli?” I ask, pointing to the hill on the opposite side of the intersection. Can I go there?
“Cincuento” comes the response.
I weigh my options, which are few. I can take off across the grass and hope for the best, but there are a few hundred angry guys with sticks between me and there.
On the other hand, these guys are the first wave of many. Who’s to say that once I pay these guys fifty pesos the next guys in line won’t ask for the same?
“Yo voy alli por cincuenta pesos?” I ask, pointing again.
I dig out the change from my pocket. I have 45 pesos. I’m not about to pull out my wallet here, even though there isn’t much in it. I hand the 45 pesos to the guy with the bucket with the slot cut in the top. He doesn’t count it. Another guy hands me a piece of paper that explains their cause and will act as my pass through the crowd. They move on to a car that has pulled up next to me.
The paper works and I get through with no hassle. As I continue up the highway towards Palenque, I see more cars headed in the opposite direction, which I take as a good sign that perhaps the road is clear ahead.
I’m riding the “Ruta Maya”, or Mayan Route. Though I’m pretty sure it wasn’t this well paved back then.
Not far out of Ocosingo, I hit a “toll” road block. This is perhaps my fourth since entering Mexico. These are people standing on the side of the road with a rope stretched across the road. The rope has a red flag on it. When a car (or motorcycle) approaches, they pull the rope tight. In theory at least, people stop, and they ask for a payment to let them through. I’ve rarely seen this work. A few days ago I came to one of these that was steel cable instead of rope. That was a bit scary. But so far they’ve always just let the rope down and let me through. Again, I’m just the hapless turista. They’re not really looking for me.
This one is four young kids, and for the first time, they hold the rope tight and won’t let me through. One of the kids wants 10 pesos. I shake my head. He repeats his demand. I repeatedly shake my head. I push on the rope with my front wheel and the kids are pulled forward slightly but resist. Eventually one of the other kids tells them to give up and they let the rope down. And I’m off like a herd of turtles on my little 250 towards Agua Azul.
Agua Azul is beautiful. Fantastic. The most beautiful place I’ve been in Mexico so far. No doubt about it.
Kids approach as I park, offering to watch my bike for 10 pesos. They gather around. But as soon as the bike cover goes on they walk away. It’s almost a confirmation that no one will bother it if it’s covered. I like that.
The water is a blue color that is hard to describe and the photos don’t really show it well. I felt like I could just sit and soak here for days. Peaceful, soothing, refreshing. Oh, and did I mention you can swim here? See all the people? Ha. Yeah, thank you to all the striking taxi and colectivo drivers in San Cristobal that prevented the tour buses from getting here. Next time I plan to come here I will definitely do my best to arrange another strike that day.
I spend some time eating lunch and chatting with the restaurant owner at Agua Azul (in Spanish, no less. I’m enjoying it now that I can struggle through more than two words, even if it is still very rough and they don’t understand me any more than I understand them most of the time). He says that the strike is bad for his business, but that there are no problems in Palenque and I should be fine the rest of the way.
My next stop is Misol-Ha. The name sounds Chinese to me, but it’s a large (100+ foot) waterfall into a pool below. I walk to the falls, look at it, and think, “Huh, this is a slightly larger Hamilton Pool” in Dripping Springs, Texas. Reminds me very much of it.
There are a number of European tourists here, again. It’s an easy day trip from the Palenque ruins, where I’m headed tomorrow.
So tonight I’m enjoying a very nice, clean, if spartan, air conditioned room with great wifi for $21. And it came with a special pillow:
Looking forward to a good night’s sleep, hopefully with no firework bombs.