April 30, 2014
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
Narrated Audio Blog
Three sore bottoms pulled in to a tropical Cancun at 4:30pm. The Pack Track left the bustling city of Oaxaca on Wednesday, with the goal of checking in to our accommodation in Cancun by 5pm on Friday. That's approximately 1400km in three days. Why the hurry? Glad you asked! Stu's younger brother (Greg) who moved to Canada about 18 months earlier was flying down to spend 4 nights with us. It had been a very eventful, exhausting and at times stressful three days but definitely worth it to see two brothers reunited!!
As with every place we'd been in Mexico, we were sad to leave Oaxaca. Within the city itself there are beautiful churches to visit, arts, culture, interesting foods to try and you can lose yourself just walking the streets watching the locals go about their daily tasks. Outside the city and within a 20km radius are ancient ruins dating back to 500 BC. We visited Monte Alban, Dainzu and Lambityeco. The entry price to each site seems to be proportional to the size of the site but still really cheap. We spent a couple of hours just wandering around Monte Alban, up and down the very bigs steps, trying to imagine how hard it would have been to build such majestic structures and what the inhabitants would have done each day. To mix things up we also visited a small town called San Antonio Arrazola where we bought a locally made wood carving.
We arrived in Oaxaca on Easter Friday. Our plan was to travel from Patzcuaro (where we had spent three nights in a quaint hotel called Hotel Pedregal de San Luis, right around the corner from the main square) to Oaxaca in one day but we didn't quite make it, it took us 2 days instead. Easter is a very religious celebration over here, not at all commercialised like at home in Australia; we couldn't find a chocolate Easter egg or Easter bunny anywhere! Anyway, we stopped at 12 hotels and they were either fully booked, no mascota (Spanish for pets) or well out of our price range. Eventually we looked up a campground which turned out to be perfect for us; San Felipe Campground, 175 Pesos a night and 6km walk in to the centre of town (we needed the exercise with all the tortillas and Coronas being consumed!).
Riding down the main boulevard of Cancun we could have been in any luxury holiday destination around the world. Towering over us stood grandiose hotels with bright lights, restaurants with every flavour or taste you desire (even an Outback grill) and plenty of 'labels' for the shoppers. This famous area of Cancun is an ideal holiday destination for those that want to shop, dine and relax. But The Pack Track wasn't in Cancun for anything like that although we did make the effort to see a sunrise with Greg over the Atlantic Ocean to tick an item off his bucket list.
We rented a house in the suburbs of Cancun, more in keeping with the journey we were on. We found the street without a problem but it took us half an hour to find the house, even with the assistance of a local from the street who also found the system confusing; Mexican addresses are very different to most countries we had experienced. All the children from the street were out playing and gave us welcoming smiles and waves although there were a few shy ones that hesitated looking at us. All the neighbouring dogs also came out to see us so we quickly got Skyla off the bike and into the house before she started making a racket!
We only had enough time to unpack the bikes and do a bit of food shopping before it was time to collect Greg from the airport at 11pm. Back at the house we all got to chatting away and catching up and before we knew it the clock said 3am. The next day Greg hired a scooter for his stay with us and we all trotted around Cancun, comfortably, trying local food and beaches. The 200km day trip to Chichen Itza (or Chicken Pizza as Stu liked to call it) was a must to complete Greg's whirlwind Mexican experience. His scooter could only travel 70km/hr so it took us a while to get to the famous ruin site but also gave us all a chance to really take in scenery along the way (we took the free road instead of the usual toll road).
Chichen Itza is a very big site to walk around with lots of pyramids, temples and carvings. The sky was a vibrant blue with scattered clouds, a photographers heaven. Every angle of every ruin demanded our attention. It was also a very hot day which made it tough going for Greg who had come from winter in Canada. He drank plenty of water and had a few rest stops in the shade while wandering around the site. He pushed through to make it around to see all the ruins and even managed some acroyoga poses with Stu on the grass in front of the largest pyramid.
If you're thinking of a self toured adventure in Mexico one thing you don't have to worry about is getting around. Vehicles are affordable to rent and the roads are great. Like in most countries these days there are two types of roads: toll roads (Cuota) and free roads (Libre). We've been travelling mostly on toll roads because of our time constraints. These roads were really good and really fast but from our experience there was very little adjacent to the road apart from fuel/gas stations, occasionally a tuck shop. Libres are the fun roads. You get to travel through towns, pull over and eat local food or check out local arts and craft. These roads are mostly sealed but we have been on some compacted gravel. Again from our experience, its a lot slower travelling through towns with the local traffic and topes (speed humps). Ideally we would like to do all our travel on the Libre roads but at least when we stay in a town for a few days and go exploring, it gives us a chance to take these scenic routes for day trips.
The bikes were both holding up well even with the falls; only minor damage to front blinkers and Janell was missing the right rear view mirror. We bought two new sets of chain and sprockets from the BMW dealership in Oaxaca. Stu's bike probably had another 10,000km before this needed to be changed but Janell's bike needed to be done before leaving Cancun. We have been quite diligent in lubricating the chains every other day, a habit we're not used to after riding Harley Davidsons with belt drive.
We almost forgot to mention that in Cancun was the largest Mexican flag we've seen so far. If you're not familiar with it, the emblem in the centre of the flag (the national coat of arms) is of an eagle sitting upon a cactus holding a serpent in it's claws. A Mexican was explaining the history of this emblem to us. An indigenous population of the time, the Aztecs, were wandering the land waiting for a sign from their God for a location to settle. The sign was an eagle and serpent on a Nopal (prickly pear cactus) which appeared to them in the location of Mexico City today. Stay tuned for more Mexican trivia!!
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