So we’ve made it!  Our third country in what will be a line of many.  It’s funny to think of how much time we spent in Mexico, just over 6 months, and now how we will be crossing borders relatively quickly on our way down to South America.  I am anxious to hit the road today, leaving from the town of Flores situated on Lago Peten Itza, and head south on some dirt roads Kurt has dug up through consulting some National Geographic maps.

I will be sure to fill you all in more once we get a week or so under our belts, but for now I can say that… it is beautiful and the people are amazingly kind and friendly.  Like most things, we have been warned about traveling in Guatemala.  This may hold true for Guatemala City, though we will not be visiting there so we can’t say for sure.  As always, every warning we get and image placed in our head is noted, but is quickly dispelled within hours of being wherever we are.  It has been true for Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.  People’s ability to cast fear on what they may not necessarily have a firm grasp on never ceases to amaze me.

Here are a few photos of our first couple of days here.  I hope everyone has a nice weekend and can enjoy some outside time!

 

The obligatory border crossing photo...

Our camp sight buddies. The night we ended up camping near this pasture area, we had been getting dumped on by rain all day. We made a hasty tent set up above a graveyard at dusk and spent the evening defending our tent against leaf cutter ants...

The town of Flores, which sits on an island in the middle of Lago Peten Itza...

We found purchasing vegetables and bread from the markets in Santa Elena and picnicking by the lake was the cheapest way to go...

Not as colonial as some of the old Mexican cities, but there were some beautiful cobblestone streets to navigate...

The town of Flores is both colorful and accommodating. We found a room for $70 Quetzals (about $9 US). The room was nice and small, and included a fan and a bathroom, as well as free internet and a great rooftop to look out over the lake...

Flores is a popular spot for language students, as lessons are relatively cheap around the lake. There was no shortage of international travelers passing through the streets...

 

Kurt and I sipped a few beers in honor of St. Patty's day, now aptly dubbed Shane Patrick's Day, and watched the sun fade for the day...

 

 

 

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Tulum

February 23, 2011

These next few posts will be going back in time a bit.  Quite a bit, so please bear with me.  I also don’t have many notes from this time, so I am trying to convey everything from my pea brain memory at this time.

Having left Isla Blanca and our dreamy existence there, we headed back to Cancun to deal first hand with the prospects of flying (yes flying! the one thing we said we really didn’t want to be part of this trip) to Cuba.  Days passed, and each time we visited the travel agent and discussed further the possibility of getting us and our bikes over there, our hearts dropped more and more with the mention of cost.  Things really started to add up.  Not only are there tickets to contend with, but bike boxing, storing stuff in the meantime, purchasing insurance to be covered while your over there (oh yes, that is now a reality of Americans looking to “sneak” into Cuba).  The list goes on and on.  I’d be happy to answer any specific questions one may have with bike travel to Cuba, as I did take notes the whole time.  To list them here would take up too much time and space.  If your curious, please email me directly.

In the long run, there was an ixne on Cuba-ey.  We sat in the travel agent office and I peered up at the world map on the wall. My eyes couldn’t stop looking at Mongolia.  Yup.  Mongolia.  So large, so far away.  And yet, a place I want to spend some serious time and effort bike traveling around.  Our funds only take us so far, so indeed every penny counts.  We will have to work long before reaching Mongolia, we both know and understand, but thinking about it so early in the trip does help us make certain decisions.   These helpful thoughts are what encouraged us to decide against a month in Cuba.  To read Kurt’s excellent (and much more detailed) account of this same experience, please click here.

So…. dear American embassy, let it be noted… Kelly and Kurt did not go to Cuba this time thanks to all the regulations put into place. (As I am writing this very much after the fact, I must add that it is a huge relief we did not go to Cuba.  As most of you know, Kurt and I needed to leave and head home very unexpectedly and as fast as possible from Belize a week or so later.  Had we been in Cuba, this all would have been an even bigger nightmare that it actually was.)

Instead we spent a few days with the amazing Gaspar and his cousin Michael, both Couchsurfer hosts living in a small Cancun apartment.  These two are Angels in true form.  When Gaspar agreed to meet us at 12:30 one night, he was taking us back to an apartment where 7 people where already sleeping, crashed out in hammocks, cots and on every inch of floor.  The kindness of strangers never ceases to amaze me.

From Cancun, we began our leg down the coast, heading for Tulum and further for the border of Belize.  Tulum was uneventful, as we did not go in to see the ruins.  We’ve had our share for a while.  We did however have the pleasure of meeting not just one, but several bike tourists.  After months of hardy running into any other traveling cyclists (our route and the current misconceptions of traveling in Mexico have a lot to do with that), there was a funneling effect of all those that were out there, now heading for Belize.  We initially met Silke, a solo-traveler from Germany, who we immediately decided to wait for and head south together with the next day.  Later on in the day we also met a French man who was finishing his 6 month trip down for Alaska in a few days.

After running errands around town, including falling headlong into the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, Kurt and I slept soundly next to the waves and under the cover of the coastal mist.  The next morning, we met Silke early and the three of us continued our journey south down the coast.

The coast close to Tulum is riddled with small bars, restaurants, guest houses and nicely designed eco-homes. We watched the sun disappear behind the clouds and rain, before watching it disappear behind the edge of the ocean, signaling the end of another day. We then nestled in the nearby mangrove and slept anticipating our ride with Silke the next morning...

One of my favorite cycling snacks. If looking at this picture makes you uncomfortable, I completely understand...

A 5 kilometer jaunt off the highway affords us this pleasant lake to post up at for the evening...

Lake Ocom....

The day starts with a beautiful sunrise...

The inevitable effects of our time spent on the coast...

Laguna Chapala…

October 16, 2010

It’s a big lake.  The biggest in Mexico.  And at one time you could see almost down to the bottom they say.  But not any more.  The agricultural mayhem that goes on for miles and miles around the lake has cause the lake, and coincidently the hovering atmosphere, to become a soft shade of taupe.  But it’s still a nice body of water to hang out by and you can even fish for some catfish and carp.  Just no swimming.  Well, you can swim if you want to, but we saw but 2 people taking a dip in our entire week of cruising around the lake’s shores.

The lake also, similar to San Miguel, has a few towns that invite the retiring x-pat communities to settle comfortably.  The presence of Americans, Canadians and Europeans can be felt along the lake’s shores in the towns of Chapala and Ajijic.  This of course led to a many conversations in English about our journey and even better, some very excellent invitations into beautiful lakeside homes for some rests and meals.  There is a road running just alongside the entire lake, which made for quaint days of riding and around the remainder of the lake it was business as usual.  Small Mexican towns, roadside tacos stands and the usual truck avoidance filled our days.

The largest fresh water lake in Mexico, Lago Chapala...

The heavenly glow of a late night taco stand...

Overlooking one of the towns on the north side of the lake...

Graffiti like this excites me to no end...

A sign outside a little bike shop in Ajijic...

Kurt whiled some hours away casting into the lake...

And for bait.... cheese and balled up tortillas...

Magnificent viewing as the sky...

...slowly fades...

...into night...

Marie and Duncan, two British Columbians, who not only offered us a comfy sleep in their beautiful home, but Marie also hooked it up with a bag of quinoa, something we will not be able to get until further along into South America...

And as luck would have it, we ran into Bob, another Canadian, for the second time as we were riding around the south side of the lake. He invited us to stay for the evening with him and his family (including the 2 crazy poodles) in their hacienda situated right on the lake's edge...

The property is seriously abound with fruit trees and other plants and flowers that Bob's wife, Soledad, has put much time and love into reviving...

 

Bob most recently has started a company which provides the byproducts of organic worm farming to local farmers and horticulture stores in the area...

Worms hard at work...

And I'll leave you with the goats. These little ones were but 2 weeks old...

 

La Presa…

September 5, 2010

Excited at the prospects of doing some fishing, Kurt and I made our way out towards Presa Lazaro Cardenas. We had about 80 kilometers to cover that day and we stayed on it best we could hoping to reach the lake just as the sun was dropping and the mosquitoes were swarming.  It all worked out perfectly.  The last 20 k or so was a serious descent of some amazingly picturesque paved road, dropping us into the town of El Palmito, located right on the lake.  We did our usual peruse through town, answering the typical questions and getting nice pats of the backs from elderly ladies before setting off again to find our spot.  As we wound around the lake, we were confronted with a huge damn (which we found out later had been closed off just that very morning).  The damn of course came with a huge barricaded building for government monitoring and somewhat of a concrete landing strip.  After that, there really was not much of a shore to spread out on and all of the sides just dropped off into huge craggy boulders before reaching the lake.  We decided to hop the railing and shuttle our stuff down and set up right on the patio.

Over these few weeks we’ve come to realize that it really doesn’t matter so much where you camp.  Granted there is a lot of of private land, we’ve yet to run into any trouble or anyone telling us we couldn’t camp somewhere.  Even on the private land, the farmers or ranchers usually just give us a nod and a wave and leave us alone.   Usually we hide off in the woods somewhere, looking for spots that will offer shade when we wake up and have our leisure morning time.  However, sometimes we’ve realized it is best to just camp in the open, making it clear of your presence.  We’ve been hidden way way out somewhere, with hardly a path in site, let alone any buildings or structures, and had visitors walk up on us out of nowhere, always just friendly and curious.  Then there have been other times when we’ve been right next to a highway, or on the edge of the heavily touristed canyon, and we’ve not encountered but one other person passing by to blink an eye.  And as with our experience of camping in the canyon, we decided some nights that it really was best to camp right out in plain view, with the thought in mind of “Hey, hi, here we are.  We know you have weed growing back around that corner and we want nothing to do with it.  We just want to get some rest and continue on in the morning.  Muchos gracias.”

So next to the lake we camped on the concrete, no undoubtedly the flattest spot we’ve had thus far, and Kurt cast out the line a few times in hopes of catching some fresh dinner.  I spent the time floating on my back, feeling truly weightless and oblivious to the rest of the surroundings except the darkening of the sky up ahead.

A perfect way to spend any afternoon...

Pure magic...

Kurt caught some little ones, but nothing sizable enough to justify a death in a frying pan...

Strapping down my panniers before heading out in the morning (Photo: Kurt)...

Another view...