Sunday, 18 October 2015

Hola Mexico!

Location: Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico
I was stressing a bit about bike boxes before we got them.  The boxes we got when we were leaving the UK were too small and it was only due to good fortune that we were able to get bigger ones from the bike shop in Glossop (see Leaving the UK: The Last Few Stumbling Blocks).  So I was worried that the ones we were scheduled to pick up from Bicycles Plus in Oshawa weren't going to be big enough.  There's not a lot of bike shops in Oshawa and we were heading into Thanksgiving weekend so if these weren't good enough we might be in trouble since our flight was at 8am Tuesday morning and we were getting dropped at the airport on Monday night.  Tom was relaxed about it and Rhi said that if we were stuck then they had tons of cardboard boxes in the basement we'd be able to fashion something from.  Of course, as is always the case, worry does no good and in this case it was absolutely unnecessary.  The bike boxes Bicycles Plus had for us had housed 2 sizeable fat bikes and were perfect for us.  Plus they had saved loads of awesome packaging for us too.  Major thanks to the super helpful dude there who made our bike packing so much less stressful than when we left the UK.  With that bit sorted we just had to get all our other stuff packed up, which was easy enough and left us with lots of time over the weekend to enjoy Thanksgiving.  We had a fantastic meal with all of Rhi's family at her sister's house; the full works - turkey, ham, potatoes, loads of veggies, stuffed squash, stuffed mushrooms, gravy.  Amazing!  Then there was a whole plethora of desserts - pumpkin cheesecake, brownies, pumpkin pie, cherry cheesecake, apple pie.  The following morning we went to a farm for pumpkin picking, which was a lot of fun and we left with a good haul of Halloween appropriate squash.

We said a sad farewell to Steve and the girls and then Rhi took us to the airport late Monday evening.  Toronto Pearson Airport isn't bad when it comes to providing space for people hunkering down for the night; we found ourselves a couple of benches next to each other, with space for the bikes and luggage, overlooking a section of runway.  We ate our turkey sandwiches while watching The Wire and laid our heads down for the night.  Not the best night's sleep it must be said, but we both got a few hours and when morning came round though we were both a bit bleary eyed we were both functioning.  We checked our bags in ourselves and no one weighed them.  We then took the bikes down to the oversize baggage area and had to undo all the duck tape we'd only just put on, but the security guy was very friendly and nice and they had extra tape so it all worked out.  We had some breakfast and boarded the plane.  It was so much less fretful than our last flight.  The rest of the journey went by without note.  We arrived into Cancun at lunchtime and spent about 3 hours reassembling the bikes and repacking our gear.  An English lady who'd just arrived told us how impressed she was with what we're doing and many of the Mexican staff of the airport came to ask us about our trip and welcomed us to Mexico.  We finally got underway and were pleasantly surprised that the road had a decent shoulder and was remarkably good quality.  It was about 5pm, it was hot, humid and sunny and the road wasn't too busy or tricky to navigate.  Until we reached the start of downtown Cancun then it got crazy pretty quickly; the shoulder disappeared, traffic increased, the road spread to being 3 or 4 lanes wide and buses, taxis and colectivoes pulled in front of us screeching to halt by the side of the road to pick up and drop off passengers.  As we neared the centre of town it got so nuts we decided to walk sections on the pavement as we were genuinely worried about getting knocked down.  Check in was easy and we got the bikes and all our gear up to our room on the sixth floor via the lift.

After showers we headed out for food as we'd not eaten anything proper since breakfast.  It felt thrilling to be in a new country that felt so different.  It reminded me in many ways of India, but for Tom it was something pretty different.  As we wandered along we were gently accosted by advocates for one restaurant or another trying to entice us in to their establishment.  Alejandro on reception had suggested a place which is where we headed for beer and tacos.  The next day we lounged around the pool and chatted with other guests who happened to be from Kings Heath in Birmingham (where our friends Mel and Paul live).  The next day we planned to take a trip to Isla Mujeres just off the coast but when we awoke the sky was deep grey and rain was lashing down.  Well it is still rainy season, though honestly I thought it would be similar to monsoon in India where it erupts into a monster electrical storm and torrential rain falls for an hour or so each day and the rest of the time its sunny.  Not here.  Since the rain started on Thursday morning its barely stopped until Saturday morning.  The streets outside the hotel were shallow rivers.  There were actual whirlpools around some of the drains.  When buses drive past waves of water flood over the pavement and splash against the walls of the buildings.  Since the rain was so sever we checked out buses so that if on Saturday morning the roads seemed impassable we had an alternative option for getting to Tulum in time for our course on Monday morning.  Buses are cheap and frequent and everything I can find online says they have no problem loading bikes in with the luggage so we knew we had a plan B.

This morning we awoke and there was a little lightness in the sky, still grey and cloudy, but not quite so foreboding and it wasn't raining so we were all set for our first fully loaded day on the bikes for over 3 weeks.  Leaving Cancun was again a bit hairy, lots of traffic and not much shoulder to speak of, plus an incident with a lorry where he turned right directly in front of us very nearly causing us both to crash and a couple of run ins with loose dogs.  We made good time and were happy that despite feeling a little unfit our speed wasn't too shabby which was good because about 6 miles from Playa del Carmen, our destination for the night, it started to rain.  Light at first so we pushed on and hoped we could make the town before it got too heavy.  No chance.  It tipped it down and in no time we were soaked through.  We stopped to put our high vis jackets on proceeded through giant puddles of rainwater.  Just before a major intersection on the outskirts of town we pulled over to check the map.  Just as we set off again I noticed my front tyre was flat.  We got some shelter under some porches and changed the inner tube.  Our pump is pretty broken at the moment and its pretty frustrating work pumping up a tyre so we took it in turns and finally got it up to pressure (or at least what we thought was right since the gauge is one of the things that is broken).  Flipped the bike back over and began to load the bags back on when BANG!  Ear-ringingly loud.  I had a moment of thinking a gun had been fired then I realised that it was worse we'd caught the inner tube when we changed it and had caused a blowout.  Time to change the inner tube again, more frustrating pump based shenanigans ensued, but we got it sorted and got on our way.

Less than 10 minutes down the road I realised my front tyre was going down again.  ARE YOU KIDDING?!  What the hell?  We're not far from the airbnb place we've booked for the night though and the rain is just bucketing down so rather than stop and fix it we just get off and walk.  By the time we get to the apartment somehow my back tyre is also flat. This last hour and a half has to easily take our 'Most Punctures in the Shortest Time' award, especially since half that time was spent fixing punctures!  Not the best day ever on the bikes and the rain is still pouring so we are going to get drenched again when we head out for food, but it felt good to be back on my bike and we're really looking forward to starting our Spanish course so we can communicate with the super friendly locals better.  But right now its time to get out the puncture repair kits and fix some inner tubes!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like your welcome to Mexico has been quite a challenging one, as they say onward and upward! Mr P