Friday, 13 November 2015

Roadside Meltdown

Location: Valladolid, Yuc., Mexico
Saturday morning was thankfully and luckily not rainy. I can't say it was dry as there was still a lot of water about from the previous hours of torrential onslaught, but the stuff had at least ceased to fall from the sky. We were soon loaded up and on our way Cobá. Outside of Tulum the road was good quality, with a nice wide shoulder and we took a gentle pace. Partly this was because despite being 9am it was already fairly warm and humid and partly because we have noticed a direct correlation between the speed we travel and the likelihood of Mexican stray dogs barking and chasing us. Admittedly our research has been pretty limited, but it does seem that if you're going at a more leisurely pace the hoardes of roadside pooches seem decidedly uninterested in you. As soon as we ramp up to our normal pace they can't get enough of scaring the hell out of us by snarling and nipping at our heels. So we're cruising along, it's maybe an hour and twenty minutes since we set off and Tom says "urgh I think I have a slow puncture in my rear tyre". I look at it. It's pretty flat. I comment that it does not appear to be all that slow so we pull over in a sort of driveway to fix it. Before Tom has even removed the wheel we spot a gash in the tyre about 1cm long.

This is not good. We don't have a spare tyre at the moment, we put our second spare on Tom's bike in Canada and since we weren't staying out much longer had thought we'd get away without a spare for our little stint in Mexico. We start trying to figure out what we're going to do:
Option 1) Try to fix it by lining he inside of the tyre with a note, we have a CAD$10 note, it's plasticky and we've heard of other folks get by this way. 
Option 2) I ride back to Tulum to get a new tyre from a bike shop.
Option 3) We try to flag down a bus or taxi for a ride to Cobá and hope they have some tyres for sale there.
Tom is cursing the tyre (after all this is the fourth tyre we've had terminal issues with) and is taking this very badly. Actually once we get the tyre off the wheel we realise that, incredibly, the gash doesn't go all the way through. The tyre isn't done yet. We find the puncture in the inner tube and I find a small piece of wire embedded in the tyre which is the culprit of this particular flat. Tom fits a new inner tube and starts the laborious task of pumping up the tyre. He is soaked in sweat. It's over 30 degrees (Celsius) and humidity must be about 95%. Admittedly it is not ideal flat tyre conditions, but at least the tyre is intact.

I can't say I was pleased about the flat or even the prospect of a dead tyre, but I just see overcoming these obstacles as part of the whole journey. Tom sees them as getting in the way of the journey and in his current state it causes him a great deal of anxiety and stress. I was finding it hard to relate to this, but then I had a little epiphany; if you recall back in Utah we faced a day of very strong winds and I ended up in a state of utter terror until I just got off my bike and walked. Tom is at a point where cycle touring in general is causing him the same level of stress and angst as I was feeling battered by the wind and so when things go wrong he has no reserves to cope with the problem. Coming to this realisation made me more sympathetic and also made up our minds about how we would spend our upcoming days. The remaining 16 miles to Cobá went without note, we checked in to our hotel, and headed straight out to the ruins. We'd been told it was a large site and better seen by bike so we pedalled down, however they don't allow you to take your own bikes, so our trusty steeds stayed chained up at the gate and we set off on foot.

The ruins at Cobá are the second Mayan city on our trip, the first being the ones in Tulum. They are indeed spread through the jungle and are impressive and thought provoking. There are bits where it really looks like the jungle is winning the fight to reclaim the area and you cannot help but think how much effort it must have taken to clear these patches and build these enormous constructions, the most magnificent of which is the Grand Pyramid. It is monstrous and from its summit you can see across miles of jungle, occasionally spying what look like little hills but which are actually overgrown pyramids. 

On our way back to the hotel we saw a crocodile! It was conveniently lounging on a collapsed pier under a sign saying 'Visite los Cocodrilos'.

The following day we ride to Valladolid, our first colonial town. It's a very picturesque town with colourful buildings lining cobbled one-way streets, beautiful old convents and pretty little squares dotted about and a behemoth of a cathedral, which looks like it was built to withstand a seige.

Valladolid is to be our staging post to visit Chichen-itza, probably one of the most famous Mayan cities and somewhere that has been on our detour list since before we set off, thanks to Rhys. We take our first bus out there and arrive at 8:30am. All the online guides tell us that arriving early means you miss the tour buses and the worst of the vendors though it seems pretty busy to us already. Almost by accident we stumble upon the castle, the iconic pyramid you may well recognise. 

The next few hours are spent wandering the site marvelling at the buildings, the carvings and the increasing hordes of people.

Towards the end of our visit I manage to trap a bee between my flip-flop and my foot and get stung on the sole. I've not been stung for many years and it was surprisingly painful, but Tom was quick to get the sting out and we had some insect bite stuff on hand so we were soon toddling around the site again and then back to Valladolid on the bus.


  1. Sorry about tyre, but the rest sounds wonderful! mummy

  2. You are both so resilient!! Beautiful photos.

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