Friday, April 30, 2010

Hasta Luego

From Mainland MEX

welp. our trip is nearly over. Not enough time to write about it now, but suffice to say, we are still having fun. Some of that could be due to the fact that we are soaking up every minute of this adventure before it ends. It could also be due to the fact that Guatemala is incredibly beautiful. Either way, we have seen some incredible adventure these past few weeks.

so we climbed up Volcan Tajumulco, the tallest peak in Central America. Yup...beautiful:
From Mainland MEX

Weve spent more time the past week riding our bike unloaded then loaded. Lots of beautiful rides with our gear resting in the homes of our guests. This morning we rode up and around and down Lago de Atitlan. And tomorrow we leave this oasis:
From Mainland MEX

We plan to leave here tomorrow, ride to Antigua, camp in the side of the active Volcan Pacaya. On Cinco de Mayo, we will be catching a flight out of Guatemala City and starting a different life in Milwaukee. Perhaps in the future we will find ourselves flying into Columbia to ride south through the Andes....

Proper Guatemala update with photos and sappy thoughts to follow when we return to the States. Nervous for sure...

Sunday, April 18, 2010


We both know that remembering how to spell Ushuaia is a Payne. From now on, all posts for this adventure of Lisa and I will be posted on my other,easier to remember, blog at .


Friday, March 26, 2010

La Riviera Maya

Detour up into the Northern Yucatan for cenotes and CANCUN! Cenotes, good. Cancun, yuck.

Dos Ojos cenote, which Lisa scuba dove, and I snorkeled in:

From Mainland MEX

From Mainland MEX

random shot bike touring Austrian friends shot at Palenque ruins

From Mainland MEX

From Mainland MEX

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mundo Maya

These past couple of weeks have been spent hopping from Mayan site to Mayan site. The actual bike riding was very fun in Chiapas since there are mountains, then down to the flat limestone shelf that is the Yucatan peninsula.

Chiapas was one of our favorite Mexican states, but toward the end of that state on the Eastern end, things changed. People seemed more desperate on the streets. Women stood on the sides of the road with a rope they could pull which they raised across the road, forcing cars to stop. One time they pulled one right in front of me, causing me to slam on my brakes on wet pavement. No fun, and all for 6 pesos for elotes (corn). Another man approached us and asked if we had a spare shirt. Another time Zapatistas approached us at night and forced us to move off of their land...

But Chiapas had Palenque. And Agua Azul. And Misol-Ha.

The Yucatan had the Mayan ruins of Calakmul...

Calakmul back in the day was always at war with the more popular Tikal, which we plan to visit in a few weeks. Thousands of visitors visit Tikal daily. Calakmul? 100. So we rode the 60 km on a narrow, quiet road thru dense jungle and Mexicos largest Biosphere Reserve seeking that solitude. What we found were tucans, howler monkeys leaping from tree to tree overhead, and finally no rain. Unlike Palenque, visitors are allowed to climb to the top of these pyramids. Hundreds of feet in the air, the views were huge of the unending jungle canopy below

Right now we find ourselves in Tulum which feels more like Baja than Mainland Mexico. We are definitely back on the gringo backpacker circuit, and its easy to see why people visit this place. There are many many underwater caves to dive and snorkel to. The beach is perfectly white sand with jade colored water. Things aren´t cheap either...

Once we leave here in a few days, we´ll head down to Belize, FINALLY out of Mexico. 2 weeks tops in Belize, then to the glories of Guatemala.

Until then, a perfect stretch of beach sand with Mayan ruins awaits us...

the ruins of Chicanna had this building...can you see the jaws of the serpent around the door opening???

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


After 3 days in Ocosingo waiting out Lisa´s mysterious illness, we rode the stretch everyone had been telling us about: Ocosingo to Palenque. Cutting through the Chiapas highlands we saw beautiful waterfalls, as well as the worst poverty of the trip. We slept near a turquoise-colored river where children stared at us as we set up camp. It was easy to entertain them when we have an alien-looking tent and tiny stove that runs off gasolina. Today we visited the Mayan ruins of Palenque, definitely a highlight of the trip. The rain was pouring down the entire time we were there. Instead of being a bummer, it made a cool fog around the trees and eliminated lots of the trourists that typically flood the place. Tonight we´ll camp in the nearby jungle one last time, probably being serenaded by howler monkeys again. The call from those monkeys was LOUD last night, sounding more like dinosaur than primate.

Now we will probably ride longer days in the flat country of Tabasco and the Yucatan peninsula until we hit the Mayan ruins of Calakmul and then the Caribbean coast.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

La Gente

From Mainland MEX

more photos waay below

¨Dinero¨, I heard a kid scream to me from the top of the hill. After searching through my pockets and unable to find any loose change, I hear ¨Fuck you¨.

For some reason, I´ve realized that I rarely write about the people we see out here. Coming from a backpacking background, we tend to focus on the landscape and how it changes each day. On a trip like this, we are really here to experience the culture...the landscape is secondary.

Lately, we´ve been seeing even more and more indegenous culture. 25% of the peoples of Chiapas are indegenous...thats roughly a million folks. As soon as we escape a largish city like Tuxtla Gutierrez or San Cristobol de Las Casas, these are really the only people we see. The men look like most of the other men in Mex, perhaps with darker skin. They are inheritants of the ancient Mayans, and usually are wielding machetes. They walk alongside the carettera on footpaths worn from decades of use with these blades, and occassionally, a bottle of coke. We can hear the high-pitched clang of their blades hitting stalks of corn or trees for firewood.

The women are a different story. Dressesed in beautiful traditional garb, they always catch our eye. Their dresses are ankle length black, with bright turquoise and purple patterns. Women here seem to carry all of the firewood, not men. The wood is wrapped in some sort of cord, then attached to a strap which goes across their forehead. Never attached to their backs. Weve seen 70 plus year old women carrying tons of wood like this, and their husbands lagging behind carrying only a machete.

When we first entered Chiapas, we didn´t feel welcome. None of our smiles were ever returned, and certainly never heard a return of BUENOS DIAS...possibly because they speak different languages, not only spanish! Since leaving San Cristobol, we have felt incredibly welcome. The children see us while they are playing in their backyards and start to sprint toward us. Only once have I got a negative vibe like from the encounter I opened the post with. They scream out GRINGO, GRINGA! as they are chasing us, giggling the whole time. Sometimes they ask for money, or sweets. A girl approached us in the streets of Ocosingo last night, dressed in a beautiful dress with a filthy face, asking for Chicle (gum). We had no gum but gave her a donut. She smiled gratefully and split it with her brother.

There have definitely been times in the past few days when I´ve taken the idea of volunteering even more seriously...

Chiapas is the poorest state in Mexico, but sometimes it´s hard to tell when looking at its people...

and now those photos

After hanging out in Monte Alban, way above, we had a fun descent back down to Oaxaca proper.
From Mainland MEX

beauty amongst the foothills and agave as we approached the Sierra

From Mainland MEX

Pretty nice up there...

standard Mexican promotional graffiti

peeking over the divide, dry gave way to lush this is a proper beach!

but this is more of our style at Mazunte...

nice light after the scramble to the top of Punta Cometa

still have a few cactus around

and some salt-mining

your standard view of the Oaxacan Coast, nothin special

goddess guarding the Isthmus of Tehuantepec

¨If there are strong winds, reduce speed¨. WINDY WINDY WINDY out there

and still beautiful

Typical swarming of kids after we go for a dip in the river

really like these mountains

epic epic Canyon del Sumidero via boat for breakfast

and a nice waterfall coming from a cave for dinner

needless to say, we are digging Mexico...probably more than ever. Chiapas is full of natural beauty, not overpopulated, and the people are inspiring. Yesterday after winding through beautiful pine forests, we met a motociclisto, Eduardo, whom we had coffee with in Chiapas del Coro. He was excited to see us while he was on his own 4 day trip with biking buddies, so invited us out to brunch. His buddies were on a really nice loop going to 3 different Mayan ruins, waterfalls, colored lakes, and bird sanctuaries. The boys eat well, and fed us a nice breakfast of juevos con camarones (eggs with shrimp). 10 km later, we were hiking up a large structure in the Tonina ruins, totally alone. With a killer view of the surrounding valley, we couldn´t help but think how lucky we are...

And this has been a recurrent thought these past few days. A feeling of gratitude that things have lined up in our lives to put us together and out here. It´s nice...

Next up are the waterfalls of Agua Azul y Misol=Ha, then the ruins of Palenque, and then out to the Yucatan...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


(sorry for the lack of photos due to faulty USB ports...)

After quite a bit of time, we finally made it to our next big town destination: San Cristobol de las Casas.

We left the big city of Oaxaca a day later than expected. Bike chores and the desire to see more of the city led us to stay. We met an amazing couple from England via who rode their bikes to Oaxaca from Halifax, Nova Scotia, then decided to stay in Oaxaca to volunteer. We had a blast talking to them, and they even gave us some stuff we needed that they didn´t. Namely, they gave me a pair of new tires. Not just any tires, but Schwalbe far the best tires you can find. The timing was uncanny since I was looking at ordering Schwalbe tires online ealier that morning, and here I got them for free.

We visited Monte Alban, Zapotec ruins up high on a hill outside of town, and then we were ready to leave. We rode toward the sea, crossed over the Sierra Madre del Sur to get to Puerto Escondido. Beautiful road, lots of climbing which led us to a killer view from the divide. Behind us were the dry hills we had come accustomed to, in front of us was lush and green. All of the rain gets caught on this side of the divide, and there were streams, waterfalls, and actually leaves on the trees. Gorgeous downhill had us on the beautiful Oaxacan coast.

We stayed the day at Mazunte, an amazing and quiet slice of coast. We paid a few dollars and camped for the night with other backpackers. This is the first time weve been in the backpacker scene, and it was fun to talk with people from other countries with Spanish as the common language. A fun scrample up Punta Cometa gave us a great view at sunset.

Leaving Mazunte, we passed many other beaches, and climbed over many ridges that dropped to the sea. The riding became predictable in a fun way. We realized that the mountains were dropping fingers of rock down to the coast, parallel to our road. We´d climb over a ridge, drop down into a valley with a inhabitants, then climb again. In one of those last valleys, girls rushed me at a speed bump to sell tomales. I felt bad, but decided to buy tomales from the girl who was the fastest runner. We´ve been swarmed by people selling all sorts of things before, but never girls under the age of 10. Nice tomales too!

After we went thru the hellishly large port town, complete with oil refinery, of Salina Cruz, we rode into absurd winds. This section of Mexico is where it is at it´s thinnest, the Isthmus of Tehauntepec. We had an amazing headwind for over 30 km, passing through many wind farms on the way. Turning east it turned into either a tailwind which felt like we were sailing, or it would be a crosswind which was terrifying.

That afternoon the wind finally died down, and the riding was smooth. We got to Tuxtla Gutierrez with its amazing street art, climbed over the Sierra again after entering Chiapas, now are in San Cristobol de las Casas. A beautiful colonial town, and easily the biggest congregation of gringos we´ve seen yet. There are loads of hostels, vegetarian restaurants, fancy pizza joints, and they show radical documentary films about Zapatatistas and other movements for the peoples at night. We´re paying for lodging for the first time in a while, trying to find a horrible noise in Lisa´s bike, going to see a flick on Zapatistas, then leave in a day or two. Once we leave here, we will drop down into the jungle and serious heat. Forecast is calling for 104 deg heat with 75% humidity. Yum.