Today’s ride was fast and smooth (re: smoov). The roads were wide open, very little traffic and we were protected from the sun by a bit of cloud. Our next stop was the Reserva de la Biosfera Calakmul. This particular Mayan ruin is not overly visited because it’s out of the way for most tourists. From the highway, it’s another 70km into the thickness of the jungle. Historically, Calakmul was the biggest empire in the region and battled with Tikal in Guatemala regularly. But like all great empires, it’s reign of power fell towards the end of this Mayan period and was shifted to a new style represented at Chichanitsa. Calakmul is still being excavated, so much of the ruin is still under cover of the dense jungle. We would recommend it to anyone with some time to get here. We encountered only a couple cars and visitors while there in the morning, so taking in the ancient energy of the organized rock structures and surrounding jungle on your own is well worth the trek.
If this wasn’t already interesting, we of course had to throw some adventure challenges into the mix. Fuel. Once we made it to the reserve we had done approximately 200km on our current tank. We tend to get 280km from a full tank. A 140km round trip into the jungle meant that we didn’t have enough to make it out. The guy working at the gate instructed us to visit a town 2km down the road to buy fuel from a guy. It took us 30 minutes of driving around and asking for instructions to find him, but once we did we felt like true adventurers as he syphoned 4 litres into on our tanks. In the back of our minds we had to wonder if we did in fact get the full amount. We went for it of course, and of course we had no way to know.
After riding 20km through a pothole driving course far into the jungle and we found a spot to camp for the night. We caught glimpses of some wildlife, mostly exotic birds and some kind of mini-bobblehead-deer that walked through our camp. We met a biologist named Victoria who was studying the dung beetle (eeww) in the area who told us she saw puma near a watering hole and that there were Jaguars. We just missed the jaguar by a few fantasy seconds, but we did catch some views of spider monkeys and hear the bravado of howler monkeys.
Rick was totally blissed out by our camping experience. Once we set up our hammocks I think he felt like Robinson Crusoe. The hat says it all really. We cooked up some food with the JetBoil and drank beer under cover as a storm rolled through. Soon it was over and we went to bed around 9pm. It wasn’t long before we heard foot steps and saw flashlights. Rather unexpectedly, a German traveler named Richard came late into camp. We gave him some extra light so he could set up and we chatted for a bit about where he’d been. He was very friendly and had some interesting stories about traveling in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. He also snored like a tractor and farted while he slept. Needless to say between his sounds and the sounds of the jungle, I didn’t sleep that well. Rick says he slept like a baby bunny.
Happy 1-Year Anniversary to us! We woke up with the sun, packed up and began the 50-odd km ride deeper into the jungle. Along the way we caught glimpses of birds, but no big cats. Once we made it to the ruin we had a quick chat about what we’d do if we ran out of fuel on the way out, then hiked in. We didn’t have much time to explore, so we went straight for the big guy, which incidentally was so big neither of us wanted to do the million steps to the top. So we caught a glimpse of the height and size from the top of another temple. It was MASSIVE. It’s mind blowing that these civilizations were so sophisticated to build such impressive structures in jungle no less.
Time to go! We made it out without incident, but then 20km down the highway at the exact same moment, we got caught in a torrential downpour and Rick’s bike stalled out. We tried to troubleshoot, but the only thing we could do was ride it out, making sure too keep the rpms above 2k. The next fuel stop was another 35km away. Low and behold we made it and Rick troubleshot-texted the issue with our friend Justin back in Vancouver. We suspect that the rain from the night before had gotten some water into the intake box, or it was just shitty gas. Either way the problem sorted itself out and we were on our way again to Tulum.
We have had incredible luck finding delicious places to eat along the way. Just outside Chetamul Rick spotted a BBQ joint and we pulled in for some lunch. Bless them, they were happy to make something veggie friendly for me to eat, even though they laughed at the irony of the situation. Rick ordered half a chicken, which he claims was the best BBQ he’s ever had. My food was equally delicious. It’s a good thing we had this stop and refuelled our bellies because up ahead we were faced with our first epic storm on this trip.
In the distance was the most ominous and dark storm cell churning over the road. We had no other choice than to forge ahead, as Tulum was only another 200km away. The wind started to pick up, swirling around, and then it began. It became clear that we weren’t going to be able to power through sheets of rain and big gusts of wind, so we found shelter and waited it out. Our tin roofed sanctuary was shared with a feral dog, who was mostly scared of us as they mostly are down here, but we soon became friends when I fed him my bag of tortilla chips. The rain came down in droves, finally letting up in 40 minutes to let us continue. Then as soon as we started, it was over. The rest of the way was smooth sailing, that was until about 20km outside of Tulum the rain really picked up again. It was already dark, and at this point we were soaked anyway, so we turned the hazards on the bikes for better visibility and powered our way the last few kilometres.
At last, we made it safe, sound, and soaked, and pulled into the first nice looking beach front cabana spot we could find. Today we’re at the Papaya Playa Project relaxing by the sea. Tomorrow we’re off to Playa Del Carmen, which is 40km away to connect with Rick’s family and get ready for his brother’s wedding. The next few days off are very much welcomed.
Sarah + Rick