Caught the eight o’clock bus to Valladolid. My bike luggage again cost me extra, this time almost as much as the ticket itself. The journey was uneventful. The roadside scenery in the Yucatan is horrendously monotonous and flat. Thick, impenetrable shrub, looking like it struggles against the dryness of the place lines each side of the road. I’m glad I didn’t ride here.

Valladolid is a sleepy town; a pleasant, laid back sort of place. In the bus station I was standing with my bike, copying down the timetable for buses to Playa Del Carmen. A little guiltily I must add, as I felt that it was quite insulting to the town; I’d barely just arrived and I was already plotting my escape. A gorgeous Latina, about my age with light brown, curvy hair, approached me and asked me if I could speak Spanish. Her name was Cecilia, though she pronounced it in a way that it rang sweetly off her tongue; in a way that I couldn’t quite pronounce it. She said she’d come up to me because she’d seen me with the bike and thought I’d be different. Cecilia asked me a lot of questions about my trip and my luggage before I could get a chance to find out anything about her. She was from Columbia and was on holidays with her boyfriend Carlos, who was from Venezuela. Carlos approached us shyly, moments later, with a likeable grin. She was an artist and writer, he was a Communications student in Cuba and they were both trying to settle in Havana. She told me why she liked the social system in Cuba; she may not be able to have a fancy camera or a fancy car, but she had health care and when she has kids (“I want to marry and have kids and watch them grow up in Cuba”) they would get free dancing, singing and art lessons. She said with a scorn how she sees so many children and old women on the streets of Mexico, selling small trinkets and begging for change; yet Mexico is such a rich country. Cecilia agreed that some European countries also have social healthcare and education systems, but people live their lives by stepping on and crushing others in order to always get ahead.

I told them how I wanted to go to Cuba and they encouraged it, especially since I would be on the bicycle and people would look at me in a different way (instead of being a rich, white, foreign tourist I would be a rich, white foreign tourist on a bike, I thought realistically). We swapped emails and went to part ways. I shook Carlos’s hand and as I was about to shake Cecilia’s, she pulled me in towards her in what I thought was quite an intimate and sexy manner, and kissed me on the right cheek, leaving me plenty of time to reciprocate the gesture. Sigh…What a way to start the day. I left the bus station with a grin as wide as a bus.

Dzit-Nup Cenote, 7km from Valladolid (Day 206)

Dzit-Nup Cenote, 7km from Valladolid (Day 206)

Dzit-Nup Cenote, 7km from Valladolid (Day 206)

Dzit-Nup Cenote, 7km from Valladolid (Day 206)

I wandered off on my bike trying to find a cheap hotel near the plaza. After the bike accident that very nearly killed me, I said I’d never ride helmet-less again, but here I am riding about a lovely Mexican town with the wind in my hair. Damn it felt good. The respectfulness that Mexican drivers have given me while on the bike has definitely given me a false sense of security.

I posted my well-read copy of Che’s Motorcycle Diaries to my friend Stef (the person, not the bicycle…) in California. It was an adventure trying to buy an envelope without knowing the Spanish word for it; sobre, and everyone kept pointing me to the post office (which had none). At the newsagent it took five minutes of bad sign language before the man realised and pulled out the envelopes stacked just behind him. The book cost almost as much to send as it did to buy it, but it’s Che, I thought, and well worth it.

I bought a good coffee at a cafe overlooking the main plaza and then headed off to find the oldest Christian structure in the Yucatan, the church of San Bernadino. The church was at the end of a wide and cobbled street, Calle 41A, running diagonally from all the main streets. The street was bordered by the colourful walls of residences; blues, yellows and reds. It was quiet, empty of cars and only a few people around.

I was still feeling that familiar nice buzz from the coffee but all of a sudden everything seemed to slow down. I’m in super slow motion and right now Calle 41A has become my favourite street in all of Mexico. I’ve never felt so present in a place before. It seems my life has changed a notch. The loneliness; my somber, useless questioning mood and the heavy heart that I’ve carried ever since parting ways with Amelie, and probably for long before, has completely disappeared. I’m left with a grin on my face for the rest of the day. The type of grin that makes most people smile back at me and makes others, like the old ice-cream man at the plaza, comfortable enough to approach me and strike up a conversation. We didn’t understand each other at all, but we had a good laugh about it anyway. The good feelings were definitely helped by meeting Cecilia this morning. Maybe she was my angel in disguise giving me some much needed sense of direction.

And so Stef will be coming with me to Cuba. The trip will be pointless without the bike. It wouldn’t be Cuba without Stef. Back at the hotel, I “Cuba-fied” my panniers, taking out everything I didn’t need including the mattress and sleeping bag. Screw the bike shoes as well, it’ll be flip-flops from now on. I’m taking it easy; no more of those tedious, long, sweat-my-arse-off days anymore. I’m excited about cycling again.

Chichen Itza (Day 207)

Chichen Itza (Day 207)

I headed out to the Chichen Itza ruinas by bus and was once again, one of the first through the gates, allowing me to get quite a few people-less photos. Overall I wasn’t that impressed, I’ve seen too many ruins.

I caught an afternoon bus to the tourist-filled town of Playa. At the bus station a man from San Francisco watched me as I loaded my bike. He said he wouldn’t want to ride here; he’s seen the state of the roads, there’s rarely any shoulder to ride on. I spent the next few minutes patiently explaining to him how much better Mexican drivers are then those in America with their big SUVs and “I own the road” attitudes.

Found the local hostel, seconds before a heavy tropical rain storm let loose on the town.

Chichen Itza (Day 207)

Chichen Itza (Day 207)

Iguana at Chichen Itza (Day 207)

Iguana at Chichen Itza (Day 207)

Chichen Itza (Day 207)

Chichen Itza (Day 207)

Caught the ferry across to Cozumel at lunchtime. On the jetty, I stopped to look at one of the many stands advertising diving packages. Immediately a bloke approached me and asked if I wanted diving and accommodation. I told him I wanted the three day dive package but only really cheap accommodation. He offered me his apartment for a cheap rate, and I hesitantly agreed without even seeing the place.

Alberto walked me to his car. He obviously doesn’t spend any of the money he makes on his car; the Chevy had door handles missing, inside panels falling off, no rear window and useless seats held together with the seatbelts. He read my mind and explained that he spends all the money he earns as a dive instructor on travelling. That explained why the car was in such bad shape; he had been in Spain holidaying when the last hurricane had swept its way through the island, leaving the Chevy as a rust bucket. Every time we hit a speed bump, the sun roof would come off. I dreaded to think what the apartment was going to be like.

The apartment was on the edge of town, a block away from a large supermarket/cinema complex. Surprisingly, the apartment itself turned out to be pretty nice. He invited me to a dive in the afternoon, gave me directions and left me.

I wandered about town a little, bought some bathers and then headed the four miles out of town to the marina.

We boarded the boat, driven by stern looking, but friendly Captain Daniel, and headed offshore. The first dive was a little strange, as he was also doing an introductory dive for two others. It was just offshore but still pretty good in terms of the fish life and colours. I enjoyed it but got a little too cold by the end, even though my gauge read eighty degrees. Alberto lent me his wetsuit shortie for the next dive, a large fishing vessel wreck. We entered the vessel near the stern and swam about a hundred feet towards an opening above the bow. In the middle was a room filled with a cloud of tiny, silver sardines, occasionally getting picked off by large black groupers three to four feet in length. In the next hallway it was almost completely dark but I could tell I was passing through another school of small fish, their silhouettes passing only inches in front of my mask..

I told Alberto that I had been thinking of doing my dive master certification for several years and he gave me the idea of doing it here.



Alberto picked me up from the apartment this morning in the clapped-out Chevy full of divers. We did a fantastic wall dive and saw a turtle. There was a Latin-looking woman on board with her much older American boyfriend. She wore a tiny bikini and had the most amazing cleavage I think I’ve ever seen. We had a long boat ride back to the marina for new tanks and waited for the dive master to show up. He didn’t show, so a young guy who didn’t know any English at all was asked to escort us. Another nice dive, along a colourful reef with large angel fish everywhere.

In the afternoon I set off on the bike for the forty mile ride around the island. It’s not really around the island, only the Southern part. There are no paved roads to the North, only a beaten track on which they do four-wheeler motorbike tours on. The road heading South out of town was mostly quiet, the odd tourist in a rented jeep.

It’s nice to ride with an unloaded bike though I never feel complete without the extra weight.

On the home stretch, a few miles out of town, who should slow down to say hi but Alberto in his clapped-out Chevy. He introduces me to his gorgeous girlfriend Carol and two dogs, one called Negra for its beautiful black coat, and the other Blanca, of course for its white coat. He invited me to a beach party later tonight on the other side of the island and I agreed.

Watched the movie “Constantine” starring Keanu Reeves at the cinema down the street. It looked to be the only semi-decent thing that was showing. It ended up being quite good.



Woke up last night to Alberto throwing stones at the window above my bed. I thought someone was trying to shoot at me. I grabbed my bottle of “León de Tarapaca” vino tinto that I’d bought earlier and hopped into the clapped-out Chevy, now sans sun roof, or rather, now with a star roof. We picked up Carol, who is from Argentina and used to live near the largest mountain in the Americas; Aconcagua. We headed to the East edge of the island where there’s nary an electric light bulb about, and the stars come out in force, a garbled array of diamond dust thrown across the sky.

The party was just getting started. Alberto and I shared the wine, drinking it from grande-sized paper cups. He introduced me to his friends. I met Jesus, a skinny, gnarly triathlete.

His routine before the start of any race was to smoke a joint, down a Red Bull and then start running. According to him, he’s done quite well using this tried-and-tested method for the last twenty years. I also met a tattoo artist who was living in Canada but planned on heading to Australia and South-East Asia. Sounds like it’s easy to get work anywhere if you’re a good tattoo artist.

Alberto dropped me off in the early morning with the plan of going diving in the afternoon. By lunchtime though, Alberto had dropped around to invite me for lunch with his Mum instead. We went to a lovely seafood restaurant on the edge of town and we spoke again about becoming a dive master. I’m very close to deciding. I just have to keep reminding myself how much I hate working nine-to-five in front of a computer screen.

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