Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pastels and Pyramids

After spending three days in Palenque (the longest I'd spent anywhere on the trip with two healthy feet), it was time to move. I was meeting a friend in Playa del Carmen on the tenth, and I woke up on the eighth, five hundred miles away, with a few things I wanted to see in between. So I plotted two stops, and started riding.

Leaving Palenque made for a little bit of a boring ride. I was out of the mountains that had made Chiapas and Oaxaca so exciting to ride through, and into the plains that the Mayan city of Palenque had been built to look out over. As any motorcycle rider in the Midwestern United States will tell you, plains make for boring rides.

So I headed for the coast as quickly as possible, taking a slightly longer route just so that I'd be spending more time next to the water. I made a quick stop at a seafood restaurant for some ceviche and garlic shrimp, chatted with a group of bikers that were there too, and then continued north and into the city of Campeche.

While the area outside the walls is a typical commercial center (I went past a convention center holding a car show and an enormous mall), the historic center of the city is gorgeous, and the buildings lining its cobblestone streets have been painstakingly restored and updated with pastel colors and new building fronts.

I was only staying a night in Campeche, so after I settled in and spent a bit of time writing, I looked up a few things to do, and headed out on the town. I was lucky that I was getting into town on a Sunday, because every Sunday night there are free concerts on the main square in front of the church.

Full concert band on stage. 
I listened for a few songs, but hunger was getting the best of me, so I wandered up and down the main pedestrian strip looking for a cheap restaurant. Unfortunately, Campeche is a bit more touristy than I'd like, so it was mostly overpriced restaurants or menus in English. I did find a few interesting things while wandering around, but only took a few pictures - the groups of tourists with big cameras hanging around their necks made me not want to be one of that group.

Another shot of the church.

The trolley wasn't running, unfortunately.

Made a friend, but he didn't speak much Spanish.... or at all, really, now that I think about it...

The gate looking into the main pedestrian walkway from outside the walls.
After getting some delicious food on a side street, I headed towards the back of the historic district for what was promised to be a "Disney-esque" re-enactment of the history of Campeche, pirates and all. Let's just say it didn't quite live up to that.

Not the most enthusiastic actors.

Finished with a video projected on the walls with lackluster English subtitles and a horrible soundsystem that made the Spanish almost impossible to make out too.
The only highlight of the show was when I was coming in and asked someone about tickets and where to buy them, and then when I returned back into the main area with tickets in hand, they asked me a question in very fast Spanish. I gave them my usual line of "Sorry, I didn't understand that, I'm just learning Spanish, can you say it again" and they looked confused and asked where I was from. When I told them California, they told me they didn't hear an accent! I'm considering this one mostly  a fluke, but my Spanish does seem to be getting better.

I woke up the next morning and headed for the car wash - my bike had accumulated quite a bit of mud as well as a coating of some sort of white, salt-water looking residue, so on the offchance the residue was corrosive I decided a cleaning wasn't a bad idea anyway.

Getting hosed off.

Glamour shots on the malecon afterwards.
All cleaned up, I headed in land across the Yucatan for Chichen Itza. When I'd talked to people at Palenque who had been to Chichen Itza first, they said Palenque was way better... and they were right. Since I didn't get to Chichen Itza until the afternoon, it was loaded with tourists, and almost every tour I heard wandering by was being done in English. The paths between ruins were loaded with vendors yelling at you in English. "Amigo, only one dollar for two of these! Almost free!" The ruins were impressive, no doubt, but between the crowds and the vendors it wasn't a super pleasant experience. You couldn't climb on any of them like you could at Palenque or Teotihuacan, and there were no random jungle paths to take either. Add a healthy dose of too much heat (still could feel myself sweating in the shade) and I didn't stay very long.

+4 Happiness, +50% Longer Golden Ages (Jokes for nerds)

Some of the other ruins.

The giant sinkhole a little outside the main area - still crowded with people though.

Every path looked like this.
I got back on the bike and rolled into Valladolid and found a hostel with parking. Ended up talking to an Indian guy from New Zealand and an older Canadian woman for quite a while, and then went out with the guy for dinner. He led me quite a few blocks away (despite a swollen foot from a bee sting - I can sympathize with the limp), outside the main area, down a dark alley... to an amazing restaurant that apparently is loved by the locals.

The house special. Meat for days.
I headed back to the hostel and relaxed with the people there for the night and traded stories since I was heading the opposite direction from most of them, and then called it an early night so I could get up and head to Playa del Carmen in the morning. Skip Cancun, I thought, it's too commercial. Then I got to Playa...

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