Bolonchén was the last town in Campeche and after breakfasting at the same place as the night before, due to it being the only place to eat we found, we headed up. Our eggs had been quite good, but at 40 pesos, instead of the normal 25 (or about 20 in Guatemala) they were further proof of the higher prices in the Yucatán peninsula. On the way to the border with the state of Yucatán we went past a signposted municipal dump. It looked identical to other parts of the road except instead of signs saying “Strictly no dumping, fine of 50 times minimum wage” it was allowed. There was not even a fence to contain all the rubbish, it just sat on the side of the road where it was dumped and was being explored by dogs, pigs and birds. Of course the wind meant that it had also blown across to the other side of the road, and I can only assume into neighbouring fields.
A few kilometres into the state of Yucatán, we got to a checkpoint. It was by the corner of the turn for the Ruta Puuc, a road leading to three ruins (Sayil, Xlapak and Labná) of the same architectural style and also a set of caves. According to the Lonely Planet, the caves weren’t too impressive because over the last 20 years the amazing carvings have become pretty much impossible to see because of tourists touching them. I asked one of the officials at the checkpoint if we could leave our bags there because we’d be riding 15km to the 3rd site and then having to double back to keep going along our route. He got his keys, we locked our bags in the back of his car, and set off down the Ruta Puuc.
Without any bags on the bikes, meaning they accelerated almost effortlessly, the ride to the ruins was easy. We had figured we’d bike to them in order and then get a lift back from Labná, but the road was so quiet that that plan fell away. It also seemed that all the traffic was going towards Labná, so much so that we saw 0 vehicles in our ride back towards our bags. The ruins at Xlapak were the first that we had been to where I almost felt that there was no reason to go. The only point that seemed to differentiate it from the others was that it had a rectangular layout and the remains of the 3 buildings and the entrance were on its corners. I guess the other thing was that the guard was very surly and even though there were no other visitors during our time was very strict about the exact place we had to put our bikes.
We had spent so long on the Ruta Puuc, that our original plan to go to it, Kabah and Uxmal fell through. By the time we were done at Kabah, it was about 4 pm, so we went to the nearby town of Santa Elena – the first one we had seen since leaving Bolonchén in the morning and so we were ravenous. There was a restaurant called The Pickled Onion run, as the name suggested, by an English lady. They promised wi-fi, but there was none working, and it felt like even if there had been they wouldn’t have told us the password – even though Peter ordered some food there. Looking through the menu you could order a glass of water which was 10 pesos and underneath said that nothing is free in life. To put that into context, a 20 litre jug of water in Mexico costs no more than 20 pesos. To me a not-cheap restaurant like that can afford to spend 0.3 pesos on a glass of water for its customers. Their packed lunch, which was basically a sandwich and a bottle of water, was 90 pesos!
We left shortly after, and found a cheaper place to have dinner. We had camped outside police stations the previous two nights. The first in a basketball court which had the stench of the toilets hanging heavily in the air, with lights on all night long and noisy birds in the morning. The second, in a noisy place that smelt OK with lights on all night. The police in Santa Elena had told us that we could camp in front of their office (located in the town hall), in the basketball court (behind the town hall) or by the church. It was a noisy town, so the first was out, and, after the previous two basketball courts smelling terribly we were leaning towards the church. However, as luck would have it, Peter had been drinking a beer or three and so needed to go to the bathroom so went to the ones in the basketball court. It turned out that Santa Elena has a great new basketball court, with functional toilets and showers, a veritable jackpot! We hadn’t had a shower since Palenque 10 days earlier and so the not-too-cold water was very much enjoyed.
Palacio norte in Sayil