Ek-Balam, another ruin on Peter’s must-see list is 27km north of Valladolid. As our next destinations were towards the east coast, that wasn’t on our route. The road wasn’t busy enough to try thumbing a lift, so we went to a taxi company, left our bikes there and had a 25 minute drive up.
We’d thought that the extra pricing was only going to be at Uxmal and Chichén Itzá, but it turned out that Ek-Balam had the same thing. I asked, and it turned out that it had been introduced 3 years earlier. Thankfully, it was only the state of Yucatan, but I can’t see the other states not introducing similar measures in the future making the ruins more expensive, and not completely free for students.
After Ek-Balam we started heading east towards the Caribbean coast and our next ruins of Cobá. Surprise, surprise the wind was still blowing strong so it was slow but steady progress to the next town of Chemax. When we got there, we would be turning to be riding completely into the wind and so stopped at a bus-stop for a short rest. That turned into an hour-long nap, and when we woke up the wind had slowed a little as it got to being almost dark. The road had a large shoulder, and would have been great, except for the fact that the jungle that they’d cut through was doing its best to take back over meaning that the shoulder didn’t really exist.
We made it to the town of Cobá and the police told us we could camp by the lake. Some locals tried to warn us about crocodiles, but we were tired enough from battling the wind that we didn’t pay any attention. The only thing that tried to visit us during the night was a puppy that curled up next to Peter’s tent for warmth, staying there even after he accidentally smacked it through his tent wall.
Camping near the ruins again meant that we were there for opening time. When we arrived, there was no-one else. After we went to wash our hands and faces in the sinks a bunch of tour buses of French tourists had turned up. We’d heard about how Cobá was a big ruin and so they allowed you to ride around, so we were really excited – finally a ruin we could use our bikes. Then we were told no, we had to pay 35 pesos. We explained that we had our bikes and that it cost that much to rent the bikes. The guy at the gate said no, that’s the rules, we either pay 35 pesos or don’t ride our bikes. Both being very cheap we went with the not riding our bikes option.
We had thought we had needed to pay the guy at the gate, but 2-300m inside the gate was where all the rental bicycles were parked. You could either rent a bicycle, or a tricycle taxi. I asked the lady about it, and she said that it was to cover bicycle parking. That seemed much more reasonable than the guy at the gates explanation, bike parking meant there’d be people there and so they’d be hiring more people and so have higher costs because of the bike. That… didn’t turn out to be true. We saw some bike parking later and it was a sign stuck on some trees just before a group.
We ended up walking 8-10 km in the ruins, although a few km of that was our own fault. When we were near one of the groups I saw a path that said “Don’t enter, danger” and thought it matched up to a path on the map to the another group. We followed the path, kept going, and then continued some more. It took about 20-30 minutes of walking until we decided, both being quite stubborn (terco in Spanish), that it was time to turn around.
The largest pyramid in the site is called Nohoch Mul which means large hill. It’s 42 m tall and so the largest pyramid in the Yucatán peninsula according to some of the signs we read, but then other said the largest in the north-east part of Yucatán. Considering all the signs are written by the same group of people, it’s surprising they don’t have either consistent information or a proof reader.
Because of our detour, we ended up staying the best part of 4 hours in the ruins. We ate lunch, as we’d not really had any breakfast, and then started riding to Tulum. Andrea, Peter’s fiancée, was going to be flying down from Mexico City to spend the last few days of his time in Mexico together, and so we had to get there in time to meet her. We were riding, hoping to get there at 4, without any breaks, until she sent him a message that she wouldn’t arrive until after 5:30. That meant we had time to stop and drink a beer by the side of the road.
After that break, it really was starting to sink in how close it is to Peter going home and me riding off by myself. It’ll be really strange. We met back in May 2012 and, although there was the five-month break in Mexico City, it means we’ve basically been together for a year. Usually, I ride up front and he follows a bit behind, but that might at least partly be down to my lack of a bike pump. I was thinking about how we have our dynamic worked out, and while it’s not problem free, it works. The fact that it’s going to stop so soon, and change when Andrea arrives, is disconcerting for me.
Typical view forever in the Yucatán