I am sitting in an air bnb apartment on Avenida 15 Nte. in Playa del Carmen. Outside our balcony window is Avenida 15, a busy street with tortillerias and cheap Mexican food. The ocean is a 10 minute walk away. Inside this one room apartment there are towels,clothing and musical instruments strewn around.
I am slathered in sunblock–a morning and afternoon ritual I have been adhering to since I arrived–and my skin is salty from swimming in the ocean today.
Addison is sitting on the couch trying to get his work done on the computer, though he’s really just fighting the urge to go take another nap.
I have ridden my bicycle across Mexico (and taken rides in a few buses and cars), and now I sit back to contemplate the last two weeks.
During these last 14 or so days, I’ve ridden my bicycle almost everyday, spent the majority of my hours alone, slept in random hotels or at couchsurfer/warmshowers hosts’ houses, and have eaten everything from cold tortillas stuffed with refried beans from a bag in my hotel room to huevos rancheros floating in red sauce at a fine restaurant in Champoton. I’ve consumed roadside coconuts, oranges that are peeled and sliced in half and sold for 10 pesos a bag, and the stray coca-cola when I’ve still got 30 km to my final destination and I feel like I just can’t take it anymore.
With my chapter of alone time coming to a close for this trip (at least for the moment), I feel truly grateful for this rite of passage, and also relieved that nothing ever stays the same.
My friend Watson (also former upright bass player for my band, The Love Sprockets) lives in Playa del Carmen and had been expecting me to show up any day. He had also mentioned if shit really hit the fan, he’d be open to borrowing a truck from the brewery he works at to come and save me.
Traveling from Villahermosa to Merida I had been heading due east along the Gulf Coast. Then from Merida (about 300 km from Playa–so basically 4-5 days of riding) I was turning due south for the last leg of my ride. While leaving Merida, I was hit with such an incredibly strong headwind, that it felt like my purpose in pedaling was mostly to avoid being blown backwards. It was also intensely hot all of a sudden.
In addition, my iPod had died, never to return to the land of the living, during the fateful rainstorm I wrote about in my last blog post. This meant long hours of lonely silence, only broken up by the passing of trucks and cars, and the occasional Mexican man who decided to yell or whistle at me.
I felt a wave of complete and utter discouragement, and suddenly didn’t care about finishing the final 321 km by bicycle. I wanted out. I wanted Watson to come and get me, and to just lay around Playa until Addison arrived on the 18th. I didn’t want to be fighting a headwind for the next 4-5 days, staying in hotels, eating shitty food from roadside restaurants, and being out in the full sun day in and day out, with no shade to speak of.
But when I tried to make the emergency rescue call, Watson was not available. He had work/the truck wasn’t available. Eventually, over the next couple of days, I tried to convince him to just ride his motorcycle out to see me, and I could take the day off, hang out with a friend and go swim at a cenote in good company.
However, his lady friend was visiting, and he didn’t want to drag her out on the motorcycle for a 4 hour ride to come and meet me.
So I found myself pushing through a wall that I had really hoped to just walk around and avoid altogether.
Yes, there was quite of bit of crying involved and a tad too much sun exposure, but nothing that was going to kill me. At the urging of Radha (my sister), I began to make my rides a bit shorter, tackling 60 km a day rather than 80-100 km as I had been doing for the first half of my trip. This certainly helped my moral.
This seems like a good time to talk about the wildlife I’ve seen, most of which has been roadkill, but some of which has been the real, living animals themselves.
Here is some of the Mexican roadkill I can recall (I’ve researched photos of the real thing online so you can get a visual of the magnificent, though sadly dead, creature):
Beautiful blue and green birds (maybe the blue-crowned motmot?)
Small, brown bats
Snakes of all sizes
Some of the live animals I’ve seen have been:
-a gray fox who crossed the road in front of me so close that I had to stop so I didn’t run into her
-lots of bats at the cenotes here in the Yucatan
-many varieties of birds including herons, orioles, parrots, doves, grackles, warblers, woodpeckers, hawks, eagles, pelicans and ones whose names I do not know.
-I was able to hang out with a bush-full of coatis one day, much to my (and their) surprise.
-I never pass up the chance to watch one of the enormous, cat-sized lizards sunbathing or doing it’s strange ‘push-up’ dance, where it bobs up and down and sometimes arches its head back rhythmically. Oddly, I feel no desire to try and catch one and hold it, like I used to with the little fence lizards in California. Dinosaurs are best observed at a small distance in my opinion. 🙂
Here in Playa del Carmen I saw a giant rodent like creature rummaging around the trash near the beach… an agouti seems to be what I saw:
I was able to camp one of the days I was on the road near a cenote, in a small Mayan village town called Yokdznot (please don’t ask me how to pronounce that). I was psyched to see an official campground in Mexico.
Yes, I was the only person camping, and the Mexicans who passed by my camp spot seemed to be highly perplexed as to what exactly I was doing…
I didn’t sleep all that well in my little tent–what with the village dogs raising the alarm every hour or so when a leaf rustled in the distance–but I was so happy to hear the wind in the trees and to be awoken by birdsong that it was fine.
Actually, in the middle of the night at that campground, I had to go to the bathroom, and had a cool little experience.
The bathroom was a good distance away, so I followed the path that led to it, stomping my feet every now and then to scare off snakes. I saw a strange, white beast off to the side under a tree. It seemed to stock still, gazing at me with mute concentration. I stopped, feeling a little uneasy, and had to look at it for a while before I could discern that it was a goat. And no, it wasn’t staring at me with it’s head erect–that was, in fact, it’s butthole and it’s little tail sticking up in the air. It’s back was turned to me and I suppose it was just sleeping standing up or something.
When I reached the bathrooms, I saw two men sleeping in hammocks hanging from the trees nearby.
There was something so fascinating about seeing them dangling there, like two overgrown babies, snoring softly. No blankets, sheets, pillows or mosquito netting. Just a hammock swaying beneath the trees in the breeze.
I was truly impressed by this scene.
I snuck by quietly so as not to awaken them.
All of this alone time has given me plenty of space for meditation and just ‘being’ with myself.
Sometimes I don’t really want to hang out with myself.
Sometimes I’d MUCH rather hang out with anyone else but me.
But that’s usually when I’m feeling some kind of pain–fear, loneliness, despair–and I don’t want to feel bad anymore.
So I’ve simply taken the time to hang out with these unpleasant feelings, and it’s amazing how much quicker they seem to dissipate when I give them all of my attention.
It gets tiresome when these unhappy feelings arise every morning, or every 5 minutes. Especially when I need to pack up all my gear and hit the road in a timely manner, and need to have the strength of mind to cycle 7-8 hours everyday and find a place to sleep at night before it gets dark.
But now I’m beginning to regard these painful feelings simply as little crying babies with poopy diapers. As long as I’m willing to hold them, let them cry, and even change their diapers occasionally, they can’t carry on forever. They finally seem to be satisfied at some point, and give me a break.
It’s during these respites that I regain my sense of humor, and actually want to talk to other people, even if it’s only in spanish. I feel a resurgence of inspiration around my trip. I feel space inside of me, and can take some easy breaths, maybe even smile.
What I like about being alone is that I get to decide exactly what I do when. I can leave the hotel in the morning as early (or as late) as I feel like, I can go to sleep when I decide it’s time to turn off the light, and I don’t have consult anyone about any decision I’m trying to make.
That being said, sometimes I choose to consult other people. Like Watson, for instance–when I’m getting ready to ride 100 km with a broken spoke and my wheel is rubbing the brakes off to one side even thought they’re released.
Or I’ll call Radha and Erik (my sister and her husband), when I’ve had a rough start to my morning and my insides feeling all junky and sad. I just chat with them for a few minutes to hear how their day went (they’re getting ready for bed when I’m waking up, because they’re in Thailand), and Radha will patiently remind me that feeling sad does not mean the end of the world.
I made it to the small town of Chemuyil (near Tulum) on Monday, and spent two nights at a friend of Rohn Baye’s (Rohn is one of my Patreon backers who I met in San Antonio on my way through to Brazil). His name is Pepe, and on Tuesday we spent some time walking around Tulum while he got his car repaired at the mechanics, and then he drove me to his friend’s place out in the jungle where I was taken through a series of underground caverns and swam in an underground cenote. Truly amazing.
On Wednesday I awoke at 5:30 am, so that I could rolling out to Playa del Carmen by 7 am, and be able to beat the heat. I arrived at Watson’s apartment complex around 10:45 am.
“Watson,” I said, after he’d stepped outside to meet me and was marveling at my loaded bicycle. “I rode my bicycle across Mexico. Now I never have to do it again, ever.”