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A new Mayan Empire Adventure! (AME1701)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 | Manuel Marabese | North and South America

A small and well mixed group from Austria (Karl), Germany (Leopold), Switzerland (Heinz) and Bill (USA) is ready for some adventure. Together with them the guides José (from Guatemala) and Manuel (from Italy) they are gonna explore the secrets of the ancient Maya civilazion and some of the finest motorcycle roads of central america.

(PHOTOS: Manuel Marabese and José Pinto)

Day 1: Guatemala City - Rio Dulce

While in Europe and North America our friends are celebrating Carnival/Fasching in an ending winter, here in Guatemala we are roasting in a sunny 38°C day on the way to Rio Dulce on the Lake Izabal.

Soon we leave the traffic of the capital Guatemala City behind us and cruise on a very busy road towards east until we finally reach some verdant hills: the lake and the Caribbean coast are not far away anymore!

The bikes are getting ready to hit the road across Guatemala, Belize and Mexico.
Yep, you see it right, there are miles and miles of vehicles in line for a road work to expand the highway. Good that we could at least pass them all...

The very well deserved first coffee break of the tour. The altitude is decreasing and the temperature is rising.

They are so nice to provide some shade for our horses while we sample a typical lunch.

Ready to jump in the pool of the resort? We are now on the shore of lake Izabal, the largest in Guatemala and also the safest harbour during the hurricane season in the Caribbean. The area is full of elegant catamarans, yachts and sailing boats.

Bill and I (sorry for my Forrest Gump-stupid-looking face in the pic) went for a sunset boat trip on the lake. How romantic!
Some delicious local specialities: grilled shrimps!

Day 2: Rio Dulce - Tikal

Our second day starts definitely in a more relaxed way: no city traffic and heavy trucks zigzaging between busses and cars like a mad hatter. Weather is already steamy with a very humid yet sunny morning but as soon as we start riding it's great. Gentle breeze on our face, green pasture surrounded by hills and a lush vegetation.

Heinz and Karl posing on the long bridge in their off-road gear.
Selfie time in Flores for our local guru José.
Definitely a lunch with a view, from the terrace of Villa del Chef on the lake Peten.
We are almost done for today: the last part after lunch got us on some dirty dirt along the northern shore of lake Peten: our resort is around the corner. Just a quick shower, gear off and we head to explore the ruins of Tikal.
Tikal was the most important Maya city in the period between the 7th and 9th century. On an area of 16 square km we are going to explore some of its temples. Can you imagine that until 1848 it was still hidden in the jungle and forgotten since long time?
Climbing to the top of Temple IV (the Temple of the Two-headed snake) requires some effort but Hey, what a view at sunset here! Simply stunning.... it's time to get back and have some rest, tomorrow we are gonna enter Belize!

Day 3: Tikal - Belmopan

After visiting the magnificient ruins of Tikal in the middle of the jungle yesterday afternoon, today it's time to  head towards Belize. The border is just an hour from us and we are going to spend the night in a jungle resort a few km before Belmopan.

A Belizean salad for lunch
A side trip on some dirt before getting to the hotel.
Dream Valley.... a very green lodge in the middle of the jungle. We are surely gonna sleep good tonight!

Day 4: Belmopan - Bacalar

We are waking up with the sounds of tropical birds and othe inhabitants of the forest... tasty breakfast with a gorgeous view and then ready to roll! We are gonna cross entire Belize today  (yes it's a small country but it could deserve so much more time, there is plenty to see!) and enter Mexico, spending the night at the Bacalar lagoon.

After an hour ride we get closer to Belize city, enjoying a refreshing break for a drink in this pretty "waterpark - beach".
Wonderful colours of the sea just south of the border with Mexico. time for a beach side lunch stop!
The border crossing went pretty smooth, quite expensive entering Mexico but surely worth it. Here we are, just on time for the sunset at the Bacalar lagoon.

Day 5: Bacalar - Playa del Carmen

The highlight for today is the archeological park in Tulum, a late Maya city from the 13th to the 15th century. It's position is idyllic, set on a cliff and surrounded by sandy beaches...

Arrived in Playa del Carmen! We are gonna spend two nights here and tomorrow it's a rest day. After Yucatan we will start moving towards the mountains of Chiapas and Guatemala so we better enjoy some rest on the beach in this popular town on the Riviera Maya.
Heinz, Leo, Bill, Karl ready for dinner in town!

Day 6: Rest day in Playa del Carmen

Today we will discover a bit what Playa del Carmen has to offer: surely enough beach and lounge bars, classy nd yummy restaurants and plenty of shopping possibilities. Quite a big change from the previous days in more remote areas...

A did in the pool after breakfast anyone?
Or rather join the vacationers roasting under the 33°C sun on the playa?
Tour guides having an hour on the beach as well...
Lunch time! With all those beach clubs offering delicious Mexican food it's hard to choose one...
And when the sun goes down.... wonderful cosy atmosphere

Day 7: Playa del Carmen - Chichen Itza

The day resting in Playa has been pretty enjoyable but we came here for the ride! So we keep going along our route today, crossing the pancake-flat Yucatan in direction Valladolid, a splendid colonial town not far from Chichen Itza, the uber-famous Maya site par excellance.

The ride is short so we will have time to discover the ruins in the afternoon.

Brand new highway across the flat forest area. Absolutely no autogrill in sight.
Before stopping in Valladolid for lunch we went to visit one of the famous cenotes of this area: they are big underground caves with the function of a water reservoir.
The rest of the warrior! When Bill decides to rest, the ground pops up a marble bed carved especially for him. Not even Chuck Norris did that. But he is trying.
Valladolid has a great Zocalo, or Parque Central, the typical centerpiece of a Spanish colonial settlement. This one is particularly charming with its fountain and lots of shade from the trees.
Leopold happy as a happy kid with his two fans refreshing the lunch time...
The view fro the hotel entrance over the Caracol, the Maya astronomic observatory.
This is the proof that even Maya were big fan of Homer from the Simpsons.

Day 8: Chichen Itza - Campeche

Waking up right in the middle of the Maya site is quite a stunning experience. The air is (almost) cool until around 7am... afterwards it starts to get warmer. We enjoy the morning sun rays on the caracol (the Maya astronomic observatory) and a plentiful Maya breakfast before hitting the road.

Lesser known places on our route, along the villages of the so-called Ruta Puuc. The destination is the Campeche, colourful colonial town on the ocean, with well-preserved pastel buildings and a lively Zocalo (the main square).

Also the peacock is on the way to the breakfast garden...
Short coffee (actually sodas and water) stop at a stone gas staton - how loud can that latino music be?
Very local experience for lunch, with our cuarto de pollo in an asaderia.
Almost there, just a bit of traffic entering Campeche...
And here we are! On the Malecon in Campeche enjoying an Edelweiss boot beet with Corona and sea breeze...

Day 9: Campeche - Palenque

We start moving southwards, the tour goes back towards the highlands and soon the temperature will drop a bit. The last days have been failry hot and a cool breeze is gonna be highly appreciated by our "alpine team" of the group, while Bill-Mohave-Desert is happy enough with a 35°C+ temp!

In the afternoon we reach Palenque and we are gonna spend two nights there, enjoying this scenic area of Mexico.

A refreshing dip in the stone pool of the hotel is a nice way to end tis long ride!
And for dinner... the cosy atmosphere of the jungle village El Panchan

Day 10: Rest Day in Palenque

A rest full of adventures and relax is awaiting us: in the morning we hop on the pick-up for a visit to the nearby ruins of Palenque, one of the oldest Maya sites, dating from 6th to 8th century. Plenty of wonderful pyramids, the royal palace, tombs, other temples... Simply stunning! 

And in the afternoon we take our bike for a short stroll among the nearby mountains to refresh ourselves in the waterfalls Roberto Barrios.

Day 11: Palenque - Comitan

Mountains everywhere! Ohh yeah, after the pancake-flat Yucatan peninsula we deserve loooots of curves and mountains roads until the end of the tour!

Ehy.. wait a second? Who said we deserve also those absurdly annoying 1000 home-hand-made topes (speed bumps)? It's like going on a rollercoaster with some spicy traps here and there.... after crossing the mountains of Chiapas and reaching the lively San Cristobal for lunch those few miles of smooth, straight road was a delight...

Today's road is full of surprises... potholes, endlessly, and road works because the road simply disappeared!
And here we face a road block. The people of this village decided to block the road in a demonstration for their requests to have teachers in the school. A big trees across the road and some planks with long needles, ouch! Karl even tried to pass the block without waiting for the tour guide to start the bargain...
And here they are, all the pupils without the possibility to get a stable education... The small fee they collect from us is given with a hearty feeling, we wish them to get a brighter and easier future!
It's time for a well deserved break at the Agua Azul waterfall... it looks painted! The colour is so sature...
After 230km of curves, potholes, topes, road blocks and lots of adrenaline we reach San Cristobal at 2150m! The air is fresh and cool again!
done for today, checking in our cosy hotel in the centre of Comitan right before sunset...
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Julie Nagel
Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 03:38

Beautiful pictures. I've been to some of those areas (Tulum, Chichanetza, sp.?), many years ago and it looks like nothing has changed. Neat to have such a small group and be able to get involved with locals! Be safe
Friday, March 3, 2017 at 13:26

Tschau Manuel
Super zu sehen, dass Du wieder auf Tour bist! So steigen meine Chancen wieder einmal mehr eine grossartige Zeit/Tour irgendwo auf dieser Welt mit Dir zu verbringen.
Der Wein wird fliessen ....versprochen!
In diesem Sinn hoffentlich bis bald
Manuel Marabese
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 06:38

Liebe Gaby,

ich freue mich immer auf Tour mit dir zu fahren, jeder Zeit!
Ursula Peter
Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 07:22

Ja wen sieht man denn da auf den wunderschönen Bildern?
Den Karl!!!
Genieß die Tour und vor allem das schöne Wetter.
Liebe Grüße aus dem verregneten Deutschland
Manuel Marabese
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at 06:39

Danke Ursula!!!!

Bis bald...
Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 02:26

Great to see pictures of your trip, so I can follow my brother's journey. Looks hot, looks wonderful and looks enticing. Have a wonderful trip, I am looking forward to read and see further posts. Travel safely.


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