First night out of Palenque: Top three worst nights of the trip so far!
Total Mileage: 5,790
Money spent: 6-18: 22, 6-19: 10
Sorry, no pictures this time, the computer I am on has no USB connectors, I will have to find a better one or a WIFI signal tomorrow.
Well, I made it through three tough days of riding through the marsh land and the jungles. I hate riding in the swamps! Argh, and now during rainy season the marsh´s are all flooded, so there is a few inches of water on the ground most everywhere. Standing water too, so it makes for mosquito breeding grounds.
I left palenque rather reluctantly as it was such a relaxing, peaceful place and took off north. It was an uneventful day of riding, mostly flat through the marsh lands out here. It is strange though that they still operate ranches in these conditions. You see cows and horses just standing up to their bellies sometimes in water, just munching on reeds and grass. They don't seem to mind but I imagine the insects must be murder on the poor guys. They are not meant for that type of environment.
Another point on livestock, since I am on the subject, that always makes me laugh is the way that fences are so fluid. Some farmers have them on their property, some don't, they are in widely varying stages of effectiveness using materials from sticks and rope to stainless steel, but I wonder why they even bother since half of the time you see the cows, pigs, goats, horses, sheep, etc just hanging out by the side of the road with a little piece of rope around their necks tied to a bush. They stand out there and graze, some don't even have a rope, they just cruise around. In America, I never saw that, but people here I guess don't worry about the animals wandering off or getting stolen.
At any rate, I was riding north and the biggest event of the day was a lightening strike about 100 yards from me. It was very very hot and I was getting roasted but then the wind picked up and it started sprinkling a little and then I heard a static electricity noise, like crumpling tin foil, and flash! BOOM!!!, the thunder came at the same time as the lightening and it nearly knocked me off of my bike! I have never been that close to a strike before and it was crazy; steam and smoke came off of the ground where it hit and all of the livestock and birds nearby bolted for their lives. It scarred the crap out of me, but it was a pretty neat experience in retrospect. Then I looked at my wet metal bike and started hoping there would be more trees around so that I wasn't the tallest, conducting object in the area. Luckily there were no other strikes close to me and I did not have to experience first hand what a lightening bolt feels like.
I rode on fairly late as I didn't get going until 11 am, and found what I thought was a perfect spot to camp, on an abandoned ranch. It was a big plot of land with a boarded up farm house close to the road. I pedaled behind the house and set up camp out of sight.
I fired up dinner, read a few chapters of my book and then closed my eyes to go to sleep. The breeze picked up which was nice as it stays hot at night here too, and the thunder was booming off in the distance which helped lull me to sleep.
I woke up when the thunder was quite a bit closer and louder and I noticed it had started to sprinkle. So, I got out of the tent, threw the tarp over the bike and then got out my rain fly to put over my tent. My tent is all mesh on top so it is useless at stopping rain, it just comes right through. In the dark, I made what turned out to be a big mistake, I unknowingly put the rain fly on inside out. As soon as I got done putting the fly on, the heavens opened up and it started dumping. Torrents of rain were coming down and so I jumped into my tent to go back to bed. Well, it was not meant to be. My rain fly has a vent on the top that is cleverly designed to let heat out of the tent while keeping the rain out as well, however, when the fly is inside out, it work in reverse. It keeps heat in and acts as a funnel letting rain in drip by drip. Right on to my face.
In retrospect, I should have just put my towel under the drip and slept with my head on the other side of the tent, but I thought it would be better to just bite the bullet, jump out in the pouring rained and turn the rain fly over so that I stayed dry inside. I was covered in a mixture of sweat, bug spray and sunscreen anyway, so the warm rain would be like a little shower too, right? In my minds eye, I pictured the entire process taking less than a minute, with the rain fly flowing like a sheet fresh out of the dryer when you go to make your bed. How horribly wrong I was.
The rain fly is plastic, it is thin but totally waterproof. It was also soaking wet on the outside form the rain that was coming down so hard. When I pulled it off of the tent, it collapsed in on itself into a little ball. Next time you get a grocery bag from the super market, stick it in some water and then pull it out and watch what it does. That is pretty much what I was working with.
So, as I am cursing and fumbling in the dark trying to get the dang fly on correctly, water is pouring into my tent, onto my book, my sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food, etc. It takes me a about 4 minutes to finally get the stupid thing on right and by then there is a good inch of water in my tent. This is horrible. All of my stuff is soaked, and I can't get the water out of the tent. I try pouring it out but I can't get it all. So I get back in my tent, soaking wet, try and get all of my stuff elevated if at all possible, and lay down on a soaking wet sleeping mat in a pool of water and try to sleep. This is pretty much the most hellish way to sleep I can think of. Wet, in water, hot, sweating, water dripping on your face. It was terrible.
I dozed in and out for a few hours and eventually could not take any more. I decided to violate one of my cardinal rules and was going to sleep in a private property without permission. I am against that, even with an abandoned house, on principles sake. Its bad enough I am on someone's property, but to go into their home is unethical in my mind. However, given the circumstances, I didn't have much choice.
I got out of the tent in the pouring rain and looked at this old, abandoned farm house out in the middle of nowhere, lit up by the lightening coming down all over, and thought to myself: if this were a scary movie, this would be the part where I would be yelling at the screen, don't go in there you dummy! But, like the ill fated non staring characters of scary movies, I really had no choice. So I jimmied open the door without damaging anything and carried all of my gear into the house. Jus tot make the night that little bit worse, the tarp had been blown off of my bike as well, and so Artax sat in the rain for several hours, which is really bad. I am already spotting rust spots.
Inside the house I noticed three things immediately. A hammock, a machete, and an empty bottle of whiskey.
Three things went through my mind just as fast.
I have somewhere dry to sleep! (The floor was mud)
Someone else sleeps here too, and packs a machete (although that is very common down here)
And he (or she) is a drinker. (And drank it all! I could have used a slug of whiskey at that point)
There was some food laying around too, which meant that whoever was squatting there had been around recently. I said to hell with it though, as it beat sleeping in a hot, wet tent and hung up all my stuff to dry over the rafters and jumped into the hammock with my knife close at hand (and the machete!) and got a few, restless hours of sleep expecting at any moment for a machete wielding drunk to come in, wanting to sleep in his hammock.
By morning my stuff was semi dry and I took off at sunrise. I made it to Campeche without any further incident, although riding in the heat was tough through the hills around the city. The city itself is very beautiful, with a walled city center that has been here for hundreds of years, suffering pirate attacks until the Spanish finally routed them from the island just off of the coast here they they inhabited. The buildings are great too, running along narrow cobbled streets, and each one is painted in a different pastel color. It is very cool, and I have decided to stay the weekend here. I am a place called the pirate hostel (had to stay there!) and it is about 9 bucks a night, which is great. I will try to update tomorrow with pictures. I hope all is well back home!