Mexico – Tonina, Agua Azul, Palenque

My last night in San Cristobal happened to land on Vera’s birthday. I’ve run into Vera in 4 cities now but unfortunately I won’t see her again as she’s staying put to study Spanish. Torben and I picked up a piñata for Vera and stuffed it full with candy. The next morning Sam decapitated the piñata and used it as his new riding helmet.

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Before heading out of town, I had to help myself to more of the delicious 2.5 peso ($0.20 USD) tacos. Yum!

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Sam, Justin, and I decided to ride together for a few days. We had grand plans with lots of mileage but as it turned out we made very little distance, changed our route, and had tons of fun. Until now I had been riding alone and it was so much fun to ride with other motorcyclists. It was so magical to see their bikes winding around the twisty mountain roads!

The first stop was the ruins of Tonina. These unpopular ruins were awesome as we were the only tourists at the sight. We found some cheap camping near by as well. Here’s a shot of the beautiful valley and an abstract shot of the jungle vine.

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Singing the Indiana Jones theme song we ventured into pitch black passageways using our camera flashes occasionally to light the way. On the right are the local drunks archeologists who are unearthing an artifact. They weren’t happy to have their picture taken.

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It’s believed that Tonina brought down the powerful civilization of Palenque. The Palenque king was decapitated at the top of the pyramid. Here’s Sam summoning the gods from atop the giant structure.

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WARNING: The following content is graphic and some readers may be disturbed… I certainly was! I had to pee in the middle of the night but I didn’t want to leave my tent because it was raining and unfortunately I didn’t have a pee bottle with me. My NEMO tent has a small zipper along the side that gives access to the air beams. Quite cleverly, I moved close, unzipped the zipper and began peeing out the side of the tent. “Genius!” I thought. Moments later I had a stinging feeling. “I’m probably rubbing against the zipper” I said to myself. The stinging increased and I finished peeing. I rolled over and pulled up my boxers but the stinging was getting worse. I quickly struggled to find my headlamp and turned it on to see more than a dozen red fire ants on my private parts. AHHHHH! I desperately cleaned them all away with my sock. In the end I had about 15 bites and a stinging pain that lasted all night. I couldn’t sleep just thinking about having to go into town in the middle of the night to find a doctor if this thing swelled up… It turned out to be OK and 4 days later the bites are almost gone. I’ll save you from a photo of the wound but here’s a shot of all the fire ants swarmed around the tent’s zipper the next morning. Justin and Sam had a good laugh when I told them what happened. Thanks guys…

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Leaving Tonina we ran into Vince again. By coincidence we stopped in front of a military training camp. This officer came by to tell us we had to move our bikes. We complied, but first we needed a photo. This guy owns a Honda Goldwing too!

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Once on the road we had a great time riding as a pack and weaving in and out of traffic. The guys showed me a new trick to wheelie over the topes (speed bumps) that allows the bike to remain at high speeds comfortably. We cruised the afternoon away until we reached Agua Azul. A beautiful tourist trap waterfall in the jungle.

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A dip in the river was a great cool down.

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Downstream we found a camping spot.

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It gets dark around 6pm and after dinner and a few games of gin-rummy it was still too early to head to bed so we played around with our headlamps and made some light painting photos. 

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The next morning we set sail for the ancient Mayan ruins of Palenque. Not more than 10 miles down the road, Sam got a flat tire. A few hundred meters later we pulled over to a tiny town to fix the flat. Sam doesn’t have a center stand so we went looking for something to support his bike. We found some cinderblocks behind a house and used them even though they began to crumble under the weight of the bike. They build houses out of this junk?

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Popping the bead.

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Sam and Justin (a.k.a. cuteboots – ya, it’s an inside joke) inflating the tire as a few local kids watch on. Rather than be in school, they just seem to run around the road all day long…

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The patch was successful and 90 minutes later we were back on the road for Palenque. Before heading to the campground we stopped in town at the grocery store to pick up some supplies. I noticed this kid placing cardboard over car windshields to block the sun. When the owner returned he would argue for a tip – and quite often he was successful. Who needs school when your making money… Although, I might try this when I return home for a few extra bucks on the weekends.

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Back at the campsite, I put my Micatech cup holders to good use.

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Sam is 6 feet 5 inches tall. He bought a tent at Wal-Mart that’s not quite big enough for him… Sam also had his muffler die a few hundred miles back. He went to a muffler shop and got this sweet custom made unit. His bike now sounds like it has a V8 engine. BRAAAAAPPPPP!!!!

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Sam placed his order for breakfast and the lady behind the counter says “What’s your name.” “Sam” he says. “Did you say ‘Sam’?” she replied. “Yes, Sam.” She then writes down his name on the ticket as S-E-M-E-N. We all share a laugh at the table when she calls his name a few minutes later. “Semen – omelet.”

The Palenque ruins were beautiful but overrun with tourists. We discussed how we would attack the ruins by coming in over the mountains if we were invading hundreds of years ago.

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Sam getting his Indiana Jones on.

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Ball court.

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Amazing jungle tree.

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At night the howler monkeys are in full tune. I swear it sounded like there was a Tyrannosaurus-Rex in the woods. And of course, what trip would be complete without an impromptu acoustic motorcycle song by a friendly traveler at the campground.

The next morning we all set off in different directions. I had a great time riding with Sam and Justin and I hope our paths cross again. I left town heading north for the colonial beachside town of Campeche. The roads are flat so far here in the peninsula and I already long for the mountain twisties. The military presence has increased in the states of Chiapas and Campeche too and I’ve been stopped at many checkpoints but they’ve all gone smooth so far (knock on wood).

I’ll do a loop of the peninsula before I meet up with Charles near the Belize border just before Christmas.

Stay tuned.

Categories: Mexico | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Mexico – Tonina, Agua Azul, Palenque

  1. Who has the powered air pump and an outlet? Is that on a KLR? Come on now, that’s not the KLR, go anywhere, weld that fucker, spirit! Those sort of things belong with your BMw man, with his GPS and HID lighting system. Not your KLR man with his headlamp for a headlight.

    I’ve done more than 20’000 miles so far and for the first time ever, today, I’m riding with a passenger for a few days. It definitely makes the coffeetime conversations a little more interesting than me talking to my cigarettes! I rode with a few bikers in Canada but it was a short ride. There’s something very special about a few bikes together. I’m looking forward to meeting some other riders on the road.

    Keep ze rubber side down amigo.

    • Benny

      Haha, yes I brought the air compressor and it was heaven. For $30 it was a great investment! Ive been riding without the GPS the last few days and have come to enjoy the simplicity and adventure as well! Have fun riding and maybe I’ll run into down the road!

  2. For some reason my browser doesn’t display this page correctly…That said,

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