Or, how I learnt that’s it’s far better to ride a bicycle than push/drag it along a beach for eight hours… Click here for the whole photo-story.
It had all started so well – thanks to our faithful Guia Roja road atlas, we'd unearthed a lovely dirt road, a touch sandy in places, that fed us out of Celustun towards the fisherman village of Sisal, further up the Yukatan coast.
Twenty five kilometres in, the track opened up onto a powdery white deserted beach, where a few basic and now deserted holiday homes had been built. A perfect spot to cool off in the warm, green-tinged waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and to refresh weary cycling muscles. As we were picnicing, one of the holiday home guardians appeared and to our dismay, informed us we’d have to turn back. The road ahead, clearly marked on our 2010 map, had been washed out by a hurricane twenty years ago - back in 1988. Darn.
But then, after some deliberation and bike inspection, he announced with typical Mexican misguided certainty that the other option would be to wait a few hours for low tide, and simply ride along the beach - which would by then be lovely and firm. Apparently we might have to push for a few kimometres, but no more. So with renewed enthusiasm, we loaded up on rainwater from the well at the lighthouse, and set off, hoping to make it to Sisal by nightfall. Apparently eight russians had completed the trip two years before, so it sounded feasible.
A kilometre in, the track did endeed peeter out, leaving nothing but a bleached, sandy beachfront and gently lapping waves…
So began the ride. Or rather the push. I’m not sure what our guardian had in mind, but even after a couple of hours, the sand was still soft and mushy. Romain’s heavy bike and skinny tyres dug in deep, slowing progress to a shuffle, so he decided to turn back and ride the road to Merida.
With a lighter bike and fatter tyres, I pushed on… After all, isn't this why I decided to go lightweight?
And on… through sunset…
Just occasionally it was rideable, once I’d dropped down the pressure of my tyres. It was hard work though - my water levels were low, and my back was sore from lugging the bike through patches of thick sand. Oh how I cursed… How much longer could it go on for?
Distractions included the array of shells speckling the shore. A few manta rays lurking in the shallow waters. And hundreds of pink flamingos that swooped in over the lagoons that flanked the other side of the beach. As they flew, their long and skinny necks were stretched out taut in perfect flamingo posture. They were a sight to behold, catching the last light of the day, but I was too exhausted to try and take a photo.
Still pushing, into darkness… The water was lapping over my ankles, not ideal for my bike. And only a few sips of precious water left too.
And dawn the next day… I reckon it must have been a good 25 kilometres, of which only a few turned out to be rideable. After sleeping out on the beach for the night, I made it to Sisal the next morning, where I washed down the bike, devoured some mangos, gulped down a few litres of juice, and rode the last 50kms on a blissfully smooth road to Merida and the dorm bed that awaited…
And the name of the storm that knocked out this road? Hurricane Gilbert..