Due to the forecast high temperature we breakfasted early and set off in the vehicles to get out of the busy main part of the city. The morning was already warm but also overcast. From Merida we will cycle to the delightful town of Izamal, also known as La Ciudad Amarilla (The Yellow City) due to the colour of its buildings which were painted thus in honour of a visit from Pope John Paul II.
Edgar told us that the road was straight on and we could ride ahead until the first planned stop at 13 km. The road was indeed straight. So much so that the sight of any bend was a source of great excitement. The group quickly split into the fast young ones and the slow and slower oldies. Maree and I kept up an initial average of 21.5 km/h but this was to reduce as the temperature increased and the head winds started.
What can I say about the ride - the most standout feature was the sameness of the 'scenery'. The vegetation barely changed from scraggly bushes to other scraggly shrubs. What was most common however was the rubbish on the side of the road. At one stage as we cycled past some burnt out areas where the undergrowth was missing we could see hundreds if not thousands of glass bottles littering the verges. In other areas there were rubbish bags and loose rubbish scattered everywhere. Even when we passed two municipal tips there was more rubbish cluttering the road side than in the tip. Edgar said that it is a National disgrace but people prefer to dump illegally than to pay to have their rubbish removed legally.
After a couple of stops where some of the riders were clearly starting to suffer from the heat and wind we finally reached our last stop after 50 km covered and with 12 km to go. At this point Maree, and two other riders pulled the pin and hopped into the sag wagon. I can't blame her, the weather was becoming oppressive and she had done well to manage against the headwind. This let me ride at my own pace so I hopped onto the front and rode into the town with Kim the Canadian.
After a pleasant lunch which finished at almost 3pm we finally reached the hotel where I promptly jumped into the pool while Maree showered. This was followed by a tour of the town as in the following words from the brochure: "Izamal was an important worship centre for the ancient Mayas. Here we'll explore the pyramids that were devoted to the gods and take in a 360 degree view across the surrounding town and jungle. We'll also have the opportunity to visit the impressive monastery built by the Spanish colonists in the main square."
The 'keeper' of the pyramid was not too happy when our group arrived at 4:40 to climb the pyramid because it closes at 5pm but Edgar convinced him that closing at 5 meant that he should not let in any more people after 5 but should stay to let us out. Begrudgingly the keeper agreed I think he realised that the day had been too hot for us to come any earlier.
Next day, Wednesday, is also predicted to be 40 degrees so we arranged for an extra early breakfast so that we could leave in the relative cool of the morning. However, the temperature in the morning felt to be about 28 already. The only saving grace was the light cloud cover which took the sting out of the sun each time a cloud passed over it.
The road actually had some variation with a few undulations and more ranches and haciendas than the previous day. Even some of the fences changed from drystone walls to barbed wire. You can see how much I was looking for differences. The small towns were between 10 and 15 km apart which made for logical regrouping points. Today's ride is about 75 km and the last 20 or so involved actual small climbs which Maree would have found challenging at the end of a long hot ride. Once again she made it to the 50 km mark but by then the heat and the never ending headwind did her in.
An interesting feature of Mexican towns are the numbers of police. Small towns that in Victoria would probably not even have a permanent police presence might have 5 or 6 policemen. These guys (mostly men) just seem to sit around and watch the passing parade. We seldom saw anyone doing any active police work. Edgar reckons that there are more than twice the number of police in Mexico City than in New York but Mexico is much poorer than New York.
After a pleasant lunch we arrived at the hotel at about 3 pm and is was not long before all of us were in the pool. Tonight we have a visit to a planetarium where we will be given a sound and light show about Mayan culture and astronomy. After this we will have our only included dinner in the trip. We have had to source our own dinners at all other stops but this hotel is not in a town so we all have to eat here anyway. Since this time of year is top tourist season, instead of visiting Chichen Itza during the afternoon, Edgar has arranged our visit for before sunrise tomorrow. This should be a special treat and I'll tell you about it in the next epistle.