A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: robertpalicka

New Mexico - Arizona

sunny

New Mexico - Arozona

White Sands National Monument. The biggest of its kind. Beautiful white sand dunes
which are not even made of sand. These are only 7000 years old and made of
plaster stone mountains around. The wind erosion transformed these mountains into
these dunes throughout the years. They even move couple of feet a year. And the whiteness
is so blinding you can't even imagine it. Really..

IMG_5218.jpgIMG_5223.jpgIMG_5225.jpgIMG_5243.jpg
White Sands National Monument

Then we headed north up the route Hw.54 towards Carrizozo, where by sheer coincidence we
spotted one of the "historic marker" spots - home town of Billy the Kid. With no hesitation
whatsoever we took a 30ml detour which was definitely worth it. We found ourselves in a typical
western town surrounded by woods and prairies where a guy called William Bonney a.k.a. Billy
the Kid with his gang used to roam at the end of 19th century. The town is infamously known by
the Lincoln County War which lasted between 1878 and 1881 and brought killings and anarchy into
its streets. Nowadays Lincoln town looks pretty much the same as then, locals are even now obliged
to build their houses in the historic theme, so they fit in. We were camping like cowboys that night and
an inexplicable urge to watch the Young Guns movie came upon us. Next morning - sausages and beans
for breakfast - just like the auld cowboys. I'm telling ya. And then we whipped our horses (under the bonnet)
and disappeared in the dust heading west to Arizona.

IMG_5293.jpg
Billy the Kid
IMG_5314.jpg
IMG_5323.jpg
Lincoln town

The nights were getting slightly cooler, mainly up in the mountains. Our thermals had to come out coz at about
5am my Suunto showed reading of 4 degrees. It's a huge difference compering to 30 degrees during the day.
Later on we crossed the Arizona border, clocked few miles on Route 66 heading north to Apache, Navajo and
Hopi reservations. This is vast and dreary country side. Sun, wind and drought. Only those canyons are nice to behold. Sad history meets sad presence. Indians are not what they used to be. Unemployment, vandalism,
high percentage of obesity and diabetes among them doesn't make it any easier in preservation of their identity.
Finally after two weeks we indulged ourselves to a 80km round bike trip. And it was pretty tough one coz it gets super windy high up on the rocky plains.

IMG_5345.jpg

Canyon De Chelly, the home of Navaho Tribe
IMG_5361.jpg
IMG_5419.jpgIMG_5454.jpgIMG_5464.jpgIMG_5488.jpgIMG_5490.jpgPanorama_6.jpg

Then we made it to a place called Page near the Lake Powell, where we dunked our poor bodies into cool water of
this artificially flooded lake. Navy blue water surrounded by nothing but golden-red sandstone rocks. Not a single tree to be seen - very strange scenery. So we camped right on the beach next to bunch of Americans. We chatted, had a couple of beers together, they even helped me out of the sand when i got stuck. A guy brought his massive 4x4 Ford truck (just like the one you see on telly easily driving through other cars) and got me out.
Next day we're at Kat and Jim's place in Page. Following morning we're going for a walk to Antelope Canyon and then we're heading to Monument Valley.

IMG_5508.jpg
IMG_5509.jpg
IMG_5518.jpg

Lake Powell
IMG_5561.jpg
IMG_5582.jpg
IMG_5593.jpg
IMG_5601.jpg
IMG_5615.jpg

Colorado River, Horseshoe bend
IMG_5636.jpg

Posted by robertpalicka 12:45 Archived in USA Comments (0)

TEXAS

Brownsville, Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe NP

sunny

We have demoted ourselves from bike-tourists to mere tourists. After 5 days in Bronwnsville and huge disappointment while crossing the US border we finally came to a conclusion. We're buying a car. The plan is to travel through the proposed route and at the end once we get to New Jersey we want to sell it. We'll drive throgh the "empty spaces", we'll do few days' bike trips and couple of hiking trips as well. It's gonna be just fine. Btw. I have to admit when driving through Texas I realized how tough this would be had we ridden our bikes here. Nearly 700ml with no shadows, no rivers, with average town-to-town distances around 70ml. I'd rather ride up the mountais and forests than this.

texas_plate.jpg
IMG_4817.jpg
IMG_4838.jpg
Texas is a flat land, few canyons and hundreds of oil rigs

It's crazy weather season, very strong winds and storms every evening.

IMG_4845.jpg
burka_nad_..Mexikom.jpg
vstup_do_j..Carsbad.jpg
Calsbad caverns
Carlbad_Caverns.jpg

There's a "big room" on the very bottom of this cave which would fit 6 football pitches, so they say. We gotta pay an entry fee in every national park, of course. We had a plan to climb up the highest mountain in Texas - Guadalupe Peak 8749ft (2667m) which was few miles to the south-west but unfortunately the entire park was temporarely closed due to huge fire in the area. Instead we hiked through the McKittrick canyon.

El_Capinan.jpg
Photo El Capitan in Texas (the other and more popular one is in Yosemite, California)
IMG_5113.jpgIMG_5083.jpg
McKittrick canyon
yield.jpg

We're going north-west today to The Wite Sands National Monument and soon enough we'll be riding our bikes again. At least for a little while.
Talk later

Posted by robertpalicka 12:34 Archived in USA Comments (0)

mexico ( veracruz, tamaulipas), USA (texas)

veracruz, san fernando, matamoros, brownsville

sunny 40 °C

After three nights in Monte Pio we more or less recovered and continued on our journey. Relaxing ride along the coast, up and down we were passing small fishing villages, just harvested sugar cane fields and men loading their trucks with tones of water melons. We could have eaten and taken as many as we possibly could but who would take an extra burden on a bike trip? We took one anyway and hauled it for two days some 130km. Basically to Veracruz. We met an Argentinian family which has been travelling for a year now heading to Alaska. This is how we met: we stopped in a supermarket for a food and these guys spotted us and they were captivated by our flag. We were not aware of that and had no idea we were watched at the time. They were driving an old Iveco van so they caught up with us after 10km or so. We stopped for a chat and agreed to camp together providing that they will find a suitable camp site within 10km range. Exactly 9.6km later I pulled over
to look around to see if I can find a space for our tent. Suddenly there's our Argentinian friend Mateo waving at us from his camp site. We took a dunk in the swampy lagoon, local kids gathered around asking all sorts of questions. They even brought some freshly caught fish for dinner, we got few bottles of beer out and we talked and talked...
The usual stuff in the morning: fixing puncture, took few shots, exchanged our contact detail and said farewell.

IMG_4570.jpg
sugar cane
IMG_4578.jpg
Santore family from Argentina

The next day, some 50km away we found another abandoned hotel right on the coast. Just as we were about to settle down, a truck pulled over. The driver was so kind and took us further 60km to the suburbs of Veracruz. It was dark already so we crashed right by a petrol station. It was open non-stop and besides security, we were provided with the luxury of toilet and a shower (garden hose). What a day! We woke up quite early in the morning. It was foggy while we rode to the city centre not knowing what's gonna happen or where we would stay. Anna didn't feel 100% well either. "Couchsurfing" is great anyway. For example, we're chilling out in the port and this guy walks by and says: "Hi, my name is Dahab." I pause for a sec: "The Dahab?" I ask and he goes: "Yes, it's me." How is this possible? We didn't even contact him beforehand and he offered us his airconditioned apartment. I repeat: air-conditioned!
So we got all our gear onto his truck and drove to his place, where we ended up staying for a week! The airconditioning was a gift, much appreciated by anyone from central Europe (Slovakia). It's been a while since we had to cover ourselves with blankets during the night. My wife got a little bit sick (she still coughs btw.), I was treating a minor fungal infection on my toes (from those bloody bike shoes). We also celebrated my wife's 30's birthday in salsa club. This was a serious relax for us indeed.
One night we went wandering through the streets, had a couple of drinks (margarita, pinacolada, tequila). We walked into Italian restaurant where we met the owner - very nice lady. So we chatted, had another shot of tequila on the house and off we went.
Other night I was watching some documentary about Arnold Swartzeneger "pumping iron". I didn't know he had won mister olympia 6 times, did you?
Dahab was a great host. One evening while watching a movie "Once" we shared few nice memories from the streets of dublin. We also spent a nice time with his father and the rest of the family having delicious breakfast and excellent local coffee. Dahab's mother invited us to her place (on mexican mother's day) where we had wonderful traditional dish called "mole" which is chicken with chocolate-chili sauce.
He's heading over the big pond to Europe in few days for a 2 months trip so I was helping him with flight tickets. He was quite pleased with Ryanair prices.
This goes to all our friend in Europe: look after my friend Dahab well!
Hey, have you heard a story about discovery of an ancient Maya town at the bottom of one cenote which was preserved in a giant air bubble? The divers who actually discovered iot had to use 3 oxygen tanks each just to get down there. How could ancient Mayans get there? Weired but true story.

IMG_4723.jpg
Dahab, our couchsurf from Veracruz
542339_101..76766_n.jpg

In the morning Dahab drove us about 70km out of the city and dropped us by the Quiahuiztlan ruins from where the locals could spot Cortes (the pirate) for the first time before the colonisation. After another two days' ride along the coast we stopped a truck driver and asked him whether he was heading north and whether he would give us a lift. And he did.
We ended up some 250km further down the road, just pass the town of Tampico, where wegot off in the middle of the night somewhereby the suburban hostel. It was some kind of "ero" hostel with loads of erotic contraptions... It was fun and well organised. As soon as I parked our bikes in the garage, the land lady locked it up and escorted us upstairs to our room full of mirrors, airconditioning and erotic TV program on. Frankly speaking, we had a good night's sleep. Ladies knew very well we were stray sheep as they watched me drying up the tent and sleeping bags in the garden.
Next day we continued north. Somehow we were drawn to that direction. The countryside is gradually changing into prairie which I know from the western movies. I feel astonished as i catch myself daydreaming while i listen to Waits and Cohen... But ride is not that relaxing as it seems. The villages are few and far between, shortage of drinking water and scorching sun make us think... What next? Again, like every night, we're looking for a suitable camp site in the litte village and we're lucky coz we are invited to a dinner table and we can sleep over on the bed and take a provisory shower and use the latrine. These were seriously poor people. Their kids were gorgeous and of course very inquisitive.
On the previous day we had passed tropic of cancer, leaving tropical zone behind and frankly speaking we could certainly feel that. I don't have to wipe the sweat off my face that often and every now and then i can feel a fresh cool breeze in my hair but this only happens when we go fast. And the sun is still hot like hell and burns like the stove in our home back in Vapenik (Slovakia).
Photos

IMG_4755.jpg
Anna is meditating
IMG_4750.jpg
...cooking....
IMG_4724.jpg
Quiahuiztlan ruins
IMG_4739.jpg
IMG_4744.jpg
Heading north
IMG_4758.jpg
IMG_4761.jpg
With the family
IMG_4763.jpg
There was one more territorial chicken there and she wanted her bed back

We're through another 80km stretch of emptiness, not a single village in sight, no water, no shadow or presence of any human being, just a military check point at the end, patrolling everything on its way north to the states. Trucks, cars even our bags were searched. One mercifull soldier promissed us to stop some vehicle and ask for a lift on our behalf. So we got further 40km thanks to a lovely lady who dropped us off right by the cheepest hotel in the middle of San Fernanda. It was clean and cozy though, with 100 TV channels (including some english ones). We're chiling amongst three fans, sipping on the bottle of rum with cola. There's a bag of ice in the sink and my head is spinning... You know what I mean. A good soundtrack in the background, starry heaven above us, drink in one hand and cigarette ine the other. The magic moment when you drift away, when joy overshadows the pain, when dreams are more powerful than the reality, when morning comes
with great expectations but you wake up back in the real world. This journey is spectacular anyway. We'll forget about the bad things coz the good stuff will be remembered forever.

IMG_4789.jpg
Rum (Ron)
IMG_4786.jpg
Nowhere to hide
IMG_4765.jpg
Chain change

In about day and the half on 20th of may (sunday) wi find ourselves on the border. Nothing happened on Mexican side, we spoke to nobody, no questions were asked. We simply left the country. On the other side though, it was diferent story altogether. Huge disappointment. Instead of 6 months we only got 3 months (90days) visa. Whis means that everything is changing. Our only chance of visa extension is to cross the border and re-apply again. But another border crossing is not in our plan so I think about overstaying another 3 months illegaly but this is strongly rejected by my wife. This is our 3rd day in the states and we're still stuck in the same spot - Brownsville. After thinking our options through we've decided to buy a cheep car and hopefully we'll be able to sell it when we get to New Jersey. On the other hand, this kind of travelling can still be fun and convinient at the same time. We will be able to "fly" through the boring and bleak places and
cycle through the interesting ones. Of course we're bit disappointed but that's life. We had chinese for luch yesterday and there was a paper message saying: "sudden change in your plan will lead you to a happy end..."

Posted by robertpalicka 08:38 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Mexico ( chiapas, veracruz) photos

lint to photo gallery. click here

Posted by robertpalicka 18:59 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Mexico ( chiapas, veracruz)

guatemala border, palenque, san christobal de las casas, tuxtla gutierrez, coatzacoalcos, catemaco, veracruz

sunny 35 °C

Have you heard about the Guatemala "milk snake"? This one looks for breastfeeding mothers, sneaks up on them at night and suckles on their breast. While doing that, he puts his tail into babies mouth to prevent them from crying. Mother who suddenly wakes up can do nothing but let them finish the job... or I don't know what would happen... I forgot...
We left Buanascosas' hospitality after 3 days. We loaded our bikes on the minibus early in the morning and got a ride to the Mexican border at Chiapas. From a cyclist's point of view I couldn't blame myself for this kind of cheat coz the quality of the road was appalling. 120km of dust and stone. No asphalt. We saved at least 2 days but what an adventure it was! Blasting down this road at 80km/h I was hanging out the door with half of my body sticking out coz i basically couldn't fit in. I spotted 4 crocodiles along the way. At the border we got onto the lancha (ferry) and in 20 minutes we were back in Mexico. Immigration officer wanted an entrance fee again but we won't pay them anymore.

IMG_3876.jpg

through the guatemala-mexico border by the river

First night at Chiapas. We camped by the church on the football pitch in some small village. We were falling to sleep to the tunes of christian band and gospel quotes. What a divine lullaby. In the middle of the night we were woken up by this terrifying roar from the jungle around us. Anna thought of jaguars but I said "no way". It must have been some sort of monkeys or something. The next day was fun to ride. The roads were merciful, more or less flat with few downhills and it resembled our beloved Slovakia. I caught myself daydreaming that there would be a village around the bend and I would treat myself to a pint or two. But the reality was different. Never ending jungle and these weird monkeys in it. I was listening to the Czech music band "Buty" all that day and finally after nearly 100km leg (the first one that long) we wanted to pitch our tent by the river where we met Nicolas with the family. He says it's dangerous around here (meaning people) and offers "mi casa es su casa". Thank you very much. Time for a short dunk in the river and soon we're in his house. Another beautiful night in our hammocks. Nicolas' family was great and made us feel like at home. We even cranked our Spanish bit more. Btw, I was right about those voices from the jungle, they were about 3-foot tall monkeys, apparently quite friendly creatures but listening to the sound they made I wouldn't be so sure. It was lovely evening though. Morning coffee, short view of the ranch and soon we're on our way to Palenque where we eventually got a chance to see some of the nicest Maya ruins ever. They are still only heaps of old stones to me. What makes me more excited is Cascadas de Aqua Azul where i booked two nights in the hotel for 200 pesos (our first paid overnight stay). Here in Palenque we're sorting out the cash, a phone call to Slovak embassy and internet. It was much more fun to pay 90 pesos and travel 60km up that bloody hill in minibus. Don't worry, we'll be sweating again around San Cristobal.... So far we clocked nearly 1100km and lost few pounds as well. Yesterday i put on the trousers for the first time since we flew in and guess what, I had to tighten my belt one extra hole... I'm indulging myself with coffee, chocolate, coca cola... well, one can't be too serious about loosing weight. Got to fix my sandal, thanks to my mates in KN company back in Dublin for sorting me out with cable ties.

IMG_3911.jpg

nikolas famyl

IMG_3958.jpg

palenque ruins

IMG_4038.jpg

caskadas de agua azul

IMG_4052.jpg

Next morning we got to climb a massive hill, it was raining and the humidity was brutal. One broken spoke, five punctures, I'm frustrated so I'm asking this local boy to give us a ride in his pick up truck for next 25km. Next day we arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas (altitude 2200m). Lovely town, looks like in Europe. Full of nice places, pubs and tons of European tourists. Becko (a friend of mine) would love it here. We're spending a night in "warm shower" guy's place and heading out to Textula-Guiterrez (altitude 570m). What a downhill! We managed to fly through 50km stretch in hour and half with max speed 55km/h, respect. For the first time we didn't have sore legs that night but instead our arms and wrists were killing us!

IMG_4205.jpg
downhill from san cristobal to tuxtla gutierrez

We spent two nights in Russell's place, got to use his washing machine, cooked layered potatoes and chilled with his friends sipping on two bottles of whiskey till 5am.

IMG_4212.jpg
russell

We had another 250km ahead of us to Bay of Mexico across the state of Veracruz so after 90km we sattled down at Chiapas by the Malpaso Lake.

IMG_4287.jpg

It was mainly down hill that day but it was so windy that we had to slow down to around 25km/h to be stabile and safe. It was a gorgeous sunrise next morning, so calm, the lake so peaceful. I had a coffee and a yoga session. Adios Chiapas. I'm so looking forward to the flat land and salty water in the Bay of Mexico but I have to admit we were bit disappointed as we rode through the industrial town of Coatzacoalcos.
Every third citizen was dressed in Pemex petroleum magnate uniform and i have to say the coffee they make in any gas station is really good.
Got a couchsurf accommodation in local kindergarten. The guys also own English-Mexican primary and high school. The street food was amazing and then even more so a good quality sleep in the air-conditioned kindergarten.

IMG_4394.jpg

Few days on and we are leaving town of Acayucal. It's late afternoon and we're on a look out for a camp site.. Suddenly there's a car pulling over and the driver's talking to Anna. A moment later, the lady from the car (a teacher) is handing over the keys to her house and drives off to sleep over at her friend's house. Clean towels, fresh fruit and fridge packed with cold drinks all ready for us! So we're having Corona beer, watching some Mexican telenovel, the fan is blowing cool air at us as we're having a lazy one. It's hard to believe but these magical things happen just when least expected but needed the most. In the morning I have to change a broken spoke and a punctured tube. But now i'm in trouble coz i used my last spare tube the day before and even though this is half a million city, it's a problem to find a correct size (700x35c). After a quick phone call to Pavel (bike mechanic) in Dublin I'm advised to get a 700x23c tube (bikers know what I'm talking about) but with a warning it won't last too long... And sure it didn't. The tube blew up after 15km. And here's a local guy coming to help us (owner of the restaurant where we got stuck). We jump into his car and set off to find a bike shop. This time I want a schrader valve and I also need to convert inches to centimetres to be sure about the size. Last thing to do is to drill a bigger hole through the rim and we're sorted.
Next time I come across some decent bike shop I definitely gonna buy substantial supplies of tubes and spokes coz I was too naive to bring only 3 spokes, 2 of which are used already.

IMG_4365.jpg
with osbelia in front of her house

foIMG_4381.jpg
30km before catemaco

Odometer says 1700km, still 1300km to come in Mexico alone. We're resting by the Catemoco lagoon under the San Martin Tuxtle volcano in real Mexican style holiday resort. I have to say that Mexicans are really a nation of litter, most definitely these ones from Catemaco. For example the beach warden raked all the rubbish from the beach where we stayed, piled it up and then set it on fire. Just like that. Garbage on streets, in the water, along the roads, dumps on fire everywhere. Throwing litter from the buses is second nature.
We're leaving this place bypassing the volcano and the countryside is changing dramatically. Once again it feels like at home. Our throats are bit sore, possibly from that icy cold water we keep drinking. In the evening we find a great spot - a abandoned hotel built on 100m high cliff with beautiful views, a fresh water well and a private beach. Completely naked we stay here for next two nights.
Anna doesn't feel good. Cup of tea and paracetamol should sort her out. I do my usual: listen to the music, check out the map, fix bikes, swim in the sea and take few pictures like this one: 7cm spider with a scull on his back

IMG_4472.jpg

We spotted a wild monkey quite close up above us. Anna got scared but i was hoping it would get even closer for a good shot. There are dolphins in the water and those birds that Flintstones in the famous cartoon movie used as toilet.

IMG_4459.jpg
IMG_4488.jpg
IMG_4482.jpg

On the way down to the Catemaco lagoon I lost my sandal - the good one. I only have my bike shoes now. Screen on my phone is not working so i learnt to press 3 times "menu", 3 times "down" and 2 times "menu" so that I can listen to Leonard Cohen. 4 times "down" is for Pearl Jam, 4 times "down" is Radiohead and 5 times "down" is for The Beatles. We need to go shopping soon. We both need sandals, I need new runners and I must not forget those tubes and spokes. Next day we only make 10km down the coast to a God forgotten place called Montepio. It's a small village where I can clearly imagine we could spend the whole winter here. We stay only two nights. Anna feels bit better since she's on 3-day antibiotic. Now I feel I'm giving in myself. We're camping only 300m from the beach but I have to stay in my sleeping bag and get busy sweating. Like I didn't sweat enough on the bike. Meanwhile we both suffer from Montezuma's revenge but couldn't resist to buy a cow cheese in a local store (front porch of the house). It's only 30 pesos for half a kilo. Montezuma's revenge or not, we need to have some proper food. Boiled potatoes, salad an two kinds of cheese. Yummy. There's a shortage of eggs in Slovakia at the moment nut not here. You'll get 5 eggs for 50 cents. And you can still buy single cigarettes so we got two. This place is cool. It's small and peaceful. Right in the middle of the beach there's a small enough river flowing to the sea, which is great when you finish swimming in the waves, you just get out through the river's fresh water and there's no need for the shower since the salt is all washed away.
We found some nice accommodation with the porch and washing machine. We're chilling out listening to The Beatles playing from the pot and drinking 1.21 Sol beer. Unfortunately we have no playing cards so instead we play "guess what I'm thinking about". Anna only things about dumplings and other Slovak floury meals. I don't think about anything in particular.
The decision is made in the morning: We're staying one more day.
That's all from us for now.
to be continued...

(translated by Thomas)

Posted by robertpalicka 17:45 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 12) Page [1] 2 3 »