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Maya Calle — The Burger Bar

Up early and out the door on Friday, 6 July, with a 70 kilometer bicycle ride to Playa del Carmen awaiting me, and the knowledge that the furthest in my life that I have ever ridden is 40 kilometers.   The tunnels are the worst.  Trucks roar by like jet planes, and the shoulder of the road disappears.  Once free of the two short tunnels, the ride is merely a matter of: pedal, pedal, pedal and don´t stop, never ever stop.  There´s quite a bit of traffic, which is to be expected, but I have water enough.  I left before breakfast, so about 55 kilometers into the ride, I was starving, and there were no places to eat along the way.  And then, just then, there was a Mexican miracle: The Burger Bar.

It just so happens that the manager of the Burger Bar, Isaac, is a bicyclist, and he comes out to speak.  He recommends the hearty 150 gram burger with fries, followed by a dessert of banana bread, pan de platana.

La Isla de Cozumel, where I am typing from now, is a beautiful island.  Its beaches are of white sand or rock — smooth stone floors — and it is a hub for cruise ships, whose passengers come for the snorkling, diving, and day trips.  The cruise ships seem to be a source of consternation to the islanders.  A lady named Susan, a Mexican who studied in London and who lived in Copenhagen for eight years, griped that the cruise ships have caused the decline of the island. “The passengers never stay,” she said sourly.  “They are gone by 5 o´clock.  They take, and then they go.”  She was, for the record, equally critical about the local Mexicans — her own people, “Cozumel is the safest place in Mexico.  But be careful, or your bike will disappear.”

But the island is awesome.  It is beautiful, and most of the people are laid-back, relaxed, and they seem to know that a life is to be enjoyed.  They take delight in their days.  They are a friendly people, the Mexican people, and they seem full of love and laughter.

Also, the old Volkswagon Bugs are ubiquitous here, which makes sense.  Their small size makes them easy to park, and their engines will never be strained on the flat island roads.  The VW Bugs come with license plates in the front that depict a sailfish and say the name of the state, Quintana Roo.  Most also have a sticker or two — a Superman sticker, perhaps, or Bienviendos — stuck on the inside of the windshield.  They are brightly colored, and remind me of pictures that I´ve seen of Havana.

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Maya Calle: Cancun — Yo ho ho!

The bike and I arrived, and I put it back together.

All went well during the flight to Cancún.  In the airport, a tall lean man with a beard and thick black cotton socks was cursing volubly to himself.  Filthy, noisy curses as he scrolled through his iPad.  He then sat directly behind me on the flight from Tallahassee to Atlanta.  The curser was polite during the flight, on which he ordered two bloody marys that seemed to soothe him.

The hotel in Cancún had separate signs in Spanish and English that advised guests to respect opossums, describing them as “Mexico´s only marsupial” and continuing on to say that a marsupial was “an animal that carried its young in a pouch like a kangaroo.”  

No clubbing, a dinner of lime-soaked ceviche and a beer, bed at 9:30 after continued reading of Ty´s book, Aku-Aku: The Mysteries of Easter Island, which is enthralling, and an early start at 6:00.

Many thanks to my mom and dad for their help in making this adventure a reality!  Thanks!

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Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!  It’s America’s independence day today, which commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.  Today I am in a small town, Bainbridge, in southwestern Georgia celebrating the holiday with my parents and watching the fireworks from a grassy field between a gas station and a grain silo.  In 2011, I was in the national capitol, Washington DC, with my fiance.  Tomorrow, I will be at the first stage of a jaunt across the Yucatan.

Happy 4th of July to you all, and I hope that you each have a safe, fun, and memorable holiday.  Enjoy!  🙂

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Maya Calle – Packing

Bicycling across the Yucatan is not a big expedition, but it seems that way.  Keeping in mind such famous explorers as Thor Heyerdahl — who crossed the Pacific to Easter Island in a Greenland trawler with 130 tons of oil, 50 tons of water, and 3 archaeologists on a stretch of ocean more desolate than any other in the world — a jaunt across the Yucatan is an easy feat.  And think of Roald Amundsen, the famous Antarctic explorer, who not only wintered through the bitter Antarctic July with 5 other Polar Party members, but also raced (and won) to the South Pole more than a hundred years ago in 1911, passing, as he sledded, chasms so deep and black that they appeared bottomless, and crossing through such areas as the Devil’s Ballroom.

Biking across the Yucatan is a drop in the ocean compared to such magnificent explorations.  Still, as the packing list grows longer, and the planning becomes more nuanced, the number of questions tends to mount rather than diminish.  Furthermore, these questions seem to become ever more knotty and the answers more difficult to reach.  To ship the bike across the Gulf, for instance, you must use a bike box.  Well and good.  But how to ship the bike home?  Where to get a bike box, because if the bike shop in Cancun doesn’t have one, where can one be procured?  Can one leave a bike box with the accommodations for a 3 week duration and, if so, what happens if it is accidentally thrown away or destroyed?  How will the bike come home again?  What if passport theft occurs?  What if an injury occurs?  Disease?

Preparation, preparation, preparation — toilet paper, tools, and photocopies of the passport go a long ways, but not all the way, and in the end one must wave goodbye with a cheery smile and begin the journey knowing that not all contingencies can ever be fully accounted for.  Yet while there are circumstances which are as yet unforeseen, I am excited to move from the tedious planning stage, in which I was impatient, and on to the ride itself.

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Maya Calle – Itinerary

Maya Calle – Itinerary

 

Point of Origin Destination Distance (km) Day
Bainbridge Cancun 5 July
Cancun Playa del Carmen 70 6 July
Playa del Carmen Playa del Carmen 0 7 July
Playa del Carmen Island of Cozumel Ferry ride to island 8 July
Cozumel Cozumel Ferry ride to peninsula 9 July
Playa del Carmen Akumal 24 10 July
Akumal Tulum 39 11 July
Tulum Sian Ka’an Biosfere 10 each way 12 July
Tulum Tulum 0 13 July
Tulum Chemax 74 14 July
Chemax Valladolid 29 15 July
Valladolid Chichen Itza 53 16 July
Chichen Itza Kantunil 57 17 July
Kantunil Merida 70 18 July
Merida Merida 0 19 July
Merida Tekit 71 20 July
Tekit Santa Elena (Uxmal) 45 21 July
Santa Elena Hopelchen 73 22 July
Hopelchen Campeche (Edzna) 89 23 July
Campeche Campeche 0 24 July
Campeche Cancun 476 (Bus) 25 July
Cancun Bainbridge 26 July
    Total: 714km / 443 mi  

 

Comparable distance: Washington, D.C. to Boston, MA: 443 miles.

Bainbridge to Charlotte (I-77): 432 miles.

Bainbridge to West Palm Beach: 456 miles.

Bainbridge to Memphis: 487 miles.

Long Beach to San Francisco: 405 miles.

Nocera Inferiore, Italy to Parma: 680 km

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Maya Calle – Cycling the Yucatan

How hard can it be?  Bicycling is not rocket science.

Voy!
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Afghanistan Photos

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For two and a half years, I worked in northern Afghanistan.  I was in the field of Education, and I was a contractor for The World Bank.

When I had spare time, I liked to take photos of the country.  Near to where I lived, there were orchards and rivers.  The foothills of the Hindu Kush lay along the southern side of the city.  Donkeys and camels were still used.

These photographs were taken between June of 2008 and December of 2010 when the war was on.  The photographs show a domestic perspective of Afghan lifestyles, working animals, agricultural scenes, and landscapes.