We were supposed to get up early this morning but I don’t do well with 6am wake up calls and apparently neither does Joe. We got ready, packed up and headed down for breakfast at about 9 or 10. It wasn’t a spectacular breakfast but we rarely stop during the day so whatever you get for your first meal should last. From the moment we got up today until we finished paying our check and said goodbye to the front desk folks, it has been drizzling pretty steadily. I want to believe some of our lethargy was hanging around because neither of us was excited about the prospect of starting our riding day soaking wet. We couldn’t wait any longer because our goal for the day is to make it all the way to Veracruz which is about 300 miles (7 hours) with a stop at El Tajin for whatever amount of time we want to spend there.
Rain or no rain, we have got to get out of here but we were really thankful for the covered garage where we could assemble the bikes and prep for leaving while remaining dry. We left the city and it, again, had a totally different feel to it than the previous few times out and about. The streets felt like they changed ambiance like a chameleon to fit the mood of the day and it is as temporary as a passing rain cloud. We encountered a fresh obstacle as the water started streaking across the riding surface. In some of the small towns we pass through, the road maintenance isn’t spectacular which leaves tons of potholes. Normally, this isn’t much more than a slight nuisance as you just weave around them as you make your way down the road. When it rains however these potholes fill up and become puddles that look an awful lot like every other puddle out here. You can ride through one puddle spraying water to either side and follow it up with charging into the next only to have the front wheel hit a pothole that slams the handlebars backwards in a body jarring, nearly-rider-throwing jolt that will make your brain shake.
We have been traveling through areas with decent population but today we seem to be diving deeper into the jungle. It is a very interesting change and I think mostly because I am used to the environments we have previously been riding through, cities, farmland, rural, desert. The entrance into the jungle came on subtly with mountains and mist. Before long it was all around us like it was trying to swallow us just as it had devoured the ancient ruins we were headed towards. If you aren’t paying attention it can be a little unnerving and slightly claustrophobic.
Like almost every other day of our journey we had gotten a bit of a late start so we were pulling into El Tajin at around 3pm. It was a welcome stop as the heat was oppressive. We pulled in to see rows and rows of vendor huts with some occupied and some completely empty. It was quiet and there seemed to be very few people milling about which makes sense as the park closes around 4:30. We were waived over by a few gentlemen that appeared to have their own merchandise cube. They pointed down one of the aisles making us aware of a perfect parking spot right near the only open eatery. We dismounted and exchanged a couple of thank you head nods while a small group collected to admire the bikes. They pointed at various different parts and we locked up what we could on the bikes so we didn’t have to carry as much. We journeyed to the restaurant nearby and perused the plastic wrapped single page menu. I ordered a combination dish with chicken tostada, taco, and rice and beans. Joe ordered a plate of veggies with similar rice and beans. Mine arrived with shrimp and I opted to eat meatless as well. I was happy just to get some food in because I was so hungry and I knew we had some exploring to do. I ordered my first horchata of the trip and enjoyed the familiar taste. We finished in a totally empty dining area and wondered if we might be the only people taking in the sights now. The visitor’s center was the first thing we passed through and with a quick glance we got an idea of the general layout. The ruins of El Tajin start rather small, growing out of the ground like little rock piles but as we progressed further the structures get impressively large. We knew we had to move fast but we wanted to take in as much as possible. This was the first time I had ever visited ruins so they seemed pretty incredible to me but Joe decided about halfway through our visit that we definitely had to stop at Tikal in Guatemala. Honestly, I found a few elements of the landscape that were interesting like the sport courts and the main temple but our time was spent discussing the merits of travel as we have seen them so far.
Joe has done much more adventuring than I but we both recognized the uniqueness of this trip. We were grasping just how far we had come from NC and how much still lay ahead of us. We were slowly breaking down the barriers of culture and language we have built over years of comfort and ease in our home environment. We discussed how we are more and more open to following our whims as we dispel the warnings and fears carried down with us after a billion voices collected to advise us against making such a dangerous trip. We found our way to the very back of the ruins where the largest structure was found and we shot our daily video right there. On our way out we marveled at making it all the way through this entire area without running into more than a couple of other patrons. The park was closing as we geared up and rode out the front gate.
It wasn’t long on the road that we realized we wouldn’t be able to make our goal for the day in Veracruz. We opted instead to stop at a little hotel right on the water called Hotel y Balneario Playa San Pablo. It was a gorgeous place and we were lucky enough to arrive during daylight so we could see the view.
The restaurant downstairs served burgers and drinks which was enough to keep me happy for the night. The TV in the room was showing bad Nicholas Cage movies (Vengeance: A Love Story) but they became so much more with the Spanish overdubbing. We settled in to relax and prepare ourselves because tomorrow is going to be 400 miles to Villahermosa.