Monday the 18th:
First day, we wake up 4:30 am, departure from Lille at 5:30 am for a flight at 10:26 am from Brussels to Cancun. Everything is ready, the bags containing all our equipment are filled, weighed and wrapped. Our bicycles are folded up and attached to the trunk of the car. The previous day’s rehearsals allow us to leave without stress.
A slight doubt arises when the Belgian radio announces that we must count forty minutes more before reaching the terminal, or rather the pier to respect the Walloon term. Finally we reach the airport on time and pass through customs and the oversized baggage counters without any problems.
By an incredible coincidence, we meet, in the line of the boarding, two young French people, Xavier and Julie taking the direction of Mexico with the same objectives of us: to reach Canada and the great lakes by bike! We make an appointment directly on landing to find out more about each other’s plans.
The flight turned out to be much more difficult than expected. Alexandre, accompanied by two children on his row, will have the honour of being the referee of the repeated fights between these two electric batteries. Edouard is forced to lean his head on the front seat to avoid being compressed between two passengers. They do not hesitate to test if the file is not more pleasant for their common neighbour. Thankfully, once the Atlantic Ocean has been partially crossed, a magnificent spectacle is on the horizon. We fly over the Caribbean then Cuba in a blue and clear sky:
Landing on time at 15:50 on the tarmac of Cancun Airport after a series of loops in the air made by the pilot while waiting for our turn to arrive. An opportunity for us to discover in preview what is waiting for us around Cancun. Once we get off the plane, we immediately leave in search of our luggage and bicycles. Search facilitated by the alarm of the treadmill that started ringing at your head. The cause? Our boxes having failed to pass the first entrance bend in the hall. The pressure is rising rapidly among the 300 passengers before Xavier makes us understand the situation. After customs, it is now time to get back on the bikes, find some drinking water and attack the first 20 kilometres to the hostel.
A real attraction for Mexicans, the preparation of our two wheels will take us more than an hour and a half. Edouard took the opportunity to rediscover his automatisms in Spanish by quickly talking to all the curious people who dared to get a little closer.
As soon as we pass the last door, the frame is installed. Threatening sky, heavy traffic, dusty road. The purchase of the three bottles of Evian, the last French touch, marks the beginning of this incredible journey for which we have committed ourselves.
We quickly take the measure and we find a way between people and cars stopped along all the roads. The stifling temperature combined with a humidity level of nearly 85% make acclimatization abrupt and stressful. Two fears at a crossroads force us to quickly integrate the Mexican highway code: lights placed after the intersection, no priority to the one on the roundabout… On the other hand, once these rules are well understood, the Mexicans are very respectful and willing to leave us room to move.
At 7pm, we reach the hostel sweatering, almost 24 hours after we get up. The last test was to find this barely lit shelter. Behind the protection grid, we discover four Mexicans staring at us before asking ourselves what we want and where we come from. “Estamos franceses” sounded like a password. Smiles appeared on the lips and the discussion began.
Once the belongings have been removed from our bikes, we discover the 9 square metre room which will serve as a refuge for the next four nights. We decide to bring our bicycles into the room while we take the temperature of the place. We have only one idea in mind, to sleep. However, it is only 8pm and we have to regain our strength! Le Chester, a restaurant that claims to be Italian, located on Google Maps, will be our first culinary test. We lacked courage and originality on this one. Two pizzas at 250 pesos each will get the better of us.
When we return, the Mexicans are outraged when they learn about the restaurant we have chosen and the price paid. “50 pesos each maximum!” We take note for our next attempts and return to our room for a well-deserved rest.
Tuesday the 19th:
First morning in Mexico. Despite our exhausting journey, our internal clock triggers us to wake up very early. At 6am, we start working before breakfast in stifling heat, but we have to adapt. The organization of the next few days, the search for entrepreneurs and the precise layout of our itinerary motivate us. However, Alexander’s stomach is the reason for this craze and pushes us to go in search of our first tacos and plenty of drinking water. We go to one of the many OXXO supermarkets and find our happiness: 5L canister and tacos made in front of our eyes.
The afternoon starts off on the right foot, we have a lot to do! Our itinerary, precisely traced and placed in time, as well as three responses from entrepreneurs, bring this research session to a close. We decide to take advantage of the last sunrays to discover the city of Cancun and to take some pictures. The main market seems to be the perfect place for this. The tranquility and discretion required for our break will be of short duration. To our great surprise, we are the only tourists a week before the Spring Break in Cancun and it shows!
Each merchant, most of whom are asleep in their chairs, wakes up with a jump and uses all the energy he has just recovered to try to get us into his enclosure. Maracas, carved wooden parts, tequilla everything is there. Seeing that we are not receptive, they quickly decide to offer us other much less legal products. It’s time to leave! A fresh corona ends this first walk.
Our interview proposals were successful! Three entrepreneurs have answered positively and others are still waiting, the motivation is there.
A Mexican always present on the common patio and chatting with the slightest passer-by, invites us to come and eat with him in the evening to show us the city’s real good deals. We accept without hesitation! After a little half an hour of discussion, we decided to call him El Don Cabron for his gift of repeating the word “Cabron” over and over again. This man is a real showman, he manages to negotiate the price of our meal with the waitress by reducing it by almost half! Proud of himself, he decided to continue his act by ordering the spiciest sauce in the house. “Don’t taste it!” advises the waitress to Edward. El Don Cabron sprinkles all his tacos with this red sauce and bites with his teeth. His head instantly changes color and his eyes get wet. Despite the drops dripping on his cheeks, he looks for the waitress, smiling at her mouth, and shouting “The sauce isn’t spicy!”. It would seem that a man’s value can be measured by his ability to withstand a spicy sauce. We are still beginners on this point.
To close his show, he invites us to taste a dessert, which, according to him, is the best known in Mexico: Las Marquesitas. A puff pastry filled with Dutch cheese that can be covered with nutella. Nothing exceptional but at the very least original!
Filled and tired, we quickly go home to bed to regain our strength because the next day we already have our first interview!
Wednesday the 20th:
We wake up quickly and motivated! The work for which we crossed the Atlantic begins. We take the bicycles out of the room to prepare them for their first real outing, without the luggage though. 20 km from the meeting point. Traffic density is confirmed when we leave the city and then take a long straight road. Upon our arrival, we must pass the control in order to enter a private residence of 20 hectares in the middle of the nature where the houses hide behind a thick greenery. Corinne welcomes us to her grounds, which include her house and the three buildings she has converted into a guest room. She gives us an enriching testimony and gives us our first answers to the questions with which we left France. Her 25 years of experience in this country, starting as a diving instructor, then as head of her own diving company and finally as a host, is fascinating and told by a passionate woman. Before we leave, she presents us with her latest passion, parrots! She takes them into her home after having collected them, often in poor health. The whole region now knows it for that too.
What a meeting! Let’s hope they’re all equally successful.
Enthusiastic as we leave this first meeting, we take some pictures in the middle of the nature, surrounded by these colors that we want to capture.
The return to Cancun is quickly made on our bicycles which we have now tamed well. We pass by many garages offering to repair air conditioning systems and we understand why! Fortunately, the wind created by our movement cools us down enough to last the distance. So we must not stop.
The end of the day is calm and busy in our room. Only one taco comes to disrupt our work and sound the death knell for this Wednesday.
Thursday the 21th:
Corinne met the day before also informed us about the places to see near Cancun and further on our journey. We follow his advice and head for Isla Blanca, a beach north of Cancun along a peninsula. This time again we travel light, which allows us to reach our goal quickly. The last houses in Cancun then give way, over a distance of ten kilometres, to gigantic hotels & spas. Most of them are still under construction, and offer 300 rooms spread over an average of 10 floors. Fortunately, the beach we are aiming for is further away, not yet served by these 6-lane roads. A sandy path leads us to a small taco restaurant with some deckchairs and parasols. We ask the guards to keep an eye on our bikes and continue on foot to an isolated kitesurfing club on the tip.
The presentation made by the owner of the parrots was not misleading! A white sandy beach stretching as far as the eye can see stands in front of us. We decide to stop on a thin strip of sand bordered on both sides by the ocean. A few seconds later we are in the water.
It’s time to test our drone! Completely novices in this field, we still try to film Ushuaia style shots. The result is not so bad but it is mainly due to the performance of today’s tools.
Intrigued by all the sails of surf kites, we want to take a closer look at all this. A swampy area allows practitioners to slide on perfectly flat water while taking advantage of the gusts of wind that pass over the sandy strip and remain high up.
The little cook we met on the way next to our bicycles stayed in our minds, we go to his shelter and order Corona with enchiladas, a real holiday taste…
The return makes us feel the bites of the sun on our skin. Despite our protections, we know that we will have this first exposure for some time. We go once again to the square, near the hostel, to eat another discovery. The inhabitants of the district are all gathered there. A dance show is even organized and makes the atmosphere cheerful. Fatigue and jet lag remains can still be felt. We enjoy a last ice cream to refresh ourselves and enjoy our last evening in Cancun.
Friday the 22th:
This morning is a real race against time. Our goal? Leave early enough to limit sun exposure during critical hours. All our belongings are correctly distributed between the bags and everything is fixed on our bicycles. First real long-distance test, about 80 km from Playa del Carmen, our next stop. Having learned the lessons of the past days, we make the effort to cover ourselves completely or risk ending the day severely burned. The residents of the hostel all turn around and give us questioning and dazzled looks. They end up wishing us good luck for our day which promises to be hot, very hot.
The first part of our route runs along the peninsula parallel to the city of Cancun. Despite the 15km detour to see this part, we want to go through this piece of land to discover the touristic Cancun. The result is there! Greener than life lawns, giant golf courses, immaculate white hotels… A whole staging that has the advantage of selling dreams to those who are just passing through and not leaving this idyllic perimeter. Lucky as we have been since the beginning of the trip, the wind is once again in our nose, slowing us down, it is true, but also offering a slight refreshment. Signs announcing all kinds of animals that can cross the road, whether crocodiles, snakes or even felines, surround the roadway. We quickly reach the end of this peninsula and join the road along the coast.
This second part of the journey is another matter. The sun at its peak, the air made difficult to breathe by the many vehicles and our protective shell empty our energy reserves. Our water reserves are depleted in a flash as we take breaks every 10 km. A stop to recharge the batteries is required after 50km. We take this opportunity to regain our lucidity, which has been put to a tough test. Having received confirmation from our landlord for our drop-off point in Playa del Carmen, the last part seems much easier! It must be said that a swimming pool is promised to us upon arrival. The last 30 kilometers pass by and we cross the door of our second shelter at 4pm.
A well-deserved and very pleasant shower precedes a meal cooked by Edouard: pasta in quantity, sausages and tomato sauce. The beginning of digestion is fatal, we almost fall asleep on our chairs at the end of the meal. Swimming is postponed until the next day, it is time to recharge the batteries.
Saturday the 24th:
We wake up gently, the legs numb, a feeling of warmth already stifling but the sleep was heavy and restorative. As soon as we wake up, we are obsessed with one single idea: swimming! No more excuses not to make an opinion on this freshly dug swimming pool in the middle of these houses, most of which are still being finished. Hundreds of identical houses are being built in the district, we are aware of the transformation that Playa del Carmen is undergoing. The fastest growing city in the world.
The fresh water has the gift of giving us the energy we need to attack this busy Saturday. We share the tasks and work both on the implementation of our website with the new information collected but also the photos.
Before heading downtown to interview the two entrepreneurs we are meeting, Edouard cooks a refreshing salad made with local produce. He is himself surprised by the result.
At 3pm, we get back in the saddle empty, with just enough to take notes and pictures. The lightness of our bicycles motivates us and makes us smile on our faces. A quarter of an hour is enough for us to reach the meeting point. We stroll through the market bordering the fill before arriving at Maxime’s door. This French entrepreneur, passionate about scuba diving, juggling, poker and baking, takes us up to his apartment. The best way to do an interview in the open air is to do it. Placed on the roof, we start the conversation with the sunset and the view of the ocean.
Maxime and his Quebec girlfriend, whom we also had the pleasure of meeting, offered to accompany them for the first juggling performance in Mexico. We are therefore heading for the beach where many dance and music shows are already taking place. As soon as the French stick ignites, the eyes turn and a circle is formed. Applause rang out and Maxime’s hat filled at the end of the 5 minutes of effort. A successful first!
It’s time for us to pick up our bikes and head for the Coq Express restaurant where Mathias is waiting for us. The latter opened his restaurant 18 days before this interview. The theme? Create a small corner of France inside Playa del Carmen. Burger baguettes, men’s crunch and croissants are served in a blue-white red space. We do not miss to test some dishes from his menu and we have the good surprise to receive a pancake for dessert. Enough to make a short break in our expatriation.
Sunday the 24th:
On the last day of this first week, our internal clock finally seems to have settled. Alexandre, who is more interested in extended mornings, is expected by Edouard who gets up with the sun. We decide to follow the rhythm of the previous day. However, before our bath, Edouard felt the need to stretch his legs and go buy breakfast. Breakfast in bed… what a chance for his partner who no longer has a choice and must open his eyes. The pool has a boost effect again, if only we could replicate that all along our journey!
This time we are starting the study and synthesis of the interviews we have collected so far as well as the downloading of the photos. We don’t see time passing and we already have to prepare the meal and leave for the south of Playa del Carmen. Arianne, a Quebec entrepreneur, gave us an appointment to present her experience in Mexico. The country she chose to flee Quebec, her native land, during the very cold winters. Being both a tour guide on her own account and a waitress in the “Los Tabernacos” bar, she passes the baton on to the owner of this restaurant whom we then interview. Philippe, also from Quebec, gives us details about his journey and his restaurant and then offers us a taste of traditional Quebec poutine. Once again, we cannot resist temptation, driven by Alexander’s ogre appetite.
We then try to get to the beaches before nightfall has completely fallen but we can’t find any access that isn’t black or private. On the way back, we were stopped by two salesmen placed behind a counter in the colours of France with the sign: “Francophones”. They recognized us thanks to the publication of Corinne, the first entrepreneur we met, on the French facebook group in Mexico. We discuss the must-see places in the region.
We then return to our accommodation to prepare our things because we have to leave early the next day!