21 Nov Adrenaline Junkies: Bike, hike and kayak 400km through the Mexican jungle during Salva Lacandona
Adrenaline Junkies: This part of our blog offers you our stories of adventure in Central and South America, whose countries are famous for outdoor sports and incredibly beautiful nature. A paradise for adrenaline junkies and people who enjoy the outdoors. We write about snowboarding down volcanoes, paragliding over mountain lakes, diving barrier reefs, alpine climbing, cloud forest hiking, birdwatching, white water rafting and crossing famous mountain ranges and remote jungle on a mountainbike. We aim to open many of these destinations to travellers like you. Enjoy the read!
The Lacandona jungle (selva) area in Mexico is a beautiful gem hidden in the jungle of Chiapas, close to the Guatemalan border in the south of Mexico. This part of the country is known for its autonomous villages that run independently from Mexican government. Applying separate law, visitors need permission to enter any of the villages in Lacandona territory. For being so remote and difficult to enter, many of them have not been visited by outsiders a lot. In recent years, a wish emerged from the Lacandona villages to be more open to sustainable ecotourism and welcome Mexican visitors as well as foreign visitors in their midst. In 2011, for the first time in history the 5-day mountainbike race Salva Lacandona was organised with the mission to help opening this part of Mexico to sustainable ecotourism.
How we got to participate
Salva Lacandona opened its subscriptions in the early summer of 2012, ready to accept 20 pairs of riders or 40 mountainbikers in total. We heard from Salva Lacandona’s existence from our friend Christopher Garcia, who owns hotel baXar, the place we worked during the summer of 2012. An extra rounds of permission was needed to request entry to the villages for two non-Mexicans. After the permission came, end of october, we subscribed and paid the (reduced) entry fee. We were lucky enough to be able to use the reduction Chris had obtained on his participation price. During the event Steven has made lots of pictures and with this blogpost, we hope to inspire like-minded adventure bikers point their attention to this beautiful part of the world to ride your bike and go on a real expedition during Salva Lacandona 2013.
The expedition itself – day 1 to 5
Starting point of Salva Lacandona was Ocosingo, about 100km from San Cristobal in the direction of Palenque, where we were picked up by the Salva Lacandona vans who transported us, our gear and bikes to the start in Ocosingo. The city counsel of Ocosingo welcomed us to the area and from a podium the start signal was released to let us go. Many people in Ocosingo guided our exit towards the first stop in Rancho Alegre with applause. A long expedition day followed, meandering through lush flatland, climbing short distances and crossing the first independent autonomous Lacandona villages. In those villages many of the people saw foreigners for the first time, I am sure. We were awaited by many lined up along the streets leading to Rancho Alegre. Finally arrived in Rancho Alegre after a long day on the bike and more than 1100 altitude meters covered, we were welcomed by local children singing for us. A cold stream next to the campsite offered a long awaited relieve for the tired legs and muscles. A special traditional Maya ceremony was performed for us after dinner and showed traditional use of medicine and prayer the Maya still know how to practice.
The second day led us from Rancho Alegre to Laguna Miramar. A very hot day of ascending and descending 1,000 altitude meters through lush Mexican jungle filled with single tracks and dirt roads led us to the take off point for a 3km jungle hike to the lagoon. Early in the second day, Steven fell during a descent hurting his face, elbows, collarbone and back. After spending 1,5 hours in the ambulance and being checked out, he got back on the bike to ride up with me slowly towards the take off point to Miramar. We showered and swam in the river before taking up the long hike to Laguna Miramar. We arrived in the dark under a brightly lit sky full of stars. It is the most beautiful lake we have ever seen and so remote, few people get to visit it. You can pitch your tent here and sleep under the stars. We had dinner, swam in the lagoon and went to bed. The next morning early we packed up our gear to hike back to the starting off point.
On the morning of day three inflatable kayaks were awaiting us for the second stretch of the day, descending 30km on the river. Many of the boats did not arrive in time, because we left too late (15.00pm) to get 30km down the river. A wooden long-tail boat picked us and the kayaks up after about 20km on the river and we were transported to the drop off point to get on the bikes for the last stretch. Only a few bikers dared to get on the bike at 18.00 pitch dark to cover the steep last part of the trail. Bikes had to be carried on the back for about 4km. Knowing this and considering Steve’s injuries, we politely skipped this part of the last stretch of day three. We arrived to beautiful Las Nubes waterfall where our tents were pitched ready for a good night sleep.
The queen stretch of Salva Lacandona awaited us on day four, a 67km stretch from Las Nubes to Lagos de Montebello. Covering more than 2,000 altitude meters, this was a day for those who love climbing. Really, no flat part in that ride! For the both of us a heavy day we finished on our own power. Only 12 bikers out of 40 finished this day without using the services of the vans for a break. It was truly something that makes you aware of your power. If you think you cannot go further. You can. I finished this day crying. Out of pain, adrenaline and pride. What a feat!
The last day of the expedition led us on bikes another 78km from Lagos de Montebello to the city of Comitán. On route we visited a community called el Naranjo, where we were welcomed with great food and drinks and the group played soccer with kids of Naranjo. A great and respectful encounter that was. We loved it both! The ride continued towards Comitán with a lot of wind. Many of us rode in breaking lines avoiding the wind. A last and excruciating climb awaiting us to enter Comitán after which we could finish on the Zócalo and hug everyone who had fulfilled this expedition.
We have made many new friends during this expedition, both organising team and riders. It was one of our most beautiful experiences of Mexico we had in 2012. We would encourage anyone who loves adventure and rides bike frequently to check it out in 2013. It is just truly amazing. Biking through such a remote and beautiful part of Mexico while connecting to local people in villages you never thought you would visit.
More information: www.salvalacandona.net.
Check out some pictures below: