MÉRIDA SOUTH BY BIKE ON CALLE 42
Leaving Mérida and heading south by bicycle we have found the quietest route, not necessarily the fastest, taking
you through an assortment of interesting neighborhoods. Even from the north of the city you can be out past the
“periferico” or rim route overpass in less than an hour poking along at a leisurely pace. There are only five stop lights
the entire length of calle 42, but scores of “topes”, speed bumps, which we easily glide over on our slow moving bikes.
Calle 42 may not be an interesting trip by car but by bicycle neat shopping places like this simple little sidewalk shop
will conveniently fill your traveling needs.
One hour of biking will take you out of the city and two more hours to Acanceh or Tecoh. Convenient return
transportation is no problem with folding bicycles from any of the cities you see on the above map. The optional (red)
routes are all on quiet roads.
This is a very historical map reproduced from a British Admiralty chart dating 1840. It was used by John L. Stephens
on his epic expedition of exploration when he and his partner Catherwood journeyed across Yucatán visiting the
Mayan ruins and making priceless sketches of the peninsula. The classic book Stephens wrote, Incidents of Travel in
Yucatan is still in print and we consider it one of our all-time favorites and a must read.
This 1840 chart was three hundred years after the Spanish conquest and just a few years before the catastrophic
Caste War broke out. John L. Stephens’s route is overdrawn in blue and the bold print names represent places
where they made sketches. One very significant thing to be noted from the above chart is the conspicuous lack of
highways and designated roads.
Remember that this was the beginning of the industrial revolution and steam power had not yet reached Yucatán.
Another interesting thing of note is the fact that the very straight roads in use at that time were built by the ancient
Maya and were still in use by the Spanish who wrecked the smooth paved surfaces with their wheeled carts.
Well, believe it or not Jane and I were amazed as we made this bike tour that our excursion took us on the exact
same route as John L. Stephens took one hundred and seventy years earlier. We rode the now paved ancient
Mayan sacbe roads where the neatly cut side stones are still visible after countless centuries of use.
Here in John L. Stephens own words from his epic book; Incidents of Travel in Yucatan is an excerpt describing his
departure from Mérida and journey south, the exact same road that Jane and I had bicycled;
Pages 65, 66, 67, 68; subject 1842 trip to Tekoh 8 leagues from Mérida.
It was our intention to resume our exploration at Uxmal, the point where we were interrupted by the illness of
Mr. Catherwood. We had received intelligence, however, of the ruins of Mayapan, an ancient city which had
never been visited, about eight leagues from Mérida, and but a few leagues aside from our road, by the
haciendas, to Uxmal. The account which we could obtain were meager, and it was represented as completely
in ruins; but, in fulfillment of our purpose we at that time entertained going to every place of which we heard
any account whatever, we determined to visit this on our way to Uxmal. It was for Mayapan therefore, that we
were now setting out.
Our saddles, Bridles, holsters, and pistols, being entirely different from the mountings of horsemen in that
country, attracted all eyes as we rode through the streets. A friend accompanying us beyond the suburbs,
and put us into a straight road, which led, without turning, to the end of the days journey. Instead of the
ominous warnings we were accustom to in Central America, his parting words were, that there was no
danger of robbers, or any other interruptions.
…I would remark that no map of Yucatan at all to be depended on has ever been published…
At a distance of a league we passed a fine cattle hacienda, and at twenty minutes past one reached Timucui,
(on modern maps spelled Timucuy), a small village five leagues from Mérida. The village consisted of a few
Indian huts, built around a large open square, and on one side was a shed for a casa real. It had no church or
cura, and already we experienced a difficulty which we did not expect to encounter so soon. The population
consisted entirely of Indians, who in general throughout the country speak nothing but Maya; there was not a
white man in the place, nor anyone who could speak in any tongue that we could comprehend. Fortunately, a
muleteer from the interior, on his way to Mérida, had stopped to bait his mules under the shade of a large
tree, and was swinging in a hammock in the casa real. He was surprised at our undertaking along a journey
into the interior, seeing that we were brought to a stand at the first village from the capitol; but, finding us
somewhat rational in other respects, he assisted us in procuring ramon leaves and water for our horses. His
life had been passed in driving mules from a region of country called the Sierra, to the capitol; but he had
heard strange stories about foreign countries, and, among others, that in El Norte a man could earn a dollar a
day by his labor; but he was comforted when he learned that a real in his country was worth more to him
than a dollar would be in ours; and as he interrupted to his nearly naked companions, crouching in the
shade, nothing touched them so nearly as the idea of cold and frost, and spending a great portion of a day’s
earnings for fuel to keep from freezing.
At three o’clock we left the hamlet, and at a little after four we saw the towers of the church of Tekoh. (On
recent maps spelled Tecoh)
In the following captioned photos you will visit those haciendas and interesting seldom visited towns that we biked
through following the route of Stephens and Catherwood.
Our first stop 5 kilometers south of the periferico is the silent little Tahdzibihén park
Haciendas and ranchos along our way are quietly reminding us of this area’s history.
The straight old Mayan sacbe road beds are still functional and used to this day and as you can see there is a
conspicuous lack of motor vehicles. The city noise is left behind.
This is biker’s paradise with almost no traffic and absolutely no stop lights.
These little road side chapels are a remnant of the days of the Caste War when the Maya broke away from Spanish
domination and salvaged what was left of their ancient traditional religions and commingled it with Catholicism. For
more on the Cult of the Holy Cross, visit our blog: Coba to Valladolid
Speaking of spin-off commingled religions this house is adorned with just about every possibility to fend off evil
spirits. With three types of Mayan crosses, the green, triple and stone they even have the Zionist star and for good
measure the political party logo to boot! Check out the no frills 15 amp electrical service entrance next to the door.
This tranquil little town of Tekik de Regil seems to be waiting for something to happen but little of consequence will
take place until eleven o’clock when this molino opens to crank out hot tortillas for the mid-day meal. Yucatecan
dogs do not sleep in the sun.
From the heyday of the henequen era in 1908 when Yucatan was awash in money for the privileged few this
decadent hacienda church was put up in this poverty stricken little town. The architect that was brought in for this
job also did the main concert hall in downtown Mérida.
This is the business end of the hacienda where the machinery that processed the raw product of henequen into sisal
rope needed in the WWI war effort rained in untold wealth.
We are out in the country here at the silent diminutive town of Timucuy about six kilometers from our original planned
destination of Acanceh or Tecoh. We are very flexible on these out-of-town pleasure trips and only influenced by the
wind direction and heat of the day. Well, the temperature was lovely but the wind was on the nose so we naturally did
what was necessary and slowed down. The net result was that when our predetermined turn around time came at ten
AM this is where we were.
After leaving Mérida it is a welcome relief to come to a place that is so laid-back that the only noise comes from
chirping birds. Being bicyclers we naturally enjoy places with no pushy-shovey traffic or smoky-noisy motorized
vehicles. After Mérida these nearly vehicle free towns are almost shockingly quiet.
In front of the Timucuy church and across from the central town plaza Jane and I enjoy our morning iced coffee
under the shade a kind old tree situated in the middle of the boulevard. This is just wonderful and well worth the
When our coffee was finished the Mérida bus pulled into the plaza, we boarded and 30 minutes later we
disembarked in downtown Mérida. We were home for lunch completing a 40 kilometer bike ride and a spirited bus
trip back. (The TV in the bus didn’t work.) back to more BicycleYucatan