At noon on Sunday March 5th, while cycling near the ruins of Palenque, Mexico, 4/5 men ran out of the jungle and attempted to attack us near the top of a long uphill climb. A car drove by and they all moved to the side of the road, giving us just enough time to accelerate past them to a downhill section where we distanced ourselves from the scene. We hailed the passing car and asked the driver to escort us to the next safe town or village. He agreed and one mile later, a police car passed and we stopped him to ask for help. He told us that he would drive ahead 3 miles to the major tourist attraction of Agua Azul falls, secure the road, and then loop back and forth to make sure that we were safe. He guaranteed that the road ahead was secure.
Two miles later, we were attacked again by two men wearing black masks and carrying machetes. They sprinted out of the jungle and were upon us in only a few seconds making it impossible to escape. We put our hands over our heads as they struck us several times with the blunt sides of their machetes and attempted to tear our pannier bags off the bikes. They were only able to remove two of the bags from Gregg´s bike and over the next minute or so the conflict escalated as their frustration increased. They retreated to the side of the road to dump Gregg´s bags and hide from a passing car.
At that point, we turned around and cycled 300 meters to a family´s roadside hut at the bottom of a hill. We asked them if it was OK if we waited there for help and they agreed. We then asked them if it was safe for us in that location and they said no. A few minutes later several shady characters with hostile looks on their faces appeared out of the jungle near the hut. We were both weary of a third attack and created a road block with our bikes and bodies to stop passing cars and draw attention to ourselves. Though several cars drove around us in the ditch and refused to stop, this tactic did buy us enough time for the police car to return on his loop back to assist us. He tossed our bikes in the back of his truck and escorted us out of the area.
Neither of us were physically harmed during this assault but have both been rattled mentally. We urge all tourists and cyclists to avoid the road from San Cristobol to Agua Azul falls to the ruins of Palenque to the border of Bethel in Guatemala. After our discussions with local police we have learned that attacks on tourists in these areas are now occuring several times per week. Some of the attacks have even involved large tour buses and shuttle vans. We have also received word from two other cyclists who have also been assaulted on this same road in the past 4 weeks. You can read a another account of the current danger of travel in this area on our friend´s site at: spinningsouthward.com
There are many reasons why this might of happened, some political, some cultural, and also a bit of wrong place, wrong time. We may or may not choose to share our thoughts on this at a later time.
Moving forward, we took some time to rest in Palenque Mexico, and are back on the bikes just east of Palenque in Guatemala and will complete this stage of the ride south to Antigua, Guatemala to spend time with our family and friends who are meeting us there for a few days of relaxation.
In an unprecendented gathering of gringos on a high ridge of the mountians leading up to San Crìstobal de las Casas (a city, deep in the most southern state of Mexico, near the Guatemala border), the worlds of three different groups of Pan-American cyclists momentarily collided. We've spent the last seven months passing and getting passed by each of these guys in random spots along our road south, but never before have we all been in the same place at the same time. It was a memorable gathering, where we all enjoyed the company of other riders chasing the same dream.
The Logsdon brothers and their entourage (spinningsouthward.com) are riding from Alaska to Argentina to raise funds for the National Brain Tumor Association.
David (rideforclimate.com) is riding from San Francisco to Argentina to raise awareness of global climate change.
Photographed from left to right: Brooks, Walter, Mike, John, Gregg, Nate, David