Posted by: glenswatman | December 19, 2008

200812-1-MEXICO East coast and Yucatan peninsula


MONDAY 1 DECEMBER 2008  Driving through, Casitas we get lots of people coming
out trying to coax us into their restaurants. 
When Steve and Kevin cycled through no one bothered them at all!  Just after Nautla Bridge (toll P31, £1.55)
we take a detour down a rural road shown on the map to run between the coast
and a lake whilst the main road veers inland. 
The cobbled road improves when it turns to dirt.  This is obviously farming country and it is
interesting to see the fences they use. 
I’m guessing they originally planted saplings to use as posts for the
barbed wire and these have grown into huge rows of trees many of which have
large anthills in their forks.  On the
poorer farms they have used Mexican barbed wire – the big round prickly parts
of the cactus stuck into the ground and overlapping.  Many village homes are made from thin wooden poles stacked either
horizontally or vertically. We see neither the lake nor the ocean but it is a
very interesting drive. Back on the main highway we pass many banana
plantations and fields of sugar cane. 
Just north of Veracruz we turn off to go to Playa Chachalacas.  A section of the road is closed with road
works so we follow the locals on a complicated detour.  I begin writing it down on a scrap of paper
and my line falls of the side and then off the top of a second sheet!  Eventually reach the beach area lined with
restaurants and shops.  It’s pretty
bleak and made worse when we reach the southern end to find the parking area
has piles of black sandy tar piled up. 
Lorries seem to be ferrying the stuff on to the beaches, we think to
fight the erosion problem.  Don’t know
what the long-term plan is but it sure looks ugly at the moment.  We try the northern end of the beach beyond
the village and find just a few homes. 
There is no obvious parking place but a local directs us onto what looks
like an unused garden.  It is a superb
grassy field above the ocean and once parked up we see people sat around a
table nearby.  Steve & Kevin go to
ask if we park overnight and they say yes but want P250 (£12.50) per
motorhome.  They are either having a bit
of a laugh, as this is more expensive than any of the fully service
campgrounds, or they don’t want us here. 
Further back towards town is another garden where the lady is very
pleased to let us both park and wants P25 (£1.25) each.  Our walk around the village doesn’t take
long and doesn’t inspire us.  Still it
is a good overnight stop meaning we can tackle the Veracruz by pass early



TUESDAY 2 DECEMBER – It has rained almost all
night so we are up early but decide to wait until rush hour is over before
leaving.  We’ve heard that Veracruz is
motorhome unfriendly and those who have attempted to drive through it have often
been fined on trumped up charges. It’s easy to get around it on the by pass
(P59, £3 toll) but going is slow as usual. 
At a complicated road junction youths offer to hold the traffic up to
let you cross for a fee.  Going over
numerous railway crossings a man is expecting a tip for standing waving a flag
to say it is clear, doesn’t the fact that he is stood there give us a
clue!  Alvarado is a traditional town
between the lake and the ocean and we hear there are good fish meals at the
Port Authority restaurant.  Driving to
the port is through busy streets but at least we are following a bus so know
there is room.  We can’t find the
restaurant and it is chaos but we do park on the malecon and have a laugh at a
local having his go cart towed by a motorbike. 
The main highway takes us away from the coast and up through the hills
towards the mountains.  There’s a
Soriana supermarket on the edge of San Andres Tuxtla so we make a quick shop
stop.  Another motorhome appears in the
car park.  Peter, Gabi and 3-year-old
Tommy are from Germany and come over regularly, buy a motorhome and tour.  They are going onwards to the same campsite
as us and we agree to share a boat trip tomorrow.  On the edge of town we stop at the Santa Clara cigar factory to
watch them in the making.  Lake Catemaco
is a lovely spot with a very rustic “La Ceiba” camping on the edge.  Had Peter not been parked up we would have
driven right past.  The boat trip is
arranged for 9am and we settle in.  We
hear the beautiful and unusual calls of many birds and feel like we are in the
jungle.  Unfortunately at sunset
hundreds of birds return to nest in the trees beside us and make a terrible
noise for about an hour


130 miles


WEDNESDAY 3 DECEMBER – The noisy night birds
also spend an hour screeching beginning around 5.30am and this wakes us all
up.  After they have stopped it is hard
to get back to sleep over the noise of the regular birds and traffic.  Hector takes us all off on the boat.  Boat trips advertise 12 attractions but most
are very minor things such as the fisherman statue on the Malecon (the same one
you see walking along), a small shrine, a posh house and a run down factory
that used to bottle spring water! 
Another stop is a place where they bottle a powder to mix with water for
mud face packs, P150 (£7.50) for a large jar. 
On the eastern shore of the lake at “Nanciyaga” ( you pay P50 (£2.50) per
person to be guided through the rainforest. 
The guide only speaks Spanish but gives us a sheet in English explaining
the highlights.  We are led through the
forest on a meandering track over a swing bridge above natural springs.  Medicine Man staring Sean Connery was filmed
here.  Visitors can pay extra for mudpack
facials, massages, bathing in the hot springs and spiritual cleansing.  They have a good deal on the overnight stay
at P1000 (£50) for 4 people including treatments and I am quite keen for us to
do it on my birthday but that would be difficult with Whiskey the dog.  Next stop on the tour is Monkey Island where
university students imported a type of baboon to study then realised the
boatmen were taking tourists to the island and feeding them bananas and stuff.  The trip ends after 3-hours.  A very pleasant ride overall and a good
indication of the size of the lake and at P50 (£2.50) pp good value.  Steve & I are ready to leave tomorrow
but Kevin & Ruth would like to stay longer so check out alternatives in the
area.  They walk to the other campground
Hotel Tepetepan and say it is better than this one but the pool is not open and
it is more expensive.  Steve & Kevin
cycle to Hotel Azul where you are supposed to camp but they are initially
reluctant to offer camping and then do so at a high price and are way out of
town.  In the afternoon we walk around
the town, that’s the nice part about camping here as we are near to everything.
The church is very impressive with a Madonna shrine above the altar and nicely
painted walls and ceilings.  Late
afternoon Steve & Kevin go to the local snooker hall and are happy to be
able to play for P2 (£1) hour and drink family sized huge beers for P22
(£1.10), the guy is amazed that they have one each instead of sharing!



THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER – The birds are driving us
crazy so Steve & I walk to Hotel Tepetepan campground to see if it is
quieter.  Leo & Judy, whom we met at
El Tajin, are there along with their friends Don and Gwyn.  We chat over coffee and they say their birds
are also very noisy.  Early afternoon
Leo & Judy arrive in their 4wd and Don & Gwyn in theirs.  They invite Kevin, Ruth and us to join them
for a ride out to the waterfalls. 
“Cascade Salto De Eyipantla” are at the end of a bad road but it turns
out we could actually have driven it carefully in our motorhomes.  Car parking is in a square surrounded by
stalls and with children waiting to pounce on you the minute you step out of
your vehicle.  Manage to make our way
through the mob to the stairs that lead to the falls, P6 (30p).  Descending more than 200 steps we reach a
beautiful waterfall, slightly curved, wide and quite high with an impressive
flow and enough spray to give us a bit of a shower.  They are much better than we were anticipating and well worth the
ride out.  The children continue to
harass us back to the car and even on the road out one has a last try by having
a rope across the road that he raises and asks for payment to drop it to allow
you to cross.  Considering it is not
much more than a piece of string held down by a stone at one end it is no real
threat.  Return for a long happy hour
session outside our motorhomes.  The
others have heard that there is a confirmation ceremony in town at 5pm so we
walk in together.  Market stalls are
selling the mud pack stuff at P70 (£3.50) for the jars that were P150 yesterday
and by the kilo for P30 (£1.50) and Ruth & I decide to share a bag.  In the centre of Catemaco a stage has been
erected where they are piling cases of water and cardboard boxes.  Lots of people are seated obviously waiting
for the main event. Leo goes for a wander and appears on the balcony of the
town hall and waves for us to join him. 
There are a few Mexicans up there but many small balconies so room for
us all.  We have a grandstand view and
feel a bit like royalty, especially when the announcer on stage points up to us
and has the rest of the crowd look up and wave.  Not sure what he is saying but everyone is laughing and seems
friendly.  We have no idea what the
presentation is about but deduce that it is not a confirmation but more like
the hand out of Christmas care type packages. 
As we walk back to our campground the others hear our birds and comment
that their noisy birds are nothing by comparison, had known that we would have
moved there this morning but with only one day left it is not worth it



FRIDAY 5 DECEMBER – It’s my 52nd
birthday and I would have loved a lie in but the birds have not been
notified.  It is also a drizzly dull day
so my ideal of being on a beach in the sun is totally shattered but hey not
having to go to work and not being in and English winter is still a bonus.  Kevin & Ruth come round to wish me a
Happy Birthday, give me a card and a voucher invitation to a gourmet lunch, and
for a 2nd rate back massage, facial with mud mask, pedicure,
manicure and hair styling at my convenience. 
I appreciate a surprising number of birthday text messages, E-mails and
comments on Face book.  Lunch is a tasty
curry followed by an excellent home baked cheesecake.  Unused to drinking much I started with rum and coke, had wine
with lunch and kahlua in my coffee so a brief siesta is in order.  Steve & Kevin can’t resist an afternoon
fix of pool.   



SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER – Making an early start is
not difficult although how we can wake up at 6 and not leave until almost 8am
beats me but the water is slow to fill and they have a gravity defying dump
station!  The free road to Cosoleacaque
is pretty good but even so progress is slow. 
Join the main dual carriageway towards Villahermosa and pass numerous
trucks decorated with “Guadalupe” religious themes and loaded with people.  Our guess is that this is some sort of
pilgrimage as in front of each truck is a runner with a naked flame torch.  We turn off to La Venta the place where some
huge Olmec heads were found in an ancient site.  They also found oil in the same area and this took priority so
they moved the relics to a museum in Villahermosa.  It’s a long slow drive out to the coast with many sections rough
gravel.  The local transport is mainly
“triciclos”, various versions of pedal bikes or motorcycles either towing or
pushing a carriage for passengers. 
Mexicans seem oblivious to rubbish but in this area they have made a bit
of an effort and piled it beside the road out of town.  A great place for bird spotting if you could
stand the smell!  At Sanchez Magallanes
we reach the coast but beach access is difficult.  There’s a restaurant car park just over the bridge, the parking
area and beach are full of rubbish and it’s not great so we continue.  It seems to be a very poor area with most
homes very simple basic shacks.  We seem
to be driving through huge coconut palm plantations with big hills blocking the
beach; even the lagoon on the other side can only be accessed through private
property.    We are a bit disappointed,
as we had envisioned a nice parking spot for a few days. Things get worse when
we see the road ahead has collapsed into the ocean.  There is diversion down a rough track down through the palms and
Steve walks it to make sure we can get through.  Having started the drive a motorcyclist comes towards us and
tells us there is a bigger problem 2 miles further ahead, the road is
completely gone.  We must continue the
diversion then turn around and repeat our weaving through the trees.  Luckily Kevin waited to see how we got
on.  Backtracking is a bit quicker as we
are no longer looking for beach access. 
Bahia de Acapulco restaurant car park that did not look good before now
looks most appealing, especially after 7-hour driving.  The owner says we can stay overnight.  They play music a very high volume but
fortunately close when it gets dark. 
Throughout the night we get a number of cars visiting us with music
blaring then in the early hours the dogs begin barking so not the most restful
spot but safe anyway.   




SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER – The next beach west
involves a couple of kilometres detour to Playa Palebot.  We spot a makeshift sign to “La Playa” and
Steve and Kevin find out that it is access through a farmer’s field.  He says we can park there in the motorhomes
overnight and walk 200 metres over the hill to the beach.  The family come out to look at our strange
vehicles, don’t suppose too many motorhomes pass this way!  Driving through the farmyard is interesting
as “Eduardo” has to open a gate to let us into the cow pen then lock us in
whilst he opens an exit gate.  Kevin
gets through but we are 6” wider than him and a tree branch obstructs us.  Eduardo jumps up to break it but ends up
bouncing a couple of times before it snaps, much to everyone’s amusement.  We take a spot at the far end of the field
near the palm grove leading to the beach. 
Walking along the beach we see no one else at all and cannot understand
why such a nice beach is not more popular. 
Granted there is debris on the beach but we think this is from the
storms.  In the afternoon Eduardo and
his family come to visit us and his son shins up the tree to get us fresh
coconuts.  With his machete he makes it
looks so easy to cut into them and prepare them for drinking.  The cows are unafraid of us and totally
oblivious to our presence but enjoy licking the salt off the motorhomes.  Now if we could sprinkle some all over we
could get the whole van washed.  


P50 (£2.50)


MONDAY 8 DECEMBER – We’ve all had a nice quiet
nights sleep, even if Kevin & Ruth were disturbed at one point with a cow
rubbing up on the bikes at the back of their motorhome.  Steve & I spend the morning on the beach
and find the water is pleasantly warm. 
Unfortunately once I have been in the water the sand flies begin to
attack me so we beat a hasty retreat. 
Eduardo’s sons come over to visit and bring more coconuts.  They hang around wanting to either chat or
just observe us but their English in non-existent and we struggle but they do
seem to enjoy looking inside the motorhome. 
We learn they are called Remigio (11) and Manuel (9) and 2 of 9
children.  Their sisters Maliza and
Alberta also come down.  Think they have
heard we have been giving out small gifts. 
Whiskey helps entertain them by performing a few tricks and then they
watch us playing cards and learn the phrase “pass”. 



TUESDAY 9 DECEMBER – As usual we try to leave
by 8am to give us chance to arrive at our destination by lunchtime and time in
hand for unforeseen delays.  Before we
even get off the farm we have a delay. 
The track is narrow and we have to wind between trees and tree
stumps.  On the two-way radio we warn
Kevin of a narrow bit with a stump but he has the sun in his eyes and misjudges
it.  We get a call to say they have
totally wrecked their doorstep and are stuck. 
Walk back to find that it is no exaggeration and the two-tier step has
been ripped off and is mangled up against the rear tyres.  It seems to have bent back easily but when
Steve & Kevin try to push it back into place it is impossible and they end
up having to take it all off.  Knowing
the resourceful Mexicans there is an outside chance of a repair so Kevin puts
it in the locker.  We return to the main
highway towards Villahermosa but take the free leg, which is a good run.  Head back out to the coast at Paraiso but
have great trouble finding the recommended beach there.  Finally give up, as the signage is poor at
best.  We pick up the road heading east
along the coast but on the outskirts of town encounter a junction with a triple
vertical stop light over the left lane and a seemingly broken light over our
lane.  As soon as we continue a
motorcycle policeman on the opposite side turns around to pull us over.  We tell Kevin & Ruth to keep going but
the policeman indicates for them to pull up ahead.  He speaks no English and we pretend to speak almost no Spanish
but hand him our fake English drivers licence and vehicle documents and
understand he is accusing us of going through a red light.  He jabbers away in Spanish and we present
him with our phrase book but he doesn’t want to book accommodation, catch a
plane or visit the doctor so it is not much use to him.  We point to the phrase “sorry” and hope he
will get frustrated and let us leave.  A
local comes over and seems to be telling the policeman to let us go.  He gets his book and is poised to write a
ticket.  At this point the local
suggests we might want to pay the policeman something.  This was the line we were going down
ourselves but didn’t want to seem to eager to offer a bribe but now seems a
good time and P100 (£5) makes him a happy copper.  Kevin & Ruth, who have pulled up ahead, get off lightly as it
seems our donation covers us all. 
Making a slow and cautious exit through the rest of the town we begin an
enjoyable drive past interesting lagoons and though many small villages.  Here the people seem more prosperous and we
even see some huge new mansions being built. 
It’s amazing how they use such bright and clashing colour combinations
on the outside walls, bright pink with orange and lots of lime green with
electric purple.  Leading up to
Christmas many homes have small shrines set up in their entryway and the
churches have flags outside.  Just
before Chiltepec we turn off at a sign to Playa Belotte and at the end of a 1km
track find an area to the right with parking by palapas beside a closed down
restaurant.  It’s not a brilliant area
but most acceptable in the middle of the afternoon.  Sit out on the beach until sunset.



WEDNESDAY 10 DECEMBER – Drive around the cute
little village of Chiltepec before managing to find the main road out.  Further along the coast The Rough Guide
recommends Playa Azul and this turns out to be an attractive beach at the end
of a main road with a nice grassy area for motorhome parking.  By 9.30am we are settled in our new spot
sitting out looking over the ocean. 
Kevin sets about fixing his step whilst Steve and I go for a walk into
the town.  There’s a large school, a
small public library (with less books than we have) and a couple of shops so
thankfully not a lot to explore, as it is really very hot.  Kevin & Ruth join us for lunch followed
by a card session.  They take Whiskey
for a walk and I intend going for a swim before showering but notice the sky has
suddenly turned very dark and decide to skip the swim part.  I have just got soaped up when it starts to
rain heavily.  Steve has to bring all
our stuff in and shut the windows and do what he can for Kevin & Ruth as
they are not back.  The storm gets much
worse with very strong winds and torrential rain.  Think someone must have forgotten to tell the weather that the
hurricane season finished at the end of November.  Join Kevin & Ruth for evening cards and part of a movie.   



THURSDAY 11 DECEMBER – After a noisy night
with the wind and rain hammering us we get up early.  Steve & Kevin are not keen to drive in this wind so we will
sit the storm out here.  When the rain
stops Kevin & Ruth go for a walk and tell us the school seems closed today,
the children were there yesterday so this is strange.  Later in the day we hear lots of firecrackers going off so maybe
there is some kind of celebration.  Take
the opportunity of fixing up one of the 2 new blinds that we have bought and
then spend the day reading and playing numerous games of cards with our
neighbours.  Talk through a new tour
plan that will put us on a campground in Merida city over Christmas and Cancun
for New Year.  Feels a bit like New Year
already with all the firecrackers going off but they are not a nice type and
just make a terrific single bang like a loud gun shot, Whiskey hates them



FRIDAY 12 DECEMBER – The storm seems to have
passed but it’s not a great day so the consensus of opinion is to drive a bit
further.  I read up that it is a public
holiday today for the “Virgin of Guadalupe” so that explains the rockets and
also the pilgrims that we saw as their banners said Guadalupe.  It seems that celebrations vary from nothing
up to whole villages congregating together for a communal meal.  At the junction with the main Mex 180 we
stop at the Pemex station for gas, water and when we notice they have a proper
dump station we make us of it after having a nice shower.  We are now on the “Ruta Sol Y Playa”, route
of the sun and beaches so right up our street. 
Near Frontera we turn of to Playa Del Bosque, for the first time we are
on the worst level of roads shown on the map. 
It’s a bit bumpy in parts and narrower than normal but we can still make
it through and traverse wetlands with lily ponds and water buffalo.  The beach area is not worth the journey as
we cannot get to what looks to be the best part and the alternatives are not
great.  Entering Campeche state we are
stopped and a nice guard who speaks reasonable English inspects our fridge for
pork, chicken or eggs.  We knew these we
banned so ate them rather than have them confiscated.  Mex 180 is the main highway along the coast and runs between the
ocean and lagoons but also a swampy area with mangroves.  In Atasta we find a nice parking spot for
lunch by the lagoon but it’s a bit early to stop for the night.  An impressive bridge leads us onto Isle Del
Carmen; at least we can see where the P123 (£6.15) toll money goes.  Attempt to drive along the malecon but the
road veers off into the town and looks narrow. 
Luckily we have an escape route around the main square and the added
bonus of seeing the really impressive Christmas decorations that they are just
putting up.  Can’t quite make out
whether it is a gingerbread theme or Disney but all looks beautiful.  Driving around Ciudad Del Carmen in no fun,
even with their interesting roundabout features.  It’s the usual busy city traffic that seems to go on forever with
the added worry of missing a red light! 
We would rather have the little villages with all the topes than this.
Further east we leave Isle Del Carmen over another expensive toll bridge, P121
(£6.05) and check out the free camping we have read about in Isla Aguada.  It’s at the old ferry port but not inviting
and in a very poor area where kids keep calling out wanting money.  The nearby campground is our back up plan
and at P240 (£12) night Steve & Kevin expect great things but are not
impressed.  All the people there are
from Quebec and parked very close together along the shoreline.  We would have to park on a bit of waste
ground at the side.  The price is
totally non-negotiable even if we don’t need electric etc so we decide not to
stay.  It’s a difficult decision as it
is almost 4pm so we head off quickly. 
For the first time in Mexico we drive for miles with a very narrow strip
of land between us and the beach and no possible places to park up.  I even consider asking the military if we
can park in their compound overnight when we reach a check point.  Just as it is starting to get dark we spot a
restaurant on the beach with a big car park.  Viaducto Playa is on the Peninsula El Palmar and the owner says we
are fine to park overnight and safe because they live there.  Other than the fact we are near the road
it’s a nice spot.  So having set off
around 8.30am it is almost 5pm when we park up and still only 154 miles




SATURDAY 13 DECEMBER – We have a restless
nights sleep and wake to a beautiful morning. 
This is a lovely beach area but not an option for another night.  Before we are ready to leave with see 8
motorhomes going past in a caravan, probably the ones we saw in Isla Aguada
campground yesterday.   Unfortunately we
catch up with them in Champoton and have to queue behind them at the gas
station.  Reckon it must take them the
best part of an hour to get through as many have tow cars to tank up as
well.  No one acknowledges us even
though we smile a greeting.  We hope
they are taking the main highway to Campeche, as we want to cruise along the
coast road.  “Tucan Siho-Playa” is an
amazing hotel created by resurrecting an old henequen fiber ranch.  They have wi-fi so we sit outside doing
Internet and manage to get our Christmas messages.  There is a grassy area adjoining the hotel so maybe we could camp
there and use the hotel facilities.  The
receptionist thinks it would be OK but the manager will not be back for a
couple of hours.  We will continue and
phone up later if we haven’t found anything. 
Seybaplaya is a small traditional and interesting fishing village where
the boats have large poles angled out at the front and back of them.  Just beyond the village a local directs us
towards the port at Payucan saying there is a beach around to the right of it.  It is a narrow road but we make it to the
beach area strewn with derelict palapas. 
It’s not looking good until I walk to the end of the road and discover a
disused basketball court behind the ocean. 
With hard standing parking and our own mini beach with a palapa each we
are very happy.  Kevin even manages to
get a feint Internet signal from the port. 
On our right is a loading ramp and mid afternoon a couple of tub boats
arrive and begin to tow the huge platform, complete with cranes, out to
sea.  As to what they are collecting or
delivering we have no idea but suspect the platform is some kind of




SUNDAY 14 DECEMBER – Wake to a perfect day
after a nice quiet night.  Whilst I take
a morning dip Steve has a bit of a snorkel but says it is too cloudy.  A few people come down throughout the day
but it’s pretty quiet.  After watching
an evening movie at Kevin & Ruths we hear loud music.  Steve goes for a walk and realises it is not
from our beach area but sounds more like a disco over the hill.  Unfortunately it goes on until after 1am.



MONDAY 15 DECEMBER – Kevin & Ruth are keen
to move on this afternoon partly due to the noisy disco and fisherman this
morning.  We rather like it here so will
catch up with them in Campeche.  It’s
granddaughter Natasha’s 9th birthday so we walk up the hill to the
port to get phone signal and send her a message.  It is so hot in the afternoon that I keep wandering over to our
private beach for a cooling dip. A few clouds gather late afternoon giving us a
really stunning sunset with the sky on fire. 
Instead of the disco we get a car parked nearby but their music is much
quieter and doesn’t go on so late so we get a good nights sleep.



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