Posted by: glenswatman | January 16, 2009

200901-1-MEXICO Yucatan peninsula



THURSDAY 1 JANUARY 2009 – It is 9am and we are chatting to Carmen getting ready to leave when
a taxi rolls up.  One of the Finish girls
is unconscious in the front seat.  We
manage to rouse her and get her to produce enough money from out of her bra to
pay the taxi drive.  Carmen says she got
a phone call a few hours ago from a guy in a car with the two girls asking
where they lived.  The person themselves
sounded drunk so Carmen suggested he put them in a taxi back.  It has taken until now for a taxi to show up
but with only one of them, apparently the other has gone off with a man.  Guess they must have had a good time but for
girls aged 29 and 40 we are a bit surprised at them leaving themselves so
vulnerable although it now makes us less surprised by the story that one of
them was mugged in Cuba a few days ago. 
Kevin & Ruth want to see the hotel zone so we set off that way and
see a few bars still open with customers. 
Further south there is only one road and it runs near the coast so you
would expect beach access roads.  This is
not the case as it is full of huge luxury resorts with security at the
gate.  Just north of Playa del Carmen
Kevin has found us a Couchsurfing host in Sacbe.  This is a small ecological community
inland.  People buy plots of land and
build their own homes, using lots of natural materials, and have solar and wind
power.  It is all in the jungle and the
access roads are narrow with lots of trees so it’s an interesting drive in to
say the least.  At one stage Ruth is up
on the ladder watching the clearance as Kevin drives below low branches.  Surprisingly we make it to the far end to
find the “white house”.  Lynn Earle was
born in England, raised in Canada then moved here a few years ago.  She takes us for a walk around, explains the
development and shows us some of the cenotes. 
Due to the limestone here Yucatan has no above ground rivers but a
honeycomb of these underground springs, rivers and caves.  There are many access points; Lynn even has a
small one in her garden.  We have all had
little sleep so afternoon siestas are the order of the day. 




FRIDAY 2 JANUARY – Lynn has an open invitation for morning coffee and there we meet Tom
& Joanne who are in the process of building a tree house here.  “Flower Bill” and his wife Jacqui have almost
completed their home but have just built an extension that is being used by his
sister Phemie.  We are invited to look
around and love the extension where glass bottles have been embedded sideways
in the concrete to create colourful windows with others inset with the necks
sticking out to create hangers.  Their
bedroom has a double bed that hangs by rope from the ceiling.  Tom & Jacque’s place is the tree house
with room sections in different trees linked by skywalks.  Most people have built of wood and instead of
windows have a fly screen large opening and a low thatched roof to keep most of
the rain out.  Next-door is a huge
concrete monstrosity whose owners are in dispute with someone in the community
so it has been left to go to ruin.  Tom
shows us some smaller cenotes and one has stalagmites that look like the New
York skyline.  Early afternoon we set off
in a car convoy to the beach.  Most
people here have dogs and the nearest good beach that allows them is Xpu-Ha
(Pronounced Ish Poo Ha).  Traffic is bad
and made worse by the military checkpoint, road works and an accident.  Beach access is restricted but in this area
you can pay to park at a campground or restaurant.  They enter at X7 Bonanza, P25 (£1.25) pp per
day.  RV camping here is P150 (£7.50) and
security tell us there is room for 2 motorhomes but we would love to know where
as it is difficult to park 2 cars.  It is
a pleasant bay but very busy.  Kevin,
Steve & I decide to walk around to check out the camping options.  There’s a huge abandoned hotel nearby but
access to their car park is security controlled and they want P100 (£5) per
motorhome per night to park outside their gates leaving us a long walk to the
beach.  Walking around the hotel it seems
odd that no one has resurrected it as it was obviously very nice in its time
and doesn’t look beyond repair.   Not
sure whether this is one of the hurricane/insurance jobs or a money laundering
affair – another Mexican mystery. 
Further along the beach there is another campground north of Bonanza
where we see Dean & Pinar’s motorhome and Aidan and Danielle’s but they are
all out.  Others tell us the monthly rate
is $450 (£300) and there looks like just enough space to squeeze us in.  Further along the beach there are no more
camping options just an all-inclusive resort and small restaurants without good
road access.  Back at the second
campground we find the owner, Cellos, and negotiate $10 (£6.50), or P120 a day
without facilities and arrange to arrive tomorrow.  It’s far from perfect but by far the best
option we have had for ages and we all need a beach fix.  In the evening I invite K&R and Lynn for
a chilli in our motorhome to round off the day.



SATURDAY 3 JANUARY – Kevin suggested a 6am start to beat the traffic and get to the
campground before the car park fills and blocks our access.  This is deferred to a more sensible 7am but
they struggle to make it.  Not to worry
as traffic is light and we arrive around 8.30am ahead of the day visitors.  We squeeze between two rigs on a site that no
one wants because the electricity is not working whilst Kevin ends up on a
sandy space opposite.  Catch up on news
from Dean & Pinar and also Aidan & Danielle who have all been here for
quite some time.  It would appear that everyone
has realised this is the best and most reasonably priced spot along this
coast.  Dean also smashed his wing mirror
at the same place we did so we help him out with advice on fixing it.  We have a very pleasant morning on the beach
then after lunch stroll to Bonanza. 
Yesterday we met the parents of an English couple who are motorcycling
round the world and want to chat to them. 
Simon & Lisa set are 8 years into a 2 year trip but on a more
challenging one than us.  At the moment
her parents are visiting from England and fellow cyclist Graham is chilling out
with them having been inspired by their web site  Late afternoon we walk to the far end of the
beach then return for a card evening.


$10 (£6.65)


SUNDAY 4 JANUARY – We noticed many topless sunbathers in front of the hotel area so
locate ourselves there in order to partake (Steve would have been most
uncomfortable being topless alone!). 
Ruth has invited us to lunch so we return for that and are joined by
Dean & Pinar who also bring along a contribution.  Unfortunately Pinar is vegetarian so her
salad and cabbage rice dish don’t appeal to me being a choc-ice and chips kind
of girl.  We are keeping out of the sun
in the heat of the day so wait until late afternoon to walk south and around a
couple of headlands to a cenote that empties into the ocean.  Although the sea and fresh water mix the main
pool is mainly fresh and lovely for a cooling dip.  It is so quiet there that we stay for
sometime just watching the waves.  Finish
the day with cards and a movie at K&R’s. 
Reckon we could handle a good few days here.  Kevin is not such a beach bum as the rest of
us but he will also be happy as he has managed to buy a 2-week Internet package
for P125 (£12.50).  Not such a good night
as the beach dogs kept setting of rounds of barking. 



MONDAY 5 JANUARY – We break up our morning beach stint with a walk to the north end
passing more derelict hotels and restaurants. 
In the evening we join our neighbours Andy & Margie for drinks along
with Dean and Pinar.  Andy is from
Walsall but has spent most of his life living in Germany where he met his
wife.  They then moved to Jersey but now
live in Alberta.  He has a fantastic
stereo system where he bought a satellite package with his new car for $500
(£350) for life.  The fascia can be
removed and fitted into a “boom box” which he is now using in his caravan or
the full stereo system he has at home. 
With it he has 24-hour choices of 100 channels of continuous music and
we really enjoy the 60’s stuff.  Margie
brings out her rum special drinks; they are almost entirely rum with just a
hint of tonic and a squirt of lime.  One
is enough for me but Dean & Pinar manage a few more and after we have left
we lie in bed listening to their attempts at singing.  Dean is so bad at one point that Steve goes
round with a bucket of water threatening to throw it on the strangled cats!



TUESDAY 6 JANAURY – Morning and afternoon sessions on the beach, a bit of hand washing
and an afternoon siesta completes our day in paradise.



WEDNESDAY 7 JANUARY – We are getting into a nice routine now.  First thing in the morning we do any odd jobs
before it gets hot.  After a morning on
the beach we walk up to the cenote late afternoon.  For the first time in ages we get a bit of
rain in the evening but we are not surprised as the temperature has been
climbing steadily and it usually culminates in a storm in the tropics.



THURSDAY 8 JANUARY – Call in at Bonanza and chat to the biker’s parents.  On the beach Graham gives us more info on
Belize and Guatemala.  He is on his way
down to Panama and Central America alone on his motorbike and like so many
people sees this as a 2-year trip that may grow!  Kevin & Ruth want to go cycling in the
afternoon and ask us to look after Whiskey giving me the chance to use Kevin’s
Internet connection.  They go to Puerto
Aventura and report of the Dolphin Experience. 
People pay big money (prices are only in US$ so that tells you something)
to interact with the friendly dolphins in a pool and you can buy combo packages
to include manatee and seal experiences as well.



FRIDAY 9 JANUARY – Dean & Pinar head onwards; we may yet catch up with them on the
west coast, although Pinar is talking of flying home from Acapulco. On the
beach in the morning we chat to Graham and invite him for lunch.  He is motorcycling down to South America but
has previously visited Guatemala and Belize so as he puts it we have a “cross
pollination” of information.  In the
afternoon I put a colour on my hair and do a mud face pack.  Luckily there are few people around, as I
must look pretty scary covered in mud with a shower cap on. 



SATURDAY 10 JANUARY – Along with Kevin & Ruth we head north to the end of the
beach.  We want to look at Xpu-Ha cenote
but it is on private land but if you tell the guard you are at a certain hotel
he will let you through.  It is part of
the Palace Hotel complex but this front area has been devastated by
storms.  We reach a lagoon and head
inland to find the jungle cenote.  Steve
& Ruth do a bit of snorkelling but don’t find anything of great interest
and the water is so clear you can see most things without getting wet.  In the afternoon a very early happy hour
begins at Andy’s next door.   This rolls
on to the beach happy hour where Mike, Jacques and Bill are camped.  Graham calls round to return a book and to
load episodes of  “Long Way Round and
down” onto my laptop.  



SUNDAY 11 JANUARY – Kevin spoke to Chelleos yesterday and he said he would come for our
money at 8am but of course no one shows up. 
We find Victor and pay him the agreed amount.  On reaching the gate we are barred, first
they don’t believe we paid and then they say we must pay the regular price of
$15 when we agreed $10 just for parking. 
They try to get more money from us but we stand fast and say 3 of us
were there when Chelleos agreed the price. 
We are not surprised as Dean had a similar problem when he had agreed
$12, got asked for $15 and between running back to get the difference they told
him the exchange rate to pesos had gone up. 
Bad business in our opinion. 
Anyway we finally get away and 17 miles down the road turn off to Xcacel
beach with the turtle sanctuary.  It
isn’t nesting season but it is still a nice beach with snorkelling and a
cenote.  The guard says the price is P10
(50p) pp admission or P30 (£1.50) if we want to stay overnight.  We ask to look at the beach before
deciding.  Kevin & Ruth now have a
problem as they would like to stay but pets are not allowed.  The guard says they can walk Whiskey up the
drive but that’s all and they don’t want to settle for that.  Meanwhile he has told Kevin the price is P100
(£5) because we have big vehicles (the same ones he saw when we first
asked!).  We like it here so opt to stay
and catch up another day.  It’s a really
quiet beach and we spend the morning at the north end. Between about 1pm and
4pm it is really busy with locals.  The
cenote at the south end is approached on a log path through a mangrove forest
and quite attractive.  We have a very
quiet night with no noise at all.


P100 (£5)


MONDAY 12 JANUARY – We drive out at 7.30am to find the main entranced chained off.  Steve has to go back to wake the guy up to
let us out (he said it would be open from 7am). 
In Tulum we drive out to the beach area, which has a relaxed backpacker
feel with lots of simple huts.  You can
stay in the car park of the fishing co-op in the motorhome (P80 pp).  Park up and check out the beach and the view
of the superbly located ruins a little further north.  We’re half tempted to stay but our friend
Sandra has just book to fly into Acapulco next month and we are not sure how
much spare time we have.  The road to
Chetumal is good on the whole and we make great time.  Bacalar looks a nice place to stop but it’s
raining so the lagoon doesn’t look its best. 
RV’er Cathe lives just north of Calderitas and there we find her home
“Maricasa” and Kevin & Ruth parked in the garden.  Cathe moved here many years ago and has a
large plot of land on the lake with two apartments.  She lives in one and rents out the other but
at the moment has family staying in it.  
K&R show us around the large garden complete with natural spring
flowing into the lagoon.  We get more
rain so settle for a card afternoon. 
Ruth cooks delicious spaghetti bolognaises for supper and we round of
with more cards and travel planning.



TUESDAY 13 JANUARY – We get heavy rain in the night and the storm is still rumbling when we
get up.  I begin packing for our
backpacking trip, 2 or 3 weeks around Belize and NE Guatemala.  The afternoon is dry so making use of the
water from the fresh water pool we Steve washing the motorhome and I bathe in
the pool.  Ruth & I give each other a
pedicure.  We want to turn the
fridge/freezer off when we leave and have lots of food to eat up so I cook a
pork roast for us all at night.



WEDNESDAY 14 JANUARY – We all pile in a taxi to town, P70 (£3.50), as Kathe has booked us
an appointment at the dentist.  It seems
his speciality is cosmetic dentistry and before I know it I no longer have any
gaps in my front teeth as he has built up the two either side of the front
ones.  He wants to replace my enamel
fillings with amalgam so I will return for that later.  Steve has a check and clean up and my caps
are P500 (£25) each as is Steve’s clean up. 
Kevin gets fitted for a new bridge and Ruth needs nothing so we are all
happy with the result.  Walking through
town we try to pay our tourist visa at the banks.  All say that we should have another piece of
paper but we all only got one copy. 
Eventually a clerk tells us to go to the “Hacienda Federales” where
luckily a customer can translate.  We
must go to a bookstore and buy a special form, take this to the immigration
office on the outskirts of town, get this completed, return to the Hacienda to
get it stamped and then go to the bank. 
Tourist office tells us immigration is open until 4pm but we arrive to find
it is only open 9am – 1pm.   It’s all a
bit of a pain as we planned to leave first thing tomorrow for the border and
may yet do that and take a chance.  We
still have a bit of food to use from emptying the freezer so invite Kathe,
Kevin & Ruth to join us for cottage pie. 
Kathe tells us we should have no problem at the border as many people
just go into the “free zone” for the day so we could sail past without handing
in our tourist card.  She also tells us a
huge storm is heading for the Yucatan peninsula with winds up to 120 kph.  Discussing it later we decide that we can’t
take the risk as re-entry without the original card means they only give us one
for 15 days and this is too short.  Guess
we are British and not used to messing with officials!



THURSDAY 15 JANUARY – Get up to more heavy rain, certainly not the kind of weather
conducive to back packing.  We have a
taxi booked and intend to go to the immigration office and make a final
decision based on their information. 
Whilst waiting we talk ourselves in and out of the trip plan many times
and when the taxi doesn’t show up we see this as an omen that we should not
go.  Kevin has a problem as his fridge
has stopped working, double problem as Kathe already told us hers was too full
to store any food for us and ours has been turned off and we are almost out of
gas.  Steve helps Kevin who decides to
try and dry the connections with a hairdryer. 
He then finds his generator won’t start but in the process the exhaust
pipe drops off.  Mid afternoon we try our
generator to try and help Kev but our battery is too low for it to kick
in.  Talk about a day when things go
wrong!  Kevin has been on the Internet
and tells us he can see no sign of the approaching storm and in fact it should
be better weather on Sunday.  Late
afternoon it has dried up and we reassess our trip with me doing a "for
and against" list.  Finally decide
we will take our luggage and go to immigration in the morning and if we sort
out the tourist card payment and they can assure us we can come back in for the
remainder of the original 180 days we will proceed. 




  1. Well hello you two……..last I read you were off backpacking so I hope things are going well. Will keep in touch…..Have a great time as I know you willPaula and Stephen…..The Dodwells

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