So where were we......
After completing the relatively straight forward border formalities into Mexico, we were into our 3rd last country!!
Our first stop, about 150km along the Caribbean coast was the small sleepy town of Majahual, a small fishing village on white sand beaches and turquoise waters. After driving through the village and not finding any camp sites, we settled for just camping a little out of town on the beach, a quiet spot over looking a very litter strewn beach. The litter all along the Caribbean coast is unbelievable, everything you can think of from dolls arms to plastic bottles of every make and description, alcohol bottles to a huge array of clothing and accessories. Hence as per the photo, James spent about 2 hours building his little coconut head man, waving from the beach.
We were also very shocked to see that this tiny little village receives about 500,000 "cruceros" a year. That is approximately 4-6 Caribbean cruise ships dock in here in any one week, where by hundreds of American tourists are regurgitated onto the beach to eat and drink themselves silly for 5 hours before re-boarding the ship to be taken to their next spot. Something we were to see a lot of all along this section of the coast. A totally different type of tourist to the ones we have met so far.
Our journey the following day saw us travel further up the "Riviera de Maya" as this section of coast is known to the sleepy, eco-tourist holiday beaches of Tulum. Here we had been given the name of a HUGE Landrover enthusiast, an ex-Argentine called Oscar. Well after meeting Oscar in his hotel, we were in awe as to how some-one can be so enthusiastic about Landrovers. His restaurant has grills from all the old Series Landrovers, he has numerous Landrover paraphernalia as well as photos of his recent trip to the Solihul factory in the UK. He just loved Lodzi. His Landrover, an ex-military vehicle from Belize, was in superb condition and currently being worked on for his planned trip this year to Tierra del Fuego in South America. He therefore had endless questions and we spent the following day being treated to lunch and chatting all afternoon about Landrovers.
While in Tulum, we also visited the famous Mayan ruins of Tulum, an ancient fortress overlooking the beach. Not quite in the same league as Tikal or Caracol in Belize but still impressive and in a stunning location.
We have also started coming across a lot more Canadian and American travellers, all the Candian's escape the winter by driving down to Mexico for 5-6 months every year. We have been introduced to some huge caravans and camper buses worth almost half a million dollars!!!!! Wow!!! They are all very friendly and we have had so many invites to stay in Canada and the US, we may not have to camp at all!!
Further along the coast we were given a place to stay just south of the very popular Playa del Carmen, a mecca of "All Inclusive" resorts along white sand beaches with crystal turquoise waters. Nestled in between two resorts is a Mexican owned stretch of land with a couple of restaurants, some cabana's and camping grounds. We ended up spending 4 nights here just relaxing on the beach, snorkelling and watching a lot of kite surfing, which was unfortunately too expensive for James to try though! So we got the boomerangs out instead and had good fun. James' treat was buying some lobster from local fishermen for only $7 for two meaty tails.
Finally tearing ourselves away from the beach we continued towards Cancun, a peninsula, with hundreds of high rise hotels on the beach, truly a sight of tourism at its worst! We therefore settled for just driving up and down the peninsula, currently a large building site thanks to the massive hurricane they had in August last year. Every single hotel was affected and they are all being redone, glass in almost every hotel was smashed. Words cannot describe the devastation it must have caused, and we only saw it 8 months later! Along with the hotel destruction Cancun used to have a 50 odd metre pure white sand beach in front of all these hotels that was washed away in the hurricane. This area is such a large revenue earner for Mexico that the government has employed an enormous dredger that is going along the coast pumping sand back onto the beach, where a bulldozer is sorting it out! Ahhh…Caribbean paradise.
We also pulled into a mall for some lunch and watched a movie, something we tend to miss on the road. Not wanting to stay in the city at all, we opted to try and drive out to Chichen Itza, another very famous Mayan ruins about 200kms from Cancun. En route we drove into a tropical storm which was just dumping tonnes of water every-where, we ended up driving through some small towns where the water on the main road came up to the bottom of our doors, on a Landrover that is really high!
The following day, we made our early morning visit to Chiche, a stunning collection of ruins with the most decorative workings we'd seen. The main pyramid was remarkable but unfortunately we were not allowed to climb it as they had a fatality that month and they have now forbidden access. The guides were pretty expensive so we made up most of the history of the ruins ourselves. Great fun.
On westwards we headed towards the large industrial town of Merida, the capital of the state we were in. After locating a very expensive "RV Trailer Park" on the outskirts we met a wonderful Canadian retired couple and spent the whole evening chatting to them. Journeying into the city the centre the following day, after about an hour, Kerry and I looked at each other and decided this city just did not appeal to us, so we jumped on the bus, went back to Lodzi, packed up and left.
About a hundred km south we located a fairly decent camp site near Uxmal, (more Mayan ruins we did not bother to visit). Here we took the opportunity to save some money, Kerry did all our clothes washing by hand while James did a full check of Lodzi, including taking the tyres off and checking them; only to find a huge 4 inch horse shoe nail embedded into one of our dear BF Goodrich. It had not gone down but was punctured all the same. He therefore performed his first tyre repair on a BF Goodrich after a lot of practise with our old Dunlops.
At this point we also ran out of cooking gas and so continued on to the next major city, Campeche, on the Mexican Gulf coast to locate a Gas plant. After finally locating the plant we were turned away as they did not have a connection to our European gas bottle. To save money, James decided to drive to the nearest gas accessories shop, purchased various adapters, visited a brass welders shop, had the guy there weld them all together, and then went back to the gas plant and had our bottle filled up for $3. We could do our own cooking again.
Another 2 days drive all the way down the Yucatan Peninsula into the jungle area of the state of Chiapas, we stopped at the MOST famous Mayan ruins of Palenque. Here we found a very nice RV park, "The Mayabel" packed with caravans and trailers and nestled ourselves in here. The following day, up earlyish, we did the 2 km walk up to Palenque ruins and started our tour of this very beautiful ruins; huge pyramids set in jungle covered mountains and to James' extreme pleasure, home to a very tame pair of breeding Bat Falcons which we ended up watching for hours. The ruins were very stunning but got very crowded mid morning. Our overall vote is, still not as impressive as Tikal in Guatemala!!
Onwards from there deeper into the Chiapas jungle we visited the waterfall of Misol Ha, where we were able to walk behind the actual waterfall and then on to the very touristy Agua Azul (Blue water) where limestone rock pools run for 7km and the beautiful water cascades from one to the next sometimes in large waterfalls. We had an excellent swim and a nice leisurely walk up and down the river, finished off with a picnic.
A little further on, our night stop was at a campsite at the gates to Tonina Mayan ruins, (we were all ruined out so did not go to these) where an amazing natural phenomenon takes place. We were told that literally millions of swallows swarm here like clockwork early evening to roost in Pampas grass just beside the road. We were a bit sceptical about the "millions" part but what we witnessed blew us away.
At about 6.05pm they started swarming in from all over the country side, just flying around and around as the swarm got larger and larger they went higher and higher. We can only liken it to a black cloud just moving around twittering. At about 6.25 the swarm moved overhead and then started the plummet. It looked like a small Twister as the birds came down into the pampas, this went on for over 15 min with literally millions of them roosting in this grass. The bed of pampas grass was like a moving swarm of ants as the birds were trying to settling on any spare cm of grass not taken up already. It will definately remain one of the highlights of our trip!!
Our next stop was San Cristobel de las Casas, a quaint colonial town bustling with markets, churches, fashionable restaurants and coffee bars and hundreds of tourists. We once again located a small wooded campsite just outside town and struck up a very good relationship with to other visitors there, Doug and Cathy, retired Canadians. Cathy was originally from Scotland and Doug from the UK. We
got on fabulously well with them both and made them the usual pancakes on Sunday morning. We also finally discovered the use of SKYPE.com, a method of using the internet for phone calls. After setting up and crediting our account, Kerry managed to spend 2 hours on the phone to Australia for $2 USD.
From here we head further inland then out to the Pacific coast as the surf board is surely by now feeling rather left out and we have been given a list of surf spots to try out……….looking forward to it.