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Thursday, October 10, 2013

BEACHES, BANDITS & A FIERY FIESTA


At last back with GR2 & our comfy bed. John has caught a Cuban cold & feeling pretty miserable, so we head back to Cancun to our campground & stay put for a while, the next day washing etc. By midday we decide it is too humid & there are too many mozzies to stay any longer. So we decide to head south to Playa Maya near Tulum (we found it on our travels last trip) on our way out of town we detour along the tourist strip. It is wall to wall resorts & shops. Any car park areas are full. Finally near the end of the glitter strip we find a public beach with good parking & head down to the aqua water.

Finally time to move on. The original plan was to stop at a few of the cenotes on the way south, but John wasn’t up to it, so we headed straight to our camp spot right on the beach. We find the entrance way flooded.. I walk in to check. It comes up to my waist, but GR2 can plough through. We assume it will be deserted, but not so. The policeman watching the beach shows us where to park. Not too far onto the beach (despite the numerous cars going up & down the beach all afternoon) as it is turtle laying season. I take the torch out, but see nothing & no tracks the next day.

We had planned to visit another Mayan site near the Guatemalan border, but have decided it is such an extra long drive in hot, sticky conditions, that we will give it a miss. So when our friendly policeman recommends some untouristy cenotes near Coba, we decide to head that way & give the touristy ones a miss.

We pass Coba ruins (not even tempted to go in) & stop to explore the 3 cenotes. All are down steep stairwells. The water level in them is much higher than normal after all the rain. We have a quick snorkel in each before heading off. We had hoped to reach Campeche today, but it is getting late so we opt for a Pemex/petrol station.

Head off bright & early past lots of Mayan villages with thatched cottages (not cute), crumbling churches & lots of topes (speed bumps) finally reach the city of Campeche. It is very hot & parking is pretty full. There is some sort of protest happening. We stop on the waterfront & John opts to sit in the shade while I explore town with its old fortified walls & brightly painted buildings. Finally we stop for the night beside the beach under some swaying palms.

Follow the coastline nearly to Cuidad del Carmen, before turning & heading inland to our next destination – Palenque. We pass the scruffy town & head into the National Park to camp at the Mayabell RV Park. We plan to stay the night so we can visit the ruins in the cool of the morning, & so that we can use their swimming pool. To our surprise there is another RV there. It is Casper & Brigitte who we met at The Romantic Hotel (our storage place) in Izamal. They have been here a few days trying to decide what to do. They had planned to drive to San Cristobal, but they met some other travelers who had come that way & had been stopped by “bandits”& ended up with all their car windows broken. Anyway we decided we would drive in our own little convoy & help each other if the need arose. After a lovely cooling swim we sat under the trees watching a troop of howler monkeys playing.

Palenque was awesome. We caught a collective to the top of the site so that we could wander downwards. It is a very hands on site – you can climb most of the pyramids & poke into all sorts of nooks & crannies. We finished off at the museum where Palen’s tomb is kept. After another swim our 2 vehicles head off. First to get supplies, & then to tackle the first part of the road. It is not long before we come to a road block. A huge group of men are barricading the road & demanding a toll from all the vehicles. We are in lead, & pay a few pesos’. The others follow. Phew! No problems. We detour to Misa-Ho waterfalls to see them in full flow (the others had been there so merely wait) & then on to Cascada Azul to camp for the night. The cascades are stunning – not their usual aqua colour because there is so much water, but still spectacular. We even venture out on a hand pulled raft to the other side. Explore a few more lookouts before the rain comes again. The next day we continue in our little convoy for the 5 hour drive to San Cristobal. No dramas. There were a few ropes across the road, asking for money, but these were only manned by a few people, not the crowd at the last one. It is a pretty drive (marred only by 100’s of topes) We are glad to see San Cristobal & the Hotel carpark that we will camp in. Tomorrow is Sunday & we plan to share a taxi to the markets in San Juan Chamula.

What an amazing day. We are dropped off at the top of town & wander through stalls to the plaza & gorgeous church below. All the locals are in ethnic costume- the men in their black or white woolly overcoats & women in their long black wooly skirts & embroidered tops - awesome.  We pay to go into the church (no photos inside – sadly). Today is christening day & there is a long line of families waiting at the back to have their babies Christened. There are lots of white flowers & massive drapes in the ceiling. No seats. Pine needles are spread all over the floor, & people are sitting on the floor clearing spaces to light rows of candles. What an atmosphere!

When we emerge we see a frame set up. On it are crackers that are set off. It marks the start of  the Fiesta de la Rosalind. The boys come out dressed in full outfits with facemasks on. The older boys are carrying cow shapes. After marching around with the “cow” being lassoed, the fireworks are set off on the cow. At the same time huge firecrackers are set off in the plaza with long strips of gunpowder & a few men let off sky rockets. It absolute craziness. This continues on all morning. We watch for hours. No photos are allowed to be taken of the band members with red hats. This is policed seriously. They checked my camera & watched as I deleted my photo. Then all the other tourists were checked. After a few hours we retreat to a coffee shop. It looks as if it will go on all day. We head back to town for a last explore before returning to GR2. Phew. Sightseeing is exhausting.

The next day we head off. We have used the Hotel’s Wi-Fi and said our farewells to Casper & Brigitte.  We come to a massive traffic jam. After over an hour with crazy Mexican drivers pushing in, we reach another barricade. There are lots of zapista signs up. This time we are charged 20 pesos & given a brochure. (I will bring it home for Fernando to translate) 
Our final night in Mexico, for now, is beside Lago de Montebello. Here we meet some English overlanders – John & Betty. Time for more chatting & swapping of travel stories.

Guatemala here we come!

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you are having fun and also able to create your own little convoys to travel safely. We're just back from out west so will be updating my blog.

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