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Yucatan Wandering

Author: Paul
Date of Trip: January 2009

Not sure if this meets all the requirements of your trip reports but what the heck, may as well submit it. This is a report of last years (2009) trip to the Yucatan in Mexico. We have been going here fairly regularly since 2001 and always end our trips on the Tulum beach. If you have any questions or comments, give me an email.

Day 01, January 31 Our flight day. It’s a late flight, scheduled for 1630 out of Toronto. We are up early and on the road by 0800 for the four hour drive south. We find our hotel for the return night and check in so we can leave our car in the lot, have a quick lunch and then board the shuttle for the airport. Check in is ok and so is security then it is wait, wait, wait. Boarding is finally called at 1730, then another wait as we are deiced. A couple more minutes of waiting and we start rolling for the runway. And keep on rolling. And rolling. Maybe we are going to taxi all the way to Mexico? I didn’t think Pearson was this big but we seem to be rolling on the ground for twenty minutes. At last the plane swings out, locks brakes as the engines rev and we are off. Just off the ground, the left engine starts a high pitched whine that is loud and audible to all of us sitting in front of the wing. We passengers look around at each other, reading the same wonderment in each others eyes, as we wonder what is going on and pretend not to be worried. The plane does not slow its accent; the flight attendants do not show any concern, but the whine increases as we gain altitude, then levels off to the more familiar drone. The pilot is doing his best with the late start; he pours on the gas and we land in Cancun a mere three hours and twenty minutes later. Not bad for a scheduled flight time of over four hours. We clear customs and rush outside to find our car rental guy. Before we see him, the familiar Cancun vista fills our senses; the night sky, the palms and the smell. Nothing is as close to memory as smell and it always brings us back to our first few trips. The rental guy has been waiting at the gate for the whole two hours we are late. A few minutes to drive to the rental place, check the car and we are driving south on highway 307. We seem to have enough gas for Puerto Morelos (about 1/3 tank) but a dashboard light comes on just a few K down the road. We pull in at a Pemex to fill the tank but are surprised when it only takes a few pesos. On further inspection, now with my reading glasses on, the dashboard light is not a fuel warning but actually says “Check Engine”. Wonderful. So, we do as we do at home when the light comes on — ignore it! Dallas buys a six pack of beer for the hotel and we head south again. Maybe twenty minutes on the highway and we turn left in the town of Puerto Morelos, then south along the beach road for Rancho Sak Ol. It is not difficult this year, we can remember the route and closed roads from last year. The hotel is quiet but there is someone waiting to check us in and give us a key. We don’t even unpack but head back to town for something to eat, we are starved. Only one place is open at the centro and we have a quick meal before heading back to the room. Tired as we are we are pumped from arrival and cannot sleep. A few beers are knocked back as we talk about the flight and such, and then crawl into bed for a few hours sleep. It is almost 0200.

Day 02, February 01

As usual, I am up early at 0600 and slip out of the room quietly so as not to awake Dallas. After walking up and down the beach a few times, Rancho’s kitchen opens and I make a couple cups of coffee and bring them to the room. We will be leaving shortly so shower and change quickly. It is good to be in shorts again.

A zip line tour with Selvatica is booked for this morning. We drive about nineteen K down the back road and find the place without any problems, just as the directions said. There is a few minutes wait for the others in the group to show and then a quick training session. Before I know it we climb to the first platform and I am buckled in and zipping down the line. It is great! This zip line is almost two kilometres long with twelve platforms. The guides are good, everything seems very safe and we get to try some other stunts once we feel comfortable. Some go upside down; others fly like a bird hooked from the back.

Personal cameras are not allowed while on the zip line. At first I was kind of disappointed about that but after a few platforms I can understand why — there is no room for picture taking and one must have both hands available for the lanyards and stuff.

Once back at the base we change into swimsuits and are driven to the bike corral in an awesome German or Swiss ex army truck — I want it!

Then about a one mile bike ride to the cenote. There is another zip line set up over the water where you can splash in from a twenty foot drop. A must do!

The final activity is a light lunch back at the base. Well worth the cost, $75.00 USD each, I would recommend this excursion.

We leave Selvatica at 1345, make our way back to highway 307 and head south to Tulum. We make good speed until Playa Del Carmen then seem to be stalled in stop and go traffic. Eventually we pull in at the San Francisco Market just at the north end of Tulum Pueblo to stock up on supplies and I am reminded of that thread that I never really paid attention to on the Tuluminfo forum — no alcohol available on February 1st because of election day! And what day is it? Right. And that other email from Xamach Dan, only beer is available at their place. Oh well, what can you do, eh! Heading south on the beach road towards Punta Allen we are on familiar territory. We comment about the places we have stayed and those we would like to visit. Vacancy signs abound, maybe the recession is having an effect here as well. The road is now paved and is rather crowded but all that ends at the arch when entering the Sian Ka’an reserve. Now it is as we remember from our first trip, all potholes and rough road. Dust covered vegetation grows to edge of the road; it is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass. After about five K we start looking for a sign for Xamach Dos, which my failing memory tells me I read in one of the emails from Dan. Nothing except more potholes. We stop at the info center, which is about sixteen K into the reserve, and enquire with the only inhabitant who cannot seem to understand my Spanglish. He seems to tell us that Xamach is another twenty K down the road. The potholes now seem to be getting deeper and more frequent. Any type of speed is impossible. Another stop at a fishing lodge confirms that we must pass over the bridge and then a few more K south. The bridge comes up shortly and we are slowed by a small black car chugging along dodging the holes in the road. After a few K of tailing I pull out to pass and make it but a strange noise and vibration starts in the front end. We pull over as far we can and inspect the tires. The left front is shredded with about twenty holes through the sidewall. The black car pulls up behind us and three men get out, one gringo and a couple of locals. The gringo turns out to be Josh, the manager from Xamach Dos! He is a welcome sight on this lonely stretch of road. The tire is changed, we have a beer standing around slowing down oncoming traffic and then drive the last three K to pull in at the resort. As we pull in, open the trunk and are greeted by the employees, the Xamach Dos hospitality kicks in. We are not allowed to carry anything and are lead to our cabana (La Luna) by a stream of luggage. The cabana is great; two beds, a couple of chairs and a modern bathroom just off the back door. A good sized covered porch or veranda faces the ocean and a few yards of palm shaded sand lead to the water. It is idyllic. Supper is served shortly in the communal palapa where we meet the other guests; there are only two, Bob and Nancy from Boston. Supper is a good fish and pasta meal washed down with a couple of beer. When we relay our story of not being able to purchase rum, a bottle appears on the table courtesy of Bob. Bedtime is about 2200 and we are very tired.

Day 03, February 02

Up at 0700 to walk the beach. Coffee is on shortly and we sit on the porch reading and updating the journal. Breakfast is pancakes with fresh shredded coconut topping and orange juice.

We are in relax mode. The day is spent walking the beach, reading or swimming. It is hot and windy but calms about 1300. Time passes slowly. An hour or so is spent snorkelling in the shallows, watching the thousands of small fish and a couple of barracuda. Lunch and supper are good but I can’t remember what they are!

Josh has been in contact with a tire man in Tulum Pueblo who will help us with a spare tire. He is supposed to come out to deliver Josh’s scooter which he is repairing, and will bring a tire with him when he comes. We are grateful because we will need a spare for our further travels when we leave this place. Josh had a minor mishap with his scooter a few days previous and his feet show it; most of the skin is missing from a few toes and they are bandaged to keep the sand out. In the afternoon, Josh takes us across the road to the two Mayan pyramids that are on Xamach’s property. They loom out of the jungle very unexpectedly, a mass of jumbled stone and tree roots. They are fascinating; a few hand prints are still visible in one area.

Day 04, February 03

I am up at my usual early time and walk the beach to the north. It is amazing how much plastic refuse has washed up on the beach. This area has never been cleaned so we are seeing the detritus of the past since the last hurricane. Dallas is up when I return so we join the others for coffee and breakfast in the main palapa. Bob and Nancy are heading to town and we put in an order for some rum. It is hot and windy again. Dallas and I head out for a walk up north. The sun is beating down but the strong headwinds have a cooling effect. Many different birds are seen, both on the water and in the trees backing the shore. Some large objects can be seen littering the shore and as we approach they take the shape of a battered and torn up marine buoy. We rest after an hour or so, sitting on a couple of upturned plastic pails in the shade of some palms. For some reason we want to make the far point, maybe just because it is such a prominent landmark. There is nothing special about it when we do reach it so we just turn around and head back. We rest again on the buckets and I swim for a few minutes in the waves.

As we approach Xamach, I remember at the last minute that I am naked and slip my shorts on so as not to offend anyone. The remainder of the day is spent just as lazy as the beginning, swim when you feel like it, drink some beer or read on the porch. The tire guy does not show up. We are not that concerned now that we have Josh to help us out. A late supper is served, again I can’t remember what it was except it was good. Five of us (Bob, Nancy, Josh, Dallas and I) stay up until 2300 discussing various travels, Canadian health care, politics and the virtues of Ron Anjeno. Rain starts about 2200 and keeps up all night. Dallas and I sleep very well.

Day 05, February 04

Up at 0600 to a very brisk wind. We start packing early and then join the group for a good breakfast. After breakfast we settle the bill and say our goodbyes. Josh is coming with us to Tulum so he can pick up his scooter. The drive back to Tulum Pueblo is slow, we do not have a spare so cannot afford another flat tire. Twenty five KPH is the max. The tire guy is at the far south end of town, just where all the lanes merge together. A used tire is $300MP, two patches and mounted on the bent rim, along with a complete check and filling of all the other tires.

We leave Josh at the bank and drive back to the south beach road so we can park and check out some of the hotels. Walking the beach we discount some units as not private enough; too many cabanas close together or maybe potential noise with a bar and beach club near by. This is where we had our first vacation when we were still dating and the changes in just a few years are remarkable. Boutique hotels are now the norm where once we could bargain and get a stick shack cabana for $200MP a night. Lounge chairs abound where we had to lie on the sand. Waiters walk amongst the chairs serving cold drinks where we had to make our own with warm rum and warmer mix. Ice did not exist. Most people are wearing swim suits where we once frolicked naked in the wind and waves all day long. We end up back at Puerto del Cielo, where we spent three wonderful days last year, and book four nights for the end of our excursion. The going rate is $1500USD but we settle on $130 per night. We take the cabana on the extreme north edge of the property because it is so private. After booking our room we drive back to Tulum Pueblo, gas up at the Pemex and head down the Coiba road towards Valladolid. The trip is uneventful except for the potholes in the road just before we cross over to Yucatan state. The lack of a good spare is foremost in my mind as we swerve around the road to miss the biggest holes. Valladolid is under construction. At the best of times the maze of narrow one way streets can be confusing but now with some closed to traffic it makes getting around a nightmare. We decide to park near the central square and walk to find a hotel. We end up at Hotel Zaci, where we stayed in 2002 and even end up in the same room! Now the going rate is $390MP, a big jump from before. This place is deceiving from the street, very plain entrance that then opens up to a grand central courtyard with secure off street parking in their own compound. A caretaker is looking after the parking area and also tending the old wood fired boiler for the hotels hot water, this place must be older than it looks.

After checking in and stowing the luggage we wander to the centro, have a bite to eat and watch the people. We actually meet a couple that was in our zip lining group; how coincidental can that be! The narrow sidewalks are just as we remember them, full of people, vendors and poles. Bedtime is after 2200.

Day 06, February 05

We both sleep in until 0700 and have a leisurely breakfast after walking some of the narrow streets. Driving out of town seems to be quite easy compared to getting in. We circle a couple blocks and find the Tizmin road right away. The road is fair and we make good time, just one stop in Tizmin to get some cash from n ATM. This town, along with Valladolid, and most of the others we will visit in Yucatan pre date automobiles by hundreds of years. The streets were designed for horses so the only way to accommodate cars is to make them one way. The town layout usually has even streets running one direction i.e.: north / south, and the odd streets running perpendicular. When all the streets are one way, every other one changes direction. Look for the street names on the corner buildings.

North of Tizmin we turn east for the town of Ek Balam. Most people come to this area for the ruins and never even see the town. We hope to stay at Genesis Retreat. It has good reviews and is run by an expat Canadian. First glimpse of the town is not does not make a good impression until we remind ourselves that this is not a tourist town but rather a home for four hundred Mayan working people. I guess we would call it “gritty”.

Genesis is full but Lee, the owner, tells us to try the cabanas run by the local park, just down the road. We will, but first go on a walking tour with Lee to see some of the local people in their houses.

First stop is a tortilla maker. Dallas joins right in, grinding corn on the traditional Mayan stone bench, mixing the flour, using the steel press and frying a couple over the open fire.

This is an actual dwelling, we can see the stored hammocks in the rafters and a couple of cats and small pigs wander about as the demonstration takes place and chickens in the back yard coop are squawking.

Up the street we visit a woman who makes traditional Mayan dresses with the colourful embroidery. How she can see in the dim light baffles me.

Last stop in the neighbourhood is at a hammock maker. We are told that it takes over forty hours to make a good quality hammock.

While at the hammock maker we find ourselves within sight of the cabanas so we walk down the road to have a look. These are government run, Cabanas U-Najil Ek Balam, and not quite complete but still very comfortable. It is quite nice, good size with a king size bed and private washroom. I think we paid $350MP.

The luggage is stowed and we have some lunch at a nice Italian restaurant on the far side of town. While there we run in to a couple from the states and go with tem to the Ek Balam ruins. We will share the cost of a guide.

I like ruins! Ek Balam was once the capital city of pre-classic Mayan civilization. Rather than have it destroyed by the conquering Spanish, the population buried most of it to hide it from view; or so the story goes anyway. How anyone could miss a one hundred foot mound in the flat Yucatan is beyond me. The state of preservation is remarkable after five hundred years or so in the ground.

Even though my thighs are singing a warning I climb to the top of the main structure for a look over the whole complex. Simply amazing. So is the precipitous climb back down. The narrow stair treads are not flat but slanted downwards somewhat and the risers are high, probably twelve to fourteen inches. The guide is a definite must, they have knowledge of many details that would be missing from a self guided tour.

The other couple, Sam and ??; (terrible I know!) drop us at the corner and we walk back to the cabana. While reading outside the caretaker comes and tells us to climb the tower at the edge of the property if we want to see the sunset. We do, but a few minutes too late, the sun is gone already. There is enough light that we can see Ek Balam just a K or so east, while Coba and Chiten Itza are just small mounds visible on the horizon. The Yucatan is very flat.

Supper tonight will be at Genesis Retreat. Even though their rooms are booked, Lee says she will have a meal for us. We share a table with Sam and ??. Genesis is quite nice, maybe eight or so rooms and cabanas spread over four buildings with a main kitchen / dining area and a common washroom for everybody, the whole complex surrounded by a wall and securely gated. Back at the cabana we try to read but find it difficult in the dim light. We discuss the day and what we think the next few will bring before retiring for the night. It is not a good sleep; I think the temperature went into the single digits and we were very cold. At some point I retrieved all the blankets from the shelf and they helped a bit.

Day 07, February 06

Up to a cool dawn and some reading on the walkway before a breakfast at Genesis. We are packed and driving to Rio Lagartos by 0930. We pull into town and find Restaurante Isla Contoy, which is where all the lagoon tours are supposed to originate from. A tour is booked for 1400 and we drive the short distance to San Felipe to book a room at a sea side hotel. The wind has picked up and the temps seem to falling rapidly and we question ourselves if it worthwhile to head out into the lagoon. While having a late lunch at Isla Contoy we decide to postpone until tomorrow morning at 1000. That may be a mistake also because we have no idea what the weather will be like. The guide does not seem put out that we postponed, he seems to have other things to do. The evening is spent wandering the narrow streets of San Felipe, seeing what there is to see. After supper we end up at a rodeo and watch a couple of local cowboys trying to ride some bucking bulls. They do not make it very far before they are rubbed off on the fencing. Ouch! Bedtime is early; unknown what time; we are tired from the poor sleep last night.

Day 08, February 07

Sunrise finds me walking the shore front roads and boardwalk, killing time until Dallas wakes up. We have a cup of coffee as we pack but drive the short distance to Rio Lagartos for breakfast. Juan, our boat operator and guide meets us at the restaurant; his boat is docked just outside the front door. This will be a three hour tour, heading east into the large salt water lagoon to see birds and whatever wildlife we can. The weather has improved overnight; it is warm and sunny with only a slight wind. The boat goes slow for the first half hour or so, Juan is trying to miss all the shallows and weed beds around the port before we are in the lagoon proper. Juan is good despite his young looking age. He slows or stops the boat when his sharp eyes pick out birds perched in the trees and that one croc sunning near shore.

There are a few local fishermen tossing nets into the shallow water that are catching small sardine type fish. As the lagoon opens up we can see the salt factory where the brackish water is evaporated and large stockpiles of salt are awaiting shipment. This is also where the flamingos are; there are hundreds of them.

A stop at the mud flats for a self inflicted spa treatment is next. We had heard about this at the hotel last night and were a bit sceptical about its benefits but try it anyway.

There isn’t anywhere to wash up so we have to endure the trip back to the dock with our faces covered in mud. Other tour boats on the way out slow and take pictures of our white faces. The mud finally comes off with a trickle of water from the evestrough at the restaurant. This spa treatment works! Our skin is very soft for the next three or four days. Cost of the excursion is $600MP for the boat. It is still early as we head out for Telchac Puerto; also on the coast but west of San Felipe. We seem to be the only gringos there; English is not spoken at all. It is a small town but very friendly, everyone has smiles for us. Hotel Libros y Suenos has a nice clean room for $300MP and we take it even though it is across the street from Hotel Principe Negro which seems to be the happening place for local dance music. Wandering the streets we find a small restaurant on the main street and stop for supper. The restaurant is in an old hacienda type building, tall narrow rooms, high ceilings and flaking stucco walls. The staff is friendly but does not speak a word of English. The food is great. We have nachos with several sauces, fresh whole fish, rice, salad (which we were leery about eating but did anyway), beer and tequila for $180MP total. Prices fall when away from the main tourist destinations.

There isn’t much to do so we go back to the hotel, make a rum and coke and sit out on the sidewalk to watch the traffic. There is a large tope in front of the hotel so everybody must slow down right where our chairs are. Smiles, waves and hola are frequent. We like this place!

The journal is updated as we sit then retire for a good sleep.

Day 09, February 08

Up early again, I head for the beach to kill time while Dallas sleeps. I’m glad I wore sandals; the beach is covered with millions of shells, some whole, many broken with sharp edges. Without a good sand cover it would be impossible to walk here without leather feet.

Nice villas front the beach many showing signs of recent improvements. More than a couple have for sale signs. There is only so much to see so I head back to the hotel down a narrow laneway. When I am about halfway down a grey military truck parks and blocks the exit and a bunch of troops pile out. I don’t have much choice but to stand to the side and watch. About a dozen form a line and follow the leader down the lane past me. They are dressed in full combat gear with assault rifles, camouflage clothes, helmets and balaclavas so only their eyes are visible. As the leader passes I pull out my little point and shoot camera but don’t even have to time to ask permission before he points and waves in what is a very unmistakable “no” motion. The camera disappears back in my pocket right away. The remainder of the distance back to the hotel is covered very quickly. Dallas is up so we have a cup of coffee on the sidewalk before packing and driving the few kilometres east to San Cristano for a canal tour. It is still early and we have to roust the owners of a restaurant from their home to make us breakfast. The Spanish phrase book we purchased at the hotel last night comes in handy. Local fishermen hacked canals out of the mangrove swamps when their fishing market failed. It is very cool and tranquil as we are polled through the muddy water to the cenote, the canopy forming a green tunnel around us with tropical birds roosting just overhead.

The cenote is small and has a couple of two foot fish in it but I hop in for a quick cool down before we are polled back to the car.

Today we start heading inland to the south and eventually east towards Quintana Roo and Tulum. The highways are good; signage is plentiful and keeps us in the correct direction as long as Dallas has a map out to guide me.

While researching our destinations back at home Hacienda Yaxcopoil caught our interest. We exchanged an email the day before we left and the one room for rent was available. We decided not to reserve.

After a nice leisurely morning drive we pull in the deserted hacienda and find the owner watching a local baseball game taking place in the adjoining field. His greeting is very enthusiastic and all in Spanish because he does not speak a word of English. A couple times he asks “usted tiene una reservación para esta noche” and we reply “ninguna reservación” or something that we think is similar. He hesitates a second or two but then presents the guest book, which we sign, and leads us to our room and indicates where we can use the side gate to park the car. I can’t drive in yet because the baseball game is still going on and I would have to drive down the third base line. We take a small bag to the room and relax a bit on the veranda. Our room for the night is the only restored part of the building.

The hacienda dates from the seventeenth century and is a veritable museum covering about six acres. The rooms still have period furniture and one room is full of Mayan artifacts uncovered when the hacienda was a working henequen producer. We can’t believe we have the place to ourselves. After wandering about for an hour or so taking pictures we find out we actually don’t. Another gringo couple is now waiting in the lobby with an English speaking person. They also have something else fairly important — a reservation for tonight! After profuse apologies for the confusion we pack up what belongings are in the room and set out to look for another room. It is now about 1600 and we have to drive to the next town of any size, Ticul, about forty five K down the road.

We are kind of depressed and quiet; we were really looking forward to the stay and authentic supper that came with the room. Oh well, we took a chance and it didn’t work out so we’ll try and make the best out of the situation. Night is falling as we reach Ticul and wander some of the one way streets looking for Posada Jardin, a small hotel recommended in the guide book. Initial looks are disappointing, a weathered, blackish concrete facade abutting a busy sidewalk but we take it anyway and we are glad we did. The car is guided through a gate into a genuine urban oasis. There has to be an acre of garden with palm and other trees, a palapa and a small pool. We are given a small cabana with sitting area, two beds and a modern washroom for $300MP.

After a quick shower we change and walk to the centro, which is about four blocks. The place is alive with people. There seems to be some kind of celebration going on with vendors, stage shows and hundreds of people milling about.

Supper is at sidewalk place near the bus station. Instead of strolling back to the room we hire a three wheeled scooter, just for the experience.

The owner’s son is sitting in the palapa when we return and we spend about an hour talking with him before retiring for the night. Our depression about the hacienda has disappeared and we feel great. Who knows what tomorrow may bring!

Day 10, February 09

Daybreak finds us in a good mood and thankful again for our good luck in finding this place. Yesterday was the one and only time we ever had two hotel rooms!

For breakfast we drive to the town of Oxkutzcab and wander the market and square. We get more than the occasional stare being the only gringos in sight. We pick a hole in the wall sidewalk cafe but are forced to sit inside for lack of tables and chairs. The current patrons, who all seem to know each other, shuffle their seats so Dallas and I can sit at the same table. This place is only has four tables inside separated by a narrow aisle that the owner / waiter weaves his way through to bring orders as far as the street. We feel a bit guilty because we only wanted a couple cafe Americano’s and a place to study our guide book. Traffic is heavy on the street in front, one way of course, and the market across the way is noisy. We catch murmurs of native Mayan language with the occasional outburst of “machine gun” Spanish. We glance at each other and think the same thing — we are really out there now! The coffee is not bad either. When the order of food is brought to the next table, I can’t help but stare. The waiter catches me looking so I order some of whatever it is after he assures us it is “no picante”. It is some kind of roll stuffed with vegetables and ok but not great.

Caves abound in this region and there is a large one just outside of town so we drive south to Lol Tun. We arrive at 1035 to find out the last tour has just departed as scheduled at 1030. Whatever happened to Mexican time!? A small restaurant across the street beckons as a place to kill an hour so we park ourselves at a table with some soup and a cold beer. Just as we settle in, a gringo lady enters and asks if she can join us. Her name is Cathy from British Columbia. She has been backpacking solo and bussing about the peninsula for a month with another month left to go. Her stories amaze us, sleeping in hostels or stringing a hammock on the side of the road. Even more amazing is that she is sixty five years young! Cathy accompanies us on the cave tour. Before even entering the cave a large python is spotted sunning at the base of a tree. It must be six feet long and as thick as my forearm. The open sections of the cave are about a kilometer long with many points of interest explained by the guide. This cave, and all in this region, were formed when the big meteorite struck about sixty five million years ago. Pre Mayan peoples, Olmec or Toltec can’t remember for sure, lived in the caves. The Mayans used them only for ceremonial purposes up until the caste wars of the nineteenth century when they became the last defense from the Spanish.

Cathy accepts a lift from us back to Oxkutzcab, which we have all taken to calling “the place with the unpronounceable name” and we keep going. Dallas and I check our poor maps and guide book one last time before heading to Peto, sixty four K down the road. Another one hundred and twenty or so after Peto we should end up back at Valladolid. The guide book is useless, nothing is mentioned past Oxkutzcab but we figure there should be a hotel somewhere along the way.

The road is good with only minimal traffic, all heading opposite us. Peto is reached without any problem and we drive around on the one way streets for an hour or so looking for somewhere to stay. For some reason that we can’t explain, neither of us likes the look or feel of this town. It is more than just the stares (maybe they are bit more sullen than normal) or the general grunginess of the place (no grungier than other places we have stayed).

Whatever, we decide to get out of town and head for Valladolid; even if we don’t make it there are many little towns shown as dots on the map. I guess I should have paid more attention to the map and the gas gauge but I didn’t. We find the road out with a certain amount of difficulty and then waste about an hour with construction detours before finally on a good new road. Our relief is short lived as the construction ends and the road reverts back to a narrow band of asphalt with grass and trees growing right to the pavement. There is no line down the center because that would make each lane too narrow to drive on. Potholes abound. The time is approaching 1600 and light is fading because of the growth near the road. And the gas gauge is dropping; still one third of a tank left.

Some small towns or villages appear with a single tope and then they are gone. I don’t say anything to Dallas but she has noticed too and brings it up; there are not any other vehicles. Not even in the villages. Soon the power line that was beside the road disappears. When the pot holes let up I increase speed a bit but watch the gas gauge constantly. Like most gauges it is dropping faster at the bottom of the tank than when full. More villages appear and are left behind, most not even on the map. Villagers stop and stare when we drive by and do not return our smiles or waves. There are no vehicles, stores and definitely no hotels; just traditional Mayan thatched roof sick houses. Now it is quiet in car, both of lost in thought. Me thinking about that used spare that i haven’t checked in a week, the falling gas gauge and how would we ever get out of here if we broke down.

Our reverie is broken suddenly when I have to put the car in the grass on a curve to avoid a dilapidated van that is speeding and hogging the road. Quieter than ever after the near miss, Dallas sits with the map on her knee, reading out the names of villages and trying to compute the distance until civilization. I’m gripping the wheel with both hands, favouring that right front tire, trying to find what I feel is a reasonable mix between dodging potholes, gas mileage and speed. It is now dark. Ichmul, Chikindzonot, Xcocmil, Xuxcab and other villages come and go. As we slow down for the single tope in one of them and receive more stares from the bystanders; I hear the thunk as Dallas hits the power door locks. Eventually we hit the major road as shown on the map and a welcome Pemex station with about an eighth tank of gas remaining. Ninety some kilometers traveled and only one other vehicle on the road.

Valladolid is just a few more K and then we are back at Hotel Zaci, both of relieved as hell.

Supper and a few beers are at a restaurant near the centro. Back at the room, we reminisce about our journey while downing a few rum and cokes. We both sleep well.

Day 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, February 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

By noon on February 10 we are sitting on our lounge chairs enjoying the beach and waves at Puerto del Cielo. The next four days of relaxation are a welcome change from the past activities. The days blend together a series of morning walks, swimming, relaxing with a book or just taking sun.

We hit Hemingway’s once for a great seafood platter, eat at a nameless place on a side street in Tulum Puepblo and walk the beach to the bump in the road for a couple of lunches and beer. The flight home is uneventful and on February 15 we are back at home shovelling snow.

Here’s to fantastic journeys!

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