Here it is, our final blog post from Mexico! After 5 months and many kilometers, our final adventure was on the Yucatan Peninsula. After our time in the jungles of Chiapas, coming into Yucatan was a bit of shock.
Suddenly we were back on the tourist track and finding a lot of tourists and people speaking English. This is a long way from negotiating the price of a boat in Spanish and riding through the jungle to explore what felt like our own private ruins. The Peninsula was more about the coast and beach bumming along the way.
We finally made it to the Gulf of Mexico! Our first major stop was in the town of San Francisco de Campeche. The Spanish influence in this city couldn’t be clearer; As you enter the old town, you pass through the old town wall that reminded us more of European cities along the Atlantic coast than any town we had seen in Mexico yet. The colorful streets were fun to explore and the coast had a scenic and well maintained pedestrian trail.
From Campeche we headed up the coast to Celestún. This small finishing village is the starting point for flamingo boat tours, but we decided to go find them on our own. Even though the guys at the Pemex station told us there’s no road to Sisal, we went off in search of a path anyways. Heading east out of town, we followed a sandy road and sometimes drove along the beach. Along the way, we found a pull out that allowed us to view a flock of flamingoes up close. What cool birds – but when they fly away, they look really funny!
From Sisal we headed to Merida. The capitol of Merida has a lot of nice restaurants and beer to offer, as well as a beautiful old town. However it was HOT, and the forecast warned it would only get hotter, so back to the coast we went!
Straight north to the town of Progresso then east along the coast to find a nice camping spot. We happened to run into Lars and Karin on the road, who we had met a while back in the Grutas. We stayed for a few nights on a beautiful beach under shady coco palms near San Crisanto. We spent 3 days relaxing and swimming, and only left because we ran out of food.
Heading back inland we stopped in the village of Izamal. The town is built around three Mayan pyramids that are free to enter and has an impressive monestary at the center of town. The inland was still hot, so we headed on to Homún to finally visit some cenotes! Cenotes are essentially subterranean swimming holes. We went to 4 cenotes in Homún, including an abandoned one (too spooky for Rachel to swim) and a fun one with a rope swing to ride in! We ended up visiting a few more after Homún with the most remarkable perhaps being Choj Ha near Valladolid.
Being near Valladolid also means being next to Chichen Itza, probably the most famous and most visited Maya ruins in Mexico. Of course we also had to go there. By being at the entry gate just before it opened we managed to ditch the worst of the crowds and the heat. The big and nicely restored pyramid and the big ball game court are really impressive, the rest however is not much different than the other sites we’ve seen, just with way more people. Nevertheless we are happy we went there. The Mayan architecture and the size of the cities they lived in are incredible.
Further along the northern coast of Yucatan we visited Las Colorades. Some of these lakes are used for salt extraction and it is also a great spot for Flamingo watching. After pulling into a wild camp spot out among the salt Lagunas, more familiar faces passed our way – Tyler and Megan, also known as Marley’s humans.
The following week we found ourselves up against Semana Santa, or the Holy Week. Most everyone has a week of holiday and we were worried there would be another round of holiday fireworks – poor Mitzi had a rough time at Christmas and New Years. So we found a quiet ecocamping spot near Valladolid to ride out at least part of the week. We met up with Tyler & Megan again. After a few days we all decided to ride go out the second half of Semana Santa underwater: scuba diving in Playa del Carmen!
We signed up for an Open Water Diver course in town with Tank Ha Dive Shop. Rachel was technically already scuba certified, but it had been so many (20!!) years, that she repeated the whole course. Our instructor Irati was great and we made it through 3 busy days of diving and learning. We were so enthused that we headed down to Mahahual and spent a day diving there as well as a few days of beach bumming.
If you check the map, you’ll see that we were getting really close to Belize! We headed closer and closer, with a stop of Lago de Bacalar, a beautiful fresh water. Then we drove south to within 20km of the border.. And headed inland to visit more Mayan Ruins. On the road to Chetumal, we crossed paths with yet more overland friends. Thomas and Stefan, who Ben had flown to Halifax with, were heading east to the coast.
We only spent one night inland again due to the HEAT, but visited a cave where over 1 million bats exit at dusk and the Calakmul ruins tucked into the jungle. Then back to the coast! While waiting a few days to get our pet import permit for Belize and prepare a few things before crossing the border, we settled down at beach side RV Park near Chetumal. We met up again in Thomas & Stefan, and also met again Roque & Sharon, who Ben had near-miss crossed paths in the States and we met in person way back in Todos Santos. And from here we are finishing this blog post on our last evening in Mexico – tomorrow we go to Belize!