It’s 7.30am, the sun is just climbing above the trees and its a refreshing 19 degrees (centigrade).
Between visiting some great locations and having little or no internet it has, once again been a while since we posted so a little catch up is in order.
We stayed in Merida, Yucatan for a month to take advantage of access to a highly recommended mechanic to try to get the last of Hanna’s mechanical issues sorted and to take a break from the travelling lifestyle. Our first experience of AirBnB – and a great little apartment in the historic centro area of Merida. Getting to know an area of a city and immersing ourselves in the local culture was a great way to reconnect and recuperate from the stress of taking care, on a daily basis, of Hanna’s fragile nature.
Merida was a great city and full of cultural fun and fabulous excursions, Sas turned 42 (and now has the answer to life the universe and everything); Hanna got some well needed attention and we slept in a bed that you can get out of both sides without using climbing gear.
On the 29th April we rolled out of the city with a sense of adventure again and a slightly cynical but a little hopeful feeling that Hanna might be finally fixed.
Our first stop was the ruins at Uxmal, Yucatan. Not only a highly recommended site but also a camping spot with a pool. 80 kms south of Merida, we started as we meant to go on with our new travelling rules – no more than an hour or 2 per day and no travelling for more than 3 days in a row without some serious stopping time to follow.
Hanna felt like a much better version of her old self and the trip to Uxmal was as much a pleasant relief to be on the move again as exciting to be going to experience the ruins.
We stopped at Uxmal for 2 days. Enough time to reacquaint with Hanna, to visit the ruins, go and see the sound and light show in the evening and take a day by the pool.
On the 3rd day we rolled carefully onward south, toward Campeche on the coast, the temperature was a refreshingly cooler 35 degrees (C) (as opposed to the often 40 C in Merida) and it felt good to be moving again.
Campeche was just going to be a stop over – although the glimpses we had of the old town as we drove around were architecturally exciting – and we didn’t get to experience the city itself as we settled on a campground on the outskirts for ease and access to its swimming pool.
One of the major changes we made to our life on the road while we were in Merida was the construction of an outdoor room made from netting that hangs from the awning on Hanna. Sas sowed a 3m by 2m room from black netting with a shimmery silver skirt and black ribbon to strengthen it – why does that make such a difference? well before Merida, at dusk, when the bitemes and the mosquitos and the myriad of other blood feasting evening bullies came to call we would put up with it for as long as possible and then make a very fast retreat in to Hanna’s very hot interior; and that was the end of the day! around 5 or 6pm. Now we can sit out in any breeze that happens along well in to the evening whilst Hanna cools down a little, and cabin fever is less of a problem. Little gains make a big difference.
Next was a couple of hops down to a very exciting stop for me – Palenque, where the ruins and the mystery around the secrets of the lid of Palenque are. I (Mark) studied the rumours and counter rumours; the theories and the counter theories that have attached themselves to this center of Mayan culture, way back in the early and mid-1990s. That is to say I bought books and devoured them, watched TV and video series made by those that had studied the site and the lid. It is a very powerful place for me.
So we drove via Escarcega – where we stayed at a wildlife and fruit orchard campsite; that is how I can only describe it – as many types of fruiting, fruit trees as you can name and then 3 you have never heard of, walks leading off into slightly tamed jungle, deer and howler monkeys to name only the animals we actually saw but with hints of many, many others. The two 11-year-old boys – Hose Manuel and Elias – that decided to be our fruit tree and animal guides listed many more.
The next day we headed south again – crossing the route we took as we hacked across Mexico to make our Tulum appointment – we passed through the northern/southern Mexico border crossing which includes a full customs search area and personal & vehicle document processing and checking centre – into which we were pulled – no problems; just waiting and a perfunctory check inside Hanna. On then to Palenque town and the ruins and the Maya Bell campsite and hotel.
At Maya Bell we met several overlanders and had a couple of nights of sharing information of what had been, what was to come and the usual stories that really only people who are driving the Americas would find useful but that are absolutely necessary none-the-less.
We stayed at Palenque and Maya Bell for 3 days and then moved on – via Palenque town where food, water and cash were needed (but not necessarily in that order). Palenque town was great and off the main road our Hanna caused many smiles and lovely comments.
Then on to the Cascades at Welib-Ja just past Neuvo Senora. This little spot was camping in a small car-park but overlooking the jungle and access to a stunning swimming spot with 3 waterfalls and lovely walks in the Jungle; all run by the locals as a coop and community hub.
Next day on to Bonampak ruins and a campsite about 3kms away from the entrance to Bonampak; tongue-twistingly called “Campamento Servicios Turisticos Lancandones & Restaurant Unajiooch”. This is also on a beautiful river with swimming and diving platforms and some low but very pretty waterfalls. The day after we arrived we set off early to go and see the Bonampak ruins only to be halted at the start of a 10km dirt road when we were told that there were no tourist vehicles allowed, but that we could park Hanna and pay 200 peso for a taxi to take us to the park entrance – that did not include the site entrance fee – feeling a little stumped we settled on taking the bikes in and the ‘entrance fee’ was reduced to 100 peso. After a bone shaking 30 minute ride we arrived at Bonampak where we saw the most amazing 1200 year old Murals in an incredible range of colours. Depicting scenes of war, invasion, politics, daily life, torture and gods the 3 rooms painted on all walls and the ceiling are a pure pleasure to behold. Beautiful.
So today we are at the end of 3 days in Escudo Jaguar hotel complex in the village of Frontera Corozal on the river that borders Mexico and Guatemala. We have been working our way towards getting on a Lancha (small boat) to the ruins at Yaxchilan – which are on an island in the river. The cost for this little expedition has fallen quite seriously outside our budget so we have been hoping to meet up with like-minded travellers to share the cost of a boat – but it is not full season here and it seems that we will be departing without having that pleasure … No problema … so for, I think, the first time on this blog this post is ending with the place where we sit, right here, right now in Escudo Jaguar – although it is now Mosquito time and I am inside our blood-sucking proof outside space – Thanks Sas x x x
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