Sometimes on this trip it seems that arriving in a new place can be a little bit … well dare I say it … samey. I know we are on a trip of a lifetime and everything should be sparkly and new but there are days and places that just fail to inspire for whatever reason.
After we left Tulum and the ‘beach holiday’ with Ben, Emily and Nicola we headed up the coast to Playa del Carmen – ostensibly for propane but to take in a little bit more tourist-hotspot fun as well. After finding the propane filling station and being told to return at the end of the working day when the correct hose adaptor would be available we headed in to the centre of Playa del Carmen, which was underwhelming. Later after expensive coffee and cake we returned and filled the propane tank by which time it was too late to move on as planned so we decided to try the ‘free Walmart camping’ that had been a bit of a lifesaver whilst moving across Canada and the USA. we are still not sure if it is allowed but we had a quiet night and pushed on in the morning, pretty much ready to get back to rural and hidden Mexico.
After a few days driving and not a few Cenotes and random campsites we finally headed to a place that Sas really wanted to visit. I had absolutely no idea of the place or any expectations of the style of the city. Using the ioverlander app we knew that there was a safe and good quality campsite there run by an ex-overlander, Harald, at the camping Hacienda Santa Dominguez. When we arrived we drove through the town and got our first look at this ‘next place’ and it was exciting. The architecture, the inclusion of many Mayan ruins within the town and its buildings, the painted street fronts – all the same colour – a deep yellow, the municipal squares (of which there are many) and finally Harald’s camping ground and hotel.
Lets start with the camping, as we pulled in we were met with the sight of another Hymer parked in the grounds – I can’t explain how randomly exciting that was. Any overlanders reading this know that there are some comforts that just take a place to another level and one of those is the shower and bathroom situation. Clean? Hot water? Paper provided? Yes to all of the above. Not so unusual but quite often not all of the above – but here the design of the shower rooms and the finish were most definitely up to European standards something that pleases on a subliminal level. Next there is a small pool and a bar attached to the hotel both of which provide just a little something extra to the camping experience. All at 150 pesos per night plus a small fee to use the internet around the pool – very nice.
So later we got on the bikes and headed in to the town itself. Wandering around those streets was a blissful way to spend a few days. Cafe and restaurant culture at it’s best. hanging out in the squares in the evening people watching as the locals of all ages (from new-born up to great grand parents) mingled and hung out to eat overly sugary snacks and have a laugh and a chat.
During the day the ruins that somehow have been integrated in to Spanish style buildings were a pleasure to explore and the endless clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages running up and down the one-way streets were very cool and reminiscent of a time that I didn’t live in, but somehow have a memory of. Of course the carriages were there for the tourists (mostly Mexican with Europeans and North Americans mixed in) and the town itself has a reasonable sized ex-pat community too.
To be fair to the whole history of the place – I found this page that describes, much more succinctly than I can, the importance of the location since 1000BC and through the Mayan era, leading to the Spanish conquest and the desecration of their places of worship and the construction of the imported new comer’s place of worship. If you want to read more click here.
We passed several unplanned days there just hanging out and soaking up the 35 degree C temperature just relaxing and planning the next part of our trip. What a lovely surprise!