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Yucatan Wandering

Author: Paul (More Trip Reviews by Paul)
Date of Trip: January 2009

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

crocodileSunrise 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.

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