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