JD, Chelem, nr Puerto Progreso, Mexico
We had calculated that driving a white VW van would help us blend in – but we never counted on this. We do blend in. The collectivos which run between and around every town, village and city are all white, many are VWs.
So on an almost daily basis someone tries to flag us down to help them home with their shopping. Once or twice we’ve even stopped, explained we’re not a collectivo but that if they are going the same way as us they are welcome to jump in.
Being mistaken for a Mexican bus is just one of the strange happenings we’ve had to contend with over the past couple of weeks. Dogs that enjoy chasing cars, or napping on the road, are a hazard we could do without.
How to avoid crashing in to thousands of people – young and old, many barefoot – pounding the narrow city streets, running over mountain passes and cycling along the motorway with huge statues of the Virgin of Guadalupe tied to their backs and flaming torches in their hands was not something that was in my driving test.
But all that’s as nothing compared to the coconut which plummeted to earth inches from my head and smashed on the ground seconds after Paula uttered the immortal words – “apart from the obviously bad things about having to tell people you were dead, imagine how embarrassing it would be if I had to say you’d been killed by a falling coconut”.
That, and her whacking me with a book whilst I was driving – on the flimsy pretext of killing a mosquito – has got me worried.
In between dodging falling fruit and unwelcome rain storms we’ve hit the heart of the Mayan world on the Yucatan peninsula. Suddenly there are tour buses and package holidays and lots of touts and whilst none of that is welcome the amazing white sand beaches and incredible ruins more than make up for it.
The jungle-shrouded ruined cities at Balamku and Calakmul were amazing. Forty-metre high temples with incredible views across forests that echoed to the sounds of monkeys and woodpeckers in the upper reaches of the canopy. And best of all they were almost deserted.
Not so at Tulum – one of the major Mayan sites – which is spectacularly located on a cliff above a white sand beach and turquoise sea. Later that day we swam and snorkelled in a picture-postcard cenote – basically a large sinkhole with amazing colours and caverns so deep you are sure some mythical creature MUST live down there.
At Coba – described by our guide book as like being in Raiders of the Lost Ark – we climbed Nochol-Mul, at 42m high the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan. Regular readers of the blog will realise when I say we, I mean P. She climbs, takes the picture and that way I get to see the incredible view without the vertigo.
At Chichen Itza we again rose early to beat the tour buses and took in the full splendour of the most perfect 25-metre high pyramid and temple virtually alone. The site, unlike many others, has been extensively restored, but it is spectacular and you can see what all the fuss is about.
In between lapping up Mayan culture we’ve had a few days basking in the sun at lovely beaches – Xpu-Ha and El Pescadero – and stopping off to sample a bit of life in smaller off-the-beaten-track towns such as Izamal, Isla Aguarda and Laguna Bacalar.
At the latter we were lost in the dark, again, looking for a ‘campsite’ of which we had read – a un-signposted field in which a Mexican family lived, next to the laguna. Cynics that we are, we don’t believe in guardian angels as such. But as we circled the area despondently a car came up close, weaving slightly, and started flashing its lights behind us. We pulled over reluctantly. Wasn’t this kind of thing in the book of ‘things not to do in Mexico?’.
We waited. A white-haired man got out and approached us, then started singing ‘California here I come’ – in reference to our licence plates – as he bounded up to the window. It was Tony, a very drunk Liverpudlian-Canadian who lived in the area and had seen us cruising around looking lost. He knew what we were looking for, he said, got back into his car and guided us there to a friendly welcome from the owners.
We offered him a tequila to say thanks. Appreciating he was already well imbibed, he politely refused and slunk off into the night as suddenly as he had appeared. Earthly angels do exist then, and they are Liverpudlian apparently.
And as John Lennon once said… and so this is Christmas. Well, not quite but you get the laboured journalistic link there. And, in keeping with recent events, for us this will be a strange one… thousands of miles from home.
It seems somewhat incongruous to see a ‘snowman’ made from sand on a blisteringly sunny beach or a light-up Santa adorning the edge of the swimming pool at our current camp site in Puerto Progreso. But don’t worry, in keeping with tradition we intend to eat too much, drink too much and fall asleep in front of a film.
Miles: 4,494.2 [We have put in a bumper crop of miles since last blogging. We’d like to show you that on a map, but ours is currently broken and awaiting repair.]
Things we think might be true: Just because your wife puts your chair under a coconut tree, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s trying to kill you.