Merida to Lake Bacalar via Tulum 27 December 2017 to 12 January 2018

Our route from Merida to Lake Bacalar

If there is one thing that remains constant is that Giddy Up and Go time always arrives. This time it was to get us moving from Merida to Valladolid where we had booked an Airbnb. So, it was off on the 180 and 180D. This road runs across country leaving the Gulf of Mexico behind.

 

 

 

A short run to Valladolid

 

 

It was a relatively short run of about 165Km, but in the sweltering heat it took a while. We had booked an Airbnb in Valladolid as we planned to spend a few days there.

 

 

Arriving into Valladolid

Reached the town in the early afternoon and then began the problem of finding the address. Holly brought us to the start of the street, a really long one divided up into different sections. So, we started cruising down slowly and asking people. It was one of those times when we were stopped, that a police pickup truck stopped and two policemen got out.

Our confy AirBnB

Everyone disappeared, the birds stopped singing, it got dark…. Okay I am exaggerating. Memories of Laurel and Hardy, the two Mexican city federalis, were still fresh in my mind. I had just pulled out my phone to phone our host when they approached. Okay time to play dumb. They asked were we where going so we showed the email with the address.

Tiggy behind bars… on the street ready for the night…

They didn’t know it either so he pointed to the phone number and very politely asked me to phone and if they could speak to the Host….. I was kinda worried but phoned and gave him the phone. He talked fast to the host, handed me back the phone, I was relieved as it was HAL my windows phone and back up nav unit and told me to follow them, he also explained that it was on this street but in Zone Centro. I still didn’t trust the situation, but I had to follow.

Mural at Conato Restaurant

They brought us right up to the doorstep, shook my hand, shared a joke with my host and left. That one bad experience had influenced me, not all the Mex police are corrupt. I asked my host if the police were bad news for them, but they just laughed and said we know the local police. That night we found a really nice restaurant called Conato and treated ourselves to dinner.

The next day we took the local bus, called a “collectivo”.  These are little minibuses and they run on different routes. They stop anywhere along the way to pickup people. They are relatively cheap.

The magnificent Kukulkan Pyramid

This one was running from the center to a place called Chichen Itza. This is one of the major Mayan sites, the second most visited site in Mexico. It contains the Kukulkan Pyramid or El Castillo as it is often called. This Pyramid was declared to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World in 07-07-2007.

 

Plataforma de Venus

Chichen Itza, which means “At the mouth of the well of the Itza”, was founded in AD 600 and was abandoned in AD 1200.  This city spans 3 periods of Mayan culture, starting in the “late classic” through the “terminal classic” and into the early portion of the “postclassic period”. Two things strike you on entering the site.

Skulls ….

The first is the price 237 Pesos per person. The entrance fee to the site is divided into two amounts, one for the state (culture) and the second for the federal (INAH). The second thing is the amount of people. We were there early in the morning before the bus tours and there were still a lot of people.

 

Plaza de las Mill Columnas

We wandered around the site by ourselves and didn’t take a guide. Every so often we would stop and listen to an explanation from a guide who was taking another group around. Another striking feature of this site is the fact that souvenir sellers are allowed to set up their stalls in among the monuments. This adds a lot of color to the place. We took the collectivo back into town in the early afternoon and started to try to book our next accommodation. This proved to be difficult, New Year was coming up and everything was full or crazy prices.

Plaza e Parque Francisco Canton, Valladolid

We decided to stay put were we were. I kinda liked that little town. So that night we celebrated by going out to dinner.

 

 

 

 

Cemote Xkeken

The next day we went out to explore two Cenotes that were in the area, Cenote Xkeken and Cenote Samula are two of the most well-known cenotes around Valladolid. These are well known because of Cenote Samula’s iconic ray of light that comes into the cenote and highlight the blue water and tree roots growing down to the water. they are also famous from the Red Bull advert that was shot there. We took a shared taxi for the 7 Km run out there. Cenote Xkeken is considered to be one of the best to visit.

 

Xkeken hanging limestones

It is a very pretty natural underground oasis. It is set in a limestone cave with an opening in the ceiling that lets in a ray of sunlight that brings out the natural beauty in the rock formations and to light up the water. It is always full of people enjoying a refreshing swim in the water, with bats hanging from the ceiling and small fishes swimming around you.

 

 

 

Cenote Samula

Right next door is Cenote Samula, different than its neighbor Xkeken but no less charming. This cenote also has a hole that lets a beam of light in at noon. You can also swim here among the fish. It is only 13 meters deep at it’s deepest. Took another shared taxi back into Valladolid.

 

It was a relief to have it off!

Spent the next day lazing around and a visit to the barber shop to trim my beard. My beard trimmer broke down, so I just let it grow. It was really thick and bushy. I had bought a small beard trimmer in Merida but there was no way that it was going to be able to handle that beard. With the run up to New Years the barber was busy, but it was soon my turn. This process provided amusement for everybody in the shop and those passing by. The barber attacked my beard with his professional electric hair trimmer and soon there was a massive amount of hair on the floor and my face was reappearing. It was a relief to have it off. It was really hot and it was irritating my skin. Roll on the New Year.

Salsa dancing at New Years Party

That evening there was gonna be a New Year celebration on the main square. You could rent a table for the night and bring your own food and drinks or just hang around the park. We opted for the hanging bit, it was free. Midnight came, the fireworks started up, the band played and everyone started to dance, the party was on big time and we joined in. The next day January 1st  we just lazed away, yep may as well start the year in the same way as you plan to leave it.

Ek Balam

The next day we went out to explore the old Mayan city of Ek Balam. This city is situated 25 Km north of Valladolid. We took a collectivo out and back. This site is noted for the preservation of the plaster on the tomb of Ukit Kan Lek Tok’, a king buried in the side of the largest pyramid.  The largest Mayan temple that has been excavated in the Yucatan is also situated here. It is the main temple of Ek Balam, it is 500 feet long and 200 feet wide. Only the center of Ek’ Balam has been excavated.

 

Archway Ek Balam

Large, raised platforms line the interior wall, surrounding internal plazas. Sacbes (ancient Mayan roads) stem off the center in the four cardinal directions, an architectural allusion to the idea of a “four-part cosmos”. These roads are often understood to have been sacred. Ek Balam also has a very beautiful arch connecting to a sacbe, these sacbes connected the Maya kingdoms.

Beautifully preserved inscriptions

The arch is found where these sacbes intersect the entrance to the city. Ek Balam has many sacbes that connect to other Maya cities such as its neighbor Chichen Itza. The Acropolis houses the tomb of king Ukit Kan Le’k Tok’, who ruled from 770 (the starting year of the “height” of this city) to 797 or 802 CE. No one really knows why the city was abandoned but hastily constructed defensive walls in the city seem to tell a story.

 

 

Said goodbyes…

The next day was time to leave and head towards Playa del Carmen. We had stayed a while in Valladolid and had a good time. The bike was loaded and we were all dressed up, our host family were gathered around outside to wave us off. We did our farewell cuddles, said our goodbyes, I turned the ignition key in Tiggy Moondust and nothing, no display lighting up, no sound of the fuel pump starting up….. just nothing.

Off with the seat… jump start Tiggy

Embarrassing ….. Got out my jump starter and connected it up, display lights up, lights came on, pressed the starter an 3 cylinders roareinto life, battery was flat….. again,after a long stop. Loaded the bike up again, put our gear back on, said ourourgoodbyes and we were off.

Rope-ladder for the monkeys to cross the road, unfortunately haven’t seen one..

It was a short run of 140 Km. We took the 180d and switched to the 305d, riding trough a Monkey Sanctuary, which led us straight to Playa del Carmen.

 

 

Parque Fundadores, Playa del Carmen

 

Found our Airbnb and had a bit of a dispute with the host, an English girl working for the American owners, who were stateside at the time of our visit. Our room was advertised with beach view, no way!

 

 

“Beach view

It looked out on a blank wall with a mural painted on it and a small damp swimming pool. There was no beach view. You could see the sea, in the distance, from the roof terrace but no beach. We complained formally via Airbnb. Everywhere else was booked up so we had to stay, plus we had paid for it.

Dinner date with Chris, Jyl and Tash

Got showered, changed into our good socializing clothes and made our way to keep our dinner date with Chris, Jyl and Tash. Tash was flying back to England the next day and Jyl and Chris were leaving for Cancun, to get the Harley’s serviced. They all had spent Christmas and New Year’s relaxing on the beach and visiting the Mayan sites, in the area. We spent a super evening chatting and laughing, swapping stories and eating. Our next dinner date will be in Panama end of May.

Lazing around the beach…

Spent the next 3 days lazing on the beach and exploring Playa del Carmen. It is a party town geared to the American tourist trade and the prices reflect this. Large shopping centers, brightly lit plazas, restaurants and bars.

Still lazing around…

 

Medical clinics for everything from facelifts to liposuction, dentists and chemists. This is not our Mexico, but it was fun for a short time, this I will have to admit.

 

 

Giddy up and go…

 

But like all things they come to an end and it was Giddy up and go time again. This time to Coba, or to be more precise Macario Gomez, a small town in between Tulum and Coba. We had rented a little cabin here via Airbnb. We tried to find a place in Tulum, but the prices were crazy. It was a 110 km run down the coast on the 307 and switching to the 109 inland to Macario Gomez.

 

 

Arriving in Mario Gomez

This is an interesting little place, it mostly straddles the main road with little stands selling BBQ-ed chicken. We were looking for somewhere to eat and this forced us to follow the signs for a place called Cassa Mango. This led deeper into the jungle but just before we gave up there it was.

 

Dinner the jungle at Cassa Mango

A little Italian restaurant with a hotel consisting of a couple of little bamboo huts nestled in the jungle. We had a really good meal and got a lift back to our cabin with two American guys who were also having a meal there. The place is owned and run by an Italian couple, they both cook, clean and serve the food. They are passionate about food and that was to be seen in the meal we had, it was fantastic. Well it was the only place in town where we could eat.

 

The next day we had to move our stuff out of the cabin as we were to get a new one. Ours had no toilet seat and the door could not be locked. We rode the bike to Coba were we spent a pleasant day wandering around the ruins. This site is the center point from which the largest network of stone causeways of the ancient Mayan world radiates. These are known by the Mayan term sacbe or white road. Some of these causeways go east, and the longest runs over 100 kilometers (62 mi) westwards to the site of Yaxunah.

Ixmoja Pyramid

“The site contains a group of large temple pyramids known as the Nohoch Mul, the tallest of which, Ixmoja, is some 42 meters (138 ft) in height. Ixmoja is among the tallest pyramids on the Yucatán peninsula, exceeded, only, by Calakmul at 45 meters (148 ft).” – Wikipedia.  We bought lunch in one of the restaurants.

Our cabana…

Then it was back to Macario Gomez where true to the landlord’s word we had a new cabin. Took a collectivo into Tulum, had our dinner in one of the very many restaurants lining booth sides of the road. The food was good and the nightlife was in full swing. Had to take a taxi back as the collectivos had stopped running.

El Castillo, Tulum

The next day it was off into Tulum to explore the ruins there. This Mayan walled city served as a major port for Coba. “The city was situated on a 12 meter (39 ft) high cliff overlooking the Caribbean Sea.

 

 

Casa de Las Columnas

Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Maya, it was at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries and managed to survive about 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico.

 

 

Templo del Viento

European diseases brought by the Spanish settlers appear to have resulted in very high fatalities, disrupting the society and eventually causing the city to be abandoned. One of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites, Tulum is today a popular site for tourist from all around the world.” – Wikipedia.

Small Beach under the Tulum Ruins
On our way to Bacalar

It is possible to climb down to the small beach and take a swim in the sea. It is an amazing site when you look up at the ruins.  There is a photo album of Coba and Tulum on Facebook, Ride Live Explore, called

“Valladolid to Tulum …”

 

Time to move on again. This time to Lake Bacalar. It was a nice run, took the Mex 109 to Tulum and then the Mex 307 straight to Lake Bacalar. We had booked a hotel in Lake Bacalar through Booking.com. The winter holidays were still in full swing and everywhere was full or crazy prices. It was a 240Km run to the lake and we made good time.

 

Hotel Hospedaja

Found the hotel, it was called Hospedaje Consuelo. It was cheap, in the center, had secure parking and it turned out to be a really good choice. It was simple, just a couple of rooms in a courtyard with parking in front. The whole court yard was locked up at night. In the morning there was free coffee, tea and cereal.

Promenade at Lake Bacalar

It was located just a short walk from the lake. Lake Bacalar or Laguna de Bacalar is an amazing fresh water lake in the state of Quintan Roo in Mexico. It is renowned for the different shades of blue to be found in the water, about 7 in total and the clarity of the water, partly the result of having a limestone bottom.

 

It is fed by underground rivers and cenotes.  It is approximately 42 km long, north to south and less than 2 km at its widest. There is one large area where you can swim, relax under the shade of palm umbrellas and have a picnic. You have to pay to get in but it was not exorbitantly priced. We spent a whole day there swimming, sunning and picnicking. The water in the lake was cold though.

Desayuno at Cocina Orizaba

The next day we had a hearty breakfast, in our favorite little restaurant, it is owned and run by an eighty four year old lady. She still cooks and oversees all the transactions. This set us up for the day.

 

 

Swimming in 90 meter deep… with the fish…

We took a shared taxi out to Cenote Azul, this is reported to be the largest cenote in Mexico. It is 90 meters deep. The cenote is just about 3 km from Bacalar and it has a restaurant and bar. Lifejackets are available for rent and I have to admit that I used one. 90 meters deep is a long way down. You share the water with a load of fish.

Money laundering….

I was wearing my shorts as I didn’t bring my swimming trunks. After renting the lifejacket I put my wallet in the pocket and forgot about it. Whilst in the water I felt something floating by my leg, first I thought that it was a fish but looked down to see my wallet drifting, lucky there was only paper money in it and it kinda floated. I managed to grab it and took it out. Dried the paper money in the sun. It is a funny feeling bobbing around with fish bumping into you and I did not go back in.

Didn’t want to get out…

Susie loved it she just kept floating around. We took the bus back into town, we were tired, but feeling good. Picked our laundry up and had dinner in one of the local restaurants. Then back to the hotel to pack up and get ready for the next stage of the journey…. Xpugil and Calakmul. But that’s gonna be another story in another blog.

There is a full photo album from this journey over on the other channel…. the Facebook one. Just click the link on top of the page and go to the post “Valladolid to Tulum via Playa del Carmen & surrounding Mayan site”.  Lake Bacalar is also on the next photo album called “Lake Bacalar to Calakmul”. So, grab a wee cup of tea and pop on over, click your way through some of the remains of the most fantastic period in the Mayan culture.

Thanks for reading the blog and keeping track of my progress. Until next time…. Hasta la vista amigos.

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