Officially Mexico is known as Estados Unidos Mexicanos or in English, the United Mexican States. There are 32 states in Mexico, I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve been to them all. Hmmm.Our destination after leaving Kevin’s group was what gringos commonly just call the Yucatan Peninsula. In actuality the peninsula is made up of three states, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo.
We left our amigos in Cuernavaca, the capital city of Mexico’s second smallest state, Morelos which is wedged between Puebla to the east, and Guerrero to the southwest. Our mission was to visit Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco on our way to the peninsula.
As I mentioned before, we are roughly following motorcycle routes in the book “Motorcycle Journeys Through Mexico by Neal Davis. I mentioned this in one of my previous posts and – of course – our friends Art and Carol who live in San Miguel de Allende (sports car in last post) are his neighbors! Art said he talked to Neal and they had a good laugh about us following advice in a 20 year old book. One of the places mentioned in the book was the Olmec heads in the city of Villahermosa. We loaded the route in our GPS and were on our way.
Neal’s book recommended a hotel, Hotel Viva Hermosa, “a most comfortable hotel, located in a lush jungle setting away from any street noise.” Was it still there after 20 years? I found it on booking.com and reserved two nights so we could explore Pargue-Museo La Venta, home of almost 50 of the famous Olmec carvings. When we arrived the parking attendant recommended parking under the overhang by the front door because of lluvia… um I knew that word, rain.
By the time we checked in and came back to the bikes the showers started and didn’t stop for two days. I backed up the big GS out of the drip line of the roof and put on the cover.
The next day was a soaker but we put on our rain coats (ever prepared northwesterners) and headed off to see the giant heads. I had to take a picture by this giant tree…
Here is one of the big carvings.
We walked all through the park in the rain and took pictures and read the interpretive signs which fortunately had English text. I’ll skip all 50 pictures here but they were pretty awesome to see. Ok, here is another one…
There was also a small zoo with an aviary, we went inside and I thought it was really nice of this Blue Peacock to sit on the sign that explained who he was.
We came across this guy giving us the stink-eye. Glad for the fence….
Here was a funny sign to see at a zoo. It seems they need to remind people not to hunt with firearms on the premises.
Finally after being thoroughly soaked by the rain we embarked on a very important mission…. we found this small Lavanderia across from the hotel… according to the sign – “la estetica de su ropa,” or “the aesthetics of your clothes.” I know my clothes needed some aesthetics..For $5.00 USD we would have all our clothes washed in three hours or less. Nice.
Ok, with clean clothes packed and the sun reappearing we left the next day for the Neal Davis book’s next recommendation, the Uxmal Ruins. Neal had this recommendation, “Should you really want to treat yourself, The Lodge at Uxmal is the place.” Hey, with clean clothes I thought we should stay at a nice place that we wouldn’t get ejected from because of our smell. I found it online and booked two nights.
The route took us up to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The roads in this part of the country were really different from what we were used to, they were flat, straight, wide and fast! Oh, and almost no topes! We wizzed along at 80mph most of the day munching the miles and were still being passed but cars we just started to referring to as the Speedy Gonzales’.
Sure enough it was a beautiful spot to relax for a few days.
The really cool thing was it was literally across the parking lot from the ruins and pyramids. First, in the morning I noticed a museum of old Land Rovers from the 50s, 60s and 70s. For a small fee we could have an offroad tour of the property in one of these vintage machines. I couldn’t help but sign up. After breakfast we met our guide for the private tour who spoke great English and ended up being the manager of the whole resort.
He let me choose the machine from the impressive lineup at the museum. Any of them? Yes, take you pick… ok cool. Then he told me I would be the driver! Ha! Ok, awesome.
Soon we were off-roading it through the property testing the 4WD action. I reminded him that I hadn’t driven a car in over three months and might be a little rusty, he didn’t seem to care.
We stopped at an old hacienda they discovered while doing some clearing a few years ago. It was the remains of a very large complex that they suspect was destroyed by angry villagers a hundred or more years ago.
We got out to walk around and explore, there were these trees everywhere trying to reclaim the land.
For the afternoon we walked across the street to see the Uxmal ruins. We’ve learned it’s usually worth paying a few bucks for a local guide who speaks English. We spent the afternoon learning more than I can remember about the Mayan pyramids and other buildings. One interesting thing I learned is that the structures didn’t have rooms with gold or silver like the Inca ruins we visited in South America. For this reason they weren’t vandalized as much over the years. Once again, I took a lot of pictures but will only show a few. I would highly recommend a visit.
According to Neal’s book you used to be able to climb up the stairs and admire the view from the top. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
It was nice to have someone take our picture.
We ended the afternoon with guacamole and chips next to the pool. Deby calls it food of the gods.
After Uxmal we decided to deviate from Neal’s book recommendations. Deby read online about a place not far away that had flocks of Pink Flamingos. We rode to the small port city of Celestun. Nearby is the 146,000-acre Celestún Biosphere Reserve that is home to more than 300 species of birds, including thousands of flamingos. Between January and April is the best time to view the birds at their fall and winter breeding ground.
The city of Celestun is not at all set up as a tourist destination. We found a “hotel” online but when we arrived we found it was just a house with a couple of extra rooms. It was nice enough but not somewhere we would return again. We had to take a mile long walk on the beach to the nearest restaurant where we had a good fish dinner (what else) and chatted with a couple of German tourists. On the way back we flagged down the most decrepit tuk tuk to run us back to the “hotel” Casa Bremar. The driver who lived there his whole life never heard of it. There was no sign and I had to guide the way.
I wish I would have got a better picture of this motorcycle with a cart on the back. The more I think about it… I don’t think it was really any type of public transportation, just a guy going somewhere. When we hopped in the back there was this other guy with no teeth smiling and trying to have a conversation in Spanish. I did my best and he seemed impressed.
If you look to the right of the guy’s head you can see an inverted soda bottle, that was the fuel for the tuk tuk.
He asked for 30 pesos for the trip and I handed him a 50 just for the fun (about $2.50). That night we had a few minutes on the beach to watch the sunset before the bugs got so bad we had to leave. Deby took this awesome picture of this bird posing for us.
We did get to see the flamingos in a true Mexican roundabout way, literally. I happened to turn on my Gaia tracking app to keep track of where we were going.
So, Celestun is on sort of an island that is accessed by exactly one road you can see comes in from the right. We rode in on the bikes and saw all the tour boats next to the bridge that crosses to the island. At our hotel the owner knew someone who would take us to see the birds. Ok, I arranged for him to pick us up at 8:00 so we could be done by 10:00 and move out of dodge so to speak. Silly me, I thought he would pick us up in a cab, car, cart or something by the road. When I didn’t see him at 8:00 someone at the house called to us – “you are supposed to meet him on the beach!” What? Ok, so a nice boat ride. Not… we spent an hour at full speed on the most choppy ocean water to circle around the south side of the island, cross under the bridge and go a very short distance to see the flamingos. Heck, I could have flagged down a ride on the tuk tuk for 30 pesos and been there in 10 minutes. My back still hurts for the jostling in the small boat.
When we got there we did get some great pictures.
Deby took this picture, it’s a little blurry because of the zoom but was awesome in person.
We were anxious to get out of Celestun but didn’t really have a plan. We found out most people who visit take a 45 minute bus from the tourist city of Merida which would be my recommendation. We thought about visiting Merida but wanted to stay away from another big city with almost a million people. During our random conversation with the Germans at the restaurant the night before they recommended checking out a place called Bacalar. A quick check on Google showed it to be 276 miles away with a suggested time of 5 and a half hours. Not bad since we were getting a late start. I searched online an found what looked like a nice hotel and this time we weren’t disappointed. The Hotel Rancho Encantado was fantastic. The hotel is on Lake Bacalar which is better described in the following Wikipedia paragraph. Click HERE to read it in full.
Lake Bacalar (or Laguna de Bacalar) is a long, narrow lake in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico near Mexico’s border with Belize. It is approximately 42 km long measured from north to south, and less than 2 km at its widest. The lake is renowned for its striking blue color and water clarity, partly the result of having a white limestone bottom. Like most bodies of water in the Yucatán peninsula, the lake is fed by underground rivers, whose regular open pools are cenotes. Because of the porous limestone, the Yucatán Peninsula has almost no lakes, this is by far the largest, and fed by the 450 km underground river that is part of the worlds’s largest water cave/tunnel system, paralleling the coast.
We took a boat trip on the lake and stopped with some other guests to swim in the warm shallow waters of the lagoon. We then went to visit a couple of Cenotes that are deep pools where the lagoon drops a couple hundred feet in clear blue water. The whole area was amazing and it was somewhere I never heard of. I would highly recommend it as a warm place to visit in winter away from the Cancun madness.
We didn’t want to leave the next day and even asked to extend but we were running into the weekend and the place was totally booked for a big wedding. Like many resorts there is a gate at the entrance and when it’s time to leave you need to show some proof that you paid your bill. At this really nice resort they gave me the most tiny piece of paper to tuck in somewhere and show the gate attendant. Tricky with my riding gloves but I made it work.
Our next destination??? Not sure. We checked the weather and saw this warning.
You can see the tail of the storm was heading our way. We had enough of the peninsula and wanted to start heading back west. A check of the map showed we could get to the tourist town of Palenque in about 6 hours before the rain was scheduled to hit.
We booked two nights to ride out the downpour at the Chan-Kah resort. Nice place but we ended up drifting between the nice cabana and the restaurant staying out of the rain. We didn’t even bother to go see the famous ruins. We did meet a great couple from North Carolina, Chris and Phoebe who were on the tail end of a one year camper tour with their two children. They were one of the few Americans we would meet on this whole trip. It was fun hanging out and trading travel stories. I got a tour of their one ton Chevy pickkup (in picture above) with pop-up camper setup for four. We hope to keep in touch.
We were maybe getting a little restless to head back north but had one more place Deby wanted to visit, San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas. We never did make it…..
More to come and thanks for following!!!
Donn and Deby