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John and Mandi

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The Zig then Zag of It All, Campeche to the Yucatan

May 6, 2016
by John

We have come to realize that when we are not driving in circles we seem to be moving in Zs, backwards at times. This is not due to lack of planning, at least that is what we tell ourselves, more akin to being benefactors of the moment. It would be easy to chart a course and stick to it, conforming to the rigidity most apply to vacations. A long term trip is nothing of that sort so we have to be fluid. When we are in a groove, bingeing on natural and/or unnatural wonders, we follow the feast.

Deep inside each of us is the lost soul of an archaeologist. We are not fanciers of the present techniques of architecture and urban culture, more underachieving pupils of ancient methodologies and ways. A lust for zen in what was and the simple elegance of bygone eras. Arriving in the lands of the ancient Mayan, we are smitten.

What We Did

Balamku, Campeche

A small set of ruins on the route to Calakmul. Nothing close to the most impressive in structures, easily the best Mayan freezes we have seen. We were the only visitors so the entire place was ours to explore. When we reached the last ruin a park employee was waiting for us along with his escort, the resident dog. We stepped inside and were immediately awestruck by the friezes, a true gem.

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

This is not 4 star accomodations

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

She said hello...

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

What's your angle?

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

See where blindly following a trail of Reeses Pieces gets you

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

Green light, red light

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

Perpetual RBF

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

croc-o-dilly-i-o

Balamku, Campeche, Mexico

I've been waiting for him to start juggling all day

Calakmul, Campeche

It's in the strangest of places you make new friends. There was a bit of a debate in iOverlander as to whether overnight parking in the lot for Calakmul was allowed so we opted to stay in the gravel pit just outside the first gate, roughly 60kms from the ruins. During our Balamku photo culling session a French family of four, really four and soon to be one more, pulled in beside us. We had seen their rig around San Miguel de Allende so getting the chance to officially meet and trade stories while their girls played was wonderful.

The following morning we decided to make an early run while they opted for a more kid friendly time frame. We had heard the road was mostly single track, pot holed, and narrow in both width and height. Knowing we were one of the first to enter we made good time, reaching the ruins at opening (8am) in an hour and fifteen minutes. Our photos really don't capture the real essence of the place. We were wondering if it was worth the visit until we climbed our first of three pyramids. The view above the tree tops, Guatemala in the distance, was unparalleled. The drive out took a little longer due to incoming traffic but was just under two hours. Our van is roughly 2.4 meters in height, the maximum of what we'd feel comfortable with. Thanks for the recommendation Irene & Simon.

Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico

How green of them

Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico

The 5 stelae defense

Calakmul, Campeche, Mexico

Still not sure about the view though

Chicanna, Campeche

A spontaneous side trip after leaving Calakmul, a great little set of ruins that introduced us to Puuc architecture. An easy one hour break from driving and another place we had all to ourselves. We later found similar architectural details at Uxmal, yet Chicanna is much more rustic and peaceful. Both were worth the visit.

Chicanna, Campeche, Mexico

No, she's not doing yoga...that would be lame

Chicanna, Campeche, Mexico

Corridor of the damned, sounds like fun

Chicanna, Campeche, Mexico

Don't you turn your noses up at me

Chicanna, Campeche, Mexico

Circles takes the win

Chicanna, Campeche, Mexico

Genius level jenga

Uxmal, Yucatan

We had debated whether we should end our run of ruins and shoot to the coast or head back inland to visit some more and run the corridor of cenotes to Cancun. Not wanting to skip what we didn't know, we already love the Yucatan, we made a zag over to Uxmal spending the night in the employee parking lot. The main portion of the complex is rather exposed but the site is impressive. The further we wandered in the more the jungle had an influence over the structures. It's apparent why many tourists on a tight timeline only visit Uxmal.

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Seems like an awful waste of space

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Gonzo's relatives found

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Can you trust a snake in the stone?

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Munchin Macaroni

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

What's all the hooplah about?

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Little house, no prairie

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Master of the stink eye

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Ride the stone jaguar, only costs one head

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Stop with the facade

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Windows to the past

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

2 birds, 2 stones

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

I don't think they appeciated the previous caption

Uxmal, Yucatan, Mexico

Even the Mayans knew Bartholomew was the shit

Tres Cenotes, Yucatan

When reading about riding to three different cenotes in a horse drawn rail cart we romanticized something far from the reality.  Honestly, we are conflicted as it was neat but unnerving from the stand point of the horses. Ours was more the size of a pony requiring our driver to jump off and help pull the cart at times. Before reaching the first cenote we had to transfer to a motorized tuk tuk to traverse a trackless section, our poor horse had to run behind us while we sped along. What was once probably a great experience, its heyday seems to have long past.

Overall, we preferred the first of the three cenotes which required climbing down a hole at the base of a tree to access it. Swimming in the fresh water in almost complete darkness will be hard to top. The other two were just ok, we didn't even swim in the last. We think converting the tour to bicycling or horseback riding would lend itself to a much better experience. It would also appropriate rider to horse size more adequately if properly implemented. Sorry we only have a picture of the entrance to the first cenote, I forgot to charge the battery for our waterproof camera.

Tres Cenotes, Yucatan, Mexico

All ye who enter here

Ik Kil, Yucatan

An amusement park of a cenote and the reason we decided to skip Chichen Itza. It caters almost entirely to tour buses so our experience was lackluster. We were hungry after Tres Cenotes but the onsite restaurant at Ik Kil is buffet only, we ended up getting burgers at the snack bar. The cenote is quite beautiful but is obviously suffering under the amount of human traffic and extensive construction surrounding it. A modern day tourist trap, too bad. Yokdzonot would probably have been a better choice.

Ik Kil, Yucatan, Mexico

Loved to death

Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo

Ending our backwards z had us rolling into one of the top tourist destinations in the world. We had never visited Cancun and we still really haven't. We camped North of the city at Mecoloco Trailer Park, not the best but the location we wanted. We day tripped to Isla Mujeres to see if it was the type of beach we were looking for. Before heading back to the ferry we found a studio apartment complete with a kitchette, a balcony, and air conditioning a couple blocks away from Playa Norte all for 500 pesos per night. High end for us but exactly what we were needing. The following morning we moved the van to the storage lot at Mecoloco, 50 pesos per day, and headed back to Isla Mujeres for a few nights.

We now refer to the short stint we spent on the island as our vacation. It was pricey but hanging on a Caribbean beach getting burnt while drinking cocktails was absolutely phenomenal. We adore the Caribbean and expect to spend a fair amount of time at the beach over the next month or so. Fittingly, while sipping on fruity beverages, we celebrated our first year on the road much like how we celebrated its start. Instead of hanging with a new friend from Texas we ended up living the good life next to three young ladies who live in a small town less than 100 miles from where we are from. Zigs, zags, loops and circles... life has not changed, only the way we live it.

Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Seen one beach you've seen them all

Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Seen one beeeach you've seen them all

Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico

I guess Belize is a go

Honorable Mentions

While we don't list every place and thing we do there are some that stick in our minds. Weeks later we catch ourselves mentioning them to others or just savoring the memory of the exquisite cuisine we consumed. Here are a few standouts.

Suytun, Yucatan

The cenotes are definitely past their prime but the campground was great. We now have an appreciation for swimming pools and soaked the afternoon away in theirs. We only stayed one night but could have easily spent up to a week hanging by the pool.

Cafe Cito, Isla Mujeres

A small place with a long standing history of being one of the best to patron. It became our go to spot for breakfast and real cappuccinos during our stay on the island.

Olivia, Isla Mujeres

To celebrate our first year on the road we chose to go out for dinner, the Mediterranean cuisine of Olivia the perfect choice. The Parmesan bread with Tzaziki, Roquefort Salad, Chicken with Olives, and Baklava were a culinary delight. A little pricey but well worth it.


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