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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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Ebbs and Flows, Quintana Roo

May 26, 2016
by John

We are starting to realize that we stall for a few weeks after every five months of  continuous traveling. This is not a conscious decision, more of an observation of how our trip has been going. Instead of crashing at our sister's place, like last time, we ended up hanging around Playa del Carmen and Tulum while the van got some much needed upgrades. A few of the new parts had to be ordered which resulted in us having to wait for their delivery. This had us tethered to the general vicinity of the auto shop, venturing only about an hour away.

It's different when you have to be at or around some place while on the road. We became so accustomed to making up our plans as we go, our impromptu pause was almost paralyzing. We had become victims of our own scheduled unscheduledness. Needing to wait canceled all plans B, C, D, and E... even our fallback plans were rendered useless. Our vision was narrowed, blurry at first, so we did what any good traveler should do, we went to Starbucks for overpriced coffee and free wifi.

Two days later we had several new friends and the realization that being stuck in the Yucatan is a great problem to have. There was no need to rush and there are beaches a plenty. Rolling with it, we figured the last month of our Mexican visas would be spent doing much of nothing. Soon we'd be entering the fourth country of our journey so resting up was exactly what we needed to do.

What We Did

Tulum, Quintana Roo

We weren't entirely sure we'd visit the ruins of Tulum, they were the first we had ever experienced almost 15 years ago. The Santa Fe campground, the closest to the ruins with direct access over a set of dunes to the beach, was an easy choice to wait for news regarding our parts. At $11 US many might think it is pricey for a parking space in the sand, once you walk the 100 yards and get a glimpse of the beach you feel like you're ripping the owners off. Day use is heavy, especially on Sundays, so the bathrooms get really abused. The beach, oh that beach, takes all stress away and makes it all OK.

After two nights we decided to wander the mile to the ruins. The structures aren't the biggest or most impressive, the location is still breathtaking. By 9:30 it was overrun with tour buses so going first thing is best. The crowds got so thick it was hard to get around everyone to leave. We knew we'd probably be moving the following day so we attempted one last swim but the strong winds had us trying to wait it out at the onsite bar. A few hours and many new friends later we wandered back to the van and hunkered down for the night.

Santa Fe Beach, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Why on earth did we stop here

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

So uncivilized

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Maybe they could have picked a better spot

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Crack attack

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Sure, bloody hand prints are a good sign

Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Do you think we can get a timeshare?

House in Chemuyil, Quintana Roo

Once we realized we were in a stall we figured we should get a house. A 3 bedroom had popped up near Tulum on the "On the Road in Mexico" Facebook group so we reached out to Joe and Josee to see if they wanted to split it. Within a couple hours Mandi and I were starting the process of cleaning up the two story house, it is still undergoing some remodeling, and Joe and Josee were on their way. Back together was just like old times, you know from 4 months ago, Josee finished cleaning and setting up the kitchen while we all shared stories from the road. We may all say we got the house to do chores before crossing into Belize, we're pretty sure our brains were screaming air conditioning!

The following day Guy and Amy, whom we briefly met in San Miguel de Allende, joined in for a full house. Rigs were cleaned, things fixed, laundry caught up, research performed, and plenty of sitting around in the A/C was done. We did manage to put together an Overlander get together one night. We finally got to meet Natasha & Pete (Here Until There) who we expect to see again somewhere in Central America and were joined by Beat & Betty who had just finished hanging out with close friends from Switzerland. It was really fun and something we hope to do again sometime. Beat & Betty did get a few of us out of the house one morning to swim with some sea turtles, kheuwl (the way Betty says cool is really cool). Unfortunately all of our pictures of the get together sucked, sorry guys.

A big thanks goes out to Nolan, the really chill rental manager. Some undue stress was placed on him because a few home owners didn't know what to think about us overland "Gypsies". He's a traveler too so hopefully our paths with cross again in the future. Sorry none of us ever made it to the beach, the real draw for the community's location. When you live in a vehicle it's nice to just sit around in a house for a week sometimes.

Chemuyil, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Joe is such a gangsta

Chemuyil, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Yes, thumbs set us apart from the other animals

Chemuyil, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Europeans are so gross

Punta Allen, Quintana Roo

Our visas were getting close to their expiration date so we decided to run to Punta Allen before heading closer to the border with Belize. Two hours in to the rough semi-coastal drive we spotted Betty & Beat and Guy & Amy so we crashed their free spot on the ocean, never reaching Punta Allen proper. Hanging on a beach, sharing food, and ideas for Belize was great. We had to leave to get closer to the border but we know we'll see all of them again.

Punta Allen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

It'll hold

Punta Allen, Quintana Roo, Mexico


Punta Allen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Of course the American rig is the fat one

Chetumal, Quintana Roo

Our original plan was to go back to Lake Bacalar, we spent one night there before heading to Uxmal, but a few texts with Josh & Jenna had us switching to Yax Ha in the border town of Chetumal. On the way there we had our first tire failure which took us over an hour to change. We are so glad we carry a jack stand or it would have been impossible. While sweating away, a great couple we previously met at Lake  Bacalar pulled over to help. We were good but they gave us a couple of cold waters, thanks guys!

We rolled into Yax Ha close to 5 PM and spotted Joe & Josee! We thought they were somewhere else so it was a great surprise. Our plan to cross into Belize on Monday changed to Tuesday due to a Belizean holiday and the fact that we needed a new spare tire. We ended up purchasing a BFG even though we are running Toyos, it was the only tire in our size. I can't help but think about the Sir Mix-A-lot song My Hooptie. Yax Ha is a really nice campground right on the ocean with a large pool, the perfect place to finalize everything before crossing into Belize.

Yax Ha, Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Never seen this before

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.

Race Car, Playa del Carmen

A great auto shop owned by Asael, a bilingual VW enthusiast. His crew worked really hard to get our van in tip top condition for our upcoming entry into Central America. They are not the fastest nor cheapest shop, instead they are thorough. We are very happy with the work they performed. Asael hopes to one day drive the Pan-Am himself!

Empanada Stand on Calle 34 Norte, Playa del Carmen

While walking to the beach we stopped at a street vendor selling handmade empanadas on the corner of Calle 34 Norte and Avenida 30 Norte. All of them were delicious but the chicken was the best. Each one was made from scratch as we ordered them. 5 empanadas set us back a whopping 40 pesos, $2.40 US.

Burrito Amor, Tulum

We know that burritos aren't really a Mexican thing but Burrito Amor makes some of the best we have ever had. The Al Pastor is delicious and a decent sized lunch for 79 pesos.

Navigating by 'Mainland Mexico' tag - Navigate by Date
Say what? (4)
Douglas Packer
May 26, 2016 at 12:16 PM
G'day, Great stories, meeting new friends on your way. Sounds like a colourful life, like your colourful van. I was in the US last June 015 for 6 weeks, travelling 11,000 miles, 13 States, from CA, up to WA, across to CO, down to AZ and back to Fresno where I started. Sportsmobile is now in New Zealand for conversion to right hand drive, then home to Australia, for many journies. I'm Sheriffdoug with the 08 Yellow Ford e350 4x4 6.0 SMB. Thank You for sharing
May 26, 2016 at 02:13 PM
Enjoyed all your mexico travelogues. Hope you both will have more fun and exciting times in Belize.
Eric (86scotty most places)
May 28, 2016 at 11:52 AM
Awesome update! Thanks for sharing as always.
May 28, 2016 at 02:46 PM
Thanks Doug, Sri, and Eric!

Converting an SMB to RHD drive is awesome! Keep us posted on your Australian travels.
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