Posted from Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico.
This week we broke 20,000 miles!!! Whew! (Have you noticed our day and mileage counter to the right? Check it out – it’s new!) It must be because of all the driving we were doing this week. Yes, we’re back on the road. We know that we still owe a couple more posts on Oaxaca (if you can tolerate it) and will work on those this week hopefully. One post will be on the incredible culture of music in Oaxaca, and one will have pictures of our trip to see the ruins at Monte Albán.
[To see the photos from this week, check out the accompanying photo post.]
But we said hasta luego to beloved Oaxaca on Monday morning and began a five-day journey to Tulum, on the Yucatan peninsula, approximately 900 miles away. The city of Oaxaca is around 5000 feet in elevation, so the first few hours of our Monday morning drive were extremely mountainous, with curvy, bumpy roads and lots of going ups and coming downs. But eventually we made it to sea level, the temperature shot up, and the road flattened out. After 3:30 we arrived at our “campground” behind a gas station in Agua Dulce in the state of Veracruz just shy of the Tabasco border. It was pretty, and there were horses roaming about, but it was hardly worth the $250 pesos (about $20 US) we had to plop down for it. But it was the only option that we could find in the area.
On Tuesday we had a leisurely four-hour drive to Palenque in the state of Chiapas. Our overlander friends Paula and Jeremy suggested a specific campground near the ruins, and it was fantastic. For much less money than the previous night, we had the option of using a swimming pool and there was a restaurant onsite with free wi-fi (that sadly only worked about 10 minutes of every day). The only drawback was that we were surrounded by howler monkeys, and they were loud. Don’t get us wrong – we were stoked to see howler monkeys, but as we didn’t have a chance to actually see one (because they kept their distance), their lionesque, ferocious roars were a little unsettling. But we were assured that they were friendly and wouldn’t try to eat us. While there we ran into our German overlander friends Markus and Tania, whom we first met in Antigua, Guatemala. We also met a couple from Australia, Barry and Carol, who have been driving around different continents for several years. It was fun to once again swap stories and get advice with others attempting similar excursions.
On Wednesday we headed out bright and early and walked a short distance from our campground to the entrance of the ruins at Palenque. Having been forewarned about the bugs (guide books usually say to wear insect repellent) we donned long sleeves and long pants in the incredibly tropic humidity and high temperatures – even at 8:00 in the morning. For the several hours that we walked the grounds of the ruins, neither of us encountered a single mosquito or fly, but we were quite drenched in our own sweat as we walked among the other tourists in attendance who smartly were wearing shorts, tank tops, and sandals. Hmm…
The ruins at Palenque were incredible. We are certainly seeing our fair share of ruins from ancient Mesoamerican, and although we are not very schooled in the histories of these civilizations, that doesn’t diminish the sense of wonder and awe that envelope us each time. The ruins and artifacts at Palenque are those of the Maya civilization, and some of them date back 2200 years. They lived here until the 12th century, and then the buildings slowly became incorporated into the surrounding jungle. Like several other sites of ruins that we have visited in Mexico, these are well preserved and maintained despite the fact that visitors are allowed to climb the stairs and often enter into structures, which, of course, we love! Many of the carvings have been extracted from the site and placed in a museum where the elements (rain, sun) cannot do further damage to them. Coming from the U.S., where there aren’t too many man-made structures of this age to view (are there any?), we really appreciated the opportunity to explore these incredible ruins.
Thursday was another full day in the car, about nine hours of driving, complete with TWO somewhat routine police searches of Apollo. One guard post even brought out a big drug-sniffing dog to give Apollo a very thorough examination. In general, though, the personnel at these military posts are pretty friendly. And they especially love it when they open up our bag containing a Nerf football and our baseball mitts. That is the perfect time to start chatting them up, because they always ask if we play – and we always say “yes” despite the fact that we haven’t played in…well, a long, long time.
That night we were in Bacalar in the state of Quintana Roo. If we hadn’t been looking for it (and hadn’t had the exact latitude/longitude coordinates) we would have never found the place where we planned to spent the night, because it is so nondescript. But it sits on the bluest and warmest lagoon we have ever encountered. The price was good, and sure, in order to flush the outdoor toilet one needed to dump a bucket of water into it, but it was quiet and we had all that beautiful blue water to stare at and play in. There were also several dogs on site who, of course, took to us right away. We enjoyed spending time with them as well – but we didn’t enjoy their need to bark at passing cars during the night, and their 1:30-2:30 a.m. bark-a-thon.
Friday was only a quick three-hour jaunt to Tulum, the city where we will be staying the upcoming week with Joe’s sister who is flying in from Wisconsin on a much-needed vacation. Our friends Markus and Tania recommended a budget travelers resort right on the beach, so we sought it out and parked Apollo on the sand for the night. After swimming in the warm ocean that afternoon, we had a very quiet evening and night – no other campers, no dogs, no roosters – and a nice ocean breeze to lull us to sleep. Although, the campground rakers didn’t need to begin raking the sand so early in the morning…
Saturday morning we stopped at a roadside produce stand, spending about $10 US on a whole sackful of fruits and vegetables, tried to find the rest of our food supplies for the week at the Mexican version of a warehouse grocery store (which, sadly, made us very tense because it was built for tourists and didn’t have many of the things we had hoped to find), and headed to the house we are renting for the week. Then it was off to the airport to pick up two travelers from Wisconsin who had to spend a long, long time in the customs line. But hooray for visitors!!!
Since leaving Oaxaca, the weather is mostly just getting warmer and warmer and usually more humid. And it’s always sunny. As we ended the week in Tulum, the highs were near 100. Unless you are actually IN the water, even the beach isn’t always enjoyable. But no one is complaining. Not a peep.
Coming up: reunion with Joe’s sister, her fiancée, and possibly a special canine guest.