Oct 30, and we are ready to start Mexico Part 3
Already December and back on the road for the last 5 weeks. Travelling from Australia to the USA with just 22 people onboard was amazing 9 in business, 9 in economy and 4 in premium economy. Arriving in the USA was remarkably interesting, despite the huge amount of Corona cases we never were checked. Next our flight to Cancun (full flight) no checks. Landing in Cancun was interesting during a huge storm. Our motorhome survived 2 hurricanes and except from a ripped apart tarp all good. First stop was Playa Del Carmen where we caught up with friends, got ourselves set up, did shopping etc and started our trip. Cancun is known as the USA playground and really it has nothing to do with Mexico. It is expensive and overrated. At the hotel strip, you will see hundreds of different fast-food joints such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King. Apart from the island tourist zone, a major confusion for many is that Mexico uses the $ sign for pesos, and shady street vendors occasionally ‘forget’ to mention this to tourists when taking their money. Cancun (Hotel Zone) is an island, joined to the mainland by bridges at each end. The Mexican residential section of the city, the downtown part of which is known as “El Centro”, follows a master plan that consists of “supermanzanas (superblocks), giant trapezoids with a central, open, non-residential area cut in by u-shaped residential streets.
The city is on the Caribbean and is one of Mexico’s easternmost points. Playa del Carmen in the heart of the Riviera Maya, was once a fishing village known as Xaman Há; Nowadays it is a cosmopolitan beach town with lodging and entertainment options. Due to Corona, no cruise ships, no thousands of tourists, hence beaches with different shades of blue and fine white sand all empty.
No need to find a secluded beach this time. Great beaches surrounded by incredible coconut palms; others have the reef just a few steps away, so the waves are gentle, and others have the great fortune of having a freshwater body nearby, such as a cenote or lagoon. Next stop Paamul Once simply a trailer park on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach, Paamul is now a little beachfront community. It now has become a RV heaven for US and Canadians willing to pay ridiculous amounts of money for parking their motorhomes and spending most of the day inside with the air conditioner running overtime? /!?!
Having great memories of Chetumal near the Belize border we decided to return enjoying one of the best campsites so far in Mexico and South America. While staying at the campsite we copped the aftermath of Hurricane Iota which devastated Belize, Honduras and Guatemala (Category 4). We were lucky only to receive the rain (500mm in 3 days).
With Belize borders closed for at least another month we decided to skip Belize and make our way slowly to Guatemala.
First stop was Calakmul. Despite an email asking if Calakmul was open (other overlanders told us it would open this week) and the official website stating it was open, upon arrival it was closed?!?!? The email they never responded to (normal in Mexico) At the gate we were told that roadworks were happening, and the road was closed till further notice. It also included tree pruning. Disappointed but hey that is life and as an overlander you cannot be lucky all the time.
One of the main reasons for our visit was the fact that the Mayan site of Calakmul in the state of Campeche is basically untouched by tourism, also impressive is the location in the middle of the rainforest, away from any civilisation. We decided to bush camp in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve near the main gate and enjoy the howling monkeys and other wildlife. At least we had that feeling and it helped.
We did a fair bit of research but nothing you can do when the website states it is open when it is not. (At this stage Nov 28, 2020 no date has been set for the reopening. Please note the Calakmul ruins pictures are not ours. Next day we left disappointed not to have seen Calakmul but looked forward to our next destination Palenque. According to others, located in the poorest part of Mexico. (Chiapas) Perhaps Mexico’s most breath-taking archaeological park. nestled on a thickly wooded ridge is the ancient Mayan city of Palenque only a few kilometres away from the city centre right in the rainforest.
The architecture is impressive, surrounded by lush tropical forest and jungle, this site has a mystical atmosphere. This time we choose to stay in a hotel garden close to the entrance, a great place with the surrounding forest home to a huge variety of wildlife, such as the colourful toucan and monkeys, including howling monkeys. The hotel we stayed was called Maya Bell, great owners, great staff. Once you enter the archaeological park take note, everything you see was built without the benefit of metal tools, the horse, or the wheel.
This place was purely created by human labour. Today, excavations are on-going to uncover more mysteries about the ancient civilizations of the Maya. Part of the site was closed off as work to uncover the hidden treasures, reclaimed by nature over centuries of disuse, continues. Only a small number of the estimated 500+ buildings across the site have been excavated. The most attractive ruin is the Temple of Inscriptions.
This is the first structure you will see as you climb the hill up to the old city. Due to torrential rain places we could visit were now also restricted. It should be noted that due to Corona restrictions only 600 people maximum per day are allowed in the park. Our visit was on a Monday and just 20 people were around. For us an amazing experience and for us one of the great benefits while travelling during Corona. Till next time when we visit Guatemala