Moving our way through the sea level highways of south central Mexico, we couldn’t be more excited to get our hands on some fresh seafood. A local friend from Guadalajara had keened us in on a special place to get oysters where a large fresh water lagoon met the ocean. We stopped at a roadside vendor to buy 40 oysters fully shucked for about $4. We then stopped to get some homemade cocktail sauce from a nearby restaurant and we were ready to feast for lunch.
We had a goal to get to Catemaco that day, a small pueblo on the edge of a large lake with an island known as isla de mono (monkey island). We stopped on the way to see an amazing waterfall in route.
We opted to pay for a RV park in Catemaco that had wifi, showers, water and electricity for the night, and we ended up with the place to ourselves. A quick bike ride through town yielded the best churros we’ve had yet, and out of a converted kombi van no less.
With time running out before we needed to be in Cancun to meet friends for a trip to Cuba, we opted to leave after one night and make our way to the famous ruins of Palenque in the state of Chiapas. We’d heard amazing things about Chiapas and the state of Oaxaca but with little time, and political unrest in Oaxaca, we opted for a quick trip to the lower elevations of Chiapas.
Palenque is an unbelievable city of Mayan ruins that sits at the foothills of very large mountains. Climbing the different temples we enjoyed the views and were in awe of the amazing constructions. Along with the incredible temples and houses, Palenque still has a functioning aqueduct system! The clear waters running through the town were cool and refreshing. After a day of wondrous exploring, we vowed to spend more time in Chiapas when we visit Mexico again.
Later that afternoon, we were back on the road and on the lookout for our next camp spot. We eventually stopped at a roadside restaurant to look at some online resources to see what was close by. After talking to a friendly waitress, she told us we can park there at no cost with free use of the bathrooms and showers.
The following day, we found ourselves near another site of Mayan ruins, Becan. A more off-the-beaten-path site, we had the entire place to ourselves. With no restrictions on where to walk or what pyramids to climb on, and no vendors like you see all over Palenque or Chitenitza, it was a very unique experience. We loved this quiet site. The archaeologists have restored much of the buildings and houses, but they also left parts as they were discovered, full of vegetation. The work to prepare these archaeological sites for visitors seems to be a labor of love, education and exploration.
With Cuba on the mind and just 2 days left to get to Cancun, we hit the road again and made it to the pueblo magico of Bacalar. The town of Bacalar sit on a fresh water lagoon that is famous for its shallow waters that appear to change between 7 different colors depending on the time of the day and angle of the sun. We ended up springing for a travelers hostel right on the water with a nice dock where we met a plethora of other world travelers.
After a good nights sleep and a light and healthy breakfast we planned to make our way to Tulum. We had met a nice young traveler from Mexico looking for his next adventure in life, so we opted to give him a ride to the coastal town of Mahahaul first. Arriving in Mahahaula, it was the first time we had ever seen the Carribean and it was beautiful! The endless still, clear, blue ocean was an amazing site to see. We grabbed a quick snack before saying farewell to our new companion and heading up to see what Tulum had to offer.
Once in Tulum we feasted on some ceviche that Sarah’s parents recommended. We ordered a large plate thinking it would be a good size to share. Little did we know, grande meant GRANDE! We had enough for lunch the next day!
With a helpful tip from our waiter, we went to find the one public beach where we could park the van for the night without a worry. We woke up to one of the most amazing sunrises and had the beach to ourselves for the better part of the morning. We snorkeled for the first time on the trip, and it was Sarah’s first time ever. With the Mayan ruins of Tulum in sight, and plenty of fish, sting rays and coral to keep extreme snorkelers busy for hours, we had a magical time.
Leaving Tulum around 11am, it was time to B-line it straight to Cancun to pick up Cole and Megan. Together we are heading to Cuba to explore. With the help of a Steamboat friend, we parked Koru in a hidden nook near the home of a few ex-pats in the town of Puerto Morelos. We felt comfortable and ready to embark and explore the once untouchable country of Cuba.