Sunday, April 26, 2015

4 gringos, 2 4Runners, and 1 dog do Mexico

We start to write this post as we make our way out of the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve, our car looking like a big dirty hippo making its way through the mangroves and jungle, swarmd by flies. Lets just say we really wanted some off the beaten path adventure, saw this reserve a couple hours south of Cancun on the map, found very little info about it on the internet, so decided to give it a shot. We drove 1.5 hours in, heading towards a "lighthouse" marked on the map. Got there to find a gross swampy buggy coast, a couple abandoned buildings, and a million mysterious holes scattering the ground. The flies swarmed us, we walked around hoping for a piece of paradise, and finding a Jurassic Park feel of a place... very bad for camping. Back to civilization we go, on to the last town in Mexico. Here's what we've been up to these past couple weeks...

Today marks 31 days in Mexico for us! After our last post, we left the Oaxaca region, took a scary winding road to the Pacific coast to the meet up with our friends Nick and Leah near Puerto Escondido. (Mallary and Leah have been bestfriends for 17 years, and Nick, Leah and their dog Nina are on their own journey to move to Central America. We all decided to meet up and caravan for a month or two together). The beaches here were nice, however the surf was far too dangerous for swimming beyond a few feet out, and while watching the incredible surfers catch waves was fun, the stifling heat pushed us on after just 3 nights.

Queen Mallary's throne in Mazunte

Good thing that San Cristobal de las Casas was on the way to our next destination, a colonial mountain town, giving us a cool campground full of other overlanders, fresh air, and colorful cobblestone streets full of cafes. (And later we found out it gave us a wonderful little GI bug that would soon make its way through the group, sans one lucky person.) It was the perfect place to cool down before sweating our booties off at the Palenque ruins. The day before we left San Cristobal towards Palenque we were told that other travelers who had just made that journey were blockaded and held up until paying steep fees to the angry mobs blockading the roads. The bad news was discouraging, but we pressed on as planned through the strife riddled state of Chiapas, each turn in the road expecting to hit a road block of angry civilians. It was in Chiapas about 10-15 years ago where the armed forces of the EZLN movement fought back against the Mexican government. To this day, pro-EZLN supporters still persist with banditry and other ways to piss off the government. After a full day of driving we made it safely to Palenque with nothing more than being searched at an Army checkpoint and a pair of kids blocking the road with rope and demanding money to pass, we'll share more about this in another blog covering driving in Mexico/Central America as this is a regular event in poor areas.

Gringos following us to Palenque.
Streets of San Cristobal

I don't know why, but it's something about ruins that no matter how hot or cool you were at camp, as soon as a ruin is in sight, you are automatically substantially hotter, like sweat dripping down your top lip, totally focused on finding a shady spot, constantly keep saying "I'm so hot", kind of hot! But other than hot, and the first Mexican attack of Montezuma's revenge, Palenque was impressive and lots of fun to climb all around the big Mayan ruins in the jungle, and even experience the art of going to the bathroom in the jungle the same way the Mayans must have done!

Snapping a picture between bathroom runs
Partial view of the ruins of Palenque
Mallary about to do some step aerobics
The shade was nicer, then Leah made us move in the sun
It's getting hot in here!


We were getting closer and closer to the highly anticipated Carribbean waters of the Yucatan peninsula, and so eager to just get there we opted for a long driving day, and a night camping in the cars in a random parking lot of a little restaurant right on the Gulf of Mexico, in the small fishing town of Seybaplaya. This is normally a great option for us, since we bring our homes, bedrooms, and our kitchens with us everywhere... However, this particular night Montezuma's revenge struck the second member of our group, and the only thing worse than an upset belly in the middle of a day at some ruins, is an upset belly (upset belly is a very underated way to describe the baby aliens inside us trying to rip our guts open causing some very gnarly belly pain) in the middle of the night without a bathroom or even a secluded place! We booked it out of there shortly after the sun rose. We pampered ourselves at a little cabana with a pool and cenotes on the property, not even realizing how amazing the cenotes would be until jumping into the crystal clear mineral water in beautiful caves! We had to stop at a few more cenotes on the way to the beach, this area being known for these naturally formed limestone sinkholes, with lots of theories on how they were actually formed, possibly back in the iceage. It is said that the Mayans used these cenotes for sacrificial offerings.

Cenote Samula
Getting a little PG-13 in Cenote Suytun
The ladies floating around in cenotes... No big deal

We finally made our way to the beach! And since it was the third member of our groups turn for the mysterious and painful Mexican stomach bug, we found a convenient little apartment in Puerto Morelos to chill out in (literally! we had AC and a fridge for the first time in weeks!) and snorkle around the blue waters, cook in a real kitchen, and get our dose of internet use in. Unfortunately we couldnt get any diving in due to high winds, so we moved on south, in search of diving!

We didnt find the diving we were looking for, due to weather, but instead we found paradise, a little white sand beach at the end of a road of expensive rental properties, hidden among a forest of palm trees past a tiny beach restaurant on the secluded bay, somewhere south of Akumal. During the day a few people would come and snorkle and eat lobster on the sand, but at 5pm each day, when the restsurant closed, the entire beach became ours! We snorkled the days away, gathered firewood, cooked on the fire, played baseball with a stick and pieces of coral, layed in hammocks, threw back tequila and cerveza, and enjoyed life in our own little paradise for a few days.

Paradise at Chamica
Our own beach!!! For $7 a night!
Men make fire

Not ready to leave the Yucatan without a dive, and the wind still too strong for reef diving, we finally decided to go on a Cenote dive. We made camp at another white sand beach in Tulum, and spent a day underground in the caves! Imagine, dark caves, the occasional sunlight flowing in through holes in the ceiling, illuminating the crystal clear blue mineral waters, making our way through and around the huge stalactites and stalagmites with our torches. Amazing doesnt come close to describing it, and our pictures do it no justice at all, so take our word on it, it was incredible!!! While in town, we also visited the ruins of Tulum. While not as impressive as many of the other ruins of the Mayans, these had a unique backdrop of being perched on cliffs above white sand beaches, and even visible while swimming at our campground.

Diving at Cenote Dos Ojos
Mallary untimidated by Grim Reaper
Our camera didnt work well with the shortage of light so we stole this from google to give a better of image of what the dive really looked like
Tulum aka Iguana zoo
Beach camping in Tulum

Today we find ourselves in Bacalar, our last night in Mexico, swimming in the lagoon and taking care of buisiness like research on Belize, laundry, and of course blogging! Here we come Belize, whatch out for 2 4Runners, 4 crazy gringos, and one adorable dog!!! :)

Laguna Bacalar, unemployment is great
Laundry day on the lagoon!

- Chris and Mal

OurCoordinates right now: N18.40.362 W88.23.403



























Monday, April 13, 2015


Our encounter with the toll booth protesters turned into the beginning of a great week in Oaxaca, with no further scary enounters, other than a bunch of American hating Canadians and Frenchies at the so called "Overlander Oasis," where we made camp for 4 nights with some other overlanders. ;)

Swapping overlanding tips with the haters at the OO :)
The Tule tree! 2,000 years old, and the widest tree in the world, 138ft around!

Each day in Oaxaca brough on a new adventure for us. Eager to see the city, we rode our bikes the 12kms to the city center to check out the rumors of the vibrant foods and crafts. We wandered the streets and many markets, and ate some delicious Oaxacan street foods.

Chapulines, fried grasshoppers and crickets, yum!
Street meat
Market food stalls with delicious Oaxacan food
Food tour of the city

We spent a day driving out to Hierve de Agua, petrified waterfalls, made from bubbling springs that run down the side of the mountain. The calcium carbonate eventually forms what looks like a white stone waterfall, supposedly this exists in one other place in the world, Turkey. This place was awesome! We swam in the infinity pools, wandered around on the smooth, brain-like surfaces, and hiked to the other fall, all with a spectacular view of the mountains in the background.

Hierve de Agua
Infinity pool ballers on a budget!
The other side of Hierve de Agua

We hit up some Mixtec ruins at Mitla, marveling at the geometric designs of each structure, and wondering how in the world builders in the years 900-1520 knew that their designs would be earthquake proof, and merely get tighter with each rattle of the ground! We also had a good time admiring the crafts in the small viallages around Oaxaca, wishing we had enough room in Lola to bring some back to the states with us!! The artistry was amazing, and each little town has its own particular specialty like embroidery, woven rugs, wood carving, pottery, etc

Mitla ruins
Tomb raiding

Our last day at the "OO" (Overlander Oasis) was spent hanging with the hosts and other overlanders learning how to cook some delicous Oaxacan food from a local with a little impromtu cooking class. We ground up our spices, made a sauce from chilies and fresh garlic, onion, and tomato, and added some fresh and dried avacado tree leaves to the sauce to cook the chicken in a dish called Pilte de Pollo or Barbacoa de Pollo. MmmmMmm. The avacado leaves made this dish... We will definitely be trying to replicate this in our dutch oven along the way! The food and the lesson were great, and the company of wonderful dynamic people was even better! :)

Cooking class!
The crew at the OO
Midway through class a street food vendor rolled by with Molotes, perfect timing to compliment our Mezcal shots for appetizers!

Civilization and semi-paved roads were nice, but it was time to get back to nature. Wilderness and steep, challenging dirt tracks led us north into a forested and mountainous area known as Pueblos Mancomunodos. It's a rugged region with about a dozen small villages spread around and connected by dirt roads and hiking/biking trails.

Downside to these off the beaten path type places is that it requires every bit of Espanol skills (that we are severely lacking) to try to make sense of anything. After paying a few pesos for who knows what and some conversations with friendly locals that left both parties scratching their heads, we found ourselves camping near the peak of a mountain, complete with a fire tower, suspension bridge, and an amazing sunset. Cue bottle of wine and some delicioso food a la dutch oven.

Benito Juarez
Mountain top wine guzzling while waiting for amazing sunset
Typical night in paradise

Next morning we headed over to an adjacent village for some mountain biking action. We hired a local guide, and took off on our bikes on a mostly downhill 28km ride! The uphill was somewhat torturous, but all in all so much fun. Unexpectedly one of us rode her brakes a lot more than she would have had she still been in her 20's... What is it about being 30 that makes me so much more cautious, to a degree that I notice my lack of reckless abondon!?!

The ecotourism up in these secluded little mountain towns was quite impressive. We camped that night at the campground in Cuajimoloyas, which had a big grassy field, picinic areas, and a real life Lincoln Log cabin restaurant, who offered us fresh fish for dinner. First of all, fresh fish sounded, well, fishy. We were so far away from any body of water greater than a trickling stream, and this restaurant and campground didnt seem to have many regulars... They were so excited about their fish though, so we inquired for a minute, and quickly realized that there was indeed fresh fish here, a whole little trout farm right on the other side of the field!! Here is Mexico again, surprising us with something exceptional when we were just expecting to be out in the woods alone roughing it for the night!! The minute I change my order to fish, the dude runs across the field and catches a trout for my dinner, cleaning it, and frying it within a few minutes. Who would have ever guessed. So yea, the food and accomadations were a surprise, but we also loved the time we got to spend playing frisbee with some random kids in the field after dinner, working on our spanish with the couple running the fishery restaurant. Before they left for the night they asked "What would you like for your breakfast tomorrow? I'll go to the store before I come back." You'd think at this point we were in a little resort or something! We left there hoping that this ecotourism would eventually flourish up in the Pueblos Mancomunados, the towns have really worked hard, and it is a off the beaten path destination that is definifintly worth while to see and support!

Random trout farm
Bringing a new meaning to the word fresh!

Chris on the other hand apparently hasn't lost the fear of danger, especially the morning we left to drive out of these mountains. Chris thought he could tackle his own "coast challenge" and stay in nuetral for the entire 10+ mile downhill section. Halfway down came the "do you smell that?" After a few mushy brake performances while coming around tight corners, it was decided that we pull over and let the brakes cool and hearts slow down. Challenge failed, time to stay in low gears...

Pacific Ocean here we come!