Published: January 14th 2012January 14th 2012 Campeche: To Dream Awake
This was our map showing how to get from Campeche to Tulum on back roads.
, that's what it said on the brochure handed to us at the Campeche Tourist Information Office. Our stay in Campeche had one dream-like feature: our hotel had 500 rooms and we were the only guests! Maybe there was a Legionnaire's outbreak the week before. Other than the brochure, the Information Office had no maps to help us prepare for our drive across the Yucatan peninsula on less-traveled
roads. The fellow managing the desk tried to warn us not to take our proposed route. As near as I could translate he seemed to be saying that the roads were very bad. I got the idea that he had never been on these roads himself. Given the lack of maps in Campeche, maybe no one had. Trip Advisor
also warned about shakedowns by rural cops, advising us to hide our money, which we did. To make matters worse, we lost Jerry's Lonely Planet
guide, which contained one tiny map. All we had was a map I hand-copied from Google Maps. But the route looked doable and more direct than the new highway across the top of the peninsula. And okay, maybe we still held out hope of stumbling upon an
Sian Ka'an I
Negotiating a ridiculously rough road through the jungle at night.
undiscovered Mayan ruin.
As it turned out, the back roads were fine. The only problem was that every time we entered a town we would lose the road and have to ask random people on the street how to get to the next town. No one spoke English, we certainly didn't speak Spanish (nor Mayan), and the next town invariably had some weird Mayan name we couldn't hope to pronounce. Jerry commented that in Mayan scrabble X
must only be worth one point!
We reached Tulum on the Caribbean coast around 6 PM and headed south down a hair-like peninsula 55 km long and no more than 300 meters wide. The first 10 km was dominated by ultra-hip new age resorts with names like The OM Spa
, beyond that the road entered the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
where it turned into a cratered, axle-snapping nightmare that Jerry had to negotiate in the dark. It took us an hour to go four km to the Centro Ecologioco Camp.
Before leading us to our tent cabin, the camp staff fed us a delicious fish dinner. I had the prescience to buy a decent
Sian Ka'an II
Paradise: our tent-cabin overlooking the Caribbean
bottle of tequila in Tulum, which we shared with the staff and other guests, making us instantly popular.
The next morning we woke up to discover that we had arrived in paradise. Our tent was set on a tiny bluff overlooking powder-white sand and azure water. Everything else was jungle, except a short walk away from the beach brought us to the lagoon separating the peninsula from a trackless jungle that extended many miles inland.
After breakfast we hired a guide and set off in kayaks for the other side of the lagoon. We saw ospreys guarding a giant nest of day-old babies. We circled a tiny island alive with hundreds of pink spoonbills feeding their new babies. Under the trees huge crocodiles waited patiently for one of the babies to accidentally fall out of its nest. We only managed to paddle back to camp because neither Jerry nor I could admit to each other that our aching backs couldn't manage another stroke. We crawled up on the beach like pregnant sea turtles and moaned at each other.
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