Although I'm home already, I still have to tell you about this one thing...
First of all, you need to understand that seeing 15 flamingos in Celestun just wasn´t going to cut it. I was still in Merida and I had one day left to do whatever and I figured that if I left the town early in the AM, I should be able to get to Rio Lagartos, see lots of flamingos and then make it all the way down to Playa del Carmen where I was supposed to wait for my flight.
Now, if you actually knew the route, you'd realise that it was an ambitious plan, but not impossible and for that reason I decided to go for it. I mean all I wanted at that point was to see the damn flamingos and not only that, it had to be lots of them, too! That's it. I was going and nothing was going to stop me.
Unfortunately, the bus I needed to take wasn't as early as I hoped but beggars can't be choosers and so I had to take it. I bought myself a ticket to Tizimin, another city in the north of
Yucatan Peninsula where I had to catch a local bus to Rio Lagartos. Now, that bus was interesting. No chickens, pigs or tortilla bags inside, only the fact that it stopped in most random places, so it really disorientated me and I didn't quite know where I was. At least the driver knew where I was headed and since I was the only gringo on the bus, I was pretty sure I'd be told where to get off. 3 hours later I got to the final stop - Rio Lagartos - a small fishing village without even a bus station or a bust stop for that matter. The locals just knew where the bus would stop or which was it'd go and they would just halt it down if they wanted to get on it.
Right, I didn't have much time to hang around. It was already 11.30 and I needed a boat and a man who knew where the flamingos hang out. I quickly got off the bus and the moment I got my backpack on my back, a man with a rustic bicycle turned up...holding a leaflet with flamingos. Yes, just the man I need, I thought!
He started telling me what I can see and do there and stuff but I was really short for time, so I just said "flamingos?" in my newly adapted Spanish and he said "si!" So, I said, "OK, vamos!" And we went. On the way, the man was telling me how the sun is really strong but how there will be breeze on the boat, so it'll be OK. He was saying lots of other things to which I was nodding and saying "si, si". We had a good chat ;o)
Eventually, I was brought by the river to a man who acted as a tourist information person. He started telling me what birds and animals I could see there: flamingos, crocodiles, bla bla bla. I only heard flamingos. I quickly glanced at a map he was pointing at, mainly out of politeness - it had some flamingo pictures in there.
- OK (I said) how much?
- Secientos pesos (60 USD)
- Quinientos OK? (50 USD)
- OK, gracias
That might have been the quickest deal I have ever taken part in.
So, I got into a boat with this guy called Santiago.
He didn't speak much English but really made an effort to make a conversation and to be honest, so did I, in Spanish of course. It was most broken Spanish you can imagine but it worked, so I didn't care.
We set off and I quickly realised Rio Lagartos was much bigger than Celestun. We were on that boat for quite a while and there was no sign of flamingos. I started to worry. We then got to very shallow waters and so we had to slow down so the engine didn't get clogged with the seaweed. I was getting really impatient.
We passed by a salt factory, got through some deeper waters and colder winds and then we stopped. Santiago shouted out: "How many flamingos do you want to see?" I said "muchos!" bud he insisted I tell him exactly, so I said "a hundred!" He smiled and restarted the engine. I started to wonder what that smile was supposed to mean. C'mon Santiago, just take me there, bueno?
And he did. He took me to this place where there was quite a decent bunch of them. I still wasn't blown away although it was way
better than in Celestun. After a while, he said to me that he can take me to this other place and we can walk out of the boat and he'll show me this place where there are more of them although it's not kinda allowed. He said he'll do it under one condition: I will email him the photos I was taking. He saw the size of my camera lenses and assumed the photos won't be too shabby. I was like: hell yeah! And so we went. And the man kept his word - there were so many of them. We were hiding behind the bushes to get a better view. Unfortunately, they spotted us and since they are a bit shy, they started to run and fly eventually. But what a view! I was so happy. It really was an amazing view. My mission was almost done. Now, I had to get back to Playa del Carmen and it was already after 3PM!
On the way, we quickly stopped at this natural Maya spa: a river of salt water and minerals that are heaven for your skin. You then smear this clay all over your body as it
has some healing properties as well. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to play with the clay, although it was a great shame because I would have loved to just cover myself in it from head to toes :o) Never mind, I got what I wanted - I couldn't complain.
Next thing on the list was finding the bus back to Tizimin as it was leaving at 4PM and the next one was an hr later. Fortunately, another man on a bicycle was going past and pointed to this street and said "your bus is there!" Nice one. It was like these people could read my mind! Got there and started stressing out a bit because I remembered that the last bus to Cancun from Tizimin was at around 5 PM and the Rio Lagartos - Tizimin trip took about an hour, so there was a chance I could miss my connection. The bus driver turned out to be a bit of a speed maniac but for once I wasn't going to complain. We got to Tizimin 10 to 5PM and I made it for the bus! That wasn't the end of course... In Cancun I still had to
catch a connecting bus to Playa del Carmen and since it was getting late and it was Sunday, I wasn't sure if it was going to work out. That leg of the journey took ages and the bus was probably the worst of the whole trip - no air to breathe and lots and lots of locals cramped with crying children and all that. It was the longest 4 hrs of my life. We finally got to Cancun past 9PM. It was already dark and I was dead tired. Guess what? My connection to Playa was leaving 5 min later...and I made it! That was so lucky. As soon as I found my hotel, I took a shower and had the best time sleeping ever! My mission was done. I could then enjoy the beach for a day until it was time for me to leave for the airport. Just perfect!
So there, enjoy the pictures but if you ever get a chance to see these beauties in real life, just go for it because they are absolutely beautiful.
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