Tales of our travels


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North America
February 16th 2006
Published: March 4th 2006
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Sun God,Kinichna @ BecanSun God,Kinichna @ BecanSun God,Kinichna @ Becan

This site dates back to 600.BC.and this mask has only recently been uncovered. You can still see traces of colour on the carving.
We ended the last blog heading off to meet to meet Trish and Neal with plenty of time in hand. However, as often happens, we did get side tracked on the way.

Prior to leaving England I found a web site posted by a couple called Kathe & Colleen. They are seasoned travellers through Mexico & Central America and were an excellent source of information for us.
Kathe responded promptly and answered our many questions with patience and good humour even though she must get asked the same questions all the time. Her best piece of advice was to ignore all the rumour- mongers head for Mexico, have a great time and if we passed their way to call in.

Over the following months we followed their adventures whilst continuing with plans to commence our own.

Our route from Palenque to Player del Carmen took us through Chetumal , as it was a long journey we were going to stop in the RV Park in Calderitas overnight and we noted that their land was about 2 miles up the road. So we sent an email and asked could we call in and see them?

Again a prompt
BecanBecanBecan

I thought this gave a good picture of the surrounding countryside. We had climbed up structure II to take it, almost 30 meters high
reply bounced back, inviting us to stay on their land. We were unable to reply due to poor internet, pouring rain and low battery in computer.

The next day was a long 9 hour drive along a jungle lined road. It is very remote and there are many ruins along the way. For most of these ruins you need a somewhat smaller vehicle than ours to visit. There is a site called Calakmul which is 60 km into the jungle. It is estimated to have 6,750 buildings of which only a few have been excavated. It may be the largest site yet found. We would love to see it and so it has become another adventure to put on the list.
Although time was tight we did manage to stop at a small site named Becan. This is an unusual site as it has a large moat around it.
The thing we enjoy about these ruins is that they are all so different and somehow it is very easy to imagine them in their prime.

Anyway we eventually arrived at Calderitas just before dark, found the RV Park but thought we had time to see if we could
Sea front, CalderitasSea front, CalderitasSea front, Calderitas

This is a typical view once you push throught the jungle. The contrasting blue's are amazing.
find Kathe & Colleens place.
Heading down the road we saw a vehicle approaching, which slowed as we passed by, the window came down and a voice called out “ is that Moira & Graeme”?.
As we hadn’t replied to their e mail Kathe & Colleen had decided to come and see if we had arrived. They said to follow them back to their place, saying we should have no trouble as they get their rig down the drive OK

As instructed, Graeme swung wide to access the drive, bit tight, but with lots of encouragement and chopping off of a few branches we entered the premises.
All was going well, if a little slowly when we became wedged tightly on a branch, the extra height of our rig causing the problem. Not at all perplexed Colleen fetched her machete, climbed on the roof and, with a bit of help from me started chopping down the offending tree. Now Colleen and her machete feature regularly in their blog so I was impressed to see her in action, we later discovered Colleen liked to machete the jungle as a form of Zen meditation
Anyway once released from the grasp of
Arrived!Arrived!Arrived!

Here we are parked on Kathe & Colleens land. It is a beautiful tranquil spot. No noise, no electricity, just us, jungle life and a beautiful night sky
the tree and not destroying to much more of the jungle we rolled into the clearing and parked up. Kathe & Colleen invited us to stay a few days and said they would clear a larger pathway for us to leave.
By the time we left the drive was so clear and wide it looked like a Cuota (toll road), we half expected to see people selling things along the way.

We had a really enjoyable few days. The area is beautiful, the sea many shades of blue, the coastline rocky, fringed with mangroves with cenotes bubbling into it. There as so many Mayan ruins you find shards of pottery everywhere.

We went into town, visited a great museum, local ruins and restaurants, and with Kathe’s fluent Spanish and knowledge it gave us an insight into local life.

Kathe and Collen also introduced Graeme into the skill of using the machete, he became hooked…….. It IS therapeutic, we went out and bought one the next day.

Kathe & Colleen told us that the piece of land next door was for sale and on it was a Mayan pyramid. Graeme was very impressed with the idea of
Missing Mayan pyramidMissing Mayan pyramidMissing Mayan pyramid

Ah, here it is... Graeme & Colleen standing on top of the mound we couldn't find.
owning a piece of history and thought a pyramid was far better than a water feature in the garden.
They explained how to get there and off we went. Well , we returned, a bit embarrassed, to confess we had been unable to find a 25ft high mound of stone, makes the expression “cant see the wood for the trees” very apt. So with Colleen in the lead back we went to find the thing.
Actually it is very difficult to find anything in the jungle but after 2 further attempts we eventually did, then stood on the top and tried to imagine having a nightly sundowner from such a magnificent viewpoint.

Several days had passed, the path was now clear, and with 24 hours to spare it was definitely time to head to our rendezvous with Trish and Neal.

We had a great time at Calderitas and left feeling relaxed and mellow. This soon dispersed when we arrived at our next destination , Paamul

We were quite pleased that, having driven 3, 500 miles through Mexico and despite all the warnings, we had arrived as far south as we were going having sustained no real damage
Graeme's machete tutorsGraeme's machete tutorsGraeme's machete tutors

Graeme has a way to go yet to perfect his machete skills. We had agreat time with Kathe & Colleen and loved their place.
to the rig.

Now I will leave you to imagine Graeme’s language when ,as he drove at about ½ MPH over a totally unnecessary rope tope in the campsite, our very large one piece windscreen cracked!!!

Having parked the rig Graeme then decided to vent his anger on the palm leaves touching the side (if you leave them, ants and nasty creepy things will come in.)
Well , unfortunately ( or maybe not) the machete was still a bit blunt so Graeme was having difficulties with the leaf, then the man next door started yelling “leave the tree alone, it has suffered enough” then came out and started verbally abusing Graeme ! Had the machete been sharper I thought Graeme might have performed his first execution. Had the man been sharper, he might have noted the machete and Graeme’s mood and not said anything……. . So; having met the neighbours we settled in.


The states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche are a complete contrast to all other areas we had travelled through. This area is a flat shelf of limestone and coral composition, it is like a sponge. There are almost no surface rivers,
Nearly thereNearly thereNearly there

Look at all the space around us.
the rain water drains through the porous limestone into underground rivers and natural stone lined sinks.Where the surface falls in it creates access to areas of water which are called “Cenotes”.(natural wells) Some of these rivers are currently being “mapped” it is the longerst underground river system in the world., it supports an ecosystem adapted to this unique environment.
This is also one reason why there were so many Maya settlements in this area, there are so many sites you would need weeks to visit them all..

The Yucatan also has the distinction of being the area where 65 million years ago a 6 mile wide meteor hit the earth creating a 124 mile wide, 1.6 mile deep hole.
The impact and effect of this slight celestial hiccup was to wipe out the dinosaurs…... well, you know the rest of the story.
All of this supports a unique and interesting area with plenty to do , an excellent place to meet up with friends.

It was great fun with Trish & Neal, the rig was large enough for us all and communal living commenced They quickly settled into rig life, Neal fixing everything (including the fridge, thank you,
Life on boardLife on boardLife on board

Happily Trish was very pleased with the bed she had chosen for the rig all those months ago back in the UK.
thank you, we still have cold beer) and Trish meeting all the locals. As you can see in the photograph I think Trish especially bonded with Hippie Jim and his gallon demijohn of mescal. (Mescal is a type of pure alcohol, not for the faint hearted. it sort of tastes like aniseed)


During their stay we managed to ensure Trish & Neal had a full Yucatan experience. This included Cenote diving for Graeme & Neal, visiting colonial towns, long Mexican lunches, some of the coldest weather this area has ever known for this time of year and a torrential tropical downpour during which Trish & I were wandering around town, ankle deep in water. Actually to be honest at one point I slipped and was sitting in inches of tropical downpour, at which point we decided to find the nearest bar and have a margarita.
As we struggled down the road we spotted a potential place of refuge where people were sheltering in the doorway, but then noticed it was the meeting place of an English speaking AA group, as they were not serving cocktails that night we decided to struggle on by.

We also managed a
Meeting the neighboursMeeting the neighboursMeeting the neighbours

Trish meeting hippie Jim. We had met Jim a couple of times on the way down & he called to see us. Its 10.00am and thats neat mescal being swigged. Later we had some from a plastic glass, when we went to wash it the inside had sort of melted!
bit of cultural input by visiting three ruins in different setttings, Tulum, on the coast, Chichen Itza, which is in a huge area cleared from the jungle and Coba, still surrounded by jungle
Of these sites I loved Tulum, it is quite small but truly spectacular set against the vivid blue backdrop of the Caribbean ocean.


By the time the Spanish came many of these cities had already been abandoned.
The occupants of these once thriving places had just walked away. These cities had been trade centers, important ceremonial places and home to thousand of people. There are several theories why this exodus occurred, these include, lack of food as the population demands exceeded agricultural productivity, failure of the upper class
( who led the poor workers to believe they were gods) to fulfil their promises and therefore hasten their downfall (so, not a lot has changed) and maybe, drought.

It is not often we stay in one place for so long so it was an opportunity to meet some nice people. When travelling you often find the world can be a small place .At Paamul we met Rich & Teresa, he is American, Teresa originally
Tulum BeachTulum BeachTulum Beach

These Mayans knew how to pick real estate. Tulum is the only ruin on the coast, the view is spectacular
from Cornwall, during one conversation they said they had a nephew in England who worked at Heathrow, he had just moved to a village nearby. We suggested many place names but none rang a bell so they went to look the address up, We were sitting in the bar when Rich returned with a slip of paper with the address on. We looked at it and then at him in disbelief, it said Crookham Village.
He said” I don’t know much more as it only says The Street and a house name”. Upon further questioning it turns out that they moved about a year or so ago and may well have looked at our cottage, they now live just over the road. To complete the creepy bit Rich has a dog named Benson who plays with Frisbees and loves soft toys!
They are going to England in July so will visit Trish & Neal, we suggested a drink at the Black Horse.


On our journeys we also have a few rather strange conversations, of which the most common topic is the English language. Now, before I precede any further I must say we have met lots of very
TulumTulumTulum

Tulum is built on a 12 meter high cliff. Tulum mean "wall" and it was a fortified site built about 1200 AD.When the Spanish first saw it, then brightly coloured they compared it to Seville.
nice Americans on our travels but….. some can leave you speechless.

For many Americans there is a definitely a language problem, the following tale says it all.
I was cycling down the beach path when an older mid western gentlemen stopped me to ask if I had seen someone. I replied “no” He looked at me blankly and I thought oh oh, language problem coming up, He then asked where had I come from and I replied Paamul, He then asked where I came from and I said slowly & clearly Hampshire England. He thought a while and said “ if I watch you speak I can make out what you say but I don’t understand your accent”. I replied that a lot of Americans have that problem. He then said “ wouldn’t it be great if you could go to sleep and wake up speaking American, then there wouldn’t be a problem”
I replied in a reasonable manner “ as I can understand you, all of America and most of Europe I don’t think its my problem. He thought about it for a while ( probably deciphering my accent) and said “ well, if I go to another
FaceFaceFace

An amazing intricately carved face on each corner. Side view
state I cant understand them either” I now asked “so now who do you think has the problem” . I didn’t get an answer, I don’t think he understood the question.. He then went on to ask me if I was aware I was in a jungle area and that there were snakes and other critters that bite . As he said this he was looking pointedly at my sandaled feet, as I answered I was looking at his sandaled feet, wondering what the difference was. Somewhat bemused I cycled on …….


As nice as it is to stop a while we are always keen to move on, so having enjoyed one of our longer stays we were pleased to back on the road, heading off to the Colonial city of Merida.
Merida is famous for its arts and music programes. There is always music in the streets or bars and at week ends the streets are closed off so people can dance, an entertainment in itself. We were really looking forward to this visit but even more so when we realise that we had arrived in time for carnival week. The city has 6 days of parades
El Castillo @ Chichen ItzaEl Castillo @ Chichen ItzaEl Castillo @ Chichen Itza

I liked this view of El Castillo Most pictures are of the renovated side. Chichen Itza is a different site as the jungle has been cleared away from it and you can get an idea of the scale of the place.
and events, we had a great time just wandering around observing local life, sitting in bars (for a change) and watching the parades.

As well as generally enjoying ourselves we also have to do ordinary life type of things, although they are usually more entertaining or challenging then at home.
Whilst in Merida Graeme, never one to be daunted by our distinct lack of fluent Spanish decided to buy some new prescription sunglasses.
Now, we are currently doing quite well in things like “please, may I have” or “how much is this”etc however forming sentences for explanations such as “I have a stigmatism in my left eye”, we are not so fluent.
Still, undeterred, we entered the opticians and, despite our lack of Spanish and the Optician complete lack of English Graeme had an eye test followed by a full and informative discussion re transitional / reactive lenses, frames,fittings and prices!

Originally Graeme thought he wanted transitional lenses but the Optician told us
( we think) that they were not so good for driving if behind a tinted windscreen
Graeme now had to choose between transitional (reactive) lenses, ordinary prescription sun glasses or these
Mayan colourMayan colourMayan colour

These glyphs are at the back of a temple, thay clearly show the red used to colour the buildings. They were all painted this red and blue.
really neat magnetic sunglasses which fit on to your ordinary lenses. After much thought he decided on new glasses with the magnetic polarised sunglasses.
We were really pleased with ourselves having completed this transaction without too much trouble ( although the optician may have had to lie down afterwards) and were informed the glasses would be ready in about 4 hours!. Believe me, that is one sentence we really thought we had misunderstood.
On our return we were delighted to find that, as promised, the new glasses and magnetic shades were ready, they looked good and after the usual bit of adjustment fitted perfectly. So imagine our surprise and bewilderment when the optician, with the aid of an ultra violet light box then demonstrated the reactive nature of the lens……. .. Perhaps there was something missing in our translation skills after all?

We keep meeting people heading to Panama and further south to Chile & Argentina, it is a very tempting idea…. but not for this trip or vehicle perhaps, so from Merida we are definitely beginning to head north.

We stopped at Campeche, my favourite city so far, it is absolutely beautiful. It is a world heritage
ChacmoolChacmoolChacmool

This chap sits on top of the temple of the warriors. These carvings have a stone dish on their stomaches to hold sacrficial offerings. You used to be able to climb up these monuments until 2 tourists fell off ( last human sacrifices perhaps?)now you cant. Which is a shame for photo opportunities!
site. When they were applying for this status they renovated all the buildings, so it is the first place we have seen where everything looks in excellent repair (well, on the outside at least)
There are street and streets (Calles) of brightly coloured buildings. We visited on the last day of carnival and it was like a ghost town, no one around (all recovering perhaps?), but a joy to wander around without dodging traffic.

Graeme has had an easy time driving on the excellent, flat, wide roads of this state, but we now leave the coast and head back to the more mountainous, inland routes. The next few weeks will be combination of colonial cities, Maya & Aztec ruins.

We aim to return to the states in April, first stop to get the growing bag of bits that have dropped of the rig, along with the windscreen, oh and side window replaced.(oops). Next time we are thinking a tank may be more appropriate.

My Spanish is improving a bit as I was able to complain that our margaritas were to bitter to drink…… however I was rendered speechless (in English or Spanish) when we got the bill,
Traditional Mayan homeTraditional Mayan homeTraditional Mayan home

Trish in her new holiday home. The local people still build their homes in this traditional style.You see many as you drive throught the small villages
130 peso( £7.22, lots of dosh here) for the worst drinks yet. You can tell we have adapted to Mexican prices as we almost fell off our bar stools. Lesson of the day, at tourist bars always ask the price first……

Well as per normal I could write much more but have an opportunity to send this. We are in a lovely park with the sea on one side and a lagoon on the other. This time I am hiding from the sun, camped out next to the park owners rig, as usual connection is a hit & miss affair so better hit that "send" button whilst i can. Next blog from the highlands, or back in the USA if they let us in!
More to follow soon ...........


















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Traditional Yucatan dressTraditional Yucatan dress
Traditional Yucatan dress

Each state in Mexico has its own traditional dress. We went to a "Show "where each state, represented in natinal dress performed a traditional song & dance. As there are approx 34 States we (Graeme) didn't make it to the end!
Colonial house Colonial house
Colonial house

We had a nice lunch in this hotel in Valladolid.
long mayan roadlong mayan road
long mayan road

The Mayans connected their main buildings and towns with these raised white roads (sacbes). One at Coba goes from the main pyramid to Yaxuna a town 62 miles away.
Nohoch Mul @Coba Nohoch Mul @Coba
Nohoch Mul @Coba

This pyramid is a 137 feet high, the veiw from the top is great. This site was at its peak approx 600 AD. Although there are only a few ruins exposed there are about 6,000 other structures identified in the jungle.
Doing my homeworkDoing my homework
Doing my homework

Reading up about Uxmal, a bit of a problem though as some of the pages were upside down.
looking downlooking down
looking down

Skipping down here was a bit of a challange. As my small feet fitted on the steps I had a head start
 Campeche Campeche
Campeche

At night time all the buildings around the square were floodlit and classical music playing.
 Streets of Campeche Streets of Campeche
Streets of Campeche

There are streets of these coloured building, making it a really pretty town.


8th March 2006

Brilliant adventures still - you sound like you are having a ball - great to hear all your news - but what I want to know is how much were the glasses!!!! Alison xx

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