Cancun, not so lucky all of a sudden...
Ok this is Cancun, the 26th of July, so my side windows are crashed as I parked up too close to a pole 3 days ago and did not pay attention after the boys had manipulated the mirrors. My battery is flat too, - all of a sudden, hmm... I lent it to a guy this afternoon to jumpstart his engine, then maybe it did not reconnect properly, or maybe the alternator is coming to age... anyway it is flat and I can't move the car. Apart from having two smashed windows I cannot up my other windows; the van is an open house.
The forecasts predict heavy rains with some likelihood of a hurricane forming as a tropical system moves in from Cuba. Oh yes, I tried to find spare windows on junkyards, but then these problems with the back axle or wheel bearing started, a terrible screeching metallic noise soon after entering Cancun. I rolled into a garage and we should have been back this morning to fix the axle, but then the battery went flat. Last night, we slept all windows down, luckily no rains last night...
It certainly seems it is time to take it easy.
Ok so this morning, such a hot morning again, let's do first things first.
I pack the boys and computer/photo bag, we take a taxi to the garage, leave our van behind wide open. At the garage the mechanics are late, we wait an hour, then take the guys, Miguel's, car to come back to the van, - and guess what, now his car breaks down, just would not move anymore.
He phones his fellow mechanic, Jose, - and this guy is on his way; the boys and I head for McDonald's, in the meantime, wait, have finally coffee, eggs for the boys and then they play, I check the hurricane outlook ...
By lunch time I call the mechanics, later they phone back, even later they come, but they cannot jumpstart my van, take the battery for recharging and we head back to McDonald's.
4 in the afternoon they call again, install the battery and we drive the van to the garage; I am happy that still, for the 6th time or so, nobody has touched the van left with windows wide open. Mexico is so damn safe!
3 mechanics work with changing enthusiasm fixing the rear left wheel bearing, it takes the rest of the afternoon. My boys of course are bored and the garage would offer so many hidden corners to explore. I am after them, just half way through the afternoon I need to confine them to the van. Unwilling to stay there they take their well known route out to the top of the van and spend time there refusing to come down, show me the silly faces. Needless to say that one would fall sooner or later, David comes down hard with a salto mortale, slides down the front screen, tries hold on to the hood, the hood flaps down, he summersaults forward, just a meter from where I stand and hits his head. As usual, he has nothing!
My great mecánicos finish work by 8 p.m., we leave knowing that the battery will run flat again as we have not fixed the alternator, also I still have two smashed side windows. True as hell, driving to McDonald's my front lights go down more and more, in almost complete darkness it is hard to see some of the bumps on the road, the van takes off like going over a little ski jump, sends everything in the car flying, including the boys. We manage to arrive just the battery is completely flat again.
So next morning it is again back to the garage by taxi, they come take the battery, charge it and bring it back after lunch. On the second afternoon we fix the alternator, while the boys sleep inside the van and while rain drizzles down, no storm, no pouring, the rains come as a relief after the heat. We still have no side windows but at least we are able to up the other windows now and drive around.
We return to the garage the 3rd morning for minor fluids and filter related stuff. Then we drive away, in search for the side windows. 4 days ago same time we had tried all the junkyards, on one I had helped a guy out with my battery which had led us into a 3 day misery. Now I look for a plexiglas shop and asking around twice leads me to one. Two hours later we have two new side windows cut and I put them in place.
Wooooh! All done, on the road again, I yell out and the boys look at me not knowing whether to cheer in, my fabulous boys deserve ice cream, a beach, more McDonald's food, pizza and whatever.
My fabulous boys during these 4 days have endured a lot of boredom, waiting hanging around in garages. We slept with windows open, the rains fortunately have touched us little, the hurricane only formed once past us, over the Gulf of Mexico on way to Texas. Lucky!
'Just tell us how do you communicate?' I try my best, the lady garage owner, sits and tries to make sense of what I utter, eventually shakes her head and in disbelieve explains me that this is the worse Spanish she has heard in her whole life.
Puerto Juarez, north of Cancun, has a local's beach and ice cream and Corona and Dos Equis... After hours I wash the sand off my boys and we drive again. At a stunt later in the day south of Cancun, when I dare and move a little bit closer to the all-inclusive resorts, on the sole white unoccupied patch of sandy beach left to the public the blue/turquoise in the late sun comes almost unnatural. The waves are higher with a more violent break and enthuse my boys, I have a hard time to lure them back. After hours I wash the sand off them and we drive again. After much back and forward we find Peter Piper Pizza. Still we pass night in Cancun! Will we ever leave this town? Nothing really holds me here...
Playa del Carmen, C. comes.
More minor repairs with my most favored mecánicos, another stop at Peter Piper Pizza and we leave and arrive in Playa del Carmen, some 60kms south of Cancun. This is the 29th of July.
Playa del Carmen has a more village atmosphere than Cancun, the beach is as white, the sea as crystal-clear. I take my monsters swimming everyday, they know by now to dive, turn, make summersaults, learnt it all by themselves, they're secure and I can sit ashore and just watch. We take a room, there is internet, a little kitchen, a shower and many pizza, taco and beer places just around the corner. Yes, yes their diet has become more diverse in a month. Eggs and beans in the morning, tons of fruits during the day, fish or barbacoa (wiki) tacos, or breaded fish or chicken, sometimes also pizza or McDonald's at night, in general it seems they're shoving in what ever avail as their energy needs stay high up.
Christina flies in 1st of August, we stay another 3 days, woreship the beach where C. plays 'shark' - Hai with the boys, for hours. I get this miraculous time to just do nothing after a month non-stop, 24/7 with my most active.
XelHa and Tulum Maya site.
One late morning we hit the road, as we did so many times before, now we are four in the van, south it goes and all there is are resorts, hotels and entertainment sites and national parks that confound eco with luna, never want to go there.
XelHa archeological site of ancient Maya civilization is on the way, mosquito infested, Christina still has to get used to this. Some frescos, a fresh water cenote, ruins half re-erected...; really we talk butterflies, spiders and other insects, iguanas and the chance of seeing jaguars with the boys.
Reserva de la Biofera Sian Ka'an is past all the pricey hotels and bungalow accommodations that line one after the other the Tulum coast, we drive a long potholed sandy road, nothing will come for the next 40kms south of Tulum along the beach. At some point we just turn around, it is when groups of idiots in small jeeps come our way back from their day trips, race down the road in groups of 20 4x4s, the road is done with! But somewhere we stopped earlier, wetted our feet and nearby a huge bird took off.
Somehow we cannot find access to paradise here.
Tulum, one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Maya (post classic until 15th c.), famously overlooks the turquoise Caribbean Sea down from a cliff, but it is overrun and over-rated; after all we have already seen this labyrinth of souvenir and t-shirt shops, restaurants and beer bars that block the entrance resemble nothing but the obvious tourist nab: take me out ...
We go and swim in the ocean under the Pyramid El Castillo, Daniel and David need this on this extremely hot day while on top of the cliff hundreds line up. Get me out of here! After all these quiet beaches we have been to ...
Mahahual, Costa Maya.
After a long drive further down south when millions of white butterflies cross flying our path we arrive in Majahual on what is called the Costa Maya. There's an empty beach bar, the heat of the day is still fully up, beer and lemony ceviche (spicy marinated shrimp, wiki) go down well, the boys go crab hunting in the rocks until their fried fish and rice arrives. A sweet quiet sunset illustrates how far we have left the hordes behind.
Here in Mahahual is where we feel the other, less artificial, Mexico again. But who knows how long it will last as a large dock for cruise ships and a tourist shopping center were built nearby already.
We follow the beach south the next day, lonely is just another word for here. Water is clear, the beach not so, just not maintained, there is nobody. Somewhere on the road is blocked, a bridge has gone missing, a restaurant near-by sells fried fish and beer, later we detour to continue our journey south to Xcalak, southern-most point of the Costa Maya and wonder how long this stretch will remain unspoilt, how long will it take the hordes to take it over?
We return to Mahahual for the evening and night, there's a bar on the beach, my twin boys play till no end, always after the huge crabs that come out after nightfall. The lady of the bar says she too has twins, she also has 9 other children, is one of 3 wives of a mormon. Many have come for many years down south escaping polygamy regulations in the US.
Chetumal, Oxtankah, Calderitas.
The decision has been made; so near we have to go to Belize. Then better let's get going...
We get into Chetumal, this is Saturday the 6th of August, Chetumal lies on the lagoon, which seems like a huge lake. We drive through and where the road ends about 16kms north is Oxtancah, Maya site. Established during the Classic period (200-600 AD) it was abandoned soon and only re-occupied by Mayans in the 15th c., Spaniards soon after built a chapel right over existing Maya foundations, the arch still stands and presides till date over the huge forum. The setting is nice, in the shade, in the jungle, so quiet the butterflies and iguanas, we are the only visitors, the first in 2 days.
We are tired, long for ice cream and beer, and we are blessed and find Calderitas, a small town at the banks of the lagoon, a dozen restaurant joints, all looking out onto the flat water, all laid back, not at all busy, beer comes for 17 pesos (1.5USD), delicious ceviche cameron for 100. The boys are in the water, play, they only come out for food these days.