Mexico: The last frontier on the way home

The original plan for our trip was to drive from Colombia to Ushuaia, then all the way to Alaska and then back home to Toronto. But as often happens in life, plans do not always work. Especially the long-term ones.

Before we left for South America, we rented out our house, and at some point, this turned out to be a disaster. That’s why after Mexico, we decided to aim directly for Toronto and to leave Alaska for better times. And truth to be told, we were kind of tired of travelling. Trying to understand why we were tired, I counted that for 329 days on the road we slept in 164 beds, I cooked in more than 120 kitchens, used hundreds of different utensils, pots, pans, and tried to bake in tens of ovens. In other words, I was mentally ready for my home, my own bed, my own oven, and my own washroom. 

I was mentally ready for my home

In a big and wide country like Mexico, normally we would cross west to east and east to west a couple of times, trying to cover as much area and landmarks as possible. With our home on the horizon, we decided to enjoy only the eastern part of the country. And let’s face it – Mexico is practically in our backyard. We could come back and visit all we skipped anytime, couldn’t we?

We rented a nice apartment in Tulum and decided to spend a few days on the Yucatan peninsula and enjoy its wonders.

We wouldn’t skip some of the most famous Mayan sites – Chechen Itza, Uxmal and Palenque.

The weather in August in Yucatan is hot, really, truly hot and I like it. August is the peak of the rainy season in Mexico and Central America, but there was not too much rain. It was humid of course, but not something my Toronto experience couldn’t handle. 

Ivan: Here is the place to praise God for creating the cenotes. Jumping in a cenote on a hot, humid day in the middle of August is like opening the fridge, grabbing an ice-cold beer and gulping it down.  Except that you get the cold feeling all around you. I’m not a person enjoying the heat the way Marinela does, so I was definitely struggling most of the time in Yucatan. But if there is a cenote around, I’m ready to suffer any given day with all this heat and humidity.

To my surprise, my non-swimming wife refused to jump into this “terrible bottomless hole full of freaking cold water”. Well, as we say in Bulgaria, you can take something from a person, but you can’t give him something if he doesn’t want it.

Marinela: The good thing about visiting Mexico in August is that there are not too many tourists in the middle of the summer.

Mexico is one of the top winter destinations for Canadians, but very few go there in the middle of the summer. Still, when we tried to go to the beach at Playa del Carmen there were too many people for our taste, so we decided the next day to go and visit Las Coloradas.

Las Coloradas is a port and a small fishing village on the north part of Yucatan, famous for the large pink lagoon nearby. It is the only pink lagoon in Mexico and a touristy place, but we were lucky. There were no people at all, and we had the lagoon and the salt hills around for ourselves.

After the lagoon, we drove to a small village nearby and we found the most amazing beach ever. This is the second time in my life when I’ve seen seawater warmer than 30-33 degrees Celsius.  The beach was miles long and it was almost empty. If there is an ultimate beach vacation – that is my place – small, rural, unspoiled.

One of the things that surprised me in Mexico was the bike path in Puebla.

I am used to seeing the bikers on the street of Toronto, trying to find their way through heavy traffic. Poor, poor Toronto. In Puebla, there is a raised bike path for many kilometres through most of the city.

On our last day in Mexico, we were in Xilita, a very lush fertile mountain in the northern part of the country.

Ivan: If you have travelled across South and Central America, you probably noticed that there are speed bumps everywhere. Speedbumps big, speedbumps not so big, speedbumps wide and narrow, speedbumps round or almost square. Speedbumps of every shape and colour, mostly without any colour at all, and very hard to notice. I clearly remember a very huge one in a small Brazilian village, which we had to approach at a 45-degree angle in order to pass it. Our Subaru is with relatively big ground clearance, but it didn’t help much.

After a few times nearly taking off or breaking the suspension, we developed an early notification routine. If the front passenger spotted a speed bump before the driver, he had to scream loud “WE ARE JUMPING”. On many occasions, this saved the suspension of our poor Subaru, as well as, our tooth fillings from falling off.

In Mexico, as a farewell to the speedbumps in our trip, they outdid all other countries. At some point, we started counting them on a 100 kilometres stretch of the road. When we did the math, it turned out there was an unmarked speedbump at almost every 400 meters. 

Marinela: Finally, after crossing the tropic of the Cancer we arrived in McAllen, Texas.  

We drove the whole day, arrived late, checked in a hotel, and went to the nearby Chiplote restaurant to grab something for dinner. While I was trying to place my order with the boy behind the counter, Ivan told me “It might be easier if you do this in English”.

“Opps, sorry,” I said. “I mean I wanted a chicken burrito with guacamole”

“Not a problem” answered the boy. “I perfectly understand Spanish”

“Yes, there is a problem,” I said. “I don’t speak Spanish well enough”

For the next couple of weeks, I continued using “gracias”, instead of “thanks” and “por favor” instead of “please”.

Then, slowly everything went back to normal. And soon our long, almost a year-long trip started looking like a dream. A beautiful dream you want to repeat the next night. Or next year maybe. Or just someday.

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