RV'ing from Paamul to Laguna Bacalar
Nan and I had been living at the RV park in Paamul since January 1, 2003. It had been a tremendous experience being in Mexico for that long, getting to know the locals and meeting gringo snowbirds as they drifted through, and generally enjoying the heck out of everything. But reality finally reared its ugly head, and we decided that it was time to pack up and head back to the USA. Perhaps as a signal that it was time to move on, in late May a violent storm blew through the park, spawning what was possibly a small tornado. It surely was dramatic, blowing our outdoor furniture around, collapsing our canopy, and blowing out some windows in nearby villas. By then we were almost the only non full time residents there, all the seasonal folk having left by the end of March. The night before we were to leave, we were given a going away party by about 20 of the year-round folk. It was very sweet, but a bit sad as well.
The next day (May 29) dawned hot and humid. After last minute preparations and all that goes into buttoning up a trailer and hooking up to our truck, we said goodbye to a small group that had come to see us off. Hugs all around, then with a final wave and a ³buen viaje² from the guard as we passed his shack one last time, we slowly rolled up to the highway, and headed south towards Tulum.
Now is a good time to mention that up to this point we had limited experience towing a 26 foot trailer. What we had done so far was tow the 30 miles from the dealer to home in Maine, and then down the interstates to Tampa to catch the ferry that used to run from Tampa to the Yucatan, plus the short drive down 307 from Puerto Moreles to Paamul. Now, the corridor from Cancun to Tulum is as you know a four lane divided highway, but anyone who¹d driven to Coba back then or south of Tulum knows that the roads changed a lot. They become narrow two-laners with little or no shoulder. So given that this big aluminum box hung out almost 2 feet on either side of the truck, you can imagine that I was just a wee bit apprehensive about the 1600 miles of Mexican highway on which we were embarking.
So off we went, mentally saying ³Adios² as we passed Akumal, Chemuyil and Leo¹s Pizza, the Boca Paila road (the margaritas at the El Paraiso beach bar, sigh), and crawled through Tulum.
Tulum has many topes. If you have done any driving at all in Mexico you are familiar with the nasty speed bumps that Mexicans are fond of placing where they would like drivers to slow down, sometimes well marked, and sometimes not. If you are an unsuspecting tourist and encounter one when traveling at 60 miles an hour then Wham! Poor rental car. But a travel trailer¹s suspension is pretty wimpy. We saw a lot of springs being replaced while we were at the RV park. So when I say ³crawled through Tulum² that¹s EXACTLY what I meant. Don¹t know if I was annoying anyone behind me, but I figured that if the locals can live with dump trucks going 25 in a 70 on 307, then they could just get used to me, because that was our house back there, and it needed to remain intact.
Onward we went as the road narrowed down. I spent a lot of time checking the right side mirror to see where the trailer wheels were. There was not a lot of room to play with when busses and semis came flying up from the opposite direction. At times I was surprised when one of those guys didn¹t peel the side right off the trailer. But as the miles went by I began to relax as I got used to the whole thing. As we moved slowly through Muyil I said goodbye to the ruins and the jungle trail down to the laguna. Things were pretty uneventful after that until we reached Felipe Carillo Puerto (you know, the city named after the reformist governor whose fate helped define the phrase ³no good deed goes unpunished²). Just as we approached the glorietta (roundabout) at the center of town we saw a ³road closed² sign. (Of course it was in Spanish, but I had done my homework.) This was definitely NOT what I wanted to see. The main street was narrow enough, what with the triciclos, dogs, and motor scooters with extended families hanging off them. But here we were faced with a left hand turn into a side street. And once completed, then what? Of course there were no ³detour² signs, so it would be best guess from there. Luckily the old Spanish civil engineering was consistent, so with a careful left turn, successfully not running anybody down with the trailer, a careful right followed by another, we were back at the glorietta. It was a squeeze getting around it 90 degrees without running up on the curb, and then we were on our way again. Just outside of town we ran into our first military checkpoint, manned but what appeared to be bored sixteen year olds armed with Uzis. They poked around the inside of the trailer a bit, asked where we had come from and where we were going (thanks to Carlos at the library in Akumal for the Spanish lessons), and waved us through. A bit further down the road we ran into heavy rain, at about the same time as we ran into some construction. We slogged through the ruts and mud and as we got back into the sunshine a workman yelled ³Adios amigos² at us while we rolled by. It was a nice touch that made me start missing all of the Mayan friends we had made,
We wanted to make this first day on the road a short one, so we had planned to stay at an RV park at Laguna Bacalar, just 3 hours down the road. We got off the highway and turned down the little road that curves past Cenote Azul and the restaurant there, and found the sign for the park. But where was it? All we could see was what looked like a farmyard with a couple of ramshackle buildings at the rear, and chickens and dogs wandering around. Well, the yard looked plenty big enough to turn around in if we had to, so I drove in. We got out to look around just as an ancient Mayan abuelita came ever so slowly out of the building on the right, which apparently was a house, though it looked more than a little beat up. Tottering along with her cane, accompanied by a scrawny (but friendly) puppy, she approached us. She spoke not one word of English, and her Spanish sounded like it was half Yucatec anyway. So we struggled for a bit before she was able to make it clear that yes, this was indeed an RV park, except of course at this time of year it was entirely empty. We started seeing hints that sites had been laid out, marked with chalk on the ground, and that a few of them looked like they had power. But seeing that the power consisted of what looked like bare wires coming down a tree and ending at an outlet dangling in the breeze, we opted to forgo the ³comfort². I backed the trailer up under a tree, being careful not to run over any of the livestock. Nan went to check the bath house, and returned looking a bit green. (A note here about guidebooks: We were using a Mexican camping guide that had come highly recommended. But I began to have my doubts about the quality of its information as this particular park was described as ³open field with easy access, full hookups, clean bathrooms². Hmmm.)
As soon as we went into the trailer to relax a bit before dinner I wondered if not plugging in had been a mistake. The weather had continued to get warmer all day and the heat and humidity were oppresive. But, no power, no air conditioning. And the inside of an aluminum box can get pretty toasty. We were keeping a log of the trip (miles driven, time on the road, cost of gas, tolls, number of topes (32 today)) but I was sweating so much that I couldn¹t write without dripping all over the page and smearing the ink. So we went for a walk to look at the laguna. Caught glimpses of it through the gaps between what were evidently vacation homes. There were a few caretakers, but nobody home. We were kind of weary from the days of preparation (and nights of partying) so we turned back and walked past the park to the restaurant on the cenote. Looked interesting but the caged birds they had at the entrance just hit us the wrong way, so we didn¹t go in for a drink. By now the mosquitoes were coming out in full force so back to the park and inside the trailer we went. We warmed up some leftover sopa de lima, had a couple of beers, and settled in to read for a bit to the serenade of bleating goats. Suddenly out of nowhere we heard as clear as day ³WHAAAAT²! We looked around and saw nothing but a few goats and chickens. ³WHAAAT!² again. It sounded just like an elderly gent responding to a nagging wife. Then we spotted the culprit: a goat, tied to a tree about twenty feet behind us. I guess we must have been pretty tired as we almost laughed ourselves senseless. We couldn¹t get the image out of our heads, an old guy, porkpie hat firmly set on his head, getting into his Buick, his wife hanging out of the door of the house yelling to him to get something else at the store, and he replying ³WHAAAT²! All the tension of the day just rolled right out of us, and we crawled into bed, praying for a breeze. But we were so tired that we dropped right off in spite of the heat.
"Good night, hon."
"Good night, babe."
By: Joe and Nan Duclos
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