The Mayan Big Guns – Day 136 (10,952 miles)

Although our last post was heavily Mayan ruin based we hadn’t even reached the big ones.  Should we or shouldn’t we?  Go to Chichen Itza that is.  Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor say it’s a must, but the price you pay are the big crowds.  Also we know there are smaller quieter sites that could be just as interesting.

Anyhow we were staying close by so we went for it.   As long as you’re there by 9ish there are a couple of hours before the big tour buses arrive so it’s really not that crowded.  They do let vendors set up their stalls inside so there is the constant badgering to buy when walking past but the scale of the ruins is impressive and we’re glad we went.

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We had based ourselves at a pretty town called Izamal, it was easy to get out and visit stuff plus Harold the owner of the hotel/campsite was an overlander himself many years ago.   This was handy as John wanted to give the van a service.  It was while doing the oil change that John spotted a small leak from the water pump and that one of the bolts fitted was too short and not tightened properly.  A new water pump was one of the jobs that was done by the guy we bought the van from, John had wanted to do it himself but that would have invalidated our warranty.  So after much deliberation he had agreed to let them do this and a few other jobs but has never been happy with the standard of what they did.  Luckily he had a slightly longer bolt that fitted so we have a temporary fix.

All of you who know John will realise that a temporary fix (albeit one that may last the whole trip) is not really good enough😉.  There has been much deliberation about getting a new water pump now and fitting it, which is a big job on a Delica.  Or, getting a spare to carry with us but we really don’t have room.  We did go to a Mitsubishi dealer in Merida and sadly the Parts Manager definitely won the prize as the most unhelpful person we have encountered in Mexico, in fact he is the only unhelpful person we’ve encountered!  He was adamant that the part numbers we had could not possibly be accessed on his system and Japan would not ship them to Mexico anyway. Maybe what he was saying was true but from the moment he saw us the manner and body language said he didn’t want to help, much to the embarrassment of the very helpful receptionist who was translating for us.  Anyhow the temporary fix is fine at the moment and our good friend Chris who was our back home parts and shipping co-ordinator on our last trip has stepped up the mark and will get us what we need if and when we do.  Thanks Chris.

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Part of each day a small herd of sheep were let into the campground to graze.  John caught one trying to get in the side of the van, so now every speck of dirt I see I think is a tick!

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This lad is called Lucky as he is the only male among 9 dogs on the site!

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Oh I love the internet!  We kept seeing this pretty bird so  I Googled “Bird native to Mexico with a funny shaped blue tail” and there it was the Turquoise Browed Motmot!

Izamal was spruced up with a job lot of yellow paint for a visit by the Pope in 1993, it made for some colourful photos.

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This is Luis who took me on a tour of the town’s famous convent.  A small man with a big personality!

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Plastic recycling by foot.

Our last Mayan ruin was Uxmal (pronounced Ushmal).  Apart from the Magicians Temple in the 1st 2 pics below all the other ruins can be climbed so a few more calories burnt.

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We went to the sound and light show, didn’t understand much of the Spanish commentary but we got the gist of it and enjoyed watching.

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Bye for now.xx

Old Ruins – Day 128(10,531 miles)

Does the title refer to us?  Well I haven’t had a haircut for 5 months and given up on makeup so perhaps it is me at least!

We are firmly entering Mayan territory and the many ruined cities there are to see.  We started with a little one called Yaxchilan, it is on the Usumacinta river and the opposite river bank is the border with  Guatemala. It is only accessible by boat and when our skipper suggested we set off at 7am the next day we thought it might be to beat the hoards of other tourists arriving by coach.

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Luckily we were wrong, perhaps he is just a morning person?  This place is pretty off the beaten track and we were the only ones staying at our campground. We had the ruins to ourselves apart from 2 others, and there were no sellers of stuff we do not want!  We have no illusions that will be the case at the larger, more accessible sites but it was a great morning.

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A slightly weird camping spot, the car park of a museum.

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John on the edge of a rather tall pyramid, in flagrant breach of safety guidelines yet again!  This was at a place called Calakmul again pretty quiet as there is 60km of a mainly paved but very potholed small lane to get there.

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We puffed our way up 148ft of pyramid for this view.  To be honest going up was fine but coming down not so comfortable, those Mayans had tiny feet, barely enough room to stand sideways on some of the steps.

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We had chatted to a couple of guys we assumed to be French (although they turned out to be Belgium) at the top of the pyramid.  As we were leaving the site they approached us in need of a lift.  They had hitchhiked the 60km in but missed their lift out.  This was a first for us, hadn’t given anyone a lift in Juanita before.  Obviously she is not designed to carry more than 2 but we rolled back the mattress and made it work.  It was nice to have the company of Matthias and Matthew for a while.

We headed to the Caribbean coast, another first for us both as beaches are not our usual priority.  Well, not sunny ones anyway, we’re too pasty for sunbathing!

Below is the Mayan seaport of Tulum, a real tourist draw quite understandably considering the location.  For us it was rather an anti-climax after the 2 previous sites.  All the ruins were roped off so no climbing around, landscaped grounds and thousands of people!  I said to John it felt rather manufactured.  We could have avoided the crowds by getting there earlier as we were camped very close by.  Instead we had a leisurely breakfast and chatted to a nice Kiwi lady travelling with her 12 year old daughter (who was still in bed!).  Sophie runs an underwear company back home called Thunderpants (great name).  Often these people encounters are the rewarding bits of our days.

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Throughout the Yucatan there are sink holes known as Cenotes, they are fed from underground water sources (not sure if that is always the case).  Some are open to the elements and some within caves.  We found a less popular underground one that we had to ourselves.

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A selection of recent wildlife encounters.

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We have camped in some great spots.

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John on the naughty step!

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Ek Balam

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The nosey parker who loves to see inside other people’s houses in me wanted to visit Casa De Los Venados in Valladolid, it is a private house stuffed full of 3,ooo bits of Mexican folk art, or toot as John called it.  Lots of Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Day of the Dead themed stuff.  Basically some well off Americans bought a wreck of a building, renovated it, filled it full of stuff and are now No 1 thing to do in Valladolid on Trip Advisor!  It’s a small town, not that much happening.

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A real old fashioned shoemaker, not hard to make your choice, there is only one style!

Bye for nowxx

Chugging through Chiapas – Day 116 (9660miles)

Well, all is good in our little travel bubble.  Sometimes I feel like Judith Chalmers (under forties or those who don’t live in the Uk will have no idea who that is!) telling you about one travel destination after another.  No dramatic near death experiences or mechanical disasters to make for exciting reading I’m afraid.

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But we did need, to find another route!

You know sometimes, something in the Lonely Planet sparks your interest and you really can’t explain what draws you to it especially when it’s a bit of a trek out of your way to get there.  Sima de las Cotorras is a 140m deep by 160m wide sink hole, we’ve been to the Grand and Copper Canyons do we really want to see this little hole?  It is home to a flock of small green parrots that have been forced out of other habitats due to deforestation and their numbers depleted due to hunting.  A group of around 30 local people now manage the area as a conservation project and there is a small restaurant and washrooms so we were able to arrive late and camp there.  As the sunrises which is a about 7am here the parrots get pretty vocal and start to fly up out of the hole.  It was one of those things that you have to hear as much as see and pics don’t do it justice.  We were pleased we stopped by as much as anything to meet a few of the people involved and make a donation.  It really is a bit out of the way and was deserted apart from us and 2 others who arrived in the morning.

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John invalidating the travel insurance having climbed over the DANGER STOP HERE sign!

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Continue reading “Chugging through Chiapas – Day 116 (9660miles)”

Oaxaca, quite wonderful – Day 111 (9441 miles)

After giving this post it’s title I realised that the first stop detailed isn’t in Oaxaca!  Would you have known? Would you have cared?  Possibly not, but I own up to it more so that when we are older and greyer and the detail of where we’ve been is blurring we can look back on the blog for some clarification.  Anyhow……

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We loved spending a night in the cactus forest in Puebla state.  One of those places were the nights are so quiet it’s a bit spooky.  The night sky was fantastic.

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The next day we set off into the neighbouring state of Oaxaca with a nice easy 4 hour journey to do.  Earlier this year there had been violent clashes between the police and teachers with the teachers blockading roads and protesting about changes to the education system.  It had appeared from the lack of anything new in the press that it was over, but not so.  We joined a very long queue of stationary traffic and were advised it was a blockade and to take a different route.  On the alternative route we came across the aftermath of previous protests still in place.  We couldn’t find out why the streets have not been cleared of the wreckage.  We got through OK but but there was a lot of debris to negotiate.

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After a journey that took a few hours longer than planned we arrived in Santa Maria Del Tule a lovely little town to the east of Oaxaca city.  It is famous for a 2,000 year old Montezuma Cypress tree.

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It’s claimed to have the widest trunk of any tree in existence.

The tree although interesting wasn’t why we chose to stay there!  From the reviews on I-Overlander the best place by far to stay was a campsite called Overlander Oasis.  When travelling like this there are places you sometimes come across that are quite special and this is one of them.  Calvin and Leanne who’s garden has basically been turned into a camping area for motorcyclists and campervans have travelled Mexico extensively in a converted Greyhound bus and they really understand what you need when you’re on the road for a while.   We enjoyed their company and the company of those we met there enormously.

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Home made pizza night with Maria and Nachi who was Head Chef that night(Argentians travelling by campervan with 2 young kids), Felix (German motorcyclist) and Leanne and Calvin our hosts.

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The use of Calvin’s workshop and input allowed John to extend our kitchen prep area extensively 😊and carry out other mods and maintenance.  I think John would have been happy to spend all our time there tinkering and tweaking but I did manage to get him out and about a bit.

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Monte Alban was founded around 500BC and it a very impressive site.  It was inhabited by the Zapotecs who are still the largest group of indigenous people in the state.

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Where’s Johnny?

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This stone was the first Zapotec calendar.  So dates back to approximately 500BC, I may be wrong but I think this would even pre-date the first Cliff Richard calendar and those have been around forever!

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A week hasn’t gone by since we’ve been in Mexico without some kind of festival or celebration and this week was a Mariachi festival in Del Tule.  These kids were brilliant, they couldn’t have been more than 5 or 6 years old but they marched, played the drums, took part in the flag folding ceremony and one of them gave quite a long, solemn speech.

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One of many Mariachi bands, we stayed for a couple of hours but we could hear the festivities from our campsite and they Mariachi’d way into the night.

There was no point taking Juanita into the city as the area has Collectivos which are normal looking saloon cars that act more like minibuses.  For 11 pesos (around 40p) per person you can take the 20 minute journey into the city.  Now these are definitely designed as driver plus 3 passenger vehicles but the driver will continuing picking up until he has 5 plus himself on board so 3 bodies in both the front and back.  I was “lucky” enough to be the one squeezed in the middle of the front seat on our way home.  So no seat belt, fast driving, on 3 lane roads in the dark!  Made a ride in an Asian tuktuk feel pretty tame.

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We visited the Botanical gardens and cultural museum and enjoyed the people watching and wandering around the city.

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We visited more Zapotec ruins at Mitla.

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These were built of individual pieces of stone fitted together without mortar.  Still look pretty good 20+ centuries on!  I think John mentioned they were designed and built to withstand seismic activity.

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There are so many Beetles here they seem to be chopping them up to make moto taxi’s (or tuktuks).

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Our planned 1 week stay at Overland Oasis turned into 9 nights!  I think there is a good chance we’ll be back to this region of Mexico sometime in the future.  There is a lot more to explore.  We were waved off by Moreena a very lucky street dog adopted by Calvin and Leanne.  She has a great temperament and enjoys visiting all the campers.

Our last stop in Oaxaca was Huerve el Agua, beautiful mineral springs in a stunning location and you can camp overnight for the equivalent of £6.

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No one but us and a few stray dogs.

Adios for now.xx