Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Baby Yucatan Drive My Car!

a little luxury

Yay!! After all the planning and false starts I finally made it to Mexico without any planning at all. On the spur of the moment last Thursday, my good friend Teri and I decided on a road trip to Cancun.

We left Belize at 6pm on Friday evening, heading north up the Yucatan peninsula and into the darkness in our little hire car.

Carribean beaches on the Yucatan coastline.

Like any good road trip, the drive was a rollercoaster of emotion – mostly shock and awe. I don’t know what happened to my usual Schumi composure but it’s fair to say that my driving put a few years on poor Teri and added some more grey hairs to my barnet. My biggest problem was not being able to see the speed bumps. The Belizian and Mexican authorities have both adopted the dubious policy of placing these hazards anywhere and everywhere, including in the middle of the countryside and often across four lanes of dual carriageway. I guess it gives the locals some amusement. I hit one bump near the Mexican border at a good 50mph+.

As well as getting some good ‘air-time’, I also had a couple of arguments with trucks, drove through stop junctions without slowing down (I’d swear they weren’t particularly well marked, though Teri was, probably quite rightly, convinced otherwise) and ran a red light. Plus, I left the lights on all night resulting in the battery running down and our hotel having to give us a jump start, I managed to pull the door handle off the passenger door and the electric windows got jammed in the down position, though I’d like to think that last one wasn’t my fault.

Who needs a De Lorean to travel in time. Just take one Dodge Tracker, get her up to 55mph (88mph is a little outside her capabilities) and hit a Belizian speed bump. Me and my Teri-fied Mexi-codriver saw everything from 1974 onwards flash before our eyes.

After all this adventure we were ready for a bit of luxury when, at 4am, we at last arrived in Playa Del Carmen, a few miles short of Cancun. And what a great resort we found. We had a good 24 hours or so of being pampered, with massages, free drinks, fab food and great accommodation. So nice to have a couple of glasses of good wine too, which is extortionate in Belize due to the local taxation.

The place was awesome and we were more than a little reluctant to leave. In amongst the traveling and relaxing, we also got to the Mayan site of Tulum. This is smaller than some other sites, but well visited by virtue of its closeness to the big Mexican resorts.

Of the three Mayan sites I’ve now visited, Lamanai has the most impressive structures, Altun Ha has the best atmosphere, but Tulum is the most photogenic. At Tulum, the clear blue sea and white sand adds something extra to the blue of the sky, green jungle and grey stone temples and rocky outcrops...

…plus a touch of purple weed…

…and some bright flowers. Makes for a great palette.

A little mention for the St Louis Cardinal’s big win in the World Series. Teri and I arrived in Chetumal just in time to see her home team wrap up the biggest prize in baseball with a 4-1 series win over the Detroit Tigers. Go Cards!!!!!!

Wave goodbye. A weekend of traveling, temples, good tunes and great company. So sorry to leave Mexico.


Our knowledgeable guide with the 1500 year old carving off the Jaguar God.

When the Mexico trip was scuppered by passport problems, I made some virtue out of adversity by doing the one-day boat trip to the ancient Mayan site of Lamanai instead. This is one of Belize’s most popular tourist activities and was a pretty nice trip, though not quite as memorable as Altun Ha.

I saw an alligator, dolphins and these howler monkeys over the weekend. Sadly the only close up wildlife photos I get are when the wildlife has passed over to the other side...

Gordon Brown was always jealous of his Belizian counterpart’s exotic walk to work

The huge, and hugely impressive, Temple of the Jaguar.