After tearing ourselves away from the Riviera Maya we headed south to the Costa Maya coast of Mexico. This area is very undeveloped with just two towns, Majahual and Xcalac. There was no electricity until just a few years ago when a cruise ship dock was built.
In 2007 the area was devastated by a hurricane, but since that time it has been rebuilt and the sleepy little fishing village is now a small town. When the cruise ships are in it’s busy with lots of tourist shopping along a very nice promenade. We saw nary a ship and it was lovely!
We stayed at the beautiful Blue Bay Resort in Majahual where the owner and staff were very accommodating. The usual RV parking is behind the bungalows but we got to park right by the restaurant since it was off season.
The beach was great!
Xcalac to the south is much sleepier and feels more like Belize, complete with a mangrove shoreline. Ambregris Key in Belize is only 4 miles south by boat.
There is a nice paved road slightly inland From Majahual south to Xcalac and a very bumpy dirt one that parallels the waterfront. Adventurers beware… even though the maps show the dirt road connecting the two towns, that is no longer the case.
We did a pre-scout to Xcalac without the trailer, thank goodness. Since I was manning the GPS I calmly pointed out that half way down (15 long bumpy miles) the dirt road veers into the ocean. But since the GPS is frequently wrong in Mexico (even with the latest maps loaded), my humans didn’t listen to me! So off we go and sure enough, after an hour and a half of brain numbing jostling there was no more road. And even worse… no way to turn around. But as usual they figured it out and got us back south, where we took the paved road home in silence. By the request of my humans the pictures I took of them “negotiating” their predicament will not be published.
It was finally time to leave the coast and head inland to the beautiful Mayan Ruins at Palenque. These ruins are unique because of their jungle setting and much smaller crowds since it’s a full day drive from the tourist areas.
They have just built a new international airport in Palenque that is due to open at any time but nonetheless there were plenty of tourists even in May. We met a lovely group of RV’ers from the Netherlands at the very nice Mayabell Campground right by the ruins. They were on a Pan American tour, having already traveled most of South America, then shipping their European rigs across the Darien gap, and caravanning all the way north through Central America to Mexico. Their final destination, Alaska. Now these retirees are the real adventurers! A big shout out to our buddies Willemijn and Cornelis wherever you are!
But back to the ruins! We loved our guide who was very knowledgeable and spoke perfect English having lived in the States only to return to his Mayan roots. In its heyday this ancient city encompassed almost 50 sq miles. We were there during the burning season which he explained to us is signaled to start by the Spring equinox. The temples are positioned so that the seasonal solstices and equinoxes line up exactly and shine through the tops. The fields were burned, planted and harvested accordingly. The local farmers still follow the same tradition.
The museum was fascinating with lots of interesting artifacts!
After a day at the ruins a dip in the nearby Aqua Azul Falls was a real treat. The light blue water was a cool but comfortable temperature, perfect for my aching knees after climbing up and down all those temples.
Oops, somebody forgot my glasses… here’s a better shot without my mug in it.
After yet another days drive we arrived at the volcanic town of Catemaco, just off the Gulf of Mexico, on a beautiful lake at 1000 ft elevation where it’s cooler (relatively) than the flatlands. This is where they shot the movies “Medicine Man” and “Apocalypto”.
The area is also known for it’s brujos or male witches. You can easily consult with one and buy herbs or charms but I decided I didn’t need to since I’m already the luckiest dog on earth! We stayed at the wonderful campground, Villas Tepetepan and RV Park, which isn’t on the lake but instead overlooks the Rio Grande De Catemaco. You might recognize these falls, Cascada Salto de Eyipantia, from the movies.
We were re-tracing our steps home now, the 45D to the 50D, then back on the Arco Norte which rings Mexico City WAY on the outskirts. Our destination, the third largest pyramid in the world! The largest pyramid is actually in the nearby Puebla suburb of Cholula, which was just a few miles back on the 50D. It was raining too hard on the way down to visit and now we were on a tight schedule to get home to see my boy, Sece, before he left for Spain.
Can you see my humans on the very top, they’re waving at me!
This culture was born, grew and fell between 200BC and 700 AD. Nobody knows their real name but the Aztecs who discovered it 600 years after its decline were so impressed they gave it the name Teotihuacan, which means City of Gods.
The size of this ancient Mesoamerican complex is mind blowing! Only 3- 5% has been excavated and Avenue of the Dead, the main thoroughfare to the pyramids, is 2.5 miles long.
While there you must stay at the Teotihuacan Trailer Park in Centro San Juan. It’s a lovely spot and the town has lots of shops and restaurants. Here’s one of our neighbors.
We saw these Expedition vehicles everywhere we went in Mexico. These babies will go anywhere, even across the Sahara desert. They will run on anything including cooking oil and some even have their own water purification systems. It’s not as glamorous as our Airstream and a lot more expensive but I sure would like to have one!
In yet another day’s drive we were in Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara, at rush hour! But it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We found our way to the San Jose Del Tajo Trailer Park, which has literally been there forever. Well, at least a really long time. Being off season it was pretty empty but we met some great people, including Juan our neighbor who had us over for cocktails and some lively conversation. There are lots of permanents here but instead of palapas they have real brick and mortar houses surrounding their trailers. Over 25,000 Americans and Canadians live in this area including Lake Chapala, making it an ex-pat haven.
In order to break up our 4000 mile trip home we had decided to stay on the West Coast for a few days, landing in yet another ex-pat hangout, Sayulita.
It’s a bit like Disney Land but we loved it, and the Sayulita Trailer Park and Bungalows were fantastic and right on the water. It’s a bit difficult to find a spot here in the winter but luckily because it was off season we got a site just off this gorgeous beach. Another shout out to the owner, Thies! A fascinating German who has lived in Mexico for decades.
The restaurants were great!
As were sunsets on the beach!
And great people watching!
After a lovely visit it was finally time to head north towards home. Getting back to the 15D took us a little longer than we thought due to this accident.
Nobody was hurt but we had to wait a few minutes for them to pull this truck out of the ditch. We were always amazed by how fast the Mexicans clear accidents and get traffic flowing again. On our rainy drive down I mentioned some accidents. Most we saw would have closed down a US highway for hours yet we were never delayed more than 30-45 minutes. The ambulances would come, depart, and the road would be quickly cleared of all debris. Then we were on our way.
Over 20 million Americans travel safely to Mexico every year but the rule of thumb for RVers in Mexico is never to drive at night for various reasons. The main one being debris in the road, you just can’t see it in the dark. In Baja that would include livestock as it is free range. Another reason, it increases your chances of getting lost as the signage can be hard enough to see in the daylight. And because sometimes bad people come out at night, just like anywhere in the world. And of course you don’t want to have mechanical issues in the dark, so just don’t do it.
It would take us two more days from Sayulita to reach the border just south of Tucson AZ. The first night we stayed at the Villas Tortugas RV Park in Celestino Gasca. It was a great spot with just 8 sites behind their villas on the Pacific Ocean. We loved the easy access to the 15D.
Our final stop in Mexico was the Totonaka RV Park in the town of San Carlos. An easy days drive from Arizona, this seaside town gets a ton of RV business. It looks just like Arizona on the water, right?
The tropics were long gone, sadly! We had an easy uneventful border crossing and before you knew it, we were back in the US of A.
Coming up next: California Here We Come, Right Back Where We Started From…