The Mad Dash Through Chiapas and Yucatan


The past two weeks were inadvertently a mad rush. We didn’t even realize how fast we were going. It was only when I was trying to figure out the last time we did laundry that I noticed we have driven almost every day (and a long day) for the past two weeks (minus five days over two places).

To start off, Playa Zipolite where we rested for three days, was a cute little beach town, with huge surf and dangerous currents. We played safe and stuck to the shallows where we enjoyed getting pummeled by the waves, eventually losing my glasses (miraculously they were found). We also met up with Arzu, an old student of mine with whom we spent an afternoon hiking some beautiful coastal trails. One of which lead to what he called a jacuzzi, which turned out was a rock hole where 3 meter waves squeezed through a narrow opening to spin the water more like in a laundry machine than a jacuzzi. We watched the waves rush in, slowly moving farther up the rocks.  Ella spent this time madly chasing crabs until she almost slid into the opening where the waves pour in, but her bird like claws eventually gripped the rock.

Arzu, Rebecca and I watch the waves pour into the rock hole
Brett filling up on Pizza, the perfect Mexican dish

After this short rest we started the last leg of Mexico through Chiapas and Yucatan, which were not really on our radar before, especially since they took us away from the most direct route to the Guatemalan border. However, they both seemed to have a lot to offer and we didn’t want to miss it.  As we made our journey to the state capital of San Cristobal we ran into another blockade, this one man made and political in nature, likely to do with indigenous rights from what we have heard.  I really wish I knew Spanish, especially for times like these.  We stayed the night at a roadside hotel after a two hour detour trying to find a place for Astrid to park for the night, only to return back to where Brett first suggested staying.

The town of San Cristobal was an interesting place with small streets, one person sidewalks, colourful houses and cool markets. It also housed a number of museums we hoped to visit but could not find. But we did get a good tour of the town as we searched for them.   Mexican Independence Day was celebrated the two nights we were in town and we strolled the streets observing the festivities. This neat little place had a lot to offer and in a way I wish we stuck around longer to get to know it a bit better, but the rains drove us away towards the coast of Yucatan.

San Cristobal during Independence Day Celebrations
Eating and Dancing the morning after

On our way to Yucatan we stopped over at Palenke, according to our guide book the most beautiful ruins in Mexico. Having a slight indifference to seeing ruins, I cannot say these had a much different feel than others we have seen, but the jungle setting was pretty cool, especially the howler monkeys that screamed at night.   Although we didn’t really hear them as our turbo fans were running high to keep us cool.

I ride my stallion through the ruins

It was in Yucatan, the safest of the states, that for the first time at police check points we were being pulled over. At one we were thoroughly yet politely searched, having to empty our pockets, then observe as the officer examined our wallets and their contents, the dog food, shaving equipment and so on.   We were curious if they really thought we would be hiding the guns and the drugs in the front with us or maybe it was a good way to see how nervous we would get while waiting.

As we got to Yucatan’s Gulf coast it seemed quite barren and abandoned, this was at least partly due to past hurricanes.  When we got to Chelem we were getting ready to sleep in the parking lot of a restaurant on the beach when Lynn, a retired American living in Chelem invited us to stay with her where we would have a clean bed and a fresh shower in the morning. We took her up on the offer and enjoyed our evening on her porch rather then in our van before retiring to bed.  She now had beach front property as the first row of houses was lost to the hurricanes and the seas.

Chelem’s homes, some abandoned, others not.
Before Lynn invited us to stay at her place we found this restaurant with a view and a half and asked to sleep in our van which they had no problem with

The next day we continued our costal path around Yucatan, passing through Cancun where things got a lot grandiose. We drove through the resort strip, stopping at the public beach for a view of incredibly tourguioise water with beautiful imported sand.  We then moved on to a more humbler place with seaweed and decay like smells.  Needless, we frolicked in the waters before retiring to the van for a night of well salted popcorn and a movie.

Cancun’s Public Beach
Our beach


Popcorn to go with the salt

Currently in Tulum where we found a cute little camp spot amongst a small plantation of perfectly parallel palm trees we decided it was time for a well needed rest.  For the first time we took our laundry to the laundry mat as hand washed clothes only get so clean and with the humidity everything has been damp for a while. This will be a perfect time to clean out all the old sand that has accumulated in Astrid and replace it with some fresh stuff.

Camping in Tulum

Mexico Mainland

The mainland of Mexico which we just about missed as we planned on taking the coastal route, was well worthy, although lack of a guidebook for Mexico has made things a bit challenging.


Luckily we did not miss Guanajuato, a beautiful colonial city and an old silver mining town, located at 2200 meters where we settled for five days in an RV park or more correctly a parking lot behind a house.  The  view was a beauty, and unlike Ella who was afraid to step out of the van each morning, we enjoyed  our morning coffee admiring the colorfulness of the place.

View from our camp spot overlooking the hillsides of Guanajuato.

One of the reasons we ended up staying in this particular spot had to do with our decision to learn some Spanish.  We found a school and enrolled in two classes a day: grammar and vocab.

Some students slept more then others during class, although they may look keen in this picture.

Aside from studying this was the first time in Mexico that we were able to wander aimlessly around the city.  This was due to the more humane climate this mountain town offered.  We even pulled out our sleeping bags during the evenings.  One day as we returned from town to our homey parking lot, we noticed a Westfalia.   We were thrilled, Brett started hi-fiving me and I had to calm him down, as we have a tendency to get overexcited about meeting fellow travelers.  The next two evenings, although they were school nights, were late ones as we shared travel stories with our new neighbours who were on a year long trip with their 10 and 13 year old children.



One of many squares in Guanajuato.

Although we spent our days hiking up and down to get to town from our camp spot and wandering the streets of Quanajuato, one afternoon we attempted to go for a non urban hike, but after discovering a microbrewery 5 minutes up the hill we had to rethink our plan.  Considering the newly acquired craft brews were cold, there was no time to waste and we headed back home. However I have plenty of pictures from previous days.



Our departure from Guanajuato was much easier then our arrival in which we ended up missing the turn off twice and driving in the wrong direction for about half hour each time.  Not to blame anyone but flying past the turnoffs and not listening to the navigator had something to do with this, in short it was Brett’s fault. None the less the drive continued as we headed to Teotihuacan, a small  town with well known pyramids, so they told us. However we soon discovered that dogs were not allowed to sight see, but considering we had legitimate paperwork for our working dog this was not a problem.  Although I am pretty sure they thought Ella was Brett’s seeing eye dog.


Mountains overlooking Oaxaca

On our way south east we stopped in Oaxaca for a day of exploring and before heading to Hierve del Aqua (springs) we decided to stock up on food. As we were pulling out from our shopping spree we ran into a Swiss couple who we recently met and who turns out were heading in the same direction.  We pulled over, for what we figured would be a brief moment to say our hello’s and two hours later we were still there as the car refused to start.  Luckily Pascal is a mechanic, so together with Brett they spent the next few hours troubleshooting.  However we ended up having to get the car towed to a mechanic and after contemplating about sleeping at the garage, Astrid sparked up and refused to be idle.   We decided to take a chance and skip the adventures at the mechanic, so together with our Swiss companions we headed away. 

The Swiss lead the way while we follow in our hopefully working van
Mineral cold water pools and petrified waterfalls were quite the site, especially early in the morning before anyone else got there.



This also proved to be a good place to finally get our awning made with our tarp, some rope and bamboo sticks.

Two days later and about a week and a half of cold evening temperatures it was time to get back to the coast.  We decided on a scenic mountainous route which would take us about 7 hours to travel 200 km.   The meandering road was slow but beautiful.  As we approached our destination after a day’s worth of driving we came to a stop behind a handful of other cars.  It appeared there was a landslide and the road was washed out in a spot.



The time estimate for clearing the road was 2-5 hours so we settled in to wait among all the other drivers, including the Swiss couple who we once again found on the road.

Brett sitting between the Swiss trailer and our van as we wait for the road to be cleared

About an hour into the wait, out of impatience and curiosity we walked back to the washed out road to assess the progress.  While we watched, a few rocks started flying down, then a few more, then some trees started rolling down and finally as another slide rumbled down we ran.  When we turned around the road block was bigger and we figured this would take a lot longer then a few hours so we found a place and settled in for a night.  Incredibly, in the morning the road was ‘cleared’ and instead of having to backtrack we were able to squeeze through and make our way to the coast.