EAST COAST OF MEXICO 2009
Palenque, Chiapas, to Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico
via Escarcega, Campeche
Road Trip Photos
We departed the Nututun Palenque Hotel on Hwy 199 and headed for Escarcega, Campeche for an overnight stop. For this leg, we will be departing Chiapas, crossing the narrow neck of Tabasco, and entering Campeche, all of this on Hwy 186. On a whole, the roads were pretty good. Some were so new that they hadn't painted the stripes yet, and others were detours around more road construction. There were numerous checkpoints, mostly military and mostly waved through. A couple looked in the door and sent us on our way. There is an Ag checkpoint when entering Campeche where the inspector stuck his head in the door and asked if we were carrying any eggs, chicken, or pork. We said no, and were passed through.
As we entered Escarcega, we made a wrong turn (as usual) and once again ended up in the Centro district. We were a block off of 186, so I made a left at a street where I thought we could navigate the turn and then a right onto 180. Unfortunately, Kat made the left but then made another left. So we contacted her by phone and told her she was going the wrong way and we would wait for her at the first place we could pull off. She caught up to us a few minutes later.
We planned on trying the Centro Conservacion de la Vida Silvestre, but drove right by the place. The sign consists of a piece of plywood with "Camping" painted on it and propped up on a fence post. Right next to another sign of similar construction and wording, and leaning against a different fence. Since neither identified the campground by name, and both required taking the coaches down unknown dirt roads, we kept right on going.
The next place we could overnight was called Campestre Restaurante Bar-Familiar Maya, about 50 km down the road. This one we found, even though the sign was once again sitting on the ground, it at least called out the name of the place. There isn't any hookups or showers, but it's free if you eat there (the kitchen closes at 6 pm on the night we were there). Just be careful if you pull off to driveway to the right. Don't get too close to the restaurant, there is a power line running from the tree line to the restaurant that's about 11 ft off the ground! I didn't see it and (luckily) stopped with the cable resting on the left front corner of my coach. I was able to back up enought to turn away the next morning without disconnecting the toad.
It's a beautiful location with a palapa restaurant, all kinds of wildfowl wandering around the premises, and you are right on the water. The people were very friendly and the food was good. The bad thing is that, when we were there they had a major outbreak of jejene's, which, as I'd discovered at the last stop, I'm allergic to. They drove all of us away from our dinner table, out of the palapa, and back to the RV's. The next morning (4:30 AM) we were awaken by the roosters trying to outdo each other; but they gave up after about 1/2 hour and I was able to get back to sleep until about 7 AM.
Then it was on the road again. Next stop will be Yak-Ha Resort, Chetumal, Quintana Roo. Actually it's in a suburb called Calderitas. The Church's directions are right on the money for this one. But don't put too much stock in MS S&T directions. For one thing, the road you're on when leaving the glorieta is called Av Centenario, not Av Heroes. It's Av Heroes on the north side of the glorieta and Av Centenario on the south side, where you exit the glorieta. Just stay on this road, you will go through 2 more minor glorietas and a couple of name changes by the time you reach the left turn onto Av Yucatan (at the end of the divider). Then just go until you see the big sign for Yak-Ha Resort. Here again we were led astray by S&T. When we made the turn and got on Av Yucatan, S&T said we were off course and had us make a right. Well that took us one block down to the waterfront. This area has a bunch of restaurants with childrens playgrounds in front and plenty of parking for cars. The waterfront road is one way and has plenty of curb parking for coaches. So we took a lunch break. We picked a restaurnt and got a table right out on the bay. The waitress spoke some english (she lived in San Francisco for awhile) and helped us with the menus, which was all seafood of course. This was the start of my shrimp binge. I think I've eaten shrimp at least once a day since then.
After lunch we drove to the next corner and went back up the one block and made a right back onto Av Yucatan and continued on, ignoring the computer completely. The waitress had told us where Yak-Ha resort was, 1/2 mile down the road.
At Yak-Ha we were told to pick a spot but to watch for the muddy spots (it had rained the last couple of days and some coaches got stuck) so we wandered around and settled on a large grassy spot right behind the office and next to the swimming pool. There were plenty of coconut palms for shade and 15/20 amp power but no water and no sewer hookups. Turns out that they have a very long hose for filling your water tank. It will reach every site in the park. They also have two dumps, one to the right of the main gate and one to the left of the second gate (which is normally closed but not locked). While the manager was gone from the desk, the clerks allowed a camper truck to park next to the main dump, effectively blocking it from normal use. There is hot showers by the pool, two shower rooms for men and two for women. They were very clean and had plenty of hot water. The pool isn't heated but the weather had finally turned hot, so it felt pretty good.
We spent a total of 9 days here. We originally paid for 2 nights and ended up paying for a full week on top of that. The grounds were beautiful, there was plenty of shade, the hammocks were great, and the people were friendly. The problems were that we were on a bay, not the actual Caribbean, sandy beaches were almost non-existent, and the water was colder than the Caribbean. The city of Chetumal had all the big box stores, including a WalMart, Sams, Office Depot, and a couple of Mexican big box chains.
While there we met an American touring Mexico on a BMW motorcycle by the name of Albert. He was coming down from Cancun and had stopped at Mahahual and Xcalak on the way down. He volenteered to ride along on a toad trip to see if we wanted to camp at either of these spots. On the way north we detoured over to the Bacalar, a lake famous for it's colors. It was a little overcast that day but the lake was still beautiful.
Xcalak is a village on the southernmost tip of the peninsula that forms Chetumal Bay. It's so close to Belize that you can see it. At Xcalak we had lunch upstairs at the Xcalak Caribe Restaurant/Bar. This is the place that the Church's guide said that you could boondock out in front if you ate at the restaurant. This appears to be true as there were two rigs parked in front when we got there (see album). It was an interesting place and might be good for a few nights stay, but we still wanted to see Mahahual and it's malacon. So we headed back north. The road to Xcalak is inland a few klicks because the one right on the coast keeps getting washed out. On our way back we cut over onto the old road right on the water. The road varies from very bad to downright horrible! But it is passable from the first connecting road (heading north, the 2nd heading south) all the way to Mahahual. Along this road you will find everything from partially to totally distroyed homes to brand new ones, either completed or under construction. We found an American (from Arizona) by the name of Lloyd that was building on two lots. He was constructing a home on one of them that would be the caretakers and, after that one was finished, he would build his own home. In the meantime he's living in an RV. After a little discussion about what we were doing, he offered to let us dump our tanks at his place any time we needed it.
The road finally came out on pavement by the south end of the Mahahual Malacon, and a few minutes later we were parked at the Lighthouse Bar & Restaurant at the north end of the malacon. Also parked in the dirt/sand parking lot was a 5er belonging to a couple we had met at Yax-Ha who were planing on pulling out the next morning. After meeting the crew and checking out the beach, we decided that we wanted to spend some time here. So we talked to Jerry, the manager, and told him that we would like to stay there for at least a week but we were locked in for another 5 days at Yax-Ha. He said that it wouldn't be a problem. So, with that settled, we headed back to Yax-Ha.
The day before we were planning to pull out for Mahahual, a 21 coach caravan from Quebec pulled in. They just took over the place. A couple of people were even told to move because the caravan had booked all the waterside sites. After everyone was settled in, they started taking turns using the water hose and dump. The next morning they were still lining up for the water and dump. The park had opened the gate by the second dump site and people were pulling out of the main gate and lining up on the street to get in the second gate to dump. I had to do a little maneuvering to get out of my spot which required me to head for the bay instead of the gate, then doing a 4 point turn to get headed in the right way. While I was doing this, Kat was able to pull out and pull in the second gate and drive right up to the dump. There was no one in line! I finally got out and pulled back in the second gate right behind her. Then I noticed a disturbance between one of the Quebecers and Kat. The Quebecer had tried to back up into the line and wanted Kat to back up so he could use the dump first. She told him to get in line like everyone else. He said that they had drawn numbers for the dump and it was his turn. By that time I was out of my rig and joined into the fray. I pointed out to him that we weren't part of his caravan, and his numbers meant nothing to us. We had gotten in line like everyone else and we were going to use the dump. He could just go out and around like everyone else. I also told him to quit cursing her out in french and if he didn't like what we were doing, yell at me. He backed down real quick and kept saying 'for you I'll do it' and patting me on the shoulder. I said something about 'Sure, you'll do it for me but you won't do it for a woman'. I should have knocked him down just for the hell of it. Damn, I hate pushy Quebecers. By that time some of the others in the park noticed something was amiss and were drifting our way, including a few Canadians (not Quebecers) and were lining up on my side. The Quebecer got the hint, returned to his rig and pulled out and around, lining up behind me. I was steamed for about an hour after. I was kind of hoping he would come back at me so I could deck him.
Oh well, next stop Mahahual