DAY 1Oct 26 2018
Hola buonas dias ! Today is D day to depart. Unfortunately our TUI Flight was facing some striking problems with Transavia Partner for bags, so we decided last minute to transfer all our items into 1 small handluggage for 3 weeks ! Can you believe that ? No myself either. No make up, fancy dresses our nice evening wear. Just flipflops, shorts and Tshirt. I’m ready now !
The baggage carriers department Aviapartners was striking, so we had to wait for hours (!) until a solution was found. We were sleeping in little beds and hoping to depart today. After some hours, we had to be deported to Luik Airport, a 1.5h drive by bus. Luckily we were the first ones on the bus and the actual first ones entering an empty Luik Airport, so werr assured of our spot on thr airplane. Sad news for the last group, because they couldn’t join the airplane anymore as the airplane had to depart before 8pm in order not to make noise for the city Luik. So the last group arrived by taxis (buses were striking too in the end), but they were refused to join the plane.. So sad for them !! So we took off with 70 passengers missing. At least we made it...
When finally enterring the airplane, we received free sandwiches, drinks and candy. TUI Fly was one of the only airlines being able to depart during the strike. A total of 180 flights was cancelled in Brussels, mainly with Ryanair and other low costs. We were lucky !!
We arrived in the airport of Cancun around 1 at night. There was a long queue for immigration, but then we finally made it. We picked up our car and started the adventure.
DAY 2Oct 27 2018
We were awake at 8am already, because of the heat and noise of the neighbours. We packed as soon as we could, to escape the busy Cancun towards Valladolid. But first, breakfast time !
DAY 3Oct 28 2018
Today it’s time to visit some “Cenotes”.
✖️ What is Cenote ? A Cenote is a naturally formed Mexican sinkhole – or also called water-filled Limestone (kalksteen) sinkhole. The word Cenote comes from the Mayan word “D’zonot”.
✖️Link with Maya culture ? Cenotes are sacred in Mayan culture, because they used to serve as places to make offerings to the Gods. Even today you can find several Mayan artifacts (Materials of art) in the depths (!) of some cenotes. Let’s go dig those babies !
Before starting our journey of the many cenotes to visit in Yucatan, we checked the website “foodtravel.com” - a couple that traveled Yucatan for over a year to visit all (!) cenotes and share their preferred ones. They have a final list of 24 Cenotes to visit, so we visited their top 3 as we were more limited in time ofcourse.
✖️ Top 3 Cenotes in Yucatan: Cenote Oxmal, X’keken, and Suytun. And woehoe we visited them all 3 !! Here’s our review.
✖️What is meaning of “X’Keken” ? According to a legend, Xkeken Cenote was found by a pig who always returned full of mud to his home. One time his owner followed him and found the cenote where the pig refreshed himself in these crystal waters! (X´Keken mean pig in maya).
We rented some snorkles to swim, because we were determined to jump into the water and check some fish. It’s very dark inside the water, so kind of creepy - but I was following Barbara everywhere so if she survived I would as well 😂 we could only see some black fish under the tiny spot of sunlight in the ceiling.
✖️How did fish came in the sinkhole ? Well these fish came here via connected underground rivers. The groundwater is responsible for creating the sinkholes, but these became connected over time via small rivers, so that fish came inside new sinkholes.
✖️Which kind of fish ? Most fish are black and called “Lubs”. Theylook like the typical algae-cleaning fish you buy for your aquarium but then bigger. Really nice to swim with them !
On our way to the next Cenote, just 10 min drive. We saw dome vultures (gieren) flying together, reaching incredible heights in the sky. Almost close enough to hit airplanes 😂 They can reach wing spread of nearly 2m, that’s impressive !
Time to recharge and have some good food now. We went down to the city center and had an incredible walk in the major square. We admired the church and it’s colourful accessoiries, the little pancake stores and the dansers at night. The whole city was gathering together on a Sunday evening, to eat, drink, talk and relax togeher.
Barbara compared the feeling the Gentse Feesten gathering in the city - all together, but then here it happen every day and much smaller. Such warm culture !
DAY 4Oct 29 2018
After a 1,5h drive, we arrived in the beautiful fisher village of Rio Lagartos. Just like a movie scene, with old destructive houses, but still smiling people and colourful houses. People have very little money here, but they still have some left to paint houses and give streets a warm welcoming colour. So lovely !!
We did some bargaining (afbieden) to get a good price for our Boat Tour with these locals. But how to bargain in Mexico ?
✖️ Rule nr. 1: Find out a Reference Price. The book told us it’s about 900 MXP for 1 boat, so this was our average.
✖️Rule nr. 2: If a man wears a Tshirt with “Touristic Tour”, this price will noy be the cheapest 😂. When we were still parking the car, a man ran to us and offered his tour for 1200 MXP (55€ for 1 boat). We kindly declined his offered and walked towards an old local fisher man. His offer was 900 MXP, but we managed to reach 800 MXP (36€ for 1 boat so €18 each). Quite a difference with the first man right ?!
✖️ Golden rule: Always bargain to the maximum that it stays respectful for the locals and their poor income. Balance to the price that you find added value. Finally we gave the man 850 MXP, because he was so nice.
A Horseshoe Crab is also called in Flemish Degenkrab, Molukkenkreeften or pijlstaartkreeften. Several names but none actually gives credit to the animal, as he is not actually related to the Crab or Lobster Family.
✖️Did you know they are actually more related to Spiders (Arachnida Family of Spiders & Scorpions)? They belong to the Arthropods (geleedpotigen) and have similar hard shield and body characteristics.
✖️ Cool to know: When your looking at Horseshoe Crabs, you’re looking at one of the OLDEST animals on the planet. They existed 200 million years before Dinosaurs (!!) and thus survived the meteors. This mean these animals exist already 360 million years ago and still looks the same.
✖️ Our medical helpers: The animals have copper-based BLUE blood (LAL, Limulus Amenocyste Lysate) and therefore (unfortunately) kept in laboratories for research. They make the Horseshoe crabs bleed, take their blood and then put them back in their water cages. This on the happy side benefits our medical system, helping to detect sterility of medical equipment (coagulates when bacterial presence). So we all benefit from these animals !
Time to check the beautiful pink flamingos. On our little boat we were able to see the flamingo’s from pretty close by. They are beautiful and funny, dancing on their long legs in the water 😂.
✖️ Why pink? Below is a picture of a baby, which is white (!). He didn’t get his pink color yet, because Flamingos turn pink by eating the algae in the water, which contains carotenoids. These Carotenoids (component turning carrots orange) give Flamingos a pink colour, whilst turning Canaries actually yellow. Funny how nature creates these colourful creatures in life based on 1 key-component.
We couldn’t believe what we saw when our guide brought the boat so closeby crocodiles. We could almost touch them (check Barbara posing with them) !! A real contradiction in this pink fluffy environment 😳 Luckily they only eat fish, so positive news for the birds and their breeding families AND for tourists 😂👌.
Time to visit the private Pink Lake. A salt producing company ownes these Lake “Batches”, filling them with salt water and letting them dry to reach pure salt. The Pink colour is again due to the many specific Algae in the water (with carrotenoids), giving the splendid Pink colour with full sun touching the water.
The company put a sign “faking” the danger of the entering the water, just because the company is scared people will pollute the water (see below). They have every reason to do so, in order to keep the pureness of this beautiful Lake.
On our conitnous search for flamingos, time was passing by fast. We saw some last Flamingos, but the descending sun was distracting our attention. Wonderful sunset in a scenic place - just like Paradise 🙏
After our 3h drive in darkness (!!), we safely made it to Merida, the capital of Yucatan. As we entered the city, traffic was getting significantly more busy and streets were not so colourful and warm anymore as you have with small villages, such as Valladolid and Rio Lagartos. Our area however was colourful, more vivid and international.
We arrived in the Hotel “Casa Del Balam” (€20 per night, so expensive for Mexicans) and had dinner in Apaola around the corner. It’s a haute-cuisine Mexican restaurant, so again mostly attracting international people. We paid €20 for cocktails + starter + main course, which has been so far our most expensive meal. Double prices of elsewhere, but so much worth it !!
DAY 5Oct 30 2018
Today was time for a visit to Mayan Caves for ancient years. We decided to go for “Lol-Tum”, a non-known cave at 1,5h drive from Merida. At the entrance we were very lucky to join another group of tourists with their guide Pablo, because this place doesn’t offer guided tours on regular basis. Pablo told us that some days, nobody visits the cave as it’s too dangerous without any guide.
We had to hurry, because the lights of the cave only worked limited time, in order to safe energy and spare the cave.
65 Million years ago - the famous Meteorite impact - created several changes in the earth core. This lead to several tectonical plate movements, creating the existance of Yucatan penninsula (schieteiland) and this cave. The ground is ancient ocean bottom, and tectonical pressure pushed the ceiling higher up - residing in a spacious area inside this cave. As tectnical movements have been stopped inhere today, the cave is stable now.
Mayan people were strongly religious and believed in the connection of the Underground (negative, darkness) and the Upperworld (positive, heaven). Stalagmytes and stalagtytes that meet symbolize these connections. Several of these “pillars” or “Stalagmatos” become hollow inside and can be used to imitate the Mayan meditation sound “Lol” and “Tun”. That’s why this cave has the name “Lol-Tun”, meaning Flower (Stalagtyte) and Stem (Stalagmyte). Our guide showed us how to tap the pillars to imitate this sound. Was amazing to hear, just like an instrument !
✖️ Did you know today’s meditiation sound “Ummmmm” comes from this sound ? It’s a way to connect as human with the earth. So today all of us meditation use the Mayan instrument of Stalagmytes and Stalagtytes !
✖️ This sounds can be heared from miles away in the cave when the rain season is over and water leaves the inside pillars. We were in the end of rainy season, so the sounds didn’t go that far.
Pablo explained us that hollow rocks can be touched with human hands, as the calcification happens from inside. However, solid rock formations have calcification from outside, so the human hand would damage the process (fatty hands). This means it’s better not to touch growing stalagmyte or stalagtyte, because they are very vulnerable and young.
Inside this cave we saw Maya hands of 8-10.000 years BC (!), can you image how old ? The ancient Maya people used these signs to recognize their path inside the caves when hidding in there for weather, predators or other danger. It helped them conquer the “darkeness”.
✖️ These hands are considered first examples of GRAFFITI: they peint hands on rocks by using charcoal (steenkool, as) and mix it with their saliva in their mouths. Using a bamboo stick they spit the “paint” of the rocks. This is considered the FIRST signs of graffiti.
✖️ The saliva DNA (speeksel) of these hand peintures is used to determine the age of the encravings and age of Mayans civilization. That’s how we know Mayans used to live here 8-10.000 years BC and dominate the area ever since.
You see a blue line dividing a yellow and red zone. This red zone is the edges of ancient terracota floor, from the iron oxidization process (Fe, O2 and humid).
✖️ Ever wondered why the hands are everywhere and sometimes very high up the rocks (if you look carefully to the picture with blue line) ? but Mayans started to exploit this component from the cave to use for constructing houses and temples. So the floor dissappeared little by little and the hands appear to be higher, however Mayans were very small people so that’s the explanation of the height.
Effect of Tourism: you can see the Maya Head Statue inside the cave, apparently there used to be even more Mayan statues and artifacts but they have been stolen by People visiting the caves 😭 also several rock encravings have been destroyed by visitors encraving their names on top of it. That’s why this cave is now only allowed for entrance by guide. Hopefully it remains untouched for many centuries.
Thanks to these 9 wholes of natural sunlight and oxigen, the 8km long cave stays refreshed of O2 and temperature of 25-26 degrees Celsius. That’s why we can breathe below the surface and smell a pure air, without nasty smell of batman poo (Pablo’s words). And so the tour ended with a refreshing noise, satisfied eyes and tired leggs of climbing our way through. Bye bye Pablo !
Back home we discovered a supermarker with a remarkable perfection degree in its shelves. All canned items were symmetrically aligned in the aisle, and every carton or plastic was removed. 2 remarkable facts:
(1) The water shelf is miniscul as compared to all other sugar- and sweetener-containing drinks. Never seen such a variety of these drink and just 1 brand of water for such a giant supermarket.
(2) As our curiosity was growing to see how vegetables and fruits would be stapled, we discovered there was no fresh food available of any kind. This explains why people don’t watch a healthy life style inhere, because with the heat food detoriates so fast so supermarket make more money to sell canned items only.
We were looking for bananas and water, so we sneekely left the store and didn’t buy anything.
DAY 6Oct 31 2018
Today we planned 2 important Tempel visits to Chichen Itza and Oxmal. For the first Tempel we booked a private guide through Pablo yesterday (2h private guide, 900 MXP). We started our day at 6.30am (all for the Tempels😅), had breakfast and took of to Chichen Itza. At 9am we wanted to be at the entrance when the site was opening, right before all the tourists.
EARLY BIRD - At 9am we entered the site with our guide, but already many tourists when present. Apparently is already opens at 8am but the website was not indicating this (old website or they don’t want mass tourism already in the morning?).
NAME - Manuel our guide explained the name “Chichen Itza”, from the Mayan words Chi-Chen-Itza or Round-Well-Itza. So a waterpit (Cenote) with walls around it for the Mayan Population called Itza (their Nickname). So Chichen Itza is a protected area for the high classe of Mayan people (priests, king, warriers, government; total of 2000 people) because the local Mayans had to live outside the walls (20.000 people).
DATE - The Site dates from 200-800 after Christ with the first Mayan civilizations gathering here, and later period 800-1250 (mix of Mayan and Toltec People).
The Toltec People brought some different influences towards the Mayan culture, such as the Feather Snake God (Kukul Kang) - while the Mayans believed in the Rain God. However, both populations mixed and had a peaceful existance. Today we only speak about Maya Culture, but actually it’s a mix of Toltex Civilization as well.
EL CASTILLO - The Maya Temple is the Major attraction for tourists, discovered in 19th Century (1839) by English archeologists. It was then named “El Castillo”, referring to the European equivalent of a castle. So the name is actually incorrect and called “Temple de Kukulkan” (from the bird Quetzal). Today they’re still reconstructing the site, so it’s still not finished.
FAMOUS - In the 90’s, Chichen Itza was recognized as World Heritage and in 2014 even as One of the Seven New World Wonders. The Temple is not the highest of all Mayan Temples with its 30m high, however one of the most complex sites with many side buildings. The site is 8.5km long in total to visit, but a long tour is general 2.5km (takes 2h). With the heat of the sun, it was not easy to stay concentrated.
HOW IT WORKS - This area was a game court to play a ball game. 7 players against 7 had to kick the ball inside the loop, using only their hips, elbows and knees (!!). The loop was 6m high, using a rubber ball of 3.5kg.
Only the best warriers could participate the team, with the best player being the captain.
GOAL - This game was only organised when a sacrifice was needed for the Rain God to beg for rain. And sadly enough, the sacrifice was the winner of the game (!!). That’s right, it was an honour to die for a God and give your body for your community, so the warriers wanted to win and be sacrificied. Can you believe that? As only the captain could make the goal, this means only one of the 2 best warriers could be sacrificied and many years of training were needed to even reach that stage of captan.
ECHO - The design of the Ball Court is again very smart: The Priest was sitting at one side and the King at the other. They wanted to communicate to each other without the interception of the Players, so the sounds had to fly over the Game Court. This was possible with an Echo construction. Also, when players were yelling and talking during the game, the Priest and King didn’t have to hear this.
The Echo can be produced by constructing small and bigger stones, connecting the sound in a X-formation. Our guide was demonstrating the clapping and indeed it worked !
NAME - The ball game was called “Pok-Ta-Pok”, a sound that can be imitated when clapping the hands 3 times in the middle of the game court. In the middle 14 Echo’s can be heard, referring to the amount of total players. When clapping close to the wall of one side, seven Echo can be heard, the amount of players of one team.
WHO - The Mayas used 3 types of Human Sacrifices when praying to the Rain God for water: the best Warrier chose through the Ball Game, mothers or children chosen by the Priest from a random family, or visitors coming to Chichen Itza for an unlucky visit.
HOW - Only the warrier benefited the death of cutting of his head (quick death), but the other 2 cases were very painful as the hearth was cut out of the living body. When a Human was sacrificied, a symbolic skull was encraved in the walls of the cementary (picture below).
FREQUENCY - The Mayans didn’t benefit rivers or much water in the jungle, only during the wet season. So during dry season about 1 sacrifices could be made every 8-15 days (they sacrifice and wait 8-15 days for an answer of the Rain God). Some sources tell that certain Mayan Kings sacrified thousands of people during their Kingdom, mostly mothers, children and visitors. Our guide confirmed us that there were so many sacrifices, that not all skulls fitted on the cementery walls (Chichen Itza counts 2000 skulls, so way below the real number of sacrifices).
The Mayan people were very strong at Astronomy, knowing the exact movement of the stars and sunlight. For that, they used an Observatorium to watch the sky day and night, using a water mirror in order not to become stiff in the neck 😂👌 clever seen.
(1) 🌙 The first hidden Tempel feature is a Mathematical one: the Tempel has 91 steps at each side, giving a total of 364 steps with four sides. Then one final step to the top and a total of 365 is the result - equivalent to the amount of days per year. This proves the strong Astrological & Mathematical sense the Mayan people had back in their time (1000 years ago already!).
(2) ⛰ Did you know a smaller Temple is hidden inside the big Temple ? The Mayans already had built a small Temple, but when the Toltec People arrived and mixed with their culture, they build a bigger Temple together - a final Temple of 30m high. Seven years ago the foundations were discovered below ground, so actually the big Temple is just “the tip of the iceberg”. The foundations for constructing this big Temple were also made from steps, but just below ground in order to support the tip very well.
(3) 🐍 Third hidden feature is a Snake enlightning 2 times per year only (21/03 and 22/09) when the sunlight hits the Temple in a specific way that a snake appears. This is in the afternoon between 4-6pm. Thousands of people gather together to admire this spectacle.
(3) 👂 Mayans had a strong sense of architecture and understanding constructions. When clapping the hands, the Temple was designed in a way that an Echo was produced that’s imitating the sound of the Quetzal Bird - a part of the Feather Snake God (Mayan word “Kukulkan” God, introduced by the Toltex People mixing with Mayan Population).
In the afternoon, we drove straight to Uxmal for a less touristic - and apparently more beautiful Mayan Temple. When entering the site, you could immediately notice the few tourists as compared to Chichen Itza. You enter the site directly with an eye-opener- the front of the big Temple. It was incredible to see this 36m high one, which is bigger than Chichen Itza.
There is this old Mayan story about the origin of this beautiful Temple of Uxmal.
THE EGG - One day, a witch found an egg and she was desperate to hitch it. And yes, the egg popped open with a cute baby crawling out. This baby however, grew so fast that in one year time it became an adult. The King could not believe what he saw, but he wanted to be a fair King and give the man a chance to prove himself to the community.
THE CHALLENGE - The King gave him a challenge to build a Temple over night, and if he would succeed to do so, the King would give him his Kingdom in return. And guess what, the man was able to build a Temple over night using his own materials and brain ! What a hero the King thought, so the Kingdom was given to him. And so the powerful site of Uxmal was born.
DAY 7Nov 01 2018
Today we would climb down the beautiful “Crystal Cave” of Yucatan. The cave has been discovered only years ago, so the owner Andre is very happy with this extra tourism income. However, it’s still at its discovering stage for tourism, so we had the luck to be in a complete untouched cave with original Mayan attributed and encravings.
What to eat for a day fulltime in caves ? We didn’t know either, so we ate a lot fruits, eggs, guacamole and toasts. So full, but at least we have energy for a whole day 👻
The property owner Andre was very luckily to have to highest geographically point of Yucatan. We had to climb up some creepy primitive stairs, to see this amazing view.
What better way to go down again by ziplining your way over the jungle ? Andre constructed the zipline by himself so gain dome extra money from tourism. After a check and license by Government, this zipline is now recognized as the largest zipline of Yucatan (150m). It might seem short, but it’s still very impressive to speed above the jungle downwards.
The Mayans had to survive with what they had: a high jungle depending on rain, some caves with deep hidden cenotes (sinkholes), but no rivers or ocean closeby. As rain was only present in the Rain Season (5 months from June - October), the Mayans were obliged to be creative in exploring nature’s power and hidden secrets.
This was just a “starter” of our Cave Tour, so we went down a small Cave nearby. The Cave was called “the Bull Cave” because an old story tells about a lost cow that fell down these rocks and died downstairs. Every time the Mayans would hide in this “Umbrella Cave” (like a roof against storms or danger), at midnight they would hear the “Moowing” of the dead cow. Still today several animals will fall down this cave and be starving to death, so that’s why the animal bones.
Entering the Crystal Caves was through a tiny whole, followed by a steep wooden ladder. Once inside, the sound was completely different and you felt like being in a different world.
OOH NO - Just when you thought to enter a different world, leaving behind the crawling insects of the jungle, there is was: our first Tarantula inside the cave (for me it was actually my first Tarantula ever).
ON OUR PATH - We had to step OVER the spider, and Barbara was even poking it with her finger 😱. We had to climb down through another whole, sitting on our lab, so suddenly I didn’t feel that comfortable anymore with my body touching al kinds of rocks and soil. I asked the guide behind me if he could stop moving because the spider was crawling towards me when I was sitting on the ground 😅
HOW POISONOUS - Luckily these spiders are harmless to people, they can bite but no poison is injected. However, when this thing is on top of me, I think I would die from a heart attack 🎚
As soon as you go deeper, the air inside gets warmer and less easy to breath (less oxygen). The guide assured us no Tarantulas will be found inhere, only some crickets, bats and albino worms (can’t handle light). Was incredible to see how the white albino worms were harmed when our light was touching their skin.
Mayans used to hide inside these caves, using terracotta stones to cook or eat. Most tools were cut out right from the cave, as the rocks and soil were terracottic due to oxidization of iron (red colour).
DAY 8Nov 02 2018
After the Crystal Caves, we drove straight to Campeche City (in Province of Campeche). After a 2,5h drive along the beautiful coast line, we made it to the Colonial City. This City was colonized by the Spanish in the 19th Century, leaving behind some remarkable houses and colourful streets.
Our place for the night was a Colonial House from Airbnb in the middle of these cute streets. We had our own room in the house, but were allowed to walk freely around and dig into personal stuff (hihi).
ORANGES - Our on discovery quest through the mysterious colonial house, we found out it was quite spaceful and full of little gardens, plants, trees and even a swimming pool. You could literally grab the hanging oranges from the tree.
ALOE VERA - We noticed an Aloe Vera plant in the garden (succulent with torns). Ofcourse we asked the owner if we could do so, and she encouraged us to take some healing Aloe Vera plants with us to discover its magical features. We cut off to branches and were suprised by the softness and pure “fat”-substance inside (like jelly). In the evening we would enjoy ourselves with a good facial mask and healing creme for the mosquito bites. Thank you Raquel for the hospitality !
CAMPECHANO - The word “Campechano” is the Mexican nickname for a nice and warm person. We completely understood this positive connotation after been in Campeche.
Time to continue the Road Trip to Calakmul (3.5h drive !). We did 1.5h along a scenic coast line road and 2h Jungle. For the first time we saw the coast and the beautiful Mexican Riviera (gold van Mexico).
We arrived in “Hotel Puerta Calakmul”, a beautiful combination of Eco Lodges inside the Jungle, right at the entrance of Reserve Calakmul. To be honest, that’s also what you pay in price: $ 175 USD per night for 1 room, so this is for sure the most expensive stay during our travel. We noticed other “Jungle Hotels” have similar price, so we realised this area doesn’t have many tourists or infrastructure, so hotels can charge whatever they want. Also water, electricity and nutrition are scarce in this Jungle (read: good nutrition such as Steak, Vegetables and Fruit), so we understood better the price we were paying.
DAY 9Nov 03 2018
We woke up with the sound of birds and small cricklets, just lovely ! We didn’t have mosquitos or bugs of any kind in our Lodge, because everything was closed off with mosquito windows. Our Lodge didn’t even have windows, so at night we felt a bit cold but in the morning the temperature was perfect to wake up.
VILLAGE - Xpuhil used to be a smaller Maya village, but still some impressive buildings. It’s funny to see how these villages are all closeby each other by car, but walking distance through jungle in that time, it must have been quite far.
CONSTRUCTION - For the first time, we saw the way these buildings were made: big rock formations were broken into pieces by using obsidian (harder type of rock to break it) and pilled up towards 1 big tower formation. Then the outside stones were cut into the forms of rectangles, to make the edges tight and straight. This gives the impression of brick-stones (bakstenen), but actually it’s all random stones with an outside “clean” wall.
Beautiful Site of Becan looks like Jungle Book, with the Boy Mowgli and Shakeira the tiger popping up at any moment. You could climb anything you wanted, what a playground !
Both Barbara and I, we have small fear of heights. However these past days have been the best training ever to overcome that fear ! Without any hesition we climb these buildings and proudly admire the view from the top !
DAY 10Nov 04 2018
D-DAY: Today it was finally D-Day: a visit to the impressive Maya Jungle Site of Calakmul. It’s so impressive because it used to be the biggest Maya City of all times and even the biggest city in the world (800-1000 After Christ). There used to live 50.000 people in this city, same amount as Vilvoorde today (or Roeselare or Genk to give some other examples 😄). - Brussels has above 1 Million and Gent almost 300k in case you were wondering.
GUIDE - We decided not to take a guide this time, because they price was 1000 MXP (€45) but we met the guy and his English was not so good. Also he didn’t speak with passion, so we didn’t want to hang out with him for a full day.
✖️Interesting Fact: Mexicans pay 15.000 MXP (€700) for studying to become a licensed guide, which is a lot for the average Mexican person. So we felt a bit sad to refuse his guidance due to his English, but we didn’t want to pay money for low added value. It’s always a hard until what point you contribute money for helping the locals.
✖️ Speaking of income: Apparently it’s common to give a tip of 10-20% to the waiter, because this is the only salary they receive. We didn’t know this, so often we paid them only 5-10%. So it’s important to know the “tip rules” of a country.
We were fascinated by the amount of stones needed to build all these Temples ! Also, how did they got the stones so high? Similar incredible story as to the Egyptians with the Pyramids. We found this hole in the Jungle, full of left-over stones, showing the frequent usage of stone supply of this place. The Mayas used Obsidian (hard stone) to cut the big rocks into smaller pieces for construction. Still, we found some big pieces inside Temples, so we were still wondering how they got these heavy stones through the jungle.
There are thousands of Maya buildings in this sure, because it used to be a real city before. It was time to climb the highest one: 50m above the Jungle ground and rising up towards the sky full of Eagles and Vultures.
DAY 11Nov 05 2018
5.30am was the start of our early Jungle Tour to spot wilde animals. We had a guide Roberto, for which we paid 750 MXP (€30) for 4h, so not cheap but a must when you risk this close to animals in the Jungle.
✖️ Mexico has about 10% of all plant and animal species in the world (only Brazil and Indonesia have more), so that’s worth a visit to spot some unique species in the morning.
✖️ Many plant and animal species are endangered with extinction, because of humans (agriculture and illegal trade), so reasons enough to spot what’ still “left”.
RAIN SEASON - First things first: Mosquito protection. We were shocked how agressive the mosquitos are in the Jungle. Unfortunately, the rain season just ended in October so they’ll keep swarming around for a while 😩. Our guide however told us that he thinks the mosquitos are “OK” now, so past months must have been horror.
3 LAYERS - The power of nature: I was wearing running pants and long socks (horse riding socks, so high up to the knee) and STILL the mosquitos were able to bite through these 2 layers. So I had to find a genious way to make a 3rd solid layer (trust me I’m an engineer) - being cheap toilet paper from our room. Guess what: I still had 1 mosquito bite going through these 3 layers. A mosquito being able to do that, can be considered a Hero and deserved to bite me 😂.
COLOURS - Just when you think your tourism leven cannot get any higher: my raincoat was fluo pink and I was planning to wear it for a Jungle Tour to spot animals 🤔. The guide had to laugh and advised me to take another jacket. Luckily Barbara had a black jacket I could barrow. We heard as well that mosquitos love the colour black, so best idea was to wear pale green or light brown colours. Good to know for next time !
MONKEYS 🐒 - Yes ! We saw some monkeys !! We saw both the Howler Monkey (Brulaap, black and bigger) and the Spider Monkey (Spinaap, brown and small). We were very lucky to find these Monkeys, because their Howling wa attracting us to the right trees. Even better, the Monkeys were gathering around the big Temples of the Site, because they could have been anywhere. So we admired these beautiful monkeys and the Temple setting all together.
WILD BOAR 🐷 - We also saw some wild boars. These animals can be dangerous, but luckily these types are very small and run away from people.
SNAKE 🐍 - At night I saw a crawling snake when driving the car as whe were exiting the reserve (red, 0.5m), however you can find some dead snake on the road as well (white, 1.5m). The guide told us it’s very hard to find snakes, so mostly you see them by coincidence.
TERMITES 🐜 - The Jungle is full of Termites. These tiny animals are blind, so they hide in deep nests eating all kind of leafs. They are considered important Jungle cleaners - along with the ants. Often you see deserted Termite nests, which the ants reuse then as their nest.
CROCCODILES - We arrived at a small pool inside the Jungle. According to the guide, this pool stays wet all year long. That means it’s a perfect habitat for Croccodiles. And indeed, we spotted 2 baby crocs (1m, 1-2 years old). The mum was not visible, but she was somewhere around. Probably inside the pool, because the Guide didn’t seem to worry at all.
In this area you can find 5 of the 6 species of Big Cats in Mexico (Jaguar, Puma, Ocelot, Jaguarundi and Margay). Only the Bobcat (or Lynx) can not be found in Calakmul, but elsewhere in Mexico.
✖️ The Puma is also called the Mountain Lion, Cougar or Catamount.
✖️ The Jaguar likes bathing in a pool in the Jungle, so that’s the area where you can spot these beautiful animals. Pumas don’t like water, so their territory is a wider range inside the Jungle.
Mexican Jungle is the 2nd largest in the world (after the Amazon). This means a huge amount of insects and birds. We spotted some impressive ones, such as the Eagle and Vulture (gier). As well some colourful birds (Toucan, Perroquis,..).
In the end we had double feeling about our Jungle Tour: most animals we had already seen by ourselves the day before inside th Calakmul Reserve, but having a personal guide at 5.30am in the Jungle is definitely an exciting adventure. We saw birds and trails we would never see by ourselves, so happy we did it.
After a 2.5h drive, we around in the paradise of Bacalar. The city is build around the Bacalar Lagune, a long lake but small at the sides so you can see the other side. It feels so good to have this blue water view after days of jungle and little swimming facilities. Our airbnb was hosted by a French lady, who built 2 sepearte bungaloos in her garden seperate from the house. Togeher with 2 other guests, we could enjoy her private ponton, beach house and blue water.
DAY 12Nov 06 2018
How to start your day better than breakfast with a view ☀️.
KAJAK 🛶 - Today we rented kajaks for some hours, and had plans to cross the lagune 😂 but then we realised it might be quite far, against current and tough with the sun, so we tried another direction. We took off east, further away from the city and stayed along the side to check for fish, birds and houses.
PRIVATE BEACH 🏝 - Suddenly we came across a beautiful private beach, probably hosted by a hotel but it was empty and nobody was there. So we put our kajaks on their ponton and enjoyed a swim in the blue water. They made a bar inside the water (parasol and chairs are planted inside the water), so we were sitting on it and relaxing in the blue water. Soo lovely. Then it was time to return back with the current of the waves (we were smart enough to do against current and return with current), but it still seemed ages to arrive back home. The sun had really exhausted us.
DAY 13Nov 07 2018
Time for Tulum, the real “Mexican riviera” and coast line. Time to crash the beaches and have a cocktail in the hand ! A drive of 2h was needed to bring us to this paradise, ofcourse after a good lunch with healthy smooties and energysing food.
This story is not cool. We had to sleep in an airbnb in the middle of the expensive, touristic and partying area of Tulum Beach Road. The Hotel was called “Aldea Hotel”, which looked at first sight “oke” room, but we heard a lot of noise, taps were cheap and mosquitos were killing us with poor protected mosquito nets. We decided to try 1 night and allow the adventure. Result: we heard people having sex next to our door, screaming and partying and just killing our night and mood 😂. The saddest part: we paid 80$ USD for this stay.. So next day we went to another Airbnb.
DAY 14Nov 08 2018
NEW STAY - Time to move towards another airbnb. We found another room with Airbnb for a local woman called “Irma”. She was so nice !! Small room but good a/c and cheap price 😬 (€20 per night for 2). It was in Tulum town, so the “local area”. At first, we didn’t feel safe, but then the Airbnb lady made is feel very warm and welcome in Mexico, so we had a better feeling.
BEACH TIME - We could only enter the room in the afternoon, so we decided to have brunch (was already 12am) and relaxing time on the beach ! Ziggy’s was rated as a good Beach Bar so we tried to one. You pay $30 USD for a beach bed per person, but you can eat and drink for the money. Finally we had a beach bed at the front row, because we saw people leaving. Amazing !!
BLUE WATER - This side of Maya Riviera is known for it Blue Water. You could absolutely tell: white sand and crystal clear water. No sharks closeby so we took a swim as well 😂👌.
Time to close this rewarding and positive day. We had dinner in a delicious Japanese restaurant, because we felt fed up with the gracy Mexican food. We discovered “Uno” restaurant in Tulum town at walking distance. They had very good sushi and ramen for cheap price (100 MXP, or 5€) ! It was Barbara’s first Japanese restaurant, so she was a happy person 🍣.
DAY 15Nov 09 2018
Well for me at least. Barbara cannot sit still for tol long, so she decided to split ways and skip Beach Day.
BEACH TIME NONO 👙 - She dropped me off at Paraiso Beach, the less expensive Beach Side of Tulum, however still many tourists. I had an amazing day with a massage on the beach to start (yes I treated myself today), followed by drinks and nachos; to finally end with swimming and relaxing on the beautiful beach.
ADVENTURE BABSIE 🤸♀️ - Babsie aka Barbara went to visit the Tulum Ruinas, which are located right at the Beach Side. So this Maya site is unique, because it’s the only one that’s positioned to close to the beach. It’s very touristic however, so that’s why I decided not to join. She loved it, but said we had seen already nicer temples and ruines. She didn’t have the time for Cenote “Cak Aktum”, a Cenote with a river connection. Good for others to try out !
For dinner, we strolled around in the city. Finally, we decided to go for the Japanese restaurant “Uno” another time, because it was so fresh and light. Walking throug the city makes you absorb different vibes: both local shops and international (more expensive) shops. All however very much integrated with each other.
DAY 16Nov 10 2018
For breakfast, we got the advise by a guy named “Tony” when sitting in the restaurant for dinner last night. He told us to try out Holistika, “a hidden place of this area”. So we went to Holistika, just outside the city (5min drive). Turns out Tony was the owner of this beautiful resort and welcoming us !
RESORT YES 🍹 - After some time relaxing at the 1st Pool (yes there’s another), we realised this place was heaven. Tony made us feel very welcome, so we discussing to cancel our next 2 nights in Playa del Carmen and go for extra time in Tulum. That’s exactly what we did: we skipped Playa del Carmen and booked 2 nighs in the queen double bed-bedroom in Holistika 🙏. Amen
TIP - Don’t book all of your Airbnb’s or hotels in advance and leave some days in between “undefined”. We ended up losing money with the Airbnb in Playa del Carmen, because the owner didn’t want to refund our money at such short notice time. Luckily it was not too much, but still such a pitty.
Tony told us to check out the art walk, so that’s what we did. Meanwhile we tries tonsearcv