After our many months in Central America, crossing back into Mexico (especially the very developed Mayan Riviera), felt a little bit like reaching the promised land…suddenly, we had real highways, Walmart, Home Depot, McDonalds – anything we could ask for was literally at our fingertips…and it wouldn’t require endless wandering through random market stalls to find! There were even real campgrounds to check into…no longer would we need to explain that we were looking for somewhere where we could spend the night sleeping inside our truck! Such luxury! Such bliss!
Another happy discovery was that we would be passing through the area at the same time that some friends and family were vacationing. We had the chance to spend an afternoon with Matt and Kahlie in Puerto Morelos and we even snuck into an all-inclusive resort to spend a day on the beach with my friend Melissa and her family (fancy wrist bands be damned). Unlike our previous hook-ups while away, both of these meetings were essentially unplanned. We just happened to be passing through the area at the exact time that they were there. It was a lot of fun and, at first, this seemed incredibly lucky and delightfully random…until it occurred to me that we were passing through a Canadian tourist Mecca in the dead of winter. I’m sure that at least half of the people I know take some kind of sun vacation in the winter…and of those, the majority come to Mexico. It turns out that, if we’d come through in January, we’d have run into other friends….and if we’d decided to come up the west coast, we’d have run into other friends.
Yep – Mexico is full of Canadians…and for good reason. It is an incredible country that I know I will return to again and again. Here are just a few of the reasons that will keep me coming back for years to come:
- Mind-blowing natural wonders: world class beaches, coral reefs, underground cave systems, cenotes, mountain views, canyons, jungles and an incredible variety of birds and wildlife.
- As much or as little service as you are looking for…looking for a Walmart, good highways or just want to beach out at an all-inclusive? It is as easy to do this as it is to find some little known mountain village or remote jungle lodge.
- FOOD! Fresh gorgeous avocados, mangoes, limes, mouth-watering seafood, mole sauces, real corn tortillas….nowhere in all our travels was the food as consistently fresh, varied and delicious as Mexico.
- Amazing history. Whether it the charm of gorgeous old colonial cities or the wonder of ancient Mayan/Aztec ruins, it is impossible not to be awed by the magic of these special places.
- Friendly, welcoming, beautiful people. Almost everyone we met showed us incredible hospitality. Mexicans are fiercely proud of their culture and more than happy to share it. Not to mention, they have some pretty good mechanics, too.
- Unbeatable value. Though not as cheap as many Central American countries, I honestly think you get excellent value for your dollar in Mexico. It is easy to fly in to and it very affordable to eat (see #3), drink, travel, and recreate (is that a word?).
- Did I mention the food?
Unfortunately, our time traveling north through Mexico was much more limited than our time on the way south and, after reconnecting with our friends (and a short mechanical detour to get a new clutch for the truck), our time was filled with many hours behind the wheel putting on miles as we made our way north.
Even so, we did manage to take in a few highlights. We camped and swam at a gorgeous underground cenote (that our photos will simply never do justice to).
We took in Chichen Itza…one of the “new Seven Wonders” and perhaps the best preserved Mayan ruin that we have seen.
We toured around Campeche. Dave even got a free sidewalk haircut!
We visited the unbelievably beautiful Copper Canyon. Deeper and more extensive than the Grand Canyon, this natural wonder is really something to behold. Next time I come here (and I will come back), I want to come in on the train that travels along the canyon rim and do a multi-day backpack to the canyon bottom.
From the Copper Canyon, we hoped to camp at Basaseachic falls (the highest waterfall in Mexico…maybe even North America) before booting it the US border. It was an easy drive from the canyon and, after passing through the park gates, we decided to head straight up the tope-riddled mountain road to the falls viewpoint.
The view did not disappoint…but we were unable to fully appreciate it. As soon as we got out at the lookout, something caught my eye….our truck box seemed to be sagging more than normal. I called Dave over to have a look and he confirmed the worst. The frame on our overworked truck had broke. It must have given out on the way up the road. It looked terrible and we both felt sick at the sight. The box on the passenger side was actually sitting a couple inches lower than the cab. It didn’t seem terribly wise to keep driving it but we were essentially in the middle of nowhere. No people, no mechanics, no tow trucks… no cell reception. If we could get back to the main road, it was about 7 kilometres to the nearest town. We decided to go for it. It was a tense ride down but I only swore once…when the camper hit the roof of the truck cab going over a tope.
Miraculously, though, we made it and it was with huge relief that we pulled into the local mechanic and welding shop in Basaseachic. We both knew it was pretty bad but, just in case there was any doubt, this was completely removed by the welder’s reaction. After a couple young guys had jacked up the truck and removed the tire to give him access to the break…he came over to inspect. He shook his head and let out a long low “Woooooooo-eeeeee!” Yup. No Spanish translation needed for that one.
To his credit though, he just jumped in and got to work. Mexican mechanics will never fail to amaze me. What we feared may be the end of our journey became a mere delay. Two hours and 500 pesos later, we were back on the road…and the repair is so far holding up (touch wood).
In fact, just two days later, we easily reached the U.S. border. Maybe we are bit desensitized now, but the crossing could not have been easier. We understood everything and Chester was no issue at all. After a fairly cursory check for fruits or vegetables, the border agent sent us on our way. God Bless America!