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Banditos, Breakdowns & Bribes

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Me at Hierve del Agua after My Family tried to make me go swimming.

After My Family recovered from the fantastic Christmas celebration, it was time to hit the road. We did have one last cool visit before leaving Overlander Oasis. On our last day, Jan and Mona from PanAmericana 2013 pulled into camp, with their puppy Lissie. She was super cute! Lissie had a ton of energy, and spent most of the day tumbling around with Morena and it was fun seeing how excited Lissie was about pretty much everything. I hope Lissie knows how lucky she was to have found a great family in Jan and Mona!

We left Overlander Oasis the next day, and I have to admit I was kinda sad. I plopped my head down in Victoria’s lap and pretty much didn’t move for hours. I knew we’d have other fun adventures, but I bet I could have stayed at OO forever. We drove through a couple of small towns, got lost in the middle of a field filled with goats, crossed a mountain on a winding dirt road, and finally ended up at a place called Hierve el Agua. Victoria discovered that this means “the water boils” in Spanish, but the pools of mineral water we found there were freezing! There was a cool stream of mineral deposits on the side of the cliff that looked like a waterfall frozen in time, and we had an awesome place to set up the camper. We spent the day wandering around the pools, and I managed to evade Jason’s attempts at getting me to swim. Then we settled in at our campsite, where we were joined by a couple of other campers in tents. They were nice enough to share their campfire with us. It’s cold up in the mountains.

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The mineral pools at Hierve del Agua.

The next day we left the mountains and drove for a state called Chiapas. I could tell that Jason and Victoria were really excited about this. Back in Baja, in a restaurant in Cabo Pulmo, a couple from Mexico City told My Family this was the most beautiful place in the country. I was pretty busy trying to get a taste of Victoria’s fish at the time, but My Family had been looking forward to this day ever since. It pretty much just seemed like another day on the road to me, but Victoria and Jason were pretty antsy.

 The problem was, the roads towards Chiapas took a very long time to drive. They were skinny, bouncy and twisted in what felt like every possible direction. Before I knew it the sun was setting, and Jason smelled nervous. We weren’t anywhere near where My Family had planned on staying for the night, and there didn’t seem to be any way we’d make it. We were driving by a Pemex gas station in a small town just before the state border, and Jason suggested we try staying there for the night. This was something I’d never heard of before. Sleeping in a gas station? Apparently it’s something people do all the time on Adventures like this, but My Family hadn’t tried it yet. That night we had no choice.

The night in the Pemex actually ended up to be kinda fun. There was loud music playing, the security guard hung out with us most of the night (after Jason offered him a beer), and the food at the local family restaurant was delicious. It smelled amazing when Jason brought it back to the camper, and I got so many tastes I began to wonder if my birthday had come early.

We had a surprisingly cozy night of sleep, and then continued on our way, passing into the state of Chiapas within an hour. I have to say, it was worth waiting to see it in the daytime. Curving mountain roads, misty jungles, green farms and the tiniest villages we had seen yet. We only spent a day driving through this area, but I know My Family would have liked to stay much longer. My only complaint with this day was that My Family stopped for the most delicious smelling empanadas at a nice lady’s roadside stand, and I didn’t get a single bite. We pulled into our next campsite, a place called Mayabell outside the town of Campeche just before dark. It had been an awful long day in the car, one of our longest yet, and Jason seemed pretty exhausted. But Mayabell was a beautiful place, in the jungle just outside something called ‘ruins’. This I really don’t get. If it’s all ruined, what the heck would you want to do there?

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My view out the window at the Mayabell campground.

That night it started pouring rain. This was more rain than we had seen on the whole trip, and just about the most rain I can ever remember seeing in my life. It just kept coming, sounding like thunder on the roof of our camper, and keeping me firmly glued to my bed in the camper. Worse than the sound, though, was the leaks! Victoria smelled in a near panic, because two windows in our camper were leaking. It was really bad, but thankfully we stayed nice and dry in bed.

The next day, everything was soaked. The sun struggled to show her face, and the Mayabell camp was a soggy, muddy mess. Now I don’t know about you, but wet, muddy paws are not one of my favorite things in the world. Victoria and Jason were feeling great, however, because this was New Year’s Eve! So humans keep a calendar, I guess because they like to name things so much. Today was the last day of the year 2013, and people use it as a reason to eat and drink a lot. Eating is firmly on my ‘favorite things’ list, so I’m all for that! Victoria and Jason went to the Mayabell restaurant for a special dinner. No dogs allowed, so I sat in the camper, taking whiffs of the food floating by on the breeze, and enjoying the music floating my way as well. My Family finally came back from a super long dinner, and soon after their new friends, Brodie and Diane came by. They were super nice people. Brodie’s on his own Big Adventure, riding a bicycle through Mexico and Central America as part of Ranger Rides. My Family and I stayed up super late with our new friends, even enjoying the traditional countdown to midnight being screamed from the restaurant. It was seriously one of the most fun nights of the trip, as far as ‘people fun’ goes.

On New Year’s Day my family had planned on getting up early and hiking out to the ruined things before getting back on the road. But things really didn’t go according to plan. First of all, thanks to the late night none of us wanted to get out of bed when we were supposed to. Then, when we were finally all packed up and ready to go, Jason noticed that one of the straps holding the camper to the big truck had broken. Yikes! It was a good thing he noticed, but it took a couple of hours for Jason and Victoria to raise the camper off the truck and fix everything. By the time we actually left Palenque it was well into the afternoon, making it crystal clear that we weren’t going to make our destination that night. Instead of getting to Campeche as Jason and Victoria had hoped, we ended up spending ANOTHER night in a Pemex station. This one had a Burger King, so My Family had a fast and easy meal of comfort food (I snagged a french fry. Maybe two.) and free internet for the night.

The next day we got up bright and early and made our way to Campeche. This was a super pretty city, and the first sight of the ocean since we left Sayulita! Apparently, this was the Caribbean Sea, not the Pacific, which means we had crossed the whole width of Mexico. Pretty cool. Campeche had a restaurant that wouldn’t allow me in, so My Family got some food to go and we sat out in the town square. Delicious food and a very pretty day. From there we headed for Uxmal, basically because My Family wanted a second chance to see some ruins. We parked the big truck in a grassy field next to the park, and as soon as the sun started to set I heard Victoria start to scream. The bugs were pretty bad, and they decided to climb all over her, including squeezing under her clothes! She wasn’t particularly happy about this, so she and I snuggled in the camper while Jason went and got tickets so they could go see the ruins. Wait, you have to pay? Could I ruin my bed, set it behind a gate and charge for it? I don’t know, some human stuff is just beyond me.

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Big church in Campeche.

When we left the next day, the clouds were dark and ominous. It seemed we hadn’t left the bad weather behind. We kept driving east, hopeful to make a town called Tulum by early in the afternoon. Along the way Jason pulled us over in a small town because he had found somewhere to give the truck an oil change. We pulled in a nice man’s driveway, and Victoria and I played with his kids and their dogs while Jason and the nice man got the job done. By the time we left, it was pouring rain. And it kept raining, on and off, for the rest of the day. As we kept driving on and on, Victoria smelled nervous. She thought the drive was taking way too long. Sure enough, we had made a wrong turn. But My Family didn’t realize this until they had already gone too far to turn back. At the end of the day, we ended up driving more than two hours extra, and didn’t pull into Tulum until right before dark. It was still pouring rain, and after our longest driving day yet Jason didn’t think it would be safe to keep going. So guess what? We ended up parking in a Pemex. AGAIN! And unlike before, this was pretty miserable. When we popped up the camper we discovered the leaks were really bad. And after long days of driving and rain, it seemed like everything My Family owned was either smelly, soaking wet or some combination of the two. Jason and Victoria seemed miserable. Certainly not one of our better days.

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Walking down from the wall around the city of Campeche.

It rained all night, and was still raining the next day. Although Jason and Victoria had hoped to stay and explore Tulum, the weather was so bad that they decided to take us all the way south, to the town of Chetumal. It rained the entire way, and by the time we got to the Yax Ha RV resort, literally everything we owned was wet. My Family hung everything up to dry, pulled out a huge tarp to cover the camper with, and basically breathed a big sigh of relief. It looked like the worst of the rain was finally passing, and I finally got a little time to lay in the sun. The campsite was beautiful, right up against the water, with soft grass to run around in and birds to chase.

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My private playground at Yax-Ha.

Over the next few days, My Family prepared for our trip out of Mexico. They tried to repair the leak in the camper, and got the worst of it handled. They finally got a chance to shower, which certainly helped the smell inside the camper, and wandered the small town outside the RV park. We met some other overlanders, a nice couple from South Africa, and a great couple from Colorado with three awesome dogs of their own. We did have a little more rain, but with room to spread out, delicious food cooked in the camper or from the local restaurants and plenty of nice company, we had everything we needed. Before I knew it, it was time to head for the border. After almost three months in Mexico, we were going to cross into a whole new country!

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Me, hanging out at Yax-Ha. Loved it there.

Before we left Venice for the Big Adventure, a lot of My Family’s friends were a little nervous about our trip. I could smell the fear on them every time Victoria or Jason started to talk about Mexico. People had all sorts of concerns. It was too dangerous. Too much could go wrong. People even asked Jason if he was going to buy a gun to bring along! Guns are probably my least favorite people thing. If you asked most people, it seemed like all we would come across in Mexico was banditos, breakdowns and bribes. But I’m happy to report My Family and I had an absolutely incredible time in Mexico! A beautiful country, with delicious food and some of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. It just goes to show that you can’t let fears or what you hear on TV to stop you from exploring the world. I didn’t know exactly what My Family was getting me into when we started this trip but at this point, over one hundred days into my Big Adventure, I know how important it is to see new places, explore different cultures, and step out of your comfy zone sometimes. After all, life’s supposed to be about the adventure, right?

PS: If you want to see the pictures My Family took during our last couple of weeks in Mexico you can find them on Facebook.

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