When we last left #teamASTRID on the Maya Rally 2012, we were in Palenque after successfully singing with mariachis, ziplining across Cañon del Sumidero and taking part in a unique fishing excursion! What will our road warriors be up to today?
Day 8: White Guy Dreadlocks and Mayan Temples!
After a quick breakfast of chorizo, eggs, cheese and tortillas, we started packing up camp to get over to the Rainbow Gathering. As I was zipping up the cover on the rooftop tent, I heard the unmistakable farting and wheezing engine of a Volkswagen Kombi. I looked up and saw The Dangerz rolling into the campsite! This was beyond crazy as we hadn’t seen another Maya Rally team except them since the first day! We exchanged greetings and caught up quickly. Bryan saw the river as they were driving through town and stopped to see if he could fish there. We gave him our security wristbands so they could get into the river area and gave him some beta on the fishing situation. They told us that they had pulled off in the mountains somewhere overnight and slept on a dirt road. It sounded like they were just getting into town, so I shared the location of the Rainbow Gathering with them. Bryan and Jen let me know that they had to come clean…they actually hadn’t slept in the mountains overnight, but stayed at the Rainbow Gathering instead…they just didn’t want to give us any more points. I guess I’ll forgive their betrayal.
We said our goodbyes and told them we’d see them in Bacalar as we cranked up the truck and headed off to see the hippies! As we approached kilometer marker 32, we saw evidence of the Rainbows everywhere we looked. There were dreadlocks left and right. Female dreads, male dreads and even little baby dreads. This HAD to be it! We turned left onto yet another rutted, rocky dirt road that led 12 km into the jungle through fertile farmlands, flowing creeks and misty foothills. Arriving at the main gate, there was a sign that said “Welcome Home” and we pulled in to check things out. Our mission, if we chose to accept it was to not only visit the Rainbow Gathering, but to exchange something with one of the community members. We took a walk around the compound talking to folks, checking out campsites, looking at motorhomes and other traveling rigs and taking in the whole thing. it was really peaceful to be there and most people were very nice to us. We met a guy from Canada who asked about the truck and what we were doing. I asked if he wanted to trade something with us for a bag of food that we brought along which included; one tangerine, two pieces of bread, and a poblano pepper. He seemed stoked to be involved with the rally so he offered a tie-dye bandana, which Bryon quickly snapped up and wore with pride. We bid our new friend hasta la vista and chalked up 15 points!
As we walked back to the truck we covertly (photos weren’t allowed in the Gathering) snapped some photos of out of country license plates racking up an additional 55 points! We made sure not to get any people in the photos, only license plates out of respect for the rules at the camp. On the way out we met a guy who was leaving on a KLR 650 for Belize that day. He needed to be in Belize City in 21 hours to meet his relatives. We aren’t sure if he was able to get there in time, but we hope he made it safely! Back to the truck, we took off for the ruins of Palenque and the first part of our mission to visit five Mayan ruins.
The Palenque ruins are a real treat, and something I was really looking forward to seeing on this trip. These fantastic ruins sit in a lush jungle setting on a hillside overlooking the sprawling plains to the southeast. Palenque is considered a medium-sized Mayan city compared to Tikal in Guatemala although only 5-10 % of Palenque is actually reclaimed from the jungle that swallowed it up over the centuries. The city dates back to 226 BC and served as a “Mayan Superpower” until it’s fall sometime around the 7th century.
The ruins themselves are incredibly intricate, each pyramid site possessing characteristics from multiple building periods, meaning that different kings over the centuries built on these sites. The amazing thing for me was seeing the massiveness of these buildings and imagining a thriving society with people living their lives much the same way we do today, trading for clothing, hunting for food, tending crops, and celebrating important events with their families…of course things were much different then, but they were living their lives nonetheless. It’s quite humbling to think about it that way.
The photos don’t do it justice, you’ll just have to go there. I mean right now. Quit your job and drive, fly, ride, or walk to Mexico and go see these ruins, it’s totally worth it. With Palenque checked off our list, we got another 20 points! We still needed to visit four more sets of ruins though to complete the challenge!
Unfortunately, we didn’t have long to stay at the ruins as we were trying to snag two other archeological sites that day on the way to Bacalar, so off we went again. I’ll definitely need to come back and spend some quality time here with Astrid. Bacalar was another 5 hours away, so we had to get going fast if we wanted to catch a couple more ruins before the end of the day.
The drive to Bacalar from Palenque was hot and flat, driving mostly on straightaway on a road that looked like it was literally mowed through the jungle. We arrived at the Becán at 4:30 p.m., only 30 minutes left to be able to check it out. We jumped out of the truck, grabbed our cameras, paid our admission fee and ran into the site. Luckily, we had the place all to ourselves and we got some amazing shots in the waning sunlight. My favorite is below from Bryon’s iPhone4 of me surveying my kingdom! 20 points!
Beacuse of the time, we missed out on grabbing any other Mayan sites that day and made it to Bacalar after nightfall, exhausted but looking forward to the final couple days of the rally. At the campsite we met a guy named “Mike” from the UK who spent a few months a year for the last 14 years visiting this camp directly on Laguna Bacalar. The lake is 51 km (30 miles) and technically speaking, it isn’t really a lake, it’s a series of waterways that lead to the ocean, but it’s fed by springs making the lagoon completely fresh water or agua dulce. The best part about it? Because there aren’t many large fish in the lake, it doesn’t attract crocodiles, meaning you can swim at all hours of the day and night without worrying about something eating you alive. Except the mosquitoes.
Although we couldn’t see much of the lake in the dark, the moonlight was putting on a spectacular light show on the lake surface. In the dim light, I could make out shaded palapas on the shoreline, stands of mangrove and reeds as well as what looked to be deep spots in the water. Mike told us that those deep spots were cenotes or sinkholes and these were the springs that fed the lake. He told us the entire lake gets refreshed with clean water every 24 hours from these springs. According to Mike, there were about six cenotes in the area, three of which were IN Laguna Bacalar! Since we needed to visit as many as possible for the rally we took down all the information to use the next day. Each cenote was worth 15 points, so it was worth visiting them all!
Day 9: The Push!
Not knowing which team was on our tail in terms of overall points, we had one objective today and that was to amass as many points as possible in a short amount of time. To meet our objective, we had three goals for the day:
- Visit three more Mayan Ruins (60 points)
- Visit as many cenotes as possible (20 points each, unlimited), and
- Exploit a major loophole in the survival guide and take unlimited photos of out-of-country license plates. (5 points each, unlimited)
We had a lot to do, but first, I needed to get into the lake for a swim. The sun was just coming up and I dove into the warm water with the morning mists evaporating off the lake like sheets of steam in a sauna. Laguna Bacalar is also known throughout Mexico as Laguna de las Seite Colores (Lake of the Seven Colors) and in the morning sunlight I began to understand why. The lake is impossibly blue, ranging from turquoise, aquamarine, and azure to indigo, teal and sapphire. I could get lost in this lake forever, and at some point I will be back to spend more time…a lot more time. Luckily I was swimming IN a cenote so we chalked up a quick 15 points for the morning! On the way out of town we visited three other cenotes (Esmerelda, Bruja, and Azul) bringing our early morning total to 60 points!
Our first stop of the day was Chetumal, about 25 miles south of Bacalar, with a quick breakfast with the locals at a coffee shop. The food and coffee were excellent and it looked like the guys that hung out there were part of a morning social club. I imagined them coming every morning, well-dressed, wearing their hats, linen pants and freshly shined shoes and talking with their friends while playing dominoes. While I wanted to stay there a bit longer and soak it all in, there were license plates to “get got” and we were in the perfect spot.
Chetumal is a border town and the next closest country is Belize. It stood to reason that if we hung out at the border for a couple of hours we’d see hundreds of license plates. We took the drive to the border zone and parked on a nearby side street. Bryon grabbed his camera and took the side of the street with people entering Belize. I took my camera and posted up on the side of the street with people exiting Mexico. It had to look strange, a couple of gringos walking the streets aimlessly, trying to look incognito while snapping pictures of moving vehicles. We were passed by the same police officer five or six times, but he never said anything to us. We stayed out of sight of the Mexican military officials so they never said anything either. It was all very agent provocateur to us, but to everyone else it probably just looked like a couple of gringos thinking they were being covert. I’m pretty sure our cover was blown early. We stayed at the border for about an hour and snapped about 180 photos of plates from Belize, the US, Canada, and Europe. In all, we estimated our points for this challenge to be 900 points!
Our next destination was Tulum, about a three-hour drive north from Chetumal. Along the way we stopped at Cenote la Vida and another one I can’t remember bringing out total cenote count to six and 90 points! We also visited the Mayan ruins at Limones and Muyil scoring another 40 points! Our journey for the day ended at Tulum where we walked the pyramids directly overlooking the Caribbean Sea. While impossibly packed with tourists, the ruins are picturesque and incredibly scenic. With Tulum under our belts, we scored our full 60 points and finished the Mayan ruin challenge! It was a long day and we were exhausted so we treated ourselves to a good wood-fired pizza in Tulum before heading back to Bacalar for the night.
Two day total: 1160 points! Total for rally: 1580 points!
Up next: Preparing for the end of the world…or not!