Posted by: lianadevine | 1 March 2008

On the Road Again

Donna and Rob arrived in Playa del Carmen on Wednesday, with our replacement bearings, and we had been negotiating how to connect with them. Since we love Merida and it is a big city with lots to do, we thought we would host them for a weekend, if only they would make a five hour bus trip…Our emails and instant messages to them consistently repeated the invitiation, and then Thursday, I suddenly had a brainwave: Why didn’t I get on the bus in Merida and go get the parts? After all, they were doing us a favour by bringing them, and we shouldn’t expect to put them out.

Meantime, Donna told us that she had sat next to a fellow on the plane and in casually chatting about her vacation in Playa, he suddenly pointed at her and exclaimed, “You’re the bearing people!” He turned out to be Dave, of Dave and Annamarie, other friends of ours from home who also have a bus. We had let Dave know about our continuing transmission problem, knowing he would empathize, but not expecting he could help out. When we knew the two couples had connected, coincidentally, we figured a road trip was in order. But what to do with Spike?

My first rash thought that he could come with us was soon nixed by Calvin. So we needed a catsitter. But Carolyn had gone to Bacalar; we didn’t really know anyone else in Merida. We had met a young couple from Victoria BC who were tenting, and we had told them about the nice campground near Progreso we had found. On a hunch, we made a quick trip that Thursday to Chelem to try to find Colin and Alanna, thinking that they might enjoy a pre-paid weekend in our RV park in exchange for looking after our cat. We missed them there, but some fellow campers had seen them at a hostel in Merida, so back we came to town and tracked them down at the Nomads Hostel. They had decided to move on, so we had to resort to at least Plan C: our friendly Canadian family who were in the latest RV caravan in our park. Of course, they were happy to do it, so we quickly gave Allan and Morgan a tour of the bus, left food, dishes and contact info on the kitchen counter, packed our tent, sleep pads and a few clothes into the Thing, and with the usual instructions to Spike about “don’t barf on the carpie or the ‘puter”, we headed off into the night.

Under Mother Moon’s bright full light we drove east toward Cancun. The toll road to from Merida to Cancun is very flat, pretty straight and almost empty. We flew along this Mexican autobahn as fast as the pesos flew out of my pocket: it’s your time or your money. Four hours later, we arrived at Xcalacoco,Tenting in Xcalacoco and quietly set up our tent. We enjoyed a quick midnight rinse in our beach baño, then caught some sleep.

Bob was surprised and pleased to see us, then he surprised us with the news that had we arrived a week later, Xcalacoco would be no more. The big hotels and condo complexes had finally squeezed Juan and Luzi out, giving them just a week to find other accommodations. This made our return to Xcalacoco that much more special, and the sand and shell-framed photos Bob, Joaquin and Juan with a recuerdo of Xcalacocowe had given our beach friends that much more significant.

We connected with Donna first by internet, then came by their resort on the south side of Playa to pick them up for the day. Since Donna and Rob had not been to the Riviera Maya, we started with the Tourist Strip in Playa del Carmen, yes, yet again for us! But we detoured to Casamara and introduced them to Sandra while we made arrangements to stay there that night. We had a filling and inexpensive lunch just off the Strip, then we hit the beach,Donna and Rob relax at “Our Resort” our beach, which they had already read about on our blog but wanted to see for themselves. We relaxed in the sun, drank cervezas under the palapa, ate mangoes in the ocean and walked in the soft white sand. It wasn’t the best day for beaching, but it was to be our last at Xcalacoco – I felt a sense of closure having returned, and left behind the shells I had collected there before.

After we dropped Donna and Rob off at their resort, we Arriving at Casamarachecked into the studio at Casamara. Immediately we felt at home in this cozy little apartment. I hung up the awaiting hammock and lounged in it Hanging out at Casamarato watch my telenovela. As it ended, Sandra arrived with Dave and Annamarie in tow and I continued to swing comfortably as we all chatted awhile. Eventually, Dave and Annamarie took us to Billy the Kid Taqueria, the taco restaurant Donna had tried to find for us earlier in the day. We had a great late dinner there, then had our first nighttime stroll of the Strip on the way back to Casamara.   Despite being so close to the busy  Strip, we found our studio a quiet haven in the middle of Tourist Mecca.

Nighttime on the Strip

Relaxing in our studio that evening, we tuned in to cable TV and found our old familiar programsLife IS a Seinfeld Episode. In the morning we enjoyed a long hot shower – we had not had such luxuries in awhile so savoured the decadence of it all.  As we left, we asked Sandra for her input on places of interest to visit in the Playa area. She recommended the cenotes at Kantunchi, a short drive south of Playa. With hugs of gratitude and friendship, we said hasta luego to Sandra, knowing our paths will cross again.

We picked up our tour group of Donna, Rob and their friends Bets and Layton at their resort and headed out to the highway, stacked three-deep in the Thing. They had all worn their swimsuits and brought snorkel gear, and looked forward to trying it out in the cenotes. Kantunchi is an eco-park across from the very resort that Bets and Layton stayed at last year, but as Bets said,”They didn’t even tell us about it”, so it is not in the resort tour packages. We had our choice of a guided tour that included multiple caves and cenotes that you could swim, snorkel or kayak, or a self-guided tour of four cenotes. We decided we’d have more freedom with our own tour, so map in hand, we hiked into the forest along well-marked paths.

The Yucatan peninsula is made of porous limestone, and much like a sponge, the holes on the surface are often connected below to other holes. It is this land formation that can make scubadiving in a cenote treacherous, when underwater currents carry unsupervised and unknowing swimmers away. As a non-swimmer, I am particularly nervous about this, so while the others snorkeled to their hearts’ content, I stayed on terra firma with the camera.

The water-babies in the crowd gingerly approached the stone steps into the first cenote, Snorkelling at Kantunchiawaiting that crotch-level chill that makes you wonder if it’s worth going in all the way. But the heat of the day convinced them it was cooler in than out; the chill soon seemed refreshing, making the walk to the next stop less oppressive in the humid jungle. There were fish to look at in the clear, slightly-saline water, which ranged from 4 to 21+ feet deep. Most of the cenotes had cave-like entrances, and obviously had channels or tunnels leading to other caves, but one spotCenote in the jungle had a typical open-air water surface, very pretty with lush jungle vegetation surrounding it.

At the last cenote, all but Calvin and Donna had had their fill of swimming and snorkelling, so headed back along the path to the cervezas that waited at the park entrance. Donna, just learning to snorkel, was anxious about swimming through the small submerged spaces until Calvin went ahead and showed her where they ended up, often in a larger cavern. While they explored below, I tracked their voices from above, as there were several natural skylights into their swimming hole. Donna was so proud of herself for swimming out of her comfort zone and enjoyed this part of the tour immensely.

The six of us piled back into the Thing for the trip back to the resort. Back Safe and SoundWe were tired and hungry and in need of freshening up. But Calvin and I declined an offer of lunch at the resort, and went to see if we could connect with Dave and Annamarie in town.

They were not at their apartment, but the tenant we met there said they had gone to the nearby WalMart. As we drove there hoping to find them, we tried to reason what they would be looking for if they were just moving into their apartment, so figured on looking for them in the linens or toilet paper aisle. We split up but Calvin found them first, choosing a mattress pad. I think he said Annamarie’s reaction on seeing him was “Oh good, somebody with a car”, meaning they could buy more than they could carry themselves. We laughed about that, all of us feeling relieved we had found each other without benefit of a telephone. We detoured to the food section, loaded the Thing with their supplies and drove back to the apartment. While the tenants continued to move out, we set up on the poolside table and and proceeded with a “grab and grunt”Grab and Grunt of handstuffed chicken tacos washed down with cerveza. We were all famished and manners were not an issue here: we were definitely among friends. Dave’s Swiss army knife was all that stood between the pollo asado and the tortillas.

It was almost dark when we said our goodbyes and hit the road back to Merida. Travelling at night on the autopista is safe enough and much cooler than in the day. Merida 305 km…I started a chorus of “99 bottles of beer on the wall” substituting the kilometers, and when Calvin suggested I sing slower to make each verse last a kilometer, I switched to Spanish, and Damn if it didn’t come out in just the right time!

So passed the four hour return trip, one of those giddy punchy evenings where silly things like stealing roadsigns can happen. Well, we did stop to look at the stars, out in the middle of nowhere, where the sky was clear and not light-polluted. I was surprised to hear voices, but the sound from the loudspeakers at an event in a distant town travelled across the flat terrain easily.

Spike was well and happy to see us and we had a nice note from the family who had looked after him.

The sound test for the Flag Day ceremony roused us early Sunday, and while I watched the spectacleFebruary 24 Flag Day, Calvin put the bus back together. Really. It was that easy. Or at least, he made it seem easy. Judging by the lack of swearing heard, I knew it went well.The bearings go back in

We spent time packing up and preparing to leave, and I spent way too much time in the sun waiting to get just the right shot of our bus and Thing parked below the huge Mexican flag, now proudly flying from the huge flagpole at the shopping mall next to us. Have a look at our map in the sidebar to the right and see if it isn’t a good photo (Click on the arrow above the map to enlarge it and see the list of places).

So, we’re on the road again, thanks to our Home Team (Tom, Guy, Zach and Melissa), the Away Team (Donna and Rob) and the Road Crew (Allan, Charlene, Morgan, Elise, Mason, Sandra, Bets, Layton, Dave and Annamarie). It was a group effort that made a potential disaster a wonderful experience.



  1. Thanks for your blog site. Glad you and Calvin are having a wonderful time. Things here are the same as before.

    Raymond Maung

  2. Hi Calvin & Leanne,
    We were glad to here you made it back safely to Merida & to Spike. Snorkeling in the cenotes sounds like fun. Keep having fun!

    Allan, Charlene, Morgan, Elise, & Mason.

  3. Which I was there, just think of looking up 8′ high every time you wanted to clear your driveway, the snow blower cant even get it up there anymore. Claude

  4. Hi Cal and Leanne

    Thanks again for your assistance with the GMC service light problems. it went out after 20 miles or so a 50kmh and stayed off until today when we went to pick up some groceriesin San Cristobal. I guess the next stop will be a GMC dealer to clean up the blockage. So far it is pulling okay but it seems to be trying to clean out the exhaust system to often. Any way it was a pleasure meeting uou folks. We wish you a very Merry Xmas and the best in 2010. Happy travelling. I tried to send a email to you but got them all back??


    Lorna and Jim Whyte on caravan

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