The Mayan Riviera (Bacalar and Tulum)

Bacalar

We decided to go to Bacalar, right next to the border with Belize, and from there head north through the peninsula. 16 hours of bus ahead! We had bought an avocado and a baguette, and tried preparing a sandwich on the curvy, bumpy mountain road. With a lot of patience and four hands to hold the ingredients flying around, we eventually succeeded and enjoyed our tomato-avocado-lime sandwich (Mexican style!). The road was so bumpy that our bus started falling apart, with pieces of the ceiling falling on our heads and TV screens going black, but it seems like we’re getting used to that kind of transportation!

We arrived in Bacalar to be greeted by heat, humidity, and tons of mosquitoes… The place is however famous for its 7-colored lagoon, a long strip of colourful shallow water separated from the sea by a thin band of land. Pirates loved to hang around there, attack the local fortress, and maybe hide their treasures in neighbouring caves. Not many pirates around anymore, but it really looks like a little paradise when the sunlight hits the waters of the laguna and brings different shades of blue. We spent the day relaxing by the water in one of the many little huts built on the laguna.

The next morning, we did a little tour of the surrounding cenotes by bicycle. Cenotes are freshwater caves created by natural erosion and the Yucatan peninsula is known for hosting one of the world’s biggest underwater caves system, pretty badass. It was all going well when suddenly the sky turned black and a massive tropical storm decided to slap us in the face. As Forrest Gump would say, it even felt like it was raining from below! We eventually had to stop because our bikes were drowning in the masses of water that the ground couldn’t absorb anymore. As every tropical storm, it ceased as abruptly as it had started and we could go on. The tour was not that great but as we got back we found a hipster food-truck that served us a funny but delicious lunch with plantain and shrimps in a curry-cheese-cocktail sauce.

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Somehow Bacalar didn’t convince us so much, but what definitely made us happy during our stay there was the discovery of some of the best tacos we’ve ever eaten! And twice! Both of the two simple taquerias we tried were making incredible crunchy, tasty, juicy and refreshing tacos that we couldn’t get enough of (if you happen to pass by, go to “Tacos El Socio” and “Christian’s Tacos”).

Tulum

It was time to go further to Tulum, which is divided between a super fancy beach part with one expensive hotel next to other, and the puebla, the village a few kilometer from the beach that is much cheaper but still touristy. We obviously stayed in the puebla but rented some bicycles to go to the beach. After Rebekka made us do a 20km detour by mistake (the beach is 3km away…), we finally made it to the pristine beaches of Tulum – that were covered in stinky piles of seaweed (apparently it’s the season’s fault). The waters were so brown that we didn’t even dare to go swim. The good thing about all of this is that while being lost we found a ceviche restaurant that we had heard of, and it ended up being one of the best ceviches of our entire travels (Peru included, as we’re very late with the blogging)!

ceviche
Fish, shrimp & octopus. The best ceviche we’ve had during our trip!

We weren’t fed up with cycling yet and managed to get up quite early for the Mayan ruins. We were the first ones to enter the site (a little proud of getting up that early) and enjoyed the calm before the (tourist) storm.

Last but not least, Quentin was very excited about Tulum because he had planned some cave diving in the local Cenotes. He did two dives, one in a shallow cave with some narrow tunnels, stalactites above your head and stalagmites scratching your belly, and the other one in a Cenote called “the pit”, which was really special. The Pit is a big hole in the ground in the middle of the jungle, but when you dive in, a whole underground world reveals itself in the form of a giant cavern. The water is so clear that if feels like you’re flying, and the sun rays pierce the darkness all the way to the bottom, some 40m below and give this dive a surreal feeling. Another particular thing about this dive is that the first 10-15m are freshwater but then you reach the saltwater coming from the sea through various tunnels. At that moment everything becomes extremely blurry for a few meters (so-called “halocline effect”) before you feel like you’re flying again (but this time in saltwater). Finally, at the bottom (35-40m) there is a layer of hydrogen sulfide (caused by decomposing vegetation) that looks like some thick fog from a horror movie, especially considering the eerie tree branches coming out of the cloud.

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