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My buddy JY swears by the 210 milliliter Coronita. See, Jon really likes his beer cold. A full 12oz’er or 355mL just gets too warm by the time you get to the last drink. Apparently he isn’t the only one. Check this out:

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Laguna Bacalar

Laguna Bacalar might be the best swimming lake on the planet. The plunge into the warm, clear, sandy bottom lake ended up being a substitute for a much-needed shower but would have been just as rewarding regardless. I don’t think I’ve had a more enjoyable lake swim ever; the conditions were perfect. We had originally intended to stop here before Mahahual but we never made it. I thought it was going to get skipped but the diversion back to Playa del Carmen from Mérida (we originally planned on driving south to Campeche) caused us to route back through Quintana Roo. In general we try not to drive the same road twice, our earlier van repair mandated forays back and forth to Tucson from Sonora, this stretch from Escarcega east and then north to Cancun, and later the stretch from the San Blas turn off north to Mazatlan being the only backtracking we’ll do. We would have liked to have stayed in Bacalar a bit longer and do some kayaking but we are on a bit of a schedule push and the camping facilities we selected were pretty lacking. We did manage to take a few photos in addition to our lake swimming. In the nighttime, long exposure shot of the tree in front of the lake, the light pollution streaming up from the horizon across the lake is the city of Chetumal.

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It is 3800 kilometers or 2300 miles from Cancun to San Diego, if you go the most direct route. Throw in a few side trips to Oaxaca (the city), Taxco, Michoacan’s Butterfly Sanctuaries and you are looking at more like 4370 kilometers or 2622 miles plus some extra hours for roads that aren’t exactly freeways. Say we average 80 kilometers per hour, that is roughly 55 hours of driving. We are rolling out of Playa del Carmen on the 4th of January and we need to roll on to Pershing Avenue on the 20th. 17 days. We need to average 258 kilometers or 3.2 hours of actual driving per day, plus stops for food, gas, military inspections (they love the van, so far the record is three searches in a single day), and whatever else the Aztec gods can throw at us; figure 4 hours in the car. Take out a day in Oaxaca, a day in Taxco, a day at the Butterfly Sanctuaries, a day surfing in Punta Conejo Baja, and the math gets considerably worse. Now we are down to 13 days: 364 kilometers average and 4.5 hours of driving. That leaves us with about 5+ hours per day in the car on drive days. Yikes.

At the risk of looking like the cruise director with my clipboard of activities, the rest of the trip looks roughly like this. Drive times are approximates based on road type and distance.

  • Tuesday January 4th – Bacalar, Quintana Roo: 4 hours
  • Wednesday January 5th – Isla Aquada Campeche: 5.5 hours
  • Thursday January 6th – Aqua Dulce, Veracruz: 5.5 hours
  • Friday January 7th – Ciudad Oaxaca, Oaxaca: 8 hours
  • Saturday January 8thCiudad Oaxaca, Oaxaca
  • Sunday January 9th – Cuernavaca, Morelos: 9 hours
  • Monday January 10th – Taxco, Guerrero: 1.5 hours
  • Tuesday January 11th – Zitcuaro, Michoacan: 5 hours
  • Wednesday January 12thZitcuaro, Michoacan
  • Thursday January 13th – Guadalajara, Jalisco: 7 hours
  • Friday January 14th – Mazatlan, Sinaloa: 7 hours
  • Saturday January 15th –La Paz, Baja California Sur: Overnight Ferry
  • Sunday January 16th – Punta Conejo, Baja California Sur: 3 hours
  • Monday January 17thPunta Conejo, Baja California Sur
  • Tuesday January 18th – Loreto, Baja California Sur: 6 hours
  • Wednesday January 19th – Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur: 7 hours
  • Thursday January 20th – San Diego, California, USA 10.5 hours

That comes to a total of 79 hours and an average of 6 hours per day on drive days. Slightly more than the overall, generalized math. Double Yikes. For the grand finale, the 9 hour drive to Cuernavaca will require us to be on the road at 8am; a feat that is virtually impossible for my late to bed, late to rise girlfriend. Triple Yikes.

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is everything I hate about Mexican resort towns; huge masses of fly-in tourists, cheap Chinese knock-offs pretending to be authentic indigenous art crafts sold at boutique prices, ridiculously over priced food serenaded in front of you as if to masquerade it as cuisine. And yet, I loved the place. It is by far my favorite Mexican resort town. It’s nouveau chic blended with Mexican fanfare is only missing surf-able waves to make me pack it in, jettison my real life and move permanently to become yet another expat restaurateur gouging tourists and underpaying the locals. The white sand beaches and warm, clear, snorkeling waters give the Mexican Riviera something truly special, Cozumel and world-class diving up the anty. Mix in the occasional topless euro, some daytime cocktails amongst the throbbing, pulsating, sand dance party at Mamitas Beach Club and I’m hooked. Love it. There are some other pictures over on Flickr, including a bunch of snorkeling pics taken with my new underwater camera, my excellent Christmas present from Glenn and Marilyn.

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Mérida

Mérida sits opposite from Cancun, defending the western side of the Yucatan with its beautifully preserved Spanish Colonial architecture surrounded by increasingly more modern suburbs. I had envisioned a new years celebration full of fireworks and people dancing in the streets but alas, poor planning again. The real highlight of Mérida was the archaeological museum, amongst Mexico’s best and supposedly second only to Mexico City. Natalie snapped a ton of photos at the museum and they are posted on Flickr. By the time we were scheduled to move on, we had all tired of the inland sites of the Yucatan and longed for a little beach time. We killed our plans to visit Uxmal and the Puuc Route, in lieu of yet more ruins, we opted for even more splurging on the shores of Playa del Carmen.

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Chichén Itzá is considered one of the “new seven wonders of the world.” I’m wondering if the experiences of Tonina and Palenque clouded my appreciation of the place?

It is smaller both in size and in stature than the Mayan ruins we visited in Chiapas but not in the numberof visitors. It is crawling with tourists, so many in fact that the structures are now closed off to closer inspection and scaling, no doubt a wise decision considering the throngs. The scene suggests the attraction is more music festival or amusement park and less one of the world’s preeminent archaeological sites. The carnival like atmosphere is further advanced by the utter quantity of trinket vendors. The number of them diminishes both the atmosphere and the enjoyment of the ancient site. Imagine the entire length of the 17-mile trail up Half Dome in Yosemite, its vistas lined with vendors hawking miniature models of the valley, plastic waterfalls, and carvings of John Muir or George Washington and shouting “one dollar” or “almost free” at every step and you’ll get the picture.

Still the ball court, the pyramid and the astronomical sophistication are truly magnificent. I can only imagine it twenty years ago, unvarnished by the notoriety that beckons tourists from all over the world. Despite my cynicism it is pretty amazing and astonishingly beautiful – you can check out the rest of our pictures on Flickr.

Cenotes!

Cenotes are cool… there are no lakes or rivers on the Yucatan, the seasonal rainfall seeps into underground aquifers and rivers, filling cenotes, grutas, cavernas and creating fascinatingly diverse and nearly circular formations throughout the Peninsula. The caverna cenote made for some refreshing swimming after our camping spot near Valladoid while the other pit looking cenote is one of the ceremonial cenotes from Chichén Itzá.

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