After planning our ‘Big Trip’ for a year you would think we would be gagging to get going after spending 3 months in Puerto Escondido. But when it was time to start driving we were a bit sad to be leaving! Staying at Casa los Mangos is utterly lush, we know where everything is in Puerto and had settled into sunshine life without working far too easily. Having friends and family in Puerto is wonderful as it has meant Mr E and I have had lots of people to talk with and haven’t had to rely on spending all our time together 24/7! After a lovely week with Gary Evans visiting from Canada and spending some time with Auntie DeeDee we were packed up and ready to go.
So we’re away into our first week travelling in the Big Blue Jeep and already it feels like we have been away for ages. Our plan is to drive through Mexico and the 7 Central American countries all the way to Panama City then to return to our ‘home’ base in Puerto. Originally our route was going to be driving through south west Mexico into Guatemala, however after holidaying on the Pacific coast of Mexico since 1998 we have never been to the Caribbean side so a visit was in order.
Our drive out of Puerto took us down the coast, up over the Mexican Isthmus through the states of Oaxaca, Veracruz and Tabasco with an overnight stop in industrial Minatitlan. Highway Mex185 is used by Truckers as it’s the straightest road from south to north avoiding the high winding Sierra Del Madre mountains. Along this road we saw another example of how Mexican people are so resourceful, at every check point and tope through the towns there are people selling plastic bags of fruit – mainly slices of papaya or peeled oranges, baggies of juice, corn snacks and bottled cold drinks, all on the centre of the road like an express snack drive through! We stayed in a modern ‘Travelodge’ style hotel and after 3 months the best part was a using a loo that you can flush the paper down! (Those that know Puerto will also get that just flushed feel when they return home..)
Next drive was into Campeche state and over to colonial San Francisco de Campeche. The city has a gorgeous historic centre complete with fortified city walls and gates, full of well maintained Spanish style buildings that are prettily painted in bright colours. At sunset the Malecon promenade which runs along the sea wall was busy with joggers and families out for a stroll. (Dawn Foster we thought of you, as there were free parks with gym equipment and lots of runners – you would have loved it!) Campeche was full of history including tales of buccaneering pirates who plundered the city and harbour ships in the 17th century. Henry Morgan your Rum legacy is exceedingly good…
From Campeche we drove upwards into the state of Yucatan to stay in another colonial city; Merida. As you can guess we’re on a budget for the year so we aim to stay in budget hotels. We get lots of Puerto people suggesting we stay in hostels to meet people and keep costs low. However the Evans have been utterly ruined by fabulous luxury holidays preferably staying in the Ritz Carlton if Mr E can find us a deal rather than the Days Inn, so I say with a totally spoilt voice ‘We don’t do hostels!’.
But now I’m counting the pesos we had booked a hotel in Merida that was £19 a night (Carey Squirrel would be proud of us!) it exceeded my expectations even if there were knobs missing, holes in the wall and even the sketchy location wasn’t too bad. We were able to eat cheaply at local restaurants and had a great day on the tourist ‘hop on & hop off bus’ which got us all over the city easily in the 37c heat.
Merida was a large city made up of 3 areas; the historic centre complete with Grand Plaza and Cathedral, typical Mexican burbs and the impressive Paseo de Montejo. Now this is where Mr E and I realised how spoiled we are as we passed gorgeous hotels in the wealthy Montejo district calling out at regular occasions ‘ooh wish we were staying there’. We have had to give ourselves a sturdy slap and remind each other we are on an AMAZING travelling adventure and not on a jolly luxury holiday.
Well that thought lasted all of one day as we crossed over to Quintana Roo state and visited Cancun, I was far too excited seeing all the luxury shopping malls and gorgeous ‘Las Vegas’ style hotels that line the Cancun hotel strip. But in true traveller style we took the local bus for $10 pesos down the strip to the public beach where I nearly cried on seeing the gorgeous white sand beaches and aquamarine Caribbean waters. I did not expect to like Cancun as it’s not the real Mexico I know and love but oh boy those beaches are stunning!
For many years I had heard of wonderful reports about a beautiful island off the coast of Cancun and our trip over to the Caribbean Mexican side was mainly to visit Isla Mujeres. We were able to take the car over on a ferry and had booked a hotel with kitchenette for a few days. The island has a laid back feel, everyone scoots around on mopeds or golf buggies. One side of the island is windswept with rocky coastline and the other side has gorgeous white sandy beaches with shallow calm turquoise seas. There are loads of touristy gift shops in the downtown area catering for day trippers from Cancun and quite a few seafood restaurants. It isn’t quite what we expected and hope to find that dreamy island life we crave when we visit the Cayes in Belize.
So after one week on the road we definitely know we love being by the beaches and that we love staying in modern new hotels over a low cost option, did we really need any reminder! Let’s see how week 2 unfolds…