Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tulumn--Yucatan Pennisula, Mexico

mxbackroads--Tulumn--Yucatan Pennisula, Mexico

Tulumn is towards the end of the tourist highway so in a real sense it is where the backroads start and the tourist tend to finish up.  It is smaller than Cancun, but very crowded and busy due to the beach and the Mayan ruins just outside of town.

Our daughter rented a car here and there is large grocery store across the street from EasyWay and Avis rental that carries fairly good Chilean and Argentianian wines.

The main attraction in Tulumn is the Mayan ruins.  People drive the highway south to visit the ruins and the cruise ships at Cozumel take tour buses so it can get very crowded when visiting.   So the picture without people is the exception.  Take plenty of shade and drinking water since the ruins are out in the open.

The approach goes through a "gateway" area.  In the United States, the environmental community talks about the economic benefits of gateway communities to the National Parks and public lands.   Save the "visit" to the gateway area for the end of your tour of the Tulumn ruins.

There is a shuttle service from the parking area to the entrance.  From there you have to walk.  There is an entrance fee.  In fact, on this trip to Mexico there was an entrance fee to EVERYTHING.

Here are some pictures of the area inside the entrance gates.

The ruins at Tulumn are said to be NOT significant from a historical Mayan perspective.  Well, from my perspective ruins are ruins and visiting Tulumn is just as exciting as the significant sites.  So enjoy your visit to Tulumn!!

And if you get bored with history the beach is nearby.

Of course, the picture up top is what your going to get.  The picture below took some artful cropping to get a deserted beach at Tulumn.  However, it is a nice beach.

On the way out you might want to stop and get a Corona or some other liquid refreshment.  For food there is always Subway!

There are Mayan dancers with some interesting colors, but I am sure the Mayan's did not have the wheel!!  Oh well, always need to watch the background when taking photo's.

We also drove down the beach road south from Tulumn as Susie wanted to check out a highly rated beach restaurant.  The road was five or six miles long with one lane and typical Mexican road traffic.  Really not a bad trip.

Nice lunch spot.  A little to "special" for my taste.  I rather prefer our
little Mexican lunch spot  at a beach about ten miles north of Tulumn.

However, Tulumn is a great place to visit.  Busy and crowded, but small enough to easily get around.  Lots of tourists, but few American's mostly Europeans and Canadians.  It was more to our taste than Cancun.  I would return to Tulumn.

Book Read--Catch of the Year by Brenda Hammond.  This book was made into a movie and got good reviews.  So I found it in the new e-books in the library que and downloaded it.  If your a guy....PASS ON THIS BOOK.  If you are forever puzzled by why woman read romance novels reading this will not provide you with anymore information.   If your a woman I am not sure if this is a good romance novel or not.  It is the only romance novel I ever read and it was a struggle to finish it!!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Chan Chemuyil--Yucatan Pennisula, Mexico

mxbackroads-Chan Chemuyil, Mexico

This was home for three weeks in the Yucatan Pennisula.  We did this as a trade for our home in the Wenatchee Valley.  They came last March and we decided to spend Christmas and New Years at the Yucatan.  Only later did we find out the we were ground zero for the end of the world!!

This is an North American style subdivision originally built by the Fox administration to house the workers in the tourist industry in the Yucatan.  There are various stories that the houses were too expensive for the workers and some hints of corruption (in Mexico??).   I suspect the design of the subdivision did not work with the Mexican culture.  Very few public places for mingling and definitely a design for privacy and little social mixing.

Anyway the entire subdivision was sold for dirt cheap by the government and promptly bought mostly by Canadians and a few Americans.  The "early pioneers" called it Little Beirut given the condition of the subdivision.

All the homes are little boxes completely similar so residents have painted and landscaped to set them apart from the neighbors.

We thought the location was closer to the beach and more undeveloped, however, by the time I closely checked google earth we were committed to the journey.  Here is the google earth picture:

If you zoom in on the image you can see the grid pattern.  So it is just a subdivision carved out of the jungle.   Just to the north is the Mexican village of Chemuyil.  We walked there for grocery shopping, beer, ATM, and other needed services.  No grid pattern in the village.

And where the subdivision ends the jungle starts right away.  I still have the welts from where a very short trip into the jungle resulted in a plant touching my calf.  The locals said that the cure for the welts was another plant growing close to the first plant.  I think I will just go with Cort-Aid.

But the good news is that it is also a community.  We got to attend the end of the world party as well as New Years party.

And there were even Christmas carolers on Christmas eve.

Those Canadians will not miss the caroling season for anything.  Of course, all the residents were giving the singers shots of tequila to ward off the cold I suppose.  It was definitely a party bunch and staying sober was a difficult task.

Staying in one place for three weeks does have its advantages.  You become a "part" of the community, but outside enough to not be involved in all the drama.  On a first day we decided to walk the jungle road to the Mexican community of Chemuyil which is less than 1/4 mile up the road.  As we were walking we were picked up by a couple of residents of Chan Chemuyil and that turned into an afternoon of beer drinking, touring, and a lobster dinner.

Every community has its characters and Chan Chemuyil proved no exception.  Alex did help print lost dog posters for Bella the Italian dog that probably ran off  in response to the fireworks being set off for Christmas.  The good news was that after a week, Bella was dropped off without a word at her residence.  She's not talking about what she did that week.  Maybe she just needed some quality time by herself.

For my part I really enjoyed drinking coffee and sitting by the cenote connected to the outside world through wi-fi.  It was a great place to check e-mail and watch the iguana's.

Carlos, John, Katharine and Paul and others may the stay much more enjoyable.  And I suppose in the end the best part about traveling is the people that you end up meeting.

Book Read--The Ernesto Che Guevara School for Wayward Girls by William F. Gavin.  This is a hysterical political satire.  Susie got it as a fiction book.  She said it started fast and then slowed, but I would probably like it since it was a political satire.  It is a very funny book and if you like politics you will just not stop laughing.   Does not matter if you are left or right on the political spectrum, there are enough laughs on both sides.  However, if you are one of the political elite then this book might not be so funny.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

usbackroads destinatiion--Cancun Staging Area, Mexico

usbackroads destination--Cancun Staging Area, Mexico

Cancun a usbackroads destination?  Well, maybe.  All backroads destinations require a staging area from which to launch into the backroads.

So when we were offered a house trade in the Yucatan we said sure.  It sounds like a backroads destination without the us in front of it.  More on this later.

In all expeditions, there is a staging area where you get ready for the trip into the backroads area.  In the case of Lewis and Clark it was Wood River, Illinois.  Well, a trip to the Yucatan in 2013 does not quite measure up to the Lewis and Clark expedition.

However, we have always find it useful to find a "staging area" prior to leaving for backroads destinations.

The criteria is that they had to be close to the airport, fairly inexpensive, and provided an opportunity to gather needed supplies and intelligence to continue the journey.  With the exception of the airport it was similar to the requirements for a staging area for the Lewis and Clark expedition.

All those years working for the Forest Service and others emphasized the importance of a good staging area.  On a bike tour of Europe in 1976 it was a week in London, buying the bicycles, maps and other needed supplies for a bicycle tour of Europe.   The Forest Service always planned a staging area for work trips into the back-country.  So after a few years it just became a part of our trip planning.

OK, Cancun is a lousy staging area.  But it does have some advantages.  We booked the trip through Costco.   They were able to negotiate a discounted airfare.  So by our calculations the three nights in Cancun cost us $75 per night for ALL FOOD, LODGING, and ALCOHOL. For both of us.  Good food.  Acceptable wine.  Decent view.  We even had a hot tub in the hotel room.

The temptation was high to stay a bit longer.  In the past, we have done this on trips to Mexico with Alaska Airlines and found the same good locations and deals.

We learned that the Yucatan is very popular with Europeans who insist on "all inclusive" vacations.

One price for everything.  Show up and leave without spending an extra nickle.  Our observation was that most Europeans did exactly that.  They came for the warm weather and spent the entire time by the pool drinking pre-paid booze.

So we enjoyed our time in Cancun even though it was not a backroads destination.  It did give us time to get ready for the rest of the trip.

We got to see a lot of stuff just from the hotel room.  People frolicking directly below.

People executing some pretty important decisions.  Not sure I would do this in Cancun.

Then again, you get to share the beach and everything else with thousands of people.  I believe somebody once called it "industrial tourism".

It was however, an enjoyable three days.  Great service from Angel at the Seafood restaurant.  It was actually pretty good food and by the third night Angel did bring special foods for each to sample.

So that all inclusive deal is pretty good as long as you know what your going to get.  Industrial tourism.  Nothing bad about it, but definitely not backroads.

It was fun to walk to beaches of Cancun and I did learn a lot on my short walks along the beach.

Now going "au natural" is a backroads proposition for Americans. Well, for the Europeans it is a part of the vacation.   So maybe that qualifies Cancun as a usbackroads destination?


I did learn a few things.  Now up on ski slopes they "groom" the slopes prior to the skier showing up.  Well, guess what in Cancun they "groom" the beaches prior to the sunbathers showing up.   So really, the only natural part of the beach at Cancun is the "au natural" part.

Across from our hotel were some Mayan ruins.  We decided to pass on those.  Walking along the beach we noticed this next to our hotel.

It takes thousands of years for Mayan ruins to become a tourist attraction.  The "hotel" managed to become a ruin in less than 30 years.  Any bets on it becoming a tourist attraction??

After three nights we were ready to get to our backroads destination.  A few bus changes and four sets of luggage to haul around and we should be there in four hours.  A taxi driver convinced us that for $50 US that would be shortened to one hour and fifteen minutes with door to door service.  That and a couple of quesy stomachs convinced us that the taxi ride might be the better deal.  It was, a great ride talking about the Yucatan with the driver was worth the price alone, not to mention that door to door service.

More on the Yucatan soon.  mxbackroads??

Book Read:  Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier.  The author has three strikes against him.  The first is graduating from Harvard.  The second is writing for the New Yorker and the third is being in love with the Slavic culture of east of Poland.  However, in spite of those handicaps he has written a very good book on the current state of Russia and Siberia.   Reading the book you will get a very good picture of life in current day Russia.  Not the life of Moscow and the oligarchs, but the life of the everyday Russian.   If you want to get a sense of life on the other side of the planet read this book.  It does get slow at times and yes he makes plenty of excuses for the culture.  But if you want to try and understand  today's Russia this book is a good place to start.  It is about Siberian backroads and matches my experience in the Russian Far East.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

usbackroads destination--Yucatan Pennisula

 usbackroads destination--Yucatan Pennisula

At one time, not so long ago this was a backroads destination.  Then in 1970 the Mexican government decided to develop the sleepy village of Cancun with its 177 residents into a major tourist destination.
Tourist development really got going in the 1980's and 90's with development spreading all the way down the coast to Tulumn and beyond.

We got here by trading homes.  I will post additional information in a future blog on how this works.  There are advantages to living in areas where people come for vacations.  One of those benefits of being a professional Forester that I just missed in my early years!

Mexico is one of those places that we have visited often in the past, but as Alexandra got to her teen-age years travel with her parents was not a priority.  However, now that she is 24 she did come down for 10 days on this trip.

Drugs, guns, and a government that is slightly sketchy is Mexico's current reputation.  It has had an impact on American travel to Mexico.  On this trip, American's were definitely seldom seen.  Lots of middle class Mexican families, Canadians, Europeans, and people from Latin America.

As near as I can tell tourism is the ONLY industry on the Yucatan and the local government does an excellent job of protecting and managing the industry.  We were warned about some scams and I noticed that the government posted signs about these scams and said they wanted to hear about it.   We did not encounter any of these scams and the business people were polite and friendly.  Somehow, the government even got the timeshare salesmen to ramp down their sales pitch.

We enjoyed eating the local food at the small restaurants.  I am not sure what this fish is called, but we bought several pounds from the back of a pick-up truck.  The fisherman lived in Reno for over 25 years and had moved back to Mexico in his retirement years.  The fish was excellent and we also found it at a very small beachfront restaurant where nobody spoke English.

The local Mexican and Mayan people were friendly and gracious.  Speaking Spanish does help quite a bit once you get outside the tourist zone.   The backroads on the Yucatan are out in the jungle rather than along the shore.  To be fair, the Yucatan has never been a backroads destination except for a few hundred years after the Spanish invasion.

For a very long period of time the Mayan civilization was the most advanced on earth.  Yes, aliens would have gone to the Yucatan before dealing with those savages from Europe.  Almost forgot we were there for the end of the world, which just turned out to be the end of one sequence of the Mayan calender.

The beaches and Mayan ruins are the draw in the Yucatan.  The weather was hot and humid.  I am fine with hot, but the humid part does not sit well with me.  However, if you found the right beach spot those breezes kept you cool and calm.  This spot is where we had the fish shown above.  The Corona beer commercial was filmed just a 1/4 mile from this spot.  They did not sell Corona's so we had a Sol beer instead with the fish.

It was the best, most perfect day on the Yucatan.

Books Read--1491 New Revelations of the America's before Columbus by Charles C. Mann.  I have always been interested on the ecological impact of native American's on the landscape.  The fire landscape of the Sierra Nevada's was shaped by Indian burning and there is evidence that the impact extended throughout the America's.  This book covers the Inca's and Mayans and other civilizations that existed prior to the visit by Columbus in 1492.   It seems that smallpox and measles introduced by Columbus reduced the Indian populations by 95%.   Good book to read while exploring the Yucatan.