Back(alar)tracking

Playa Del Carmen didn’t pose much interest to me, so I spent a few days holed up in the courtyard at the hostel writing, waiting for Mantas to end his tour of duty working there. The sun never stopped shining, and I got a lot of work done.

Come Monday, we were torn between taking the ADO or a colectivo to Bacalar. There was a third possibility of catching a ride with a couple staying at the hostel, who had a friend in town headed that direction, but 3 days trying to confirm the ride proved fruitless.

We ultimately decided on the unpredictable, but far less expensive colectivo, as our mode of transport, which entailed a half hour walk back to the city centre. On our way out the door, we reconsidered lugging around the 5 L bottle of water we had, and went back to the kitchen area to find some smaller containers to make our hike less cumbersome.

In the 5-minute delay transferring our water, a car arrived at the hostel — it was the long lost mysterious friend with wheels to Bacalar… Sweet! With a big smile, he happily welcomed us to tag along, and I gave thanks to my Divine Tour Guide yet again for stepping in when least expected.

Though the 4-hour ride was somewhat cramped with 5 of us and our backpacks, we arrived in relative comfort compared to public transport, and set about exploring the town, beginning with a 14-peso tamale feast to christen the adventure. How I’ve missed out on this satisfying fare thus far on my Mexican travels is beyond me…

Bacalar sits back of the Caribbean on a quaint little finger lake, known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours for its dazzling display of deep blue and aqua tones. It’s the second largest body of fresh water in Mexico, apparently. Private resorts line most of the shore, but long wooden bridges, attached to covered huts, provide public access to the warm, shallow, sandy waters.

 

We shopped around to find a cheap hotel, and eventually settled on a lakeside campground that set us back a whopping 100 pesos per nite. A tent was provided for Mantas, and I made use of my own again, very happy to have stuffed it and my somewhat bulky sleeping bag in my backpack.

There was a carnival-like atmosphere permeating the town square in the evening, with vendors selling everything from fried food to fried food, and a few select others offering treats that were fried, with strategically placed fried food restaurants to add variety. A bit of a letdown, as I was craving something fried.

The following day was Mantas’ birthday, so we decided to indulge in one of the stranger items I hadn’t seen before — attached to a fried food cart of course. I never caught the name of the dessert item, but it was basically a hybrid of crepe and waffle, made fresh to order on a giant press, loaded with marmalade, chocolate, cheese, bananas, or whatever other sweet of choice they had available to pick from. Though I only had a bite or two, I could see why the two-foot rolled stick of sugar was a favourite amongst this Mexican “fair.”

After a relaxed sleep amongst the chirpy birds and lush grounds, we decided to do a morning hike to a local cenote a few kilometres down the road, to spend the afternoon floating about the 30-metre deep sink hole. Though we’d found a hidden trail the locals use to enjoy the water, we decided to fork out 25 pesos to relax at the restaurant location, which provided a less murky access point to the water, and a few munchies to celebrate my friend’s birthday.

I’ve become a big fan of Lithuanian tradition, or wherever Mantas adopted his philosophy of celebration. It basically came down to saying, “Hey, it’s my birthday, I want to celebrate! I’m in good health, I’m abundant, this day’s on me. I’m treating you!” I found that far more refreshing than the North American version of “me, me, me, cater to my whims, and buy me whatever I want.”

Even though I did my best to contribute, Mantas was more intent on spoiling me. Cool guy. After soaking up enough sun, we grabbed a cheap cab back to town, and debated a last call announcement for a power-boat tour of the lake. But I suggested it would be more fun to do it in the morning, to his chagrin, without the frenzy of the go-go-go traveler mentality I’ve become far too familiar with.

Back at the hostel, we hooked up with another friend of his who would be attending the Ayahuasca ceremony with us, and decided to charter a catamaran in the morning for a 2-hour tour around the lake — a much more fun way to make use of the steady lake winds to enjoy the waters, rather than listening to the endless drone of a motor.

Though my buddies both had a shitty sleep in their rental tents when a hard downpour hit during the night, I ignorantly slept through it all to wake refreshed, catching another sunrise, rarin’ to go.

After booking our boat at daybreak, and returning to the hostel to prepare a light meal before the tour, we eventually learned our “catamaran” was just a little trainee dinghy, not the 45-foot boat they suggested in the pictures as we signed up. Bah.

Despite their efforts to refuse returning our deposit, Mantas eventually sweet-talked the hefty, owner-dude into giving our money back, and we walked into town to find a colectivo to take us to Mahahual. Although Mantas was disappointed we didn’t pull the trigger on our opportunity the day before to boat around the lake, I made a valid point declaring that this lagoon of seven colours was falsely advertised — it was five-and-a-half tones at best — so no reason for sadness.

Enduring an hour’s wait in the hot sun, and a first mini-bus booked full, we finally found comfortable transit to our location, and jumped out before the final drop-off point to explore hostel possibilities. After walking the extremes of the shorefront location, we backtracked to a sweetspot, for 200 pesos a night, that had a clean dorm, and really cool courtyard to hang out in, discovering a high point on the roof to watch the sunset.

Hot-water showers, shitty Wi-Fi, a kitchenette, and the sweet smell of rotting seaweed… what more could a person ask for?

I woke as usual to catch the sun come up, while Mantas caught a few more zzz’s. We decided to wander into town for an adventure (after I sunburnt myself basking in the morning sun too long), perchance to visit a Mayan museum that popped up on the functional GPS of his phone.

Though we had committed to cleansing our systems to prepare for the upcoming medicine ceremony, a sign that popped up on our exploration of local life was too tempting to resist, for me anyway…

I truly felt the need to “learn how to enjoy tequila.”

The Tequila Museum was not hesitant to provide numerous shots of their varied concoctions of fermented agave, but a quick sampling was more than necessary to push us along our way, only to find there was no Mayan museum down the road, only more touristy attractions to cater to the Cruise-people doing day layovers to escape the confines of their floating hotel prisons.

A crazy and unexpected Mayan-themed park peaked our interest for a moment, complete with zip-lines and waterslides, but when we saw the price of admission, the idea quickly went by the wayside, as we walked back to our hostel to realize the impressive “temple” monument that welcomed the tourists was made of sprayed concrete encompassing styrofoam blocks. Meh.

We returned to our ocean-front haunt, and Mantas suggested chilling for a bit to meditate, in a small grove rife with coconut trees, which gave me the opportunity to leave him for 20 minutes to walk back to the hostel to collect my tree-climbing gear.

I returned to find him cold, talking about moving farther along the beach to catch some rays, when I suggested our perfect dinner was hanging above our heads. After a pathetically short climb to hack a couple sweet looking nuts hanging from a palm, Mantas was curious how to make use of the bounty. As I picked up our two fresh coconuts, and he scoffed, “Now what?” I showed him the clever boring tool I bought in Hawaii to facilitate enjoying the sweet, fresh water, and my good ol’ machete as well.

After drilling into each nut, the familiar, “Now what?” query was thrown my direction again. That’s when I produced the six-pack of reusable polyethylene straws I procured with foresight at a tourist shop I visited with my mother and brother in Canada, and in a heartbeat we were sucking back fresh coconut water the gods left hanging from the endless trees sprouted by these waters.

Ah, life is fucking good!

We met some dude from Italy who talked our ears off while we focused our intention to dip into the waters one more time before leaving in the morning, and eventually we settled back at the hostel before my lobster-like colouring freaked my buddy out too much.

Next on the agenda, our medicine ceremony, featuring another ride on the ADO to get back to the retreat at Playa Del Carmen. A 4-hour ride on the bus is a walk in the park now after the Palenque trip.

I still can’t feel my toes, but I’m confident a blazing sun on a day-trip might compensate for the Antarctic conditions I fear again.

I’m pretty sure I can still type without sensation in my fingers…

What's on your mind?