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day one. Valladolid.
Freedom. Feel the wind in your hair. Simply set off. Go explore something new, leave everything behind and switch off. Forget everything for a day and feel entirely free.
That’s exactly what we wanted. And it was no sooner said than done: last Tuesday, we hired a car and drove inland from Tulum. With no destination, no plan and no satnav.
We ended up in Valladolid, a cute little town close to the world-famous Chitchen Itza. We experienced nothing of the bustle of tourism here though. Valladolid is the epitome of tranquillity. Serenity, yet with an unbelievable zest for life. The people here are proud of their home and strike up cheerful conversations, telling us all about their town and everything that we must see, introducing their families, are curious how we ended up here.
Valladolid primarily owes its charm to the pretty church built in a Spanish style at the town’s centre. The park in front of it is peaceful, with a few fruit stalls and ice cream sellers, a couple of cosy little restaurants and the odd newspaper kiosk.
The sun was so hot on our backs and we were not used to the heat from Tulum where a fresh sea breeze always blows. Yet here in this town further inland on this idyllic Caribbean peninsula, the air stood still and we were glad to be able to sit down in the shade with some fresh fruit. The chilli sprinkled on the sweet fruit is typically Mexican and unbelievably tasty. Papayas, pineapples, melons and all kinds of exotic fruits are available everywhere here for very affordable prices.
So far, we received the warmest welcome from Juan, who had just picked up his two daughters, Fatima and Maria, from school. He chatted with us as openly as if we were old friends, who had met by chance at the other end of the world. This Mexican candour is what we were missing and simply could not get enough of. There is none of the constantly getting worked up about everything as is the norm almost every single day back in Germany.
In the afternoon, we took Juan’s advice and drove to Cenote Zaci. Yucatán is famous for its many natural wonders and the cenotes are definitely one of them. These natural underground reservoirs developed many years ago and the fresh water they contain is deep and clear. They are an absolute dream to swim in and the perfect place to cool off after several hours spent walking the streets of Valladolid.
In the evening, we drove the 2.5 hours back to Tulum, bringing a day trip that we would undoubtedly remember for a long time to come to an end.
day two. Bacalar
A new day, a new road trip. On Wednesday, our alarm already went off at 6 a.m. After all, we had a long journey ahead of us. We planned to travel 211 km further down the coast, almost as far as the border with Belize. Our destination was called Bacalar. We packed our cool box with ice-cold drinks and the sun cream and our bikinis in the rucksack, and off we set. We were in high spirits; the feeling of freedom of the previous day persisted. We could hardly wait to be on the road again.
Upon arriving in Bacalar, we asked the way to Lago Bacalar, the Lake of Seven Colours. It is a magical place. The lagoon, a vast freshwater lake, shimmers in seven different shades of blue. We were already fascinated from afar. Countless activities with everything from sailing trips to canoe hire are offered on the lake’s shores. By chance, we are lucky enough to end up on the very quiet side of the lagoon. There were no crowds of tourists, no souvenir stands and no hustle and bustle to be seen here.
We walked along the shore for a while and came upon a little jetty where we stopped for a break. Such idyllic views are so very special. We were simply awestruck, completely under its spell in our fascination. Mexico boasts countless breathtaking natural wonders – from the paradisiacal Caribbean shores to the nature protection areas, jungles and deserts to endless exotic species of animals and plants that are endemic to the region.
The lagoon of seven colours was yet another natural wonder that we simply could not get enough of. The shades of blue were as clearly discernible as if they had been painted on the water. We spent the entire afternoon in this unique place.
The day was once again filled with unforgettable encounters. An elderly man spotted our questioning gaze when we were looking for a café. With entirely natural warmth, he showed us the way without our even having voiced our question. We ran into him again later and he seemed to be able to read in our faces what we were seeking. We experienced his Mexican readiness to help and above all the magic that this place exudes.
In the evening, we returned to our cabaña in Tulum. Refreshed, relaxed, satisfied and curious what the next day would bring, we reviewed our impressions of the day.
day three. Punta Allen
It is just 6:30 a.m. when our alarm goes off. It sounds again at 6:50 a.m., but we are simply too tired to get up. We decide to treat ourselves to a few more minutes of sleep, but before we know it, it is almost 8 a.m. and the sun is glinting through the cabaña’s roof. Never mind, we think, we planned to go on a road trip to Punta Allen today and it is just 56 km away. The little coastal road looked even shorter on the map.
Half an hour later, we were already sat in our little red Hyundai i10 ready to go. The route was rocky and we couldn’t actually drive much faster than the permitted 40 km/h anyway. We were surprised – we hadn’t expected the road to be this bad. While we had heard that it wasn’t the best, we never could have imagined what ultimately awaited us. Potholes, puddles the size of ponds, stones as large as boulders and patches of mud that we each time hoped we wouldn’t get stuck in. The speed limit began to seem more like black humour.
Naive as we were, we had set off without any water or food supplies and planned to have breakfast in Punta Allen. After 56 km full of adventure, we felt like we had been on a jungle safari like something out of a film. We encountered lizards and colourful birds.
Yet despite the fact that the heat made the lack of water rather exhausting, the beautiful scenery made up for this time and time again. The sea lay to the right and left of the coastal road. At times, we could see both sides; at others, dense jungle-like undergrowth blocked our view. The drive was memorable in every respect.
And again, far from the towns and villages, we witnessed the Mexican friendliness first hand. The few people we passed, who were also travelling the road to Punta Allen, greeted us warmly and waved, with wide grins on their faces. We asked how much further it was a few times – the road simply went on and on. When someone finally said to us “Muy cercito, muy cercito”, which means as much as “Very close”, we breathed a sigh of relieve – we had finally made it!
Punta Allen is a tranquil little village with not much more than four roads and a total of around 20 houses. These include the odd café, two kiosks and a couple of restaurants. There is not much to see here. The beach is a breathtaking backdrop that could not be more beautiful and was entirely deserted. While a couple of boat trips with snorkelling were offered, we only had around 200 pesos on us and the fact that there is no cash machine in the whole of Punta Allen and the surrounding area meant we couldn’t get more money out. It was enough for two coffees, two fresh salads and a couple of quesadillas though. With the remaining money, we purchased some bottles of water for the drive home.