It had been nearly two weeks since we had done a ‘big drive’ and only the second time that Lizzy had done more than half an hour or so. The last trip resulted in her pooping on the cab floor so as we made our way towards Valladolid that afternoon, I wrestled the litter tray into the cab to try and avoid a repeat as she made a beeline for the floor. Luckily for us, we made it to the town without an accident, just two very hot cats despite the torrential rain.
We parked up on a side road that didn’t look at all like there was a lovely cenote a few minutes away. The rain showed no sign of abating, so we got our stuff together and headed off for a quick swim. Caroline had to catch a bus soon, and we needed to find a spot for the evening but we wanted to check out Cenote Zaci first. It’s an unlikely location, right in the centre of town. We walked in a paid a reasonable 30 pesos to get in and descended the steps to a large pool, partially covered. One side recessed into the wall and cavelike, the other a mass of jungle plants.
It was good to have a refreshing dip after a hot drive, although we didn’t stay too long.
After we had dropped Caroline at the bus station, we continued to the supermarket and then looked for a place to stay. We opted for a place called Xopek, a little pricey, but so was everything. We pulled up next to another camper and walked up to pay someone. It was time for another swim in the pool.
The light was beginning to fade, as another camper pulled in. It was just another example of how the overlanding world can be very small, as Gerald emerged. He was with his niece and had just been exploring Las Coloradas, our next stop. We sat outside and enjoyed several beers to celebrate her birthday, while marvelling at the great volume and range of toad noise around us. There was no traffic, but the animal population more than made up for it.
Gerald left the next morning and we debated when to leave for Las Coloradas. We wanted to do the bee tour that was offered for free here as part of the camping, so we walked up to the office and got ourselves a tour.
Our guide spoke quick, nervous English and regularly checked if we had any questions without actually leaving time for us to voice them. We walked down to a ‘dry cenote’ or half a cave as I would have put it to look at how the bees nested.
He showed us the various Mayan species of bee and how they nested. Some in logs, some underground. They were all quite small, especially in comparison to the honey bee we are used to in Europe.
He then took us to the hives, some of which had little plastic sections so you could see inside. This wasn’t beekeeping as I knew it. The hives were in logs of wood not the typical box with screens. When the honey was to be harvested, the beekeeper used a syringe to extracted it from large bubbles the bees created inside the hive. That explained the high prices in the gift shop at least.
Lastly, we had a tasting session. We tried a honey-based drink as well as the ants that swam in it, as well as three different types of honey, some bee pollen and some sweets. It certainly made the camping better value for money as it was an interesting experience and we walked away with some new knowledge as well as little goody bags with some more sweets.
Back to deciding when to leave. We needed to come back to collect some post from here and Lee wanted to watch England play in the Euros. We also got talking to the camper next to us, a couple from Germany. We had a lot of unexpected things in common; including multiple breakdowns and sadly losing adopted cats. Speaking of cats, it was down to Aimee’s classic disappearing act that meant we stayed until the match played, while Lizzy was more easily located.
We found an Irish bar in town run by a Polish guy that was putting it on. After an early start on the beer, a rather good burger and a win by England, we were in no fit state to do anything else that day.
We had stayed at the campsite for 5 nights before we knew it, but it was time to move on. It was also kind of expensive. After a final oil check and top up, which revealed it was still leaking heavily from the crank seal, we set off for Las Coloradas, a couple of hours away. Our Mexican friends from Campeche were also out there, but we opted for a campsite out of the town and by the time we realised they weren’t there we had no choice but to stay. The rain hammered down on us as we sat in a large flat area out in the middle of nowhere.
We looked a little anxiously out as the area we had parked in began to flood, but fortunately not to a worring point. It did mean that there was way we could leave until the morning however, the access road full of huge flooded potholes when we arrived was no fairly impassable.
As the rain relented, we walked down the road. To one side of us were huge lagoons filled with flamingos and on the other, the sea was accessible over a small line of sand dunes.
I have never seen wild flamingos before so that was a pretty good experience.
We retraced our steps by crossing over onto the beach side. The sand was strewn with bright pink seaweed, shells and the odd giant sea slug.
The sea was a bright turquoise blue.
Lee spotted something swimming just of the shore, and it turned out to be a turtle, a hundred metres or so away. As we looked around we spotted many more in the waves. This probably shouldn’t have been a surprise, the entire stretch of sand dunes was covered in numbered markers, designating turtle nests and their tracks were still evident in the sand. Still, it was amazing to see so many swimming close by. It was a shame that Steve wasn’t really working as that would have made for some pretty fantastic footage.
The only thing that ruined this beautiful spot was the steady trail of marching of ants climbing our wheels and marching into the camper. They weren’t keen on the rain either and much preferred living inside the camper. They traipsed in lines down the side of our bed in the pop-top all night and woe betide you if you were in their way.
It was therefore a good idea to move on the next morning as the water cleared, in an attempt to shift them. We headed back to the town and spent another night camped near the beach there. It was a relatively peaceful night, but before long the ants were back in numbers and Aimee had manage to be traumatised by something, we assumed the local dogs. With only the pink lake to see, we set off. While we didn’t pay for the tourist tower, it was an impressive sight. A huge lake of pastel pink water, stretched away from us. I’ve never seen water like it before. Next to it, conveniently omitted from all Instagram shots, a huge salt factory continually loaded trucks behind its concrete towers and huge salt mounds.
Having seen the sights, we turned and headed back for Valladolid. We made it about halfway.
We turned off at a major road junction, north of Tizimin. The oil light flickered as I changed gears, unfortunately, a normal thing that I have learned to live with. As we accelerated away from the junction it went from flickering to on. I killed the engine and coasted to a stop, hazards on. That was definitely not ok. That diagnosis was confirmed by the puddling of oil under the camper and the fact that the entire bottom of the engine and box were covered. It looked like the dodgy crank seal had given up.
I wasn’t surprised, that’s why I already had the new spare part. At least it had broken then, not an hour ago when there was no way we could have cycled to the town. Now we were 10km away from a big town, so we hesitantly left the van and cats on the roadside and went to find a tow truck. We went to the first major garage and asked for help. After a few communication issues; we had a tow truck ordered and an arrangement to use the space and tools for that afternoon and the next morning. I cycled back to check on the cats who were understandably very hot. We had not broken down under a convenient tree and Ruby sat in full sun at midday in the summer. inside, the fans didn’t really cut it. Having let out the cats, the truck arrived shortly after.
He loaded us up and before long we were at the garage. We pulled out our work clothes again and got started. The mechanic provided some additional tools, including the all-important engine crane. At least this time, we didn’t need to actually remove anything apart from the clutch. This meant holding the engine on the crane and detaching the mount so it could be pulled away from the gearbox. This leaves just enough space to access the clutch and the seal behind. Normally the reason our repairs are so long-winded and stressful is the unavailability of parts. With this for once not being a problem, we had it swapped by the end of the day. We just needed to refill the oil and coolant the next morning.
The garage owner left us instructions for the gate, and some soap before leaving us to it for the night. We had a shower and ordered our usual dominos pizza, the food of breakdowns. Although this time in better spirits than normal.
After a pretty peaceful night, we were ready to finish the job. We changed the gearbox oil for good measure and refilled everything, before running the engine to temperature. We then spent well over an hour trying to shift a stubborn airlock in the radiator. Just in time, we were ready to leave. England played in two hours and we headed again for the same bar in Valladolid.
After a few temperature spikes, the engine held and we made it in good time. The cats came and lay in the beer garden, while we watched the game. To my annoyance, we had missed the opening hours for DHL by an hour. They shut pretty early apparently on a Saturday, and we hadn’t really been thinking. If we’d thought of it when we arrived we could have got our parcel and left, but as it was while Lee was celebrating England’s win, we had to stay another two nights here. We headed back to the bee place, as it was still the best option. After all, how hard can it be to spend the weekend relaxing by a pool?