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When It's Hot...Head to the Cenotes, La Playa y La Laguna

Our time in Valladolid, Tulum and Laguna Bacalar. Where the temperatures soared and we searched for a hideaway from the heat.


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As we arrived in Valladolid it felt as though we were coming into a sauna, especially considering we were coming off the fridge, Mexico calls an air-conditioned bus. It was obvious the heat and humidity was worse here than in Merida (from memory we arrived to 34 degrees with 90% humidity…equivalent to 44degrees). Valladolid is located in the heart of the Yutacan Peninsula, it is pretty much half way between Merida and our next destination, Tulum. It is known for all of the cenotes in the area and we couldn’t wait to get to swim in a few of them!

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We were off to explore the town after dropping off our bags at the cute hostel we would call home for the next few days. The town square was just like in Merida, a relaxing area that the community actually used. After admiring the main church we headed down towards ex-convent Santo Domingo. Lewis had no idea where we were heading to and looked thrilled when we arrived, especially considering the daily downpour was about to hit. Due to the impending rain we opted for the drier option and explored around the convent and eventually, when the rain subsided the outside area. It was beautiful and tranquil place. We learnt that it used to be even more exquisite but sadly many of the expensive pieces the convent had acquired over the years have been stolen.

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Our hostel was hosting a Mexican quiz night that evening. We discovered that really the only thing we really knew about Mexico was Speedy Gonzales and that it has a bigger obesity problem than America. That was pretty bad form on our part!
The next day we headed out on our bikes and rode the seven kilometres to three different cenotes that are close to Valladolid. Our first destination was actually meant to open at noon but the lovely staff opened it early so we could have the cenote to ourselves. This cenote was an open cenote and was FULL of catfish, you looked into the water and you could see hundreds of catfish of some form.

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Lewis and I were a little nervous to jump in so dangled our feet in and had a Cambodian style pedicure. It was pretty amazing and tickled like anything. After gaining some courage I jumped in and swam around with the numerous fish for a few hours and watched the birds create their nests in the walls and ceiling of the cenotes. We jumped on our bikes to go a few kilometres down the road to another few cenotes. These cenotes were closed cenotes and had just a small hole to allow the light into them. The water was the intensely dense shade of blue. It was amazing walking down the stairs into the caves and seeing just one small spot of light in the water. These cenotes also had fish swimming around, but not half as many as the open one we had just spent time in. The first one we went into was fairly empty; there was a total of six of us inside (older Spanish couple, us and two young guys diving). The place was quiet and had a mystical feeling about it. It was truly a stunning experience to float in this icy cold water and gaze at the light or hide in the cave, no pictures can do justice to the beauty of the place. We spent hours in this cave just enjoying the peace and solitude.

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We decided to head over to the other cenote to see what all of the fuss was about as it was the more popular and photographed cenote in the region. The cenote has tree roots coming down from the centre of the light hole.
Sadly the cenote had a tour group of American families yelling and diving in the cave. The feeling of peace and magic we had in the previous two cenotes was completely dissolved while the tour group remained. Even when they left it didn't have the same magical feeling as the previous two.

We opted for our first fresh young coconut to re-energise before completing the long bike back to town in the scorching mid-afternoon heat. Our timing wasn’t the best and we managed to get soaked by the afternoon rain just as we headed into town and ended up spending an hour hiding under a tree waiting for the downpour to subside.

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The next day we were sadly off to our next stop, Tulum. Tulum was the most commercialised part of Mexico that we have been too and we discovered that further up the Yucatan peninsula you travel the more touristy it becomes (Cancun and Playa del Carmen are much more touristy than Tulum from everything we heard from our travellers in our hostel).
We spent the afternoon biking around all of the massive resorts on the beach and being blown away by the quantity of them. The beach was actually covered in seaweed and stunk so we were pretty happy to leave the resorts behind us and headed back into town. We opted to spend our one full day in Tulum at Akumal. Akumal has a bay that is known for having turtles and I was eager to snorkel with these little sea buddies.

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We took a collectivo out with many of the resorts workers. The beach was already pretty busy when we arrived at 9.30! We jumped into the water and begin swimming around in search of any turtles. The rule of the bay when we went was that you had to wear a lifejacket unless you were on a guided tour…to be honest the guided tours had them all on as well. The reason for the request was so that you don’t stand on the bottom and kill the sea grass the turtles feed on. The huge amount of people going there is causing massive problems as the sea grass gradually dies.
We swam around and spotted numerous turtles eating the lettuce on the sea floor. There is less lettuce than there use to be as it is killed when people stand on it (hence the reason for lifejackets on everyone). It is really sad when you consider you are killing the habitat of the actual thing you came to see! Sadly I don’t know for how much longer Akumal will have the turtles around. It needs a major conservation effort to stop the issues that are occurring.

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We headed back tired and covered in salt. After a quick lunch at our local, El Aguacate, a café near our hostel that had the tastiest and cheapest food, we headed to the famous Tulum ruins. There was again the afternoon rain coming in so we walked around and hoped that the downpour didn’t happen until we got home. Luckily for us the rain went out to sea and never made it inland.

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Our final stop in Mexico was Laguna Bacalar, a large alkaline fresh water lagoon. It looked like the Caribbean ocean when we arrived in the sunlight. Unfortunately that was the most sun we got while we were there. It was either overcast (most of the time) or raining (when we left) while we were there. The lake had a PH of about 9 so not a lot lived in there.

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We kayaked in the choppy swell and enjoyed living off the grid for a few days. Our hosts cooked delicious feasts for us for breakfast and chicken tacos one night when we arrived. We also had the company of a Swiss couple while we were there which was great fun. It was nice to have some natural beauty to remember Mexico by. Sadly I will also remember Bacalar by a few scars. I fell (well rolled) down a full set of concrete stairs, computer in hand. I honestly don’t know how I didn’t break anything. Just in case you were wondering the computer was absolutely fine, me on the other hand had a grazed and bruised neck and face, shoulder and backside. The thing that was most injured was my ego.

We left Bacalar after two beautiful nights, happy to go as we didn’t really want to hang around in the rain. Our next stop was Caye Caulker in Belize.
We were heading there from Chetumal on a speedboat. We both were excited about spending some time on a small Caribbean island.

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Mexico was a country that was a lot different than I imagined. The people were friendly, safety was less of a concern in the areas we were in than I thought and the scenery was diverse and stunning. There is a lot to see and we missed out on seeing so much. I can’t wait to go back and explore even further.

Posted by chellebelle 10:06 Archived in Mexico Tagged churches turtles snorkelling mexico fall beautiful buses kayak valladolid tulum relax akumal laguna heat cenotes bacalar quiz Comments (0)

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