We have just finished a whirlwind 5 days around the Yucatan and are now getting the boat ready for the final push to Florida. The Yucatan trip was a nice break and we all enjoyed getting off the boat and swimming in freshwater sink holes, exploring ruins and staying in nice hotels. Nice is a relative term now. 5 star for us is air conditioning, clean sheets and hot water.
We first traveled south, almost to the Belize border, and explored Laguna Bakala, a freshwater lagoon that you would swear was on the ocean. The white sand bottom and the clear water looked like any other spot in the Caribbean, only it was freshwater and in the middle of a peninsula. Adjacent to the lagoon was a cenote (sink hole), extremely common throughout the Yucatan. We tried to avoid the super commercial holes with their zip lining and high ticket prices, catering to the Cancun crowd. Instead we found some, out of the way sinkholes, on private property and paid reasonable fees to the owners in exchange for a swim. At one sinkhole, we descended 50 meters through a hole in the ground, along a suspended spiral staircase to the bottom of a sink hole 70 meters wide and full of fresh water. It was slightly eerie, but once we were at the bottom on the floating dock it was so surreal that we soon forgot that we were swimming under hundreds of tons of solid rock (actually I never forgot, but the kids seemed to. It was definitely a Xanax type of moment). There were stalactites that descended from the ceiling of the cave down to the water surface. Tree roots and vines hung from small seep holes, dripping water into the sinkhole. We brought our snorkels and masks, so we were able to follow blind catfish swimming around towering stalagmites and explore cauliflower looking structures deep in the dark crevices of the cave. There were small holes in the ceiling and when the sun was over head it looked like a spotlight illuminating parts of the cave that were otherwise dark. The kids had a ball, but I couldn't help but wonder how many ancient Mayans fell into sink holes like this, just walking around on the surface, and never found their way out. So while the kids were following catfish, I was morbidly looking for bones.
Back up top we toured several different Mayan ruins, the best being Calakmul near the Belize border and Chichen Itza in the north. Both were spectacular ruins, but we had a very different experience at each location. Chichen Itza sees 1.4 million tourists a year, the parking lot was full of tour buses from Cancun, and the park was inundated with locals selling their mass marketed Mayan wares. Surprisingly, the most popular item seemed to be the Mayan calandar, um......aren't those a little obsolete since the Mayans predicted the end of the earth in 2012? In any event, the ruins were impressive and we had explanations to go along with our walking tour so it was very informative and you can't help but be impressed by El Castillo, the largest pyramid, as well as all the other structures. But somehow sharing it with thousands of other people, some more interested in haggling over the price of some Chinese made "Mayan" artifact with the local vendors, than the ruins themselves, made it a little less of an authentic experience. Our favorite, instead, was Calakmul, hidden 60 miles off the main road, 5 hours from Cancun, protected in a Biosphere reserve, and visited by only a handful of people daily. While it would have been nice to have more direction (we got lost a few times among the ruins), we felt like Indiana Jones discovering the ruins ourselves. The jungle was so overgrown that we had to climb the largest pyramid just to see that there was another giant pyramid several hundred meters away that was the same height. You could walk right by the base of some of these pyramids and not see them. In fact the pyramid at Calakmul is one of the largest Mayan pyramids at 45 meters, taller than the pyramid in Chichen Itza, and rivaling the great pyramid at Tikal, but we almost missed it because the base was covered with vegetation. While we walked between sites the kids ran ahead to see what was up next all the while Howler Monkeys lounged overhead in the high canopy and rainforest birds screeched as they flew by. At one point I wasn't moving fast enough for Ana, as I strolled and watched the antics of a group of monkeys, and she said "Mom, you can see monkeys any old day, you can't see pyramids everyday". In her mind it is normal to see monkeys on a daily basis.
Throughout the trip we spent several nights in different colonial Mexican towns; Campeche, Merida and Valladolid. Campeche was the most impressive with its walled city and surrounding forts. With two boys, forts are a favorite visiting spot and the associated museums usually have some pirate displays which also appeals to them. We still find it intriguing to see English hero's depicted as pirates. Just a nod from the crown and pirates become privateers all the while their plundering remains the same. This whole trip through Mexico and Central America has opened my kid's eyes to the history of the new world. We still haven't tackled US history, but ask them anything about conquistadors, colonial rule and independence from Spain and they can give you an earful.
Heading back towards Cancun, we were stopped several times by the Federales. Ok, not the Federales, more like the Cancun Peninsula police, but that doesn't sound nearly as cool. Although we never experienced any corruption in Mexico on the West Coast, we were stopped three times by police trying to get money out of us on the Yucatan side (la Mordida, or literally the bite). At our first stop they told us the kids were not properly buckled in (Ana had removed the shoulder belt since it hit her in the forehead), meanwhile truckloads of Mexican nationals were passing us by, loaded on the back of flatbeds, clearly not anywhere near a seatbelt. They were very obviously picking out tourists and trying to find anything they could. Speed limits and complete stops are laws for tourists to adhere to, but for nationals those limits were mere suggestions, not rules! We hate to give in to their blatant harassment (when we honestly haven't broken a law), so we try never to pay up, even if it is sometimes more convenient just to pay. These are the times Mike's fluent Spanish really helps. He writes badge numbers down, tells them we are taking two years off, so we have infinite time to go to court and eventually keeps talking until they get tired of him and let us go. So far it has worked for us, but it is sad to know "la mordida" is still prevalent in Mexico.
We are back at the boat now, getting ready for the three days it will take to get to Florida. There are a few places we can tuck into; the Dry Tortugas, , other keys or some islands that are owned by the Bahamas situated between Cuba and Miami. We are going to get out there and see what it is like and decide which direction to go. The currents should be with us, but light winds against us, so we aren't sure what that will do to the waves. Hopefully it will be comfortable.
The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.
Our favorite sailing quote:
"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron