Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chiapas to Cozumel

As we posted earlier, we didn't take the direct route to Cozumel from Cordoba, however, we may have taken the more interesting route. The road from San Cristóbal to Palenque goes through the Chiapas highlands. An early departure from the capital meant that we would pass through the mountains as the sun was burning off the morning mists. The tough part is finding a shoulder or small turnout to pull over when a photo opportunity arises.

There were lots of spots where one lane of the highway had been washed away by landslides caused by this seasons tropical rains, but the route was better than passable, and we made it to Palenque in less than five hours. This meant that our destination of Lake Bacalar, another five hours, was very doable.

Lake Bacalar is a large, brackish lake north of Chetumal. Surrounded on one side by weekend homes, hotels and gringo retirees, while the other side is dominated by mangroves and a few crocodiles. The lake is a very affordable alternative to oceanside living and the ocean is only an hour or so away.

A relaxing evening at Casita Carolina was followed by a relaxing morning with breakfast at a vegetarian restaurant/yoga studio. We're not in Chihuahua anymore José.

It was an easy drive to Playa del Carmen, with tacos at El Mariachi on the main highway in Tulum, and a quick shopping stop before catching the 6:00 PM ferry to Cozumel.

The first week is a flurry of nesting, getting internet ordered, buying a cell phone with a local number, getting the house in order and coming to terms with living, not vacationing, in another country. We are fortunate to have a few locals who have been helping us out with some of the issues (just when is the trash picked up - and how?), and they (Delfina and Iliana especially) keep the transition from being a lonely, isolating experience.

After more than a week on the road, we're pretty happy to cook linguine with white clam sauce, a panang curry with shrimp and squid (DON'T use coconut cream - only coconut milk), and a chicken mole. Still, we manage to get out for local food a couple of times.

Delfina told us about El Camarones Dorados, which has excellent fish and shrimp tacos. Just as plates loaded with shrimp tacos and tostadas, fish tacos, and conch tostadas arrived, the phone rang saying that the cable guy was at the house to hook us up.

"Right now?" "Yes, I will wait here with him until you arrive," Delfina said.

A couple of quick photos, pack up the food para llevar, and race for home. Don't keep the cable man waiting.

Despite the threat of rain, we tried out the new paddle boards on the east side, (its not as easy as some people make it look). After moderate success and several dunkings, we took a break at the Playa Bonita beach bar for some guacamole and grilled squid. The first salsa was devoid of any heat (or flavor), so we asked for something, un poquito mas picante. We got it. The habanero chiles got our attention. While being a little pricey by local standards, the cost was OK considering the ocean side location.

We'll get out more in the next few weeks and will post some photos and reviews of some of our favorite Cozumel spots.

Until then, here are a few photos of the Chiapas highlands, Laguna Bacalar, Playa Bonita and El Camarones Dorado.

Keeps those emails and comments coming.

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