The Rambling Writer Takes a Detour Through the Yucatan, Part 1

Rainy gray spring in the Pacific Northwest demands a change of scenery, so Thor and I recently headed south to the land of the Mayans and endless Caribbean beaches. Our favorite secluded getaway just a mile by sea from the Belize border is where we celebrated our honeymoon “luna de miel,” and it always calls us back to enjoy the sea and serenity.  I’ll return to my Greek travel series on April 21, but meanwhile I hope you’ll enjoy a vicarious vacation with us.

After we touch ground in Cancun, we can’t wait to hop into a rental car and head south to put the crowds behind us. It takes a few hours on the road to reach the charming small town of Felipe Carillo Puerto for a lunch break. This time we tried “The Pheasant and the Deer.” I was raised on wild game, so I enjoyed the venison.

I had read about the rebellion in this area by indigenous Mayans against the Spanish descendants, who still dominated the area in the mid 1800s. The movement was inspired when native members encountered a talking cross, “La Cruz Parlante,” that encouraged them to continue fighting their oppressors. They eventually negotiated a treaty with the Mexican government in 1932, gaining some  concessions. Although most natives now practice the Catholic faith, the local churches will not tolerate a Spanish priest, so insist on Irish priests. On the fringes of town there is still a sanctuary of the Talking Cross, maintained as a Mayan cultural center.

Following local custom, the crucifix and crosses are “dressed” in native textiles.

The sanctuary most likely was located in this natural hollow because it holds a small cenote of fresh water. In this dry landscape of porous limestone, which was originally a sea bottom, most fresh water comes from these ubiquitous open cenotes or from underground rivers. A sign next to the cenote reads, “El Agua es Vida” (Water is Life), as it certainly is here.

Heading farther south, we encountered this lovely small cemetery. I always enjoy the vibrant colors also decorating houses and businesses.

At every village along the highway, there are speed bumps, “topes,” to slow traffic, and vendors take the opportunity to sell fruit and juices to drivers.

We weren’t the only ones heading toward the beaches for the Easter holidays.

Finally, after turning off the paved highways onto rutted or dirt “jungle roads,” we reached the small fishing village near our destination.

Another twenty minutes down the ever-narrowing jungle road where we have seen various lizards, snakes, chakalaka birds, and agoutis (similar to racoons) crossing. We’re still hoping for a glimpse of “el tigre,” the fearsome jaguars who occasionally nab someone’s dog:

“Por fin!” We arrive at the small enclave of five beach cottages, and immediately tear off our sweaty clothes for a cooling dip in the Caribbean waters.

On our first trip here, I was translating the road signs for Thor, using my basic Spanish. One particular sign kept admonishing, “No deje piedras sobre el pavimento.” When I told Thor it meant, “Don’t leave rocks on the road,” he wouldn’t believe me, as it didn’t make sense. I said, “It doesn’t have to make sense, but that’s what it says.” When we arrived at our cottage, the owner confirmed that my translation was correct. Apparently most people don’t have flares to use for a breakdown or tire change, so they make small piles of rocks on the edge of the road to alert oncoming traffic, and often forget to remove them afterwards.

In one of my not-yet-finished novels, this one set in this locale, the opening line gives a nod to these road signs and to Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”:  It was only later, facing the scowling Mexican Federales with their assault rifles, that Lars realized he had, indeed, left his rocks in the roadway….

When we settle into a blissful routine of swimming out to the reef to snorkel, eat fresh fruit and fish, and lounge under the whispering palm trees, we finally leave the mundane world behind and open up to the quiet and natural beauty.

We usually snorkel twice a day, sharing the shallow, reef-enclosed waters with spotted eagle rays, my favorite trunkfish, octopus, sea turtles, and all kinds of colorful fish.

Digital Camera

Digital Camera

It’s also wonderful just to drift effortlessly over the sun-shimmered sand and coral. This year there was more wind than usual, and stronger currents, so we had fun walking up the shore, then swimming out to enjoy the reef and then take what Thor called a “carnival ride” by zooming back with the current. We simply can’t get enough of the warm, life-giving sea here. “Gracias!”

The lagoon is a protected marine preserve, but alas, poachers still make a killing with the abundant conch. We often find their beautiful, empty shells on the sea bottom after the poachers have been through.

We can’t live on sunshine and sea alone, so if the owners aren’t cooking that night, we’ll drive back to the village for fresh grilled fish at “Toby’s.”

After you pick out the fish, it’s grilled to order.

And another small resort brews its own beer and distills whiskey.

After an afternoon snorkel, it’s back to our beach to lie beneath the palm trees and “simply drift.”

Next week: Mayan ruins, wild spider monkeys, and more….


You will now find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from a research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at




The Rambling Writer Takes a Detour Through the Yucatan, Part 1 — 9 Comments

  1. Great photos as always, and interesting notes. I wonder what Irish-accented Spanish sounds like. Probably beautiful.

    While I have no desire whatsoever to visit anywhere hotter than I have to live in, I enjoy armchair travel. I look forward to your further adventures.

    • Thanks, Sherwood! ( I just added a couple of underwater photos above.) You would probably enjoy a visit here to our Pacific Northwest, to our snow-packed mountains and cool Puget Sound. Right now, we’re having a typical spring with rain and more rain, and I’m ready to head south again….

  2. God, I love Mexico — haven’t been back in over 20 years. Have to remedy that!

  3. Playa Sonrisa is our happy place and the only locale we feel we have to return to each year. We spent our honeymoon there nine years ago and have been back each year since (kind of like salmon). The nearby town of Xcalak is so small and undeveloped there is literally nothing to do there except eat dinner and watch hermit crabs scuttle across the sand. The only sounds you hear at our lodging are ocean breezes, birds, and the rattle of palm fronds. It is a blessing to go there and swim every day, sunbathe, and disconnect from the news cycle (and reconnect with the real world).