Monday, May 8, 2017

Campeche to Playa del Carmin

Riviera Maya
3500 miles (5600 km) thru Mexico in 35 days

Campeche to Playa del Carmen in 1 day

The roads from Campeche to Merida, to Playa del Carmin were very nice.  Divided most of the way and in very good shape.  The toll road started about 50 km east of Merida and ended just outside Playa del Carmin.  After the narrow, winding roads and high traffic from Puerto Vallarta down the Pacific coast it was a huge relief to drive on roads where there were no bottom scrapping topes (speed bumps) and you could actually drive faster than the speed limit of 110 kph (68 mph).  Remember this is Mexico where speed limits and laws of the road are merely a suggestion.  But we have noticed that road traffic on the Yucatan peninsula actually yields to pedestrians in a cross walk.  Also many crosswalks are on on top of flat top topes (we call them flat tops since the speed bump can be 8 to 12 inches high, that ramps up in about 2 to 3 feet, has a flat top that is just the length of the Prius' wheelbase before it ramps down again to the level of the road.
A flat top tope, these are the nice ones!  You can see it coming, has a nice ramp up and down and is only 8 to 10 inches high.

I (Gerald) have to be careful driving now, since I've gotten out of the habit of stopping for pedestrians (don't want to get rear ended!).  There are lots of road signs on the Yucatan that say "el peaton es primero" which literally translates to "the pedestrian is first" or as we would say in the USA, "yield to pedestrians".

The last leg was Mex 305D that drops down to Playa del Carmen.  There must have at least a dozen Monkey bridges across it.  Its all jungle and is a monkey habitat preserve, but the highway is a barrier for the monkeys.  So they string 2 steel cables on top of telephone poles across the road and attach a rope ladder (looks like like a ladder laying horizontal with rope rungs stretching between the two ropes attached to the steel cables).  Each pole at the end has 3 or 4 large ropes tied to trees in the jungle canopy that the monkeys use to get to the rope ladder.  The ropes appear to be 3 or 4 inches in diameter.  This allows the monkeys to scurry over the highway without having to drop down to ground level.  We drove through this area in the hot early afternoon so it was not surprising that we didn't see any monkeys.
On the beach at Playa del Carmen
Enjoying molcajete, a local Yucatan dish cooked in a stone bowl in a restaurant on 5th avenue, Playa del Carmen.

We have seen a few places offer mondongo, but its not the mondongo I so loved at Efrains restaurant in Lafayette Colorado.  Efrains used beef stew pieces simmered in a red sauce.  From what I have been seeing, the (Yucatan, Panama, Costa Rico, etc) recipes all use beef or pork tripe.  So cochinita pibil (a close second) and molcajete will have to do for us as we are note tripe fans!

Our room at the Grand Mayan faces the jungle so we get to hear and see some of the local wildlife.  The Chachalaca birds (Chachalaca) and pink flamingos (show birds for the resort as an ecological project, not wild) usually wake us up in the mornings.  If you think peacocks can make a lot of noise, you have never heard a Chachalaca - its not a large bird (skinny pigeon sized) with an amazing noise!   Several nights it has been cool enough to sleep with the patio doors open (on the second floor so we don't have to worry about critters coming in).  One of which is the coati:
Coati or Mexican Tejon,or Mexican Raccoon....
Now this poor Mexican Raccoon (what the staff here at Vidanta call it), has a name problem.  From wikipeida: The coati, also known as the Coati-Mundi or coatimundi, hog-nosed coon, Mexican tejón, cholugo, or moncún, Guatemalan and Costa Rican pizote, Colombian cusumbo, and other names, is a member of the raccoon family.

The jungle is really amazing to us since we haven't had a lot of exposure to jungle life.  When were were coming back from the Cirque du Soleil show, it was dark (about 10:30 pm) and we were on an elevated wood walk way with side railings.  We noticed some leaf bits moving down the top rail.  Looked closer and it was leaf cutter ants.  About every foot or two was an ant (about 1/4 inch in size) carrying a bit of leaf about 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch and empty ants going the other way.  We followed them for over 60 yards from where they came off a tree limb touching the rail to where they went down the 10 foot post to ground level.  We looked for them the next morning and there was no sign of them.  Since it can be rather hot during the day time, we suspect they forage only at night.

Some of the street art in Playa del Carmen.

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