Sunday, July 1 2007, Belize City, Belize
I'm beginning to think we really need a place to stop for a while. We've been travelling for almost 16 months, 15 of them in the confines of the truck camper. We both recognise the need but haven't yet found the place. We liked the beach at Xpu-Ha a lot. It was lovely, fine, white sand and clear, turquoise water. But it was quite hot during the day and neither of us like being out in the sun in the heat of the day for any length of time. So you jump in the water and get wet and then go back to the camper.
After a couple of nights in Xpu-Ha we drove north along the Riviera Maya to Playa del Carmen. Juergen had first visited this place in 1989, when it was a sleepy little town with a few visitors (mostly low-budget backpackers), and was curious to see how it had changed. Needless to say he didn't recognise it at all: now it would probably surpass Byron Bay with the number of tourists per year and has expanded many more than the 3 or 4 blocks back from the beach of 1989. There are 4 or 5 big supermarkets, including the inevitable Wal-Mart, and the beach is absolutely packed with sun lounges and bars. The street one block from the beach (Fifth Avenue) is a pedestrian mall, and is wall to wall tourist shops, designer shops, bars and restaurants. We spent about 2 hours in Playa del Carmen and that included almost an hour in an internet café!
We drove a bit further north looking for a campground that is listed in our trusty guide. It sounded great - 'mostly, deserted beach' and so on - but the reality was a huge resort almost next door and condos being built right next door! It really doesn't take long for the printed word to be out of date when it comes to the Mexican Caribbean. The couple running the place were very nice and there were clean bathrooms, but it was rather expensive and the small restaurant blocked the breeze from the sea so, after one hot night, we decided to keep looking for the place to stay a while. Since we were only a short distance away we decided to drive into Cancun, just to have a look. But we've been to the Gold Coast and Florida, so we didn't need to stay long.
We headed south again with the purpose of looking for a beach cabaña near Tulum. On the way we stopped at another RV Park, which is also a resort with various standards of rooms. It was interesting in that a lot of North Americans leave their RV's there permanently and have built them in to a point that it is not always immediately obvious that there is an RV in there. They wanted too much money for what they were offering us, and we didn't really like the place, so we continued on.
South of the Tulum ruin site, we had heard, there are many cabaña hotels where we thought we might find what we were looking for, so we drove the road all the way to the entrance gate of Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve and back. We checked out a few places, but mainly they were either far more than we were willing to pay, or they had seen better days and the beds looked suspiciously as if they might harbour a variety of creepy-crawlies! We drove back to La Playa at Xpu-Ha and stayed 5 more nights.
I must mention that as we drove along the highway between Tulum and Cancun, we noticed a large number of very ostentatious gateways which lead to the various resorts. We have been constantly amazed at what the Mexicans will build with concrete; ever since we saw them constructing what looked like a post and rail fence out of concrete. That was when we were on the Gulf Coast just after we arrived in Mexico. Then we saw the amazing sight of a house, which looked like timber and was also made of concrete, in a Mayan village outside San Cristobal. And now these incredible gates to resorts - quite often the gate is the first thing to go up. We would see no sign of building work going on behind the enormous structure. And building is happening all up and down this coast. The interesting thing about that is that we walked up the beach from La Playa one evening and discovered a huge resort that was completely deserted - not just closed for the season either, because all the rooms were empty of furniture. In a strange twist, the outside lights were still on. It makes us wonder if the tourist industry can really support the massive building boom that is happening all the way along this coast.
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