Friday, December 16, 2011

Nature explorations in the Yucatán: flamingo & croc shooting (with camera) and a dip to another cenote

After a night with beers, Mexican shots and stories, I got up at 5am yesterday to jump on a second class bus to Tizimin with Pedro where we would – if lucky – change straight away to another bus for Río Lagartos. It was pitch dark when we escaped from the hostel to the bus station. The connection to Río had gone when we got to Tizimin so we went to see if we could find a collectivo (a shared taxi van) but no luck either. So we walked around the poor little town and had a fantastic 10 peso breakfast. I can tell you there are zero tourists in Tizimin - and frankly the only interesting thing to see is the local people!

When we got to Río Lagartos it was already around 10am. Río Lagartos is a natural reserve about a 100km north of Valladolid, on the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, known for the local wildlife – flamingos, pelicans and crocodolies among others. The bus, and the two of us, was greeted by a guide just as I expected, who escorted us to through the empty street to the port.
We must have been the only people in the fishing village or so it appeared. Tour guide Gabriel in the photo.
We bargained for a price for a boat tour to the estuary. Our guide Gabriel took us and the boat out to the windy “river” and we were anxious to see the pink birds! Before the flamenco area there were lots of seagulls, pelicans, storks, terns and other birds peaking at the bushes along the estuary and hovering above. Gabriel easily spotted several crocs between the branches here and there even though they were totally invisible to us in the beginning.
Crocodile - not alligator like the name says and the Spaniards falsely assumed .. it's not a river either.
Finally we arrived, past the salt fields, to the flamingo spot. And there they were, little groups of tens of pink flamingos. As we approached them quietly the birds would determinedly walk away with their long legs and ultimately run to a take-off if we got too close. I thought the flamingos looked so funny with their big eyes, waddling away. And their color was simply beautiful, very deep coral pink.

On the way back to the pier I asked Gabriel to drive us to the mud field so that I could try the local clay mask – which they told me would make my skin soft and possibly make me look 3 years younger! :D
Since we had just missed a bus back to Tizimin we hopped on a collectivo to the neighboring seaside village of San Felipe where we had a nice fish and shrimp meal. San Felipe was – if possible – even more deserted than Río Lagartos but at least on the way back we got to see a very interesting and stunning local cemetery and we scaled to a local bird tower. If you want an 'off the beaten track' place that's your place! 

 It was a rewarding experience all round!

I decided I needed one more peaceful day before I could move on and was happy to hear my room was available for another night. On my last day in Valladolid I rented a bike from the hostel and cycled to a cenote outside the town. 7km from Valladolid there are two interesting cenotes next to one another: I visited the Samulá. It’s a stunning cavern with the height of tens of meters. From a hole the diameter of a couple meters there’s a tree that has roots that drop down to the bottom to drink the clear cenote water. The cavern is lit all around and the water is filled with small fish.

It was a nice bike ride from town, I really enjoy the freedom and fresh air while cycling and there is a paved (though not in the best shape but totally ok to ride) bike road along the highway so it’s very safe. I also visited a village closeby, Dzitnup, and was greeted by warm smiles from the local passers-by everywhere I went – like all round in the little part of Mexico I've seen so far, both on and off the tourist/traveller areas. They seem to be happiest and most polite people I have met!

This little niña was happy to pose for me in San Felipe - I asked if I could take a picture of her and got the biggest smile ever :)

Tomorrow I’ll head onwards to Merida where I plan to spend the weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed Valladolid, it’s a lovely laidback Mexican town with tons of history, all in a well manageable form, ready for you to enjoy without feeling like you’re in a tourist trap! I met some fantastic people too and feel yet more confident I’m on the right track with my trip.

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