Maya Rally, the Final Push
We wake up discussing the possible outcomes and trying to figure out how much fuel we have left in the tank. For once on this trip, it wasn’t the bus’ fuel we were concerned about filling and this decision didn’t involve our daily stop to remove the jerry cans from the roof. We did a gut check to see whether we simply stay in the camp to relax and rest our weary bodies (and bus), or whether we dig deep and head back out in attempt to gather points and have a chance at winning. Funny conversation for us since yesterday morning we still weren’t certain we could even complete the rally. Last time we saw Team Astrid, we were pretty certain they were the most competitive team among the vehicles on the road. We also were surprised how close to them our score was, and that despite having to sacrifice an item or two for speed we were right on their heels. We love those guys and would be happy to see them win, but our inner competitive spirit is itching and we devise a plan to make a run for the finish line.
We now sit at the southern end of the yucatan and the rally has two open ended points categories, one for foreign license plates and one for cenotes. We decide to spend today driving north to visit each and every cenote (with reasonable access) and grabbing as many gringo plates as we can as we pass through towns like tulum and playa del carmen. Tomorrow (assuming we still have it in us) we’ll drive south to the border town to see if we can up the license numbers with those crossing in from Belize.
Confident in our choice, we write our goal on the chalkboard and leave the campground prepped at least mentally for two more long days of driving the bus, which by now sounds ready to join the 1000s of trashed vehicles lining the yonkes on the outskirts of each town we pass. 2 hours in we have to stop because we are questioning our decision. Are we pushing ourselves too hard? Does it even matter? Did’nt we just join the rally to experience mexico and meet new people (which we’ve already accomplished)? We actually turn the vehicle around and head 5 minutes back towards bacalar but regain our earlier gusto and pull another u-turn and continue north.
We stroll the streets of playa del carmen in hopes of vegetarian chinese...still one of the oddest points categories on the list, and hoping for mariachis as that somehow has eluded us throughout our drive. We finally give up and grab some road food, as as much as we crave driving north 20 more minutes to revisit the site of our wedding 4 years ago we know that time isn’t on our side.
We secure almost 30 cenotes, the maximum 5 mayan ruins and by the time the sun is sinking toward the horizon we are completely spent (as with every end of day in the last 2 weeks). Tulum is a town that has much meaning for us as it was one of our first international trips together, and we roll in and head for the coastal road where we stayed a decade ago. So much has changed here and it has grown significantly from the 3-5 wooden cabana “resorts” that used to be the extent of the offerings. Despite the countless new restaurants, spas and resorts we still really love the feel of this rather european little town. We do see signs of giant development encroaching that make us fear it wont always remain this way...but sadly nothing ever does.
We head to the same restaurant were 10 years ago we watched the same sun set over the same horizon and settle in for a well earned margarita and some conversation with the couples around us. The nearest happens to be from Oregon and has just started their new life in mexico. The smiles on their faces make it unnecessary to ask if they made the right decision and were it not for our need to capture more points (and find a place to camp) we could have talked with them into the evening.
Once the sun has broken the horizon we turn back to the actual town of Tulum away from the coast. Our waiter told us of Mariachi Loco, and with name like that they surely must have a mariachi band for us to snap photos with... We park the bus just outside and around the corner with easy access hear the arrival of musicians (should they come) and enough tree coverage to cloak our home for the night. About an hour or so later we sit at the bar for a tequila and a giant plate of nachos and are thrilled when a traditional mariachi band arrives and begins playing for the crowd. The crowd of course is us and one other table, so we get plenty of chances to drink with the guys, pose for our mandatory photos and eat our nachos while being serenaded by the fun loving trio.
After dinner we are in the bus and out almost immediately. The few times we wake up in the middle of the night we can still hear the local crowd partying inside to the gentle rythym of the mariachis. Maybe the best stealth camping spot ever.