Monday, November 23, 2015

Lake Living

After leaving Tulum I made my way south to Bacalar, one of the last places I'd marked on my map of Mexico as a "place to check out." It would be my last stop of an amazing six weeks in Mexico, and what a last stop it was.

Bacalar is one of the only towns on a 30 mile long lake that's fed by underwater rivers and has the nickname "lake of seven colors" because of the vibrant colors of the water as you go to different parts of the lake. I arrived in the town and headed to a restaurant that looked pretty busy with locals. Inside, someone asked me about the bike, and then told me he was also heading around Mexico on a motorcycle for a while, and was staying at the Green Monkey hostel. That was already one of my choices for where to stay, so with safe parking for a motorcycle guaranteed, I headed straight there. That was, without a doubt, the right choice.

The main building and the hangout palapa on the left.

I pulled out the tent for the first time on the trip, and was rewarded with some dust from Burning Man.
The vibe at this place is very laid back... it's the kind of place where half of the guests will tell you that they planned on staying two days but have been there two weeks now. It's super easy to just go up to the porch and say hi to someone, and be part of the group. There seemed to constantly be someone rolling a joint to pass around or handing out beers, and a constant influx of travelers with the occasional departure if someone was able to escape the gravity well that this place seemed to be.

One of the "dorms" is literally a bus with beds in it.
I can see it, for sure. If I thought I could stay anywhere for a week or more, it would be this place. Relaxed, but constantly things going on and activities to do. But I think my traveling momentum is a little to high to be contained even by a place as good as this.

But for two days, it was home. I set up the tent, but only slept in it - the rest of the time was spent hanging out in a hammock on the porch. There were so many there that I didn't even need to get out mine to put up. After an evening just hanging out on the porch, I made plans with Renato to go out on the paddleboarding tour in the morning.

The tour started nice and early, but it was worth it to avoid the heat. We headed out on the water and across color after color after color of water. Deep dark blues, to turquoise, greens, and even the clear blue of the Caribbean, though with freshwater. We paddled out to the middle of the lake where there was some sort of structure - it looked like a concrete boat, but it may have been a building on an island that was now underwater by a foot or so. After donning snorkel gear and checking out some of the fish in the mangroves nearby, we climbed up to the bow of the "ship" and jumped off into the clear waters below.

The structure


I make weird faces when I jump off things into water.
Next we headed back to the edge of the lake but a little ways down to a cenote that's 90m (300ft) deep. Going from clear lakewater 10 feet deep to suddenly being over a hole that deep is quite disconcerting. We parked the boards on the shore nearby and donned the snorkel gear again. I made one dive really quick down into the cenote, but was stopped not by the depth or lack of air, but by how disoriented I felt swimming down an almost vertical wall into the blackness below.

After returning to the hostel by 9:30am, we got some and then I went back to relax mode, chilling out for a nap in the hammock, followed by polishing off the book I was reading. I would have sat and wrote blog posts, but my computer apparently didn't like the humidity in Bacalar and had shut down almost immediately when I tried to boot it up. So I considered that a sign that I should just be relaxing and enjoying what would probably be my last day in Mexico.

I wasn't as comfy as this puppy though.

We took a group photo with her polaroid camera while we were all hanging out.
I did make a trip up the hill to the main square around lunch time to pick up some quesadillas and see what was around. I had bought a bracelet from a girl at the hostel the night before, and with that, my necklace, and my shirt, I figured there was really only one drink I could possibly order.

My conversion to Fanta is complete.
Artist working on a painting outside a new restaurant.
Eventually in the afternoon, a group of people in the hostel were heading over to some swings over the water they'd heard about. When we got there, we had to go through a restaurant to get there, so we thought we might have to order something to be able to get to them... but the power was out at the restaurant, so they were actually closing down. They were kind enough to let us cut through and use the swings for a while though.

Turns out it's kind of hard to get going on a swing over water when you don't want to get wet.
But a couple of us managed it.
It was a nice evening to be hanging out on the lake, especially since I'd heard they'd just finished up with five straight days of rain.
Gandalf from the hostel followed us the whole two mile walk down the road and through the restaurant.
Upon returning, I went with a Brazilian, two Australians, and an Italian to a restaurant they'd tried the night before, where I got some delicious American-style food. Artisan sausages and fries for me, while others got the steak, the barbecue ribs, or the burger. They even had a craft beer selection, so I was pretty happy when that turned out to include a Chicago beer.

Larissa is not as impressed with Goose Island as I am.
Another night on the porches hanging out, drinking, and talking capped off my stay in Bacalar. I think I even convinced Valentino (the owner of the hostel) to haul the bus with beds all the way to Burning Man next year, and he seemed pretty excited about it.

After a beautiful early morning, I packed up the bike, did a little research, and headed for my first border crossing since I pulled into Tijuana six weeks earlier.

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