(this was supposed to be a boring driving day… little I knew :-)
After yesterday’s problems with Julio, the car, the night ended quiet with lots of book-related writing.
In the morning, the bedbugs were back :-( This time I took more drastic action. I threw away all clothes that might had been exposed to them. At the time, I couldn’t figure out why they hadn’t appeared the night before but reappeared this morning. Later in the day, when I had lots of time to think (read below), I came up with a hypothesis that I’ll need to investigate.
I decided that today’s destination would be Chutamal with a stop halfway to see the ruins around Xpujit. After a couple of hours of driving, I reached Chicanna, the first of a group of sites in the southern part of the Yucatan peninsula. I was all alone! It was fantastic. I had the entire site to myself. However, my excitement was quickly gone. Could this be the reason that no one was around? The site itself was nice but as I started walking through the jungle, a storm of mosquitoes launched a coordinated attack. I am not lying, that’s how it felt. Yes, typical Savas… no mosquito propellant. I had to wear my long-sleeved top and hood :-)
BTW… in case you were wondering, the Maya were NOT helped by aliens, as the sign outside Chicanna proclaims :-) Here’s a zoomed in part of the photo of that sign :-)
I quickly went through the site and then drove only few minutes away to Becan, the capital of this group of Maya cities, known as Rio Bec sites. As I parked I was offered protection for my car by many kids. I guess they get corrupt at an early age in this area (read below). I agreed to pay upon my return and only after I made sure that nothing had happened to the car. With my own personal security on guard, I felt safe to go into the site :-)
It was an absolute joy. I think I enjoyed Becan the best from all the sites I’ve visited this week. Not because the structures were more magnificent than the others. They were great but that wasn’t the reason I enjoyed them more. There were only 2-3 more people walking around the 6 sq. mile site. That in combination with the fact that we were allowed to climb the pyramid made the experience unforgettable. I think I spent more than an hour at the top of the pyramid, above the trees of the jungle alone, and way above the clouds of mosquitoes :-). The view was excellent but, most importantly, the sounds of the jungle, the peaceful landscape ,and the vibe were captivating. I tried to absorb everything, with no one around to distract me. BTW… the panorama below represents a 270 degree view.
At times, I tried to empty my mind, but I mostly did lots of thinking up there. Amongst the many topics I covered was the bedbugs situation (I still don’t know if they are bedbugs but they are definitely bugs, very annoying ones!). Well, the difference between the two nights they appeared and the one in between when they were nowhere to be found was the use of the laptop on the bed. Could it be that, like the ants on day 3, bugs from that bad hotel in Progresso found rescue into my laptop? Could it be that whenever I worked on my laptop in the evenings, they had been re-emerging for some food, which happened to be my blood? I’ll check the theory tonight.
It was already mid-afternoon when I decided that it was time to go. I paid my dues to one of the kids, 10 pesos. He had this very characteristic expression of someone who wanted to convey his sympathy for taking advantage of me and for doing something wrong but, still, was doing it anyway :-) Little I knew that I was just about to see that expression again.
Left the site and started driving towards Xpujit, only few mins away. At the entrance of this little town, another police block (of the many I had gone through). This time around, though, no smiles. They stopped me while letting all the locals go by. In front of me, a German couple who turned out to have exactly the same problem as what I was about to have.
Apparently the car doesn’t have license papers. The car rental company doesn’t keep the license papers in the car. The policeman knew that so after my driving license he asked for the car’s paperwork. I didn’t have them. He said that it was a big problem and he asked me to pay 600 pesos. I called the car rental company who explained to them that, if they wanted the paperwork, the company could have them faxed immediately. The car rental guy told me that the policeman would go look for the fax number. Well, the policeman was not interested in looking for a fax number. Instead, he went to get the big boss.
And here it was… that face expression again :-) I wonder whether this guy was related to the kid from the site. I stayed calm but I was boiling inside. I knew what they were really after. The night I arrived I was warned about this situation by the guy who gave me the keys to the car. They wanted money. It’s really difficult for me to do something like this since I feel like I am sponsoring this type of behavior for the future. It’s not right! But then again, the travel guide did say that I could end up in jail if I didn’t comply. So I negotiated and brought the price down to 100 pesos. I paid up and was on my way. The German couple in front of me also paid.
Throughout my journey so far, I didn’t broke a single traffic rule but that’s how things go I guess. I called the rental car company to let them know that everything was ok and that I was on my way again. The guy on the line tried to be apologetic about the Mexican policemen and then made this excellent comment: “We have so many beautiful beaches, why do you want to go to these places?” :-))) I laughed. I told him that it wasn’t his fault of course and that I was really enjoying the entire thing :-)
I stopped for lunch. Again, I let the lady of the restaurant pick what I was going to eat. It was delicious (or I am just very hungry) apart from the fries, which I eat anyway though :-)
Next, the drive to Chutamal was uneventful. As one of my travel guides said, Chutamal itself is uninteresting. After I arrived, I found a hotel (the most expensive to-date but with HOT WATER… hurray :-), cleaned up and went out. I was walking around, ate, drunk beer, etc. for around 3 hours. Nothing really special to report. I went to many different pharmacies trying to go on the attack on the bedbug situations. We’ll see.
Well, the arrival to Chetumal also marks the end of the first stage of my trip. The sunset reminded me that I was finally in the Caribbean. I can’t wait to the next stage… Belize.
I haven’t planned what I am going to do in Belize (as if I had planned anything else until today :-) I was originally thinking of doing the same, traveling around at random and enjoying the sea. While emerged in my thoughts at the top of the pyramid in Becan, I had another idea about what might be good to do in Belize. I am going to look it up tonight and see if I can pull it off. I’ll report back after things happen :-) Wish me luck tomorrow.
Lesson of the day: Avoid the police in Mexico!
Since I am at the end of the first stage of the trip, here’s a map of the ground I covered at very high level. I’ve been keeping track of all my stops and exact route (well, apart from when I got lost :-), so I can create a more detailed route at some point.