The Yucatan Peninsula on Mexico’s south east coast was next for exploration. We knew we had some fairly long drive days ahead of us but we were ready for task. We try not to backtrack as much as we can, but the map showed winding roads and slow driving in order cross the mountains separating the west from east, so we headed back to Oaxaca and pointed the truck east. We drove uphill for several hours before we finally reached the top of the range and as we began our even steeper descent, the landscape immediately changed. On the west side were dry pine forests but on the east side were tropical high mountain forests. Once we finally got to the base of the mountains on the east, nearly five hours after leaving Hierve del Agua, we had only driven 85 miles and were about 50 miles from where we started, as the crow flies. When we hopped out of the truck for a PB&J sandwich for lunch, the wall of humidity and heat was an unwelcome surprise after our comfortable temperatures in the mountains.
Two days and 600 miles after leaving Oaxaca, we approached the edge of the city of Campeche. We both found it strange that there was a wonderful divided highway with brand new street lights but we were the only vehicle on the road. We later found out that Campeche was unlike many Mexican towns we had visited to this point.
Initially, we planned on camping overnight in Campeche and passing through but after we drove along the Malecon, Laughlin fell in love with the city. Its quiet hum, clean streets, blends of new and old architecture caught her eye and mine as well. We read that we could park overnight at the visitors center so we went inside to confirm this and get some information about this wonderful town we had just stumbled upon. Felix was the tourist information worker who gave us a very warm welcome, gave us a calendar of events and told us about a folk music and dance festival that we to happen in 30 minutes. We shook his hand and began walking to find the festival.
We walked down a few blocks before finding chairs set out on the sidewalk and street with a dance floor on the front steps of a historic church. We grabbed a seat unsure what we were about to witness and ended up seeing classical Mexican dancing with classic music. It was a great way to be introduced to Campeche.
We set up our camper that night but still weren’t accustomed to the heat. It was 9pm and 84 degrees outside, 88 degrees inside our camper and probably 80% humidity. Surprisingly we slept well in the heat but knew it would be a difficult adjustment.
Our only full day in Campeche started out with some great coffee and an internet fix. After a quick lunch, we parked the truck and walked through some artisanal shops to see what the local “goods” were. As we left the shop, we already began melting in the heat and decided to find a park and get some shade. We walked through the old city inside the fortified walls and admired the beautiful buildings and fun shops. After hopping from shade to shade, we found our park where we enjoyed watching the locals, tourists, and the massive flock of pigeons flying from one side of the park to the other. I was lucky enough to nearly snag a pigeon out of the air with my hat! Our day was pretty uneventful but enjoyable and we took advantage of our second live music performance that night in dark under the lights.
After our quick, unprepared visit to Campeche, it was obvious these people care a great deal for their town. The tourist clerk said people take tourists very serious and joked that if you cross the street, every single car will stop for you. They absolutely did. The music we heard on our second night was about Campeche and many of the locals in the park were singing along. The streets were clean and the town was well kept. The “abandoned” streets I mentioned earlier were put in place to prepare for growth and tourism. We felt bad that we weren’t prepared for our visit to Campeche but believe it is a great town with an awful lot to offer.
Following Campeche, we headed east to visit the ruins of Chichen Itza. Keep your eyes peeled for that in our next blog post!