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A Riviera Maya Caribbean Beach Camping Trip or Which Way is Bacalar?

Mar 23, 2008
In the very dim early morning light I hear a large truck pull up just down the beach from us. I look out the tent window and see men with guns getting out of the back. Either these are bandidos, the Zapatistas invading Quintana Roo or the Mexican Army. Fortunately for us, it's the latter.

We get out of the tent and they stop by for a chat. The sergeant speaks great Spanish but it's clear the three privates are Indian and speak with accents. They are all tall, strong, imposing and in full battle gear, much as one would expect from soldiers on beach patrol.

"Where are you going?" asks the sergeant.

"Chetumal," I answer.

"That's where I'm from," he replies, "there are some pretty places to visit there. You ought to see Bacalar."

"What are you doing here?"

"Patrolling the beach though there isn't much to patrol," he answers.

"Not much to do in the Mexican Army".

"Not since the Zapatistas and that guy Marcos. Our unit was one of the first in and that was a fight all right. But now everything has pretty much calmed down there...everybody is behaving themselves so we get to patrol these beaches." They say good-bye and get back in their truck and leave.

The morning is spectacular and we walk out to Solomon's Point on the bay and take more pictures. Fortunately all my batteries are charged and we should be able to take all we want. Camping does present its challenges.

The sea creatures are interesting and we find some that look like ancient trilobites; perhaps distant cousins. The Mexicans have it right; we are all cousins whether directly related or not. We get back to camp and get sleepy; those tourists sure like sleeping a lot.

Hours later some snorkelers wake us up, the sun is high and it is getting hot inside the tent. The better half is already outside talking to them and they just went spear fishing; they got a large barracuda and maybe a dozen smaller fish. They give us three small fish for lunch...

"Great," I tell her, "and just how do you propose we cook them?"

She laughs and says we need to drive into Tulum to get some ice and supplies. I look in the cooler and all we have is a beer; guess it's beer and nuts for breakfast.

We later drive into Tulum and once again cannot believe how it has grown. There are two parts of town; the Mexican side and the Tourist side.

We go into a supermarket in the tourist side and hear German, French, Italian and of course English. Not much Spanish.

There are all the amenities for the tourist and the locals must feel strangely about this invasion of foreigners...but the invaders aren't interested in anything much more than a hundred meters off the beach...so tourism generated jobs aren't that bad a trade off.

But the day may soon come, and it has in certain areas like Cancun, where there is little or no public beach access. Such is life. And we in the States worry about the Mexicans invading us!

With this land grab there is a search for the unspoiled and the turistas talk about this place or that place and how one is more remote than the other.

Everything is relative and it is only a matter of time before all the remoteness will be gone. At least along the Mexican Caribbean beaches.

When we get back, we start the fire and let the coals burn down. I take a walk down the beach. The hotel workers rake the sand in front so there is no trash or seaweed to spoil the dazzling white coral sand.
Of course this accelerates beach erosion.

Many hotels even put wooden planks from the water back up to the hotel so the tourists don't have to get their feet sandy. Go figure...tourists are a strange lot.

On the opposite side of the bay there is new construction. It is a land grab of incredible proportions as the sound of bulldozers can be heard as the jungle is being cleared out.

Back at camp she has already cooked the fish and offering some to two soldiers patrolling the beach. The soldiers are in some kind of training and camping out off the beach.

They are supposed to find their own food; one way or another and the camping tourists seem to be a good way to get fed, ha! We give them tortillas, potatoes, onions as well as fish; living off the land or rather beach as one might say.

We eat the fish on palm frond plates and it is delicious. We eat our fill and watch as tour groups drive past in those four wheeler motorcycles, their fat rear ends dangling and bouncing off the back.

We clean up and I sit down and ponder the universe, just like in those beer commercials with the white sand. But there are no bikini babes in my commercial, though there are some fat German women down the beach baring their sunburned breasts.

The wife asks why not go and shoot pictures of them and I decline. I don't have time for such nonsense when pondering the state of the universe...

I come to the amazing realization that the white sand, sea and warm breezes make one sleepy so I retire for my second nap of the day. What can I say? Sometimes it's better not to fight nature, no?

And yet somehow as great as it is I'm not sure I would pay $500 a day to come and sleep near the beach...even if the German ladies weren't so fat.
About the Author
Jack Deal is the owner of jungle ranch just south of Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Related articles may be found at http://www.jddeal.com/blog/travel and related photos at http://www.freeandinquiringmind.typepad.com
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