Perhaps the best thing about renting a car for part of our Yucatán trip was the opportunity of venturing in smaller country roads – off the beaten track, as it were. The point was usually getting to this cenote or that town, but at some point the route itself became the highlight of the day.
Seeing a rainstorm approaching and then hitting us mercilessly. Spotting animals crossing the road: snakes, lizards, frogs. Enjoying the experience, so consistent yet always different, of entering villages and small towns and slowly rolling in to the main square.
And, let’s face it, “slowly” here is more than a figure of speech, given Mexico’s more than prominent speed bumps.
So let us share with you some of the roads we traveled on, and their related experiences.
Choosing Lol-Ha as our first cenote was a right call for more than one reason. First, it was a quiet, beautiful experience. Second, it afforded our first country drive, crossing a few towns en route to Homún.
We stopped at Yaxcabá to visit the church. Some guy was pulling the bell cord.
I made some small talk.
How old is this church, would you know?
No idea. Older than us, I reckon.
(Not a tinge of irony in the way he said it).
We drove through other, smaller towns. After a while, we noticed a pattern: the main square always had a church, a sports facility – normally basketball court – and municipal building with colonnade. In bigger towns the arrangement would be bigger, in smaller towns, smaller. K. and I wondered whether there was a plan behind such uniformity.
Homún-cenote Mani Chan-Tekit- Sacalum
The day’s highlight came early, at cenotes Mani-Chan and Cleotilde. We then drove past small villages to Tekit, where we stopped for lunch and some shopping.
We saw how tortillas are made. Wanted to buy some, but they wouldn’t let us pay. Then we had a hearty local meal at a colorful restaurant. To top it off, we hit the best possible store to purchase a guayabera or Yucatán traditional shirt.
Sacalum – Ticul – Kabah – Campeche
Our hotel in Sacalum was among the cheapest in our vacation. What the hell, it was the cheapest! And yet, it was one of the few in which we took a break and enjoyed a quiet morning of r’n’r by the pool.
In the afternoon we hit Ticul, where it was hot as hell. Peeping into the main church, we almost made it t a wedding photo shoot. But we had some driving to do before reaching Campeche, our destination for the night. En route to the Kabah ruins, we refueled at a dispensario de lubricantes in Santa Elena.
The terrain turned hilly between Santa Elena and Kabah. Hills are a welcome break after so much plain.
While Alf visited the ruins, K. stayed in the shade and listened to Braulio, tour guide and wannabe poet. He shared with her a sonnet that barely rhymed and stories-a-plenty.
And there’s more, of course. Roadside restaurants – good, bad and ugly. More boring stretches and storms. Police roadblocks and friendly conversations. More towns – many more.
So yes, do rent a car if it fits your plans. And, if so, by all means escape the toll roads and hit the Yucatán backcountry.
We doubt you’ll regret it.