Isla Mujeres Mystery ~ Lynda L. Lock

“Hagamos un viaje por carretera” Let’s take a road trip!

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When our friend Janet tore off the page on her Living Language day-by-day Spanish calendar to reveal the words of wisdom for the day this is what she discovered – “Hagamos un viaje por carretera.” Let’s take a road trip!  Prophetic words indeed!
Sun’s comin’ up while we’re on boat
We had arranged to pick up Janet and Dave at 5:30 in the morning so that we could catch the first car ferry off of the island which leaves at 6:00 a.m.   Dave – it turns out – is definitely not an early morning person.  He doesn’t do “o-dark-hundred.”  He was still grumping about getting up at 4:45 when we picked them up at 5:30 a.m.  He grumped more while on the ferry, and still more as we drove towards Valladolid.  In his world morning doesn’t start until 8:00 a.m.   We even supplied him with a pillow so that he could resume his beauty sleep.
I had originally planned a pretty rigorous agenda for the day; pottery shopping in Leona Vicario (a small hamlet near Cancun), then Valladolid for breakfast, next Ek Balaam temple ruins, then Rio Lagartos to see the flamingoes, and return to Punta Sam to catch the last car ferry around 8:15 p.m.  It didn’t quite happen that way but we had a fun day with lots of laughs all the same. 

Valladolid Centro

I drove, Dave co-piloted, and Janet and Lawrie navigated from the back seat.  We had breakfast in Valladolid at the Hotel el Meson del Marques, which is turning out to be one of our favorite places to stay and to eat while on road trips.  Then we headed north (I think, but have absolutely no sense of direction) towards the Ek Balaam temple. 
As it was already 10:00 in the morning by this time I suggested that we bypass our visit to the ruins to the accompaniment of sighs of relief from both Dave and Lawrie.  In their words: “seen one ruin, seen ‘em all.”
We made pretty good time on Highway 295, until we hit Tizimen, a medium-sized town between Valladolid and Rio Lagartos.  All the streets are one-way, which is pretty common in the colonial towns that were built before the invention of vehicles as the streets are now too narrow for two-way vehicle traffic.  But they were one-way with no directional signs other than “Tizimen Sorriana’s” which I took to mean that this was the way to follow.  Nope!  It took us to the Sorriana’s grocery store in Tizimen.  It’s was great place for a pit-stop to use the very clean baños.  Then in desperation I turned to the back-seat drivers and said “which way?” Lawrie and Janet both said north.  Okay, where the hell is north?   Dave said turn left, they said turn right, turns out the driver and co-pilot had absolutely no sense of direction, but the two back-seat drivers were right bang on and we found highway #295 again.

Calotmul Cathedral

The next photo op was a very small town called Calotmul with a beautiful but abandoned cathedral.  Just a quick stop to take a couple of photos and back on the road again.   We discovered that the road from Valladolid to Calotmul has many, many furniture makers that display their chairs, stools, tables and other wares along the roadside.  It would be a good place to shop if we were in need of furniture.

We arrived in Rio Lagartos around noon, and headed to the Rio Lagartos Adventures and Torreja Restaurant owned and operated by Diego Nunez and his family.  He was recommended to us by another island friend, Harriet Lowe. 

Thousands of birds on the Rio Lagartos

We had an interesting two-hour long boat trip up the river.  We saw flamingoes, osprey, storks, herons, and other fascinating birds.  Diego took us through the mangroves on the off chance that we would spot a crocodile, but they are nocturnal so no luck there.  He also suggested that we might want to participate in the mud baths, but fortunately none of us had brought bathing suits so we could skip that dubious pleasure.  I don’t know, but somehow the idea of plastering ourselves with a combination of sand, mud and bird poop just didn’t do it for us.
Folks who did the mud bath (sand and bird poop) option

By the time we got off the river boat a nasty storm was hanging over the community of Rio Lagartos.  We managed – with a few wrong turns down unmarked one-way streets – to find Highway 295 back in the direction of Valladolid.  Then the storm hit!  Ugly but short.  

Rio Lagartos

Our adventure back through Tizimen was nearly as exciting as the first time.  We drove straight into town on Highway 295 only to discover, as the locals were madly waving at us, that it suddenly turns into a one-way the wrong way!  Damn-it!  We turned around, headed left!  Nope – dead end!  Turned around again, and headed back towards the group of guys who were hanging out on the street corner laughing at us.  One of the guys was motioning towards the road that we should have taken.  Faking embarrassment Dave hid behind his pillow while the woman-driver stopped and thanked the guys for helping us out, that made them laugh even harder! 

Our favourite restaurant in Valladolid

Back in Valladolid by around 4:30 p.m., we decided to have an early dinner at the Taberna de Los Frailes (Friar’s Tavern) near the nunnery.  It’s a great spot with a pleasant ambiance, and varied menu, except of course, not everything is available all the time.  We arrived back at the UltraMar water taxi at Puerto Juarez around 7:30 p.m., having decided to leave the car on the Cancun side for the night.
Lawrie and I love road trips – and they are a heck of a lot more fun with willing adventure partners.  Let’s do another road trip soon … and yes, Dave, we will be leaving again at o-dark-hundred!


4 Replies to ““Hagamos un viaje por carretera” Let’s take a road trip!”

  1. Great post. I can't believe you made it to Rio and back in one day. I thought it was much further than that. But Ek Balaam is the one ruin that is different from the others. I'm sure you've been before but its my favorite. I love the restaurant at the Hotel de Meson del Marques. The decor is so unique and so is the food. LOVE IT!! That big wine cask candle glowing at night is so pretty and the margaritas there are delish. Thanks for such a great road trip report.


  2. Haven't been to Ek Balaam yet – as I mentioned my travel partner is getting a bit ho-hum over ruins. Eventually I'll get there. So many people have said it is lovely to see. Thank you for reading our blog! Cheers Lynda


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