Colours of the lake: 7
Mexican haircuts: 1
During the pleasingly comfortable four hour bus journey we watched Tom Cruise save the world again with a surprisingly suitable Spanish accent and shortly arrived in Bacalar. Jumping off onto a main roadside we befriended a solo traveller and split a taxi to the lake. I need to explain at this point that any preconceptions of a lake, especially a British lake, need not be applied to this Mexican treasure. You could be forgiven for thinking it was the Caribbean sea as the scale and colours combine to create a delightful spectacle of nature. We settled in to the Blue Monkey hostel which whilst inside was as basic as a cardboard box, outside the garden stretched onto a pontoon inviting us to dive into the sea, sorry lake, which is what we did immediately. Known to be a lake of seven colours, we swam in the clearest section and within an hour knew we wanted to extend our stay.
With a strong appetite for kayaking, we embarked on a fluorescent green vessel and spent an hour marvelling at our surroundings. With success we managed to stay in our kayak unlike the German couple we witnessed instantly capsizing and unable to return to theirs until back on land; they took it well and laughed throughout the ordeal. Several other water-based activities were on offer to which Seb naturally wanted to undertake all of them. He settled on a three hour paddle boarding tour of the lake which started at 6am on our last day in time for sunrise and covered three key points; two cenotes and a pirate ship. I experienced a ten minute taster of paddle boarding on the second day, starting on my knees (as advised) I maintained balance and was encouraged to try standing. Glancing at Seb gliding across the water as elegantly as a figure skater, I agreed. Immediately my legs transformed from sturdy human flesh and bone to the consistency of a mango smoothie. Remarkably I paddled without falling for at least 2-3minutes before retreating to the security of the kneeling position. Assured the water in the afternoon is much more difficult to navigate and balance on than the calm of the morning, I reluctantly also signed up for the tour with Seb the next day.
After kayaking we were ready for lunch and discovered a lovely wood-laiden cafe about 5mins from the hostel – every table an oiled chunky trunk of a tree. Serving exquisite cactus tacos, plantain juices and other vegetarian delights, our initial impressions of Bacalar being eco-friendly and holding strong hippy vibes were gradually being confirmed. The cafe we enjoyed so much was also a hostel, with Seb aware of my thoughts of our cardboard box, we enquired about our second nights stay and snapped up their last Cabana. “How cute!” I thought naively.
Most residents at the Blue Monkey hostel were male and largely held a love for magic mushrooms, one so much so his magic mushroom trunks matched his magic mushroom tattoo… Seb displaying his beaming grin soon made friends in many languages including two lovely French guys and a weed farmer from Oregon who recommended a place to eat for the evening, Seb dragged me – ever the sceptic – to a fantastic Pizzeria and had me eating my doubts. Although we were in Mexico, Kenny from Oregon insisted the Italian run restaurant was worth a visit and he was right! The evening from topped of by several musicians busking as we eat our large chorizo covered pizzas with a particular highlight of the last ‘act’ who were a charming couple who met in Argentina. One French playing the violin and one Argentinian playing the guitar, they addressed the crowd in Spanish and English to recall their story and purpose; they had walked from Argentina, busking along the way, in order to discover the different music styles in the continent. Well we were astounded.
Our next meal out differed slightly, perched on two stools in the blazing heat we sat by the local Policia at a quesadilla stall on the main square and hoped we ordered what we intended to. A young man aided our broken Spanish and handed our requests to an older lady who prepared the meals from scratch. Impressed we watched her spread the dough and flatten it in an iron clamp creating a long, narrow shape eager to be filled with cheese, avocado and frijoles. The centre of Bacalar was small, square and maintained the relaxed vibe of the lake; not too busy but with enough people to watch the world go by, it was obvious why many stayed far longer than they intended. For me I found Bacalar so relaxed after three full days I needed to either commit to a semi-vegetive state or get up and move on.
Aside from staring at the beauty of the lake, my favourite part of our stay in Bacalar was the food. Another restaurant recommended by Kenny was called La Playita and easily offered the best setting and food we’ve had in Mexico to date. At the back of the restaurant was a cream, shingled area amidst a mini jungle of overlapping trees, lanterns and soft, soul music leading us to our wooden table with peeking views of the lake between leaves. We ordered a tuna cerviche tostada dressed with sesame seeds and avocado, along with Chipotle shrimp tacos – the largest, juiciest prawns around – and tomato, mozzarella and basil empanadas. All of this washed down with a beer, good conversation and a cheers to our food critic Kenny made for a delightful evening. So delightful in fact, we went again on our last night and ordered the same!
After three full days, I was ready to leave even if it was on an 8 hour bus journey. Our second night in the Cabana provided an appalling nights kip so happily I felt prepared to sleep on any form of bedding given to me – coach or carpet! Our two hour late but first class coach took us through the night to Palenque via Chetumal just in time for Seb’s birthday.