This article will be my second and last snapshot of one of my travelling days in Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. I decided to share this with you because it was pretty special that I got to experience this day. If you want to read my first article on Mexico click here.
I’m also trying out this romantic descriptory writing style, so please be aware that everything is a bit over-romanticized 😉
Getting There: Off the Beaten Track
To get off the beaten track you need to leave the easy tourist spaces nearby. It was a 1.5 hour drive to get to Corchal from Cancun. After saying goodbye to the tall blocks of steel and busy asphalt roads, a small village with a hippy-like spirit greeted us. You could see that the inhabitants knew what it was like to enjoy life in the moment.
Keep in mind, when I mention off the beaten track, I do not mean a village that has never seen a foreigner.
In fact, one of the first people we met was an Italian bloke. He emigrated to Mexico some years ago and now devoted his days to making pasta in his small cafe. Behind the cafe was a large garden where we sat and drank coffee surrounded by rainforest. From the beautiful tall white tree, which stood right in the middle, wild toucans flew to and from.
The town had given us a much needed moment of peace. The perfect pit stop on our way to our real destination.
Getting There: Into the Wilderness
Yes, Corchal was just the halfway point. We met Gilberto here, our lovely guide in this adventure. He picked us up in his truck and we drove eagerly further into the wilderness. Surrounded by jungle, the road consisted of more holes and deep muddy puddles than actual road. During the thirty minute struggle between car and terrain, there were times when it felt the terrain would actually flip over the car in a grand victory. Unbeknownst to the battle, exotic plants stuck their large leaves through the open windows to say a quick and spiky hello. When the jungle became too dense for the car to go further, we continued walking.
In Spanish, Gilberto told us about the use of every plant around us. All had a purpose for the ancient Mayans, from medicine to material for rope and cloth. Spider monkeys followed our journey, swinging from one tree top to the next. They only made themselves known by the rustle of the leaves.
Finally, sweating from top to bottom, we arrived at the deck and watchtower that Gilberto and his brothers had built. Several canoes were stacked on the side. The view we overlooked was a vast and beautiful wetland. Completely untouched. As you can imagine, it was spectacular.
I live in a country where all nature is man-made, none of it is truly wild. And while I’m lucky that my global travels brought me to many gorgeous natural views, still these were always marked by men. Roads dug, settlements built, waste left behind. So to experience a place where none of that is present, is awe-inspiring. It was a true privilege.
Peddling into a Mythical World
Full of excitement we stepped into the canoes and peddled through the lily covered water to the edge of a tight packed forest emerging from the water.
Once we passed the border into the forest, we entered a serene world of strange looking mangrove trees and the exotic plants attached to it. The temperature dropped instantly, as the trees kept the hot scorching sun at bay. It was quiet, only a few birds were chirping. The place felt filled with untapped magic, ready to welcome us strangers into its mystical universe. We peddled underneath low hanging branches, through natural tunnels, and held our breath at the magnificence of its harmony.
Nothing else seemed to exist outside of this forest. Not surprisingly, escaping it also presented difficulties. A tight reed bed surrounded the place and the only way to get out was to push and pull our way through it. That of course did not go that well. Luckily, Gilberto wasn’t afraid to step into the leach filled water and save us.
A Hero of Sustainable Tourism
Gilberto discovered this natural paradise by himself. His family owned a large piece of land but never bothered to properly find out what was actually out there. Until Gilberto. And immediately he knew that this was something special.
Gilberto is one of the few heroes in this world who value nature above economical profit. He told us about the many propositions he receives to turn the place into a massive tourist attraction. It could make him and his family incredibly rich. But they know that would mean destruction of the place as it is and are thus taking the sustainable, but less profitable path. Gilberto now guides small groups through the wetland every week, earning enough to live a good life in Corchal.
Because of him this piece of nature continues to be preserved and because of him we got the opportunity to visit it in an intimate and sustainable way.
So thank you Gilberto. This really was was the highlight of my trip.