The ancient Mayan site of Calakmul is the place I’d most looked forward to visiting in Mexico. Why is this crumbling city number one on my list? Because it is located in a very remote part of the Yucatan peninsula in the middle of the jungle.
The soldier on top of the Humvee is aiming his giant machine gun directly at my face!
There are two reasons why the Calakmul ruins don’t get many visitors: it’s way out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s not covered in many guidebooks yet either.
But the site is well worth a visit because you can often be the only person there, and the ruins have not been cleaned up as much for tourism like Chichen Itza or Tulum.
After a long bus ride to the town of Xpujil, I found a taxi to take me to a tiny campground 37 miles away from the ruins. It’s the closest thing to civilization you will find out here. I don’t have a car with me so I rent a mountain bike from the campground, planning to get up at 4am and make the long trip through the jungle into the site.
I’m not about to leave empty-handed though. Especially after risking early morning jaguar attacks and 2 hours of biking uphill in the middle of nowhere!
So I sweet-talk the troops into letting me take a photo, complaining of the long bike ride back with no images of the ruins. Most of them don’t want to be in it, but at least I’ll have something to show for all the time and effort I spent getting here!
Reluctantly I had to turn around and ride ALL the way back to my campsite in the hot jungle heat.
On the road back, a procesion of white Government SUVs passed me in the opposite direction along with police trucks, more Humvees, 5 or 6 huge troop carriers loaded with soldiers, and some busses. I found out later there were 4000 Mexican troops guarding the President that day (the drug cartels are all out to get him).
So even though I rode a bicycle 24 miles into the forest for nothing, it turned out to be a pretty interesting time, and I still got to visit the ruins of Calakmul the next day.
I needed a good workout anyway. :)
Location: Calakmul Biosphere Reserve, Mexico
Cost: $150 Pesos ($12.50 US) Bike rental at the campground
Difficulty: Very Difficult
Notes: This road is much harder than I thought it would be, even though it’s paved. Riding a bike to the ruins is doable but not recommended unless you’ve competed in a triathlon!