More crowded perhaps and the 'tope' vendors are a bit more aggressive and willing to risk life and limb to show us the pineapple, sliced or whole, and orange juice they have for sale. Topes (pronounced "Toe-Pay") are also known as "sleeping policeman". They are speed bumps or larger raised pedestrian crossings at various intervals across the road used to slow traffic around villages. Typically a rather nasty bump that will get you and the car airborne if you aren't paying attention and fail to slow to a crawl before attempting to cross one. Many a front end has succumbed to speed bump abuse. And of course, since the cars slow down, the roadside vendors are at each one hawking their wares.
All the standard Federal and Municipal police checkpoints were in operation. That hadn't changed. What was new I learned is the Tulum Municipal Police use traffic radar now. I don't know if one gets a ticket, a court appearance, or pays the police directly but they could pull over two cars at a time and appeared quite busy.
Although the road near the resorts between Tulum and Playa Del Carmen was wide and well maintained, driving was still hazardous. Shuttle vans would be making u-turns on the highway and attempt a quick move to the right hand side of the road to care for their charges. There are no topes in this area. No cross-walks, and only two or three overhead pedestrian walkways. So workers tempt fate and by running across the highway to get their bus home. As we passed, it appeared one judged traffic poorly and don't quite make it across.
Here in Mexico it's not much different than other countries when it comes to driving. So many want to be be first in line, crowd the back bumper, or pass on the right if they must. Speed demons and slow pokes, double trailers and farm carts all share the road. White and yellow lines on the road are recommendations, traffic signals too. Whether out of courtesy or a concern for self-preservation, slower vehicles usually try to crowd the right-hand side of the road to allow others to pass. At times cars and trucks and occasionally motorcyclists can be 4 abreast on a two lane "highway". Vehicles will use their left blinker not as a signal that they are turning but as a sign to the vehicles behind that it is OK to pass them. Unless of course they are turning. One can never be completely certain. Which also assumes the blinkers even work or are used. It gets even more interesting at night with vehicles driving with dim or even no lights so you come up upon them suddenly. And it's hard to tell the difference between misaligned headlights and the jerk who keeps their high beams on because they can see better. I had no choice but drive the last hour in the dark and I enjoyed it not one wit.
The silver lining however is I now have access to a vehicle for the next month that gets relatively good mileage. It's time to take advantage and see all the places I've longed to visit at a more leisurely pace or that I can't easily get to by taxi or bus. I am going to take the map and scribe a segment the equivalent of two hours of driving from Calderitas. Everything within that area will be evaluated for a potential visit. I might even make an exception for a visit to Los Gartos and San Felipe. So very tempting...
And here's why it's so tempting: Chetumal and Calderitas are relatively new places. Chetumal was created as Payo Obispo in the late 1890's as a small port town trading mostly with Belize. A couple of hurricanes in the 1940's and Hurricane Janet in 1955 leveled the town. So the architecture is very recent. There's not much in Chetumal and Calderitas that truly says "Mexico". At least, that's my opinion. So I'm looking forward to seeing the "real" Mexico with early 16th century and onwards architecture and with that many of the cultural customs and activities that seem missing here in Chetumal.
My first excursion was to a local nursery just outside of town on the road to Bacalar. Vivero Milgaros (yes, Miracle Grow in Spanish!) is owned and operated by Sandro Ciccarelli who, thankfully, speaks excellent English. I bought a lemon tree and a lime tree that has small fruit that is yellow when ripe and tastes like a combination lemon-lime. I'm going back later to day to talk with him some more but I'm leaving my wallet at home.
In honor of our new lemon tree I offer this recipe for Limoncello, a delicious liquor from Central and Southern Italy. There's a quicker version on the internet that uses vodka but this is the traditional method. Homemade Limoncello is never twice the same due to the lemons themselves and/or the sugar. A really good Limoncello is so delicious...
1.5 quarts 75-percent volume grain alcohol (like Everclear)
1.5 quarts water
2 1/3 lbs sugar
Peel the lemons, making sure to only separate the yellow part of the peel from the fruit, and not go too deep. If there is any white pith on the back of the peels, scrape it off with a spoon. You really only want the zest...the yellow part of the peel.
Place peels in a container with alcohol. Keep away from sunlight though indirect light is OK. Better to just hideaway in a cabinet for two weeks. Yes, two weeks. Preferably in the dark. No peeking.
After two weeks, remove peels. Dissolve sugar in boiling water then let cool. Add to alcohol. Seal tightly and let sit for a month. Yes, a month. Preferably in the dark. No peeking.
After a month, bottle, and keep in freezer.