Day trip 1 from Valladolid - Ek Balam, Las Coloradas, Rio Lagartos

15.06.21 11:42 AM By Putri

It was supposed to be a short hiatus from documenting memories before my short memories syndrome erases them out of my mind. But here i’m again, writing again since *mumble mumble* later after the trip has been done. I would love to say that the hiatus happened because I’ve left the list of the happy and idleunemployed and now my schedule is tightly balanced between self-care and professional business, but we all know it’s not that, unless binging on Netflix Nordic noir series can be considered a short of self-care.

So, before my feeble memory gets the best of me, I’d like to remind myself what a good decision it was to make Valladolid as one of our basecamp in Yucatan. 

One of the best things about Valladolid is that it’s very strategically located, it made it easy to have interesting day trips while we were there. One of my favorites was our day trip to Rio Lagartos. Rio Lagartos is located in the North of Yucatan, about an hour and half away by car if you go there straight. The fun part is, there are some spots worth visiting on the way there like the Black Jaguar temple and the famous pink lake, Las Coloradas. Yep, this easy day trip took us to three different adventures on one go.

First Stop. EK Balam

Ek Balam is situated about 25 km away from Valladolid, and although it’s rather small compared to Chichen Itza, it has the best preserved condition. You can really see the carvings and decors. Ek Balam means Black Jaguar, and you can really see the impersonation of Jaguar on one of the main ruins. 

Ek Balam entrance fee is expensive tho, it’s about 5 times the price you’d pay for Tulum entrance. We paid about 450 pesos each, which is more than 25 CAD per person. Is it worth it? No!! But then again I'm the same person that buys a dozen of 6$ donuts as a snack, while at the same time refusing to pay 3$ bus ticket for a 10km ride and choose to walk. My value for money is biased. 

However, we managed to make it worthwhile by getting ourselves a personal guide, which cost us another 600 pesos. It might sound crazy to spend more money to be able to enjoy something that is already overpriced to begin with. And also, read the last sentence of the previous paragraph. BUT, having a guide in visiting ruins or any historical places is always worth it because the guide helps me to understand the history behind it, feeds my active imaginations with their folk tales and legends, oooh, i love legends! The weirdermore extravagant the better!

Most of the ruins in Yucatan basically promote the same culture, worship the same gods, and they all bear similarities in one way and another. Ek Balam ruins are so well preserved and reconstructed, it’s easy to identify them with the help of our guide, Guido. Yes, I just made that name up, I forgot his real name. Sorry. Our guided visit to Ek Balam gave me a basic understanding of Mayan culture that was really helpful on our next visit to the other ruins.

Second Stop. Las Coloradas - the Pink Lake

Las Coloradas is a tiny fishing village that got it’s fame thanx to the giant sea salt mine, local hospitality, and (overly) creative bloggers. The cute pink lakes pics of Las Coloradas that drown us (okay, we means me, always) to this place were posted all over the internet, and it looks just too much to be real. So is it actually real? 

IT DAMN SURE IS. 

BUT, yes, like any other thing that is too good to be true, there’s always a BUT attached to it, you need to have a set of luck to get to see the amazing view of the famous pink lakes. First of all, you need a clear bright day, no cloud, no wind, and best if it hasn’t been raining the day before, second of all, you need to be there around the time of salt harvest when the water is low. Why? Because these lakes are actually man-made and belong to the local giant salt industry to gather the sea water during the high tides season. And it’s only after the water slowly evaporates by the sun then the salt deposits on the bottom of the ponds, exposing the red planktons and bacterias in the shallow water, and making it pink. Et voila, the famous pink lakes are in fact nothing but puddles of water filled with planktons and bacterias. 

What I found most bamboozling about this place was that it is actually not a legit tourist place, but idiots from all over the world come here and treat it like it is, and I’m one of them...

These lakes are actually the most important part of a big salt industry, and it’s not for public visits. SO walking into this area is trespassing in a way, i suppose? I’m guessing since these pink lakes attract so many people that the salt factory decided to let the workers manage it, and at the same time giving them an extra income source.. 

The workers take turns to guard the place, making sure no idiots do harm to these lakes. You can’t even use a professional camera to take pictures in this area, only cellphones are allowed. We paid about 100 pesos as entrance fee and we got a guide (who was also the salt factory worker) to show us around and explain to us all about the salt mining process that’s going on. He also made sure we stayed in the path and not using our DSLR. 

After the guided trespassing, we took a break at a local restaurant that serves fresh seafood and cheap beer called Las Gaviota. Then off to the next stop!

Third stop. Rio Lagartos Biosphere Reserve 

One word for Rio Lagartos: flamingos and boating (okay, that’s two). 

Rio Lagartos in English would be Alligator River, but the river is actually a lagoon, and there’s flamingos and other water birds than alligators. They should’ve called it Laguna Los Flamencos, it would be more appropriate but I’m not the chairman of city naming in Mexico. 

We went there for the sole purpose of boating on the nature reserve and getting close up and personal with flamingos because I would like to hug a flamingo and have them hug me back by wrapping their long flimsy neck around my head.  We should’ve taken a night in Rio Lagartos if we'd known how cute this sleepy little fishing town is.

If you get to Rio Lagartos during the day, there would be people offering boat tours, but we got there in the afternoon. There weren’t that many people and we went straight to one of the biggest restaurants in town by the lagoon called Ria Maya. There, we got a half price boat tour considering it’s the end of the day, and also we had the boat to ourselves (with a guide slash driver of course).

-pic of ria maya from my folder-

Yes, I know what you’re thinking when you read that giant board saying Reserva la Biosfere Rio Lagartos Maxima 5 Nudos Por Favor. But no, five nudos doesn't mean 5 nudists in english, so they are not limiting any nudist just to five on the reserve at a time. 

What do you mean that's not what you think?

Normally in spring there are massive congregations of flamingos in this lagoon, but we went there at the beginning of the year so there weren’t that many but it still made my day. The advantage of taking the boat in the afternoon was that there’s almost no other boats around so the water was so calm, we could get really close to the flocks while they’re carry on minding their own business.  Our guide was very knowledgeable about the birds in this lagoon and the lagoon itself. He would shut the engine and go into the water (the water is only knee deep) and push the boat among the birds without scaring them so we could take pictures or just marvel at them. 

Slowly the sky changed color and it was the most beautiful way to end the day. It simply made this daytrip one of my favorites. Also, I found out how flamingos sleep. Do you know how flamingos sleep? It’s a knowledge that I didn't know I'd need nor will it be anyhow useful, but I’m glad to share it with you. So,this photo of teapots on sticks are actually sleeping flamingos. Apparently they bend and tuck their neck underneath one of their wing and fold one leg up. Their other leg will lock on the knee and keep them stable and well-balanced despite the gentle waves and wind while they snooze while some of us can slip and trip over nothing on a flat floor. Aren't flamingos amazing? they're flamazing!!!