Laguna Bacalar is beautiful. A large lake surrounded by encroaching reeds and remarkable cenotes, all set alongside a rather unremarkable town. Despite the beauty of its setting, Bacalar was one of the first times I’d been truly annoyed during our travels through Mexico. We booked a campsite online for what seemed to be the too-good-to-be-true price of $10 US (130 pesos) for the two of us for two nights. Turns out we were right. We arrived in the evening, and caught a cab from the bus for a reasonable 20 pesos. We weren’t quite sure how big the town was or how safe it would be to wander around after dark (Small and probably okay, it turns out). We gave the address of our accommodation, as well as the name, but our taxi driver could not locate it. We found another, more popular and well-known option, but not the one that we had booked online. Finally, we had the helpful driver drop us off on the corner, and rationalized that we could simply check into the other option if we needed to. Turns out Arbol de la Vida was right where it said it was, on the intersecting corner of two streets, but it was so poorly lit and signed that we hadn’t even noticed it. Once we found our way through the wire gate and into the property, and I finally located the person in charge, we set about setting ourselves up for the night, eager to get some rest after a long day.
As I began to confirm the booking with the gentleman, I reazlied we had a problem. Despite the confirmation e-mail that I showed him and the amount it told us that we owed, he was asking us for 70 pesos per person per night to camp. Not willing to bend on this matter, we said no. We would pay the agreed upon amount or leave and find a different campsite. Finally this was agreed to, and we paid in US dollars, as we had only enough pesos to get us to the border and wanted to avoid getting cash out again in Mexico. We gave him $20, and after checking at the hotel across the street for change, he promised to give it to us in the morning. I did feel bad being so stern on the payment, as it appeared as though it was a new operation and a lot of time, effort, and money would have gone into creating the property. It was clearly a mistake on the IT end somewhere, where the rates had been inputted incorrectly, but the only reason we had ended up at that property in the first place was because of the exceptionally low price.
In the morning, we decided to take advantage of the nearly water-front location, and hire kayaks to explore the lake. There are several cenotes along the edge of the lake, which basically put Bacalar on the map. We took off with kayaks from the property for 60 pesos each, and battled the waves and the wind towards the cenotes. It soon became apparent that the paddling was too tough for me, and the distance too far, so we tied our two extremely non-efficient single kayaks together, Tim in front, so he could half tow me along. We made it to Cenote Negro where we stopped for lunch and enjoyed swimming along the edge of the dramatic cenote drop off. We were still only about half way to the other cenotes we had endeavoured to reach. Exhausted, and still facing the paddle back, we called it a miss and headed home. Upon returning, we told the total price for our kayak rental: 360 pesos. What?! Two kayaks, at 60 pesos each. It turns out this was 60 pesos each per hour, a fact that had not been communicated. After haggling it over for a minute, Tim and I shrugged our shoulders and realized we would have to pay it. We weren’t, however, prepared to hand over any more money without making it clear that we were still owed $10 US from the night before. This spurred another conversation about the rate for camping (we were dealing with a new employee) and further frustration regarding the reservation. All in all, it was a lot of hassle and not quite enough reward. All of that being said, excitement was building as we prepared to leave; the next day we were heading to Belize!