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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Xcalak, Yucatan, Mexico

(Pronounced: ISH-kah-lak, YOO-kah-tan, MAY-hee-coh)

Living Off the Grid

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Currency Conversion Site

We got up early and said goodbye to Tulum.  

Catching a collectivo across the street from our hotel at about 7:30 a.m., we needed to get to the ADO bus station to purchase our tickets to Limones, Yucatan, Mexico. Our previous experience inclined us to buy these tickets the day before, but this time the lady at the gate said we could only get them 15 minutes ahead of departure time. So hopefully there would be seats available on the 8:00 bus. And if not, we would have to wait for the next one to arrive at 9:00 a.m.

The bus pulled into the terminal and as we approached to board, the driver stopped us. The air-con system was not functioning which could make for a verrry long ride in the tropics. He fiddled with it for half an hour and was in and out of the bus to test it but nothing was working. Finally he called "tech support," (were they in India?) and they walked him through the repair process. By now it was 9 a.m., but the all clear call was made and we took our seats.

Eighty-six Pesos per person bought us the ride to Limones and the road is straight as an arrow through what looks like Florida swampland, mangrove trees and other such flora. And with the humidity at 80%, we are glad to have that air-conditioning working.

However, fiddling with the mechanics of the air-con put us in Limones an hour late. Believe me, from the little we saw of this town, Limones is completely forgettable.

Another 45 minute wait for a collectivo to pick us up and 35 Pesos per person took us to Mahahual (Mah-hah-WHAL). Another incredibly straight road through nothing-land but at least the air conditioning was good.

What an exciting journey so far!

  

Windblown, weary and in sweltering heat for hours, it's time for a fresh tropical fruit juice!

Some folks who had read our Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement invited us to visit them while we were in the “neighborhood” - meaning the Yucatan peninsula. We have never been to the southern area of Mexico where they live, so we jumped on the opportunity. Instructed to meet Jon at 100% Agave, a well known local joint in Mahahual, we entered a Jimmy Buffet style bar-restaurant with beach sand as the floor.

A stranger called out as we walked passed. "Billy? Akaisha?" We had never met Jon so this voice had to be his, and it was. Shaking hands we dumped our gear and gratefully sat down.

A fresh-blended, cold, tropical fruit juice for me and a couple of brews for the boys, we all chatted and connected right off the bat.

Jon is wonderful – friendly, open hearted, fun, easy. YES! Our style!

Slightly hungry and to get us down the road a piece, we split an incredibly good Cubano sandwich three-ways, then jump into Jon's jeep.

 

This is it folks, we are at the end of the road. No really!  This is the end!. No electric, no stores, no cell phone connection, no TV and no internet. If you look at a map of Mexico, Xcalak might be on it, then again it might not.

Xcalak is where the asphalted road ends and turns into a path. After entering Xcalak proper, we continue driving north on this bumpy, puddle-filled dirt road, until we enter Jon and Vonda's paradise: a two story triplex smack dab on the beach overlooking the second largest coral reef in the world.

Wow!

The Meso American Reef lies along the Costa Maya and passes through Mexico, Belize and Honduras. The village of Xcalak itself lies within the Xcalak National Reef Park.      

 

Vonda is showing me the coral reef where we will be snorkeling tomorrow

Xcalak is located in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo and is part of what is known as "La Costa Maya." Just 7 miles by water from Belize, Xcalak has the look and feel of Mexico and the Caribbean soul of Belize all rolled into one. Many locals here speak English.

 

Looking left from their place

Long stretches of uninhabited beach until the next neighbor. Looking for privacy? You can find it here!

 

 

Xcalak and Mahahual - the end of the the road!

Our location at Jon and Vonda's is actually north of the town of Xcalak with gringo homes scattered along the road. There can’t be that many people living here on this edge of the earth, and so far we have seen only a handful of them.

The town of Xcalak has a few stores with some basic supplies but we are staying outside of town about 7 miles, on a dirt path that makes driving a challenge and it is not easy to run into town for butter. Still the tranquility of nature with the sea lapping along the coast makes for a romantic setting.

 

Friday night is Gringo Night at Xcalak's Pizza joint

Xcalak has about 400 inhabitants and that number "swells" to 500 during high season. Having a Gringo Night at the Pizza pub gets everyone out of their homes to catch up on the latest news and take a head count. The pizza was delicious and the stories, fascinating. The local characters were easy going, authentic, chatty and fun!

Electricity for Xcalak stops here at the pizza place. After that, the homes north of here have solar power with a gasoline fueled backup generator. Things like hairdryers and curling irons are power-sucking luxuries and are not permitted. Water is saved in cisterns and showers are military style - which means fast! Everything is valued.

 

A look at Jon and Vonda's from the sea

The first day here all of us go out snorkeling just in front of the house. Couldn't be more convenient. Right?

Of the four of us, I'm the only one who isn't dive certified and the only one who is afraid of water. I can swim but there is something about acting like a fish is not normal to me.

But I won't be a spoil sport so out snorkeling I go! I am anxious the whole time that we are out there swimming or floating or whatever it is that snorkelers do. As for myself, I'm just surviving. Instead of kicking with my fins, I have no awareness of my legs and feet which are now two feet longer with the added fin length and I try walking on water instead of allowing the fins to propel me forward.

I have completely lost sense of my body and how it functions. I am looking through water and still able to breathe and that confusing notion causes me even more angst. Yes, yes, I have snorkeled many times before, especially on the island of Boracay, Philippines, and you would think that I would have muscle memory or some such, but for me, each time is a brand-new engaging (read: frightening) event.

And to be honest, I am terrified.

I don't want anyone to watch me, I don't want to bother anyone, I want to be as small as I am able and I'll just flounder here on my own in five feet of water, thank you very much. My mask is filling up, I'm breathing inconsistently and I'm sure my eyes are wide as saucers.

The next thing I know I feel a gentle hand in mine.

It's Vonda.

She has shown compassion for me in my pitiful condition and gently tells me that I am "swimming" at a 90 degree angle to the group and parallel to the beach which isn't going to get me to the reef.

Oh right. The reef.

But it's deep there at the reef. I can't touch ground at the reef, but I can stand up here at the shore and... my eyes start to sting from tears - or maybe it's the salt water. Why can't I be skilled in water like everyone else?

Vonda says it's ok. We don't have to follow the guys and she won't leave me. I'm overwhelmed with embarrassment and gratitude - a strange mix of feelings. I want her to go with the boys, I don't want to spoil the fun, and I'll just go back to the house and wait...

I have no idea how much of this I said out loud, but my mind is simply screaming.

Dang!

Vonda is a true sweetheart who doesn't push me and keeps an eye out for me, which floods my heart and again makes me want to cry. Thank God my face is all wet from seawater so in case that happens no one will know.

Right.

I've got it covered.

Eventually I do actually "snorkel" and see things I have never seen before. Everything is amazing and life is wondrous and full at the edge of the reef. The boys, of course, went farther, but I was at the edge and that is as far as I could manage.

 

 

The ocean on one side and the lagoon is on the other side of their home

After snorkeling we return to the house, rinse the salt water off, have some lunch and eventually make it up to the top of their triplex where we can see for miles in all directions. Flat earth here with only bumps of trees. The Caribbean sea is on one side and this huge lagoon on the other. When the wind blows in from the ocean side mosquitoes are not an issue. Blowing in from the lagoon side is another matter all together!

 

Loooong stretches of beautiful, undisturbed beach as seen from the rooftop

This is where the jungle meets the sea and natural beauty prevails.

 

A lobster and shrimp barby on the beach

One of the nights for dinner we decide to "rough it" and have grilled lobster and shrimp. From home we brought a special spiced rub mixture that we make especially for occasions such as this.

Dee-licious!

 

Let's Eat!

An embarrassment of opulence. Some fresh lime squeezed on top sets the flavors right off. It doesn't get much better than this!

 

An adventurous road to travel

One of the days we decided to make it to the end of the road completely and see what was there.

Jon's jeep was perfect for this sort of travel and we bounced and banged in and out of puddles for almost an hour. Some of these puddles were like "mini-lakes" and we weren't sure how deep they might be. That, and the road is a mixture of dirt, sand and water. Were we going to get ourselves into a situation where we couldn't get out again?

I tried not to think of quicksand and instead concentrated on my rattling teeth. C-c-c-conversations had that j-j-jarring halt t-t-to them.

 

An abandoned lighthouse by the dock and ferry area. Is this the one Jimmy Buffet writes about?

After meeting up with a Mexican marine base which was stopping our tracks to head further south, we retraced our route and took the next road that lead us to a dock and ferry area. This was supposed to be an easy escape to Belize, via boat. However, the channel was not dredged deep enough and during the opening ceremony, with the media film crews present, the inaugural boat ran aground. The legend goes that the beer companies had sponsored the event, so there was plenty of beer to drink and toast the lack of success.

This location with its wind and fairly flat seas would be terrific for wind boarding. Apparently, it is also world famous for fly fishing. Mangroves are everywhere.

The boys decide to make a go of getting to that unreachable lighthouse and head out into the mangrove forest and jungle. Halfway into this tangle, wearing only shorts and sneakers, they realize they are tramping in rattlesnake territory. Not to mention that there is the dreaded "two-step" snake out there... Once you are bitten you have only two steps to take before you die.

Eeeek!

 

Group photo to remember good times. It's quite breezy out on this dock to nowhere

The water here was so very, very green! And wide for as far as the eye could see. Beautiful in a different way than the turquoise waters of the white sand beach areas back at the house.

 

 

Jon perched on his vehicle for a better view

There literally is no more road to go here! We have found the end of it.

Turning back to civilization...

 

Hand built house with designer kitchen backsplash tile

After our daring enterprise to the end of the earth, we stop over to a friend's house and have some cool water and a cold brew. This house is currently for sale and has a lovely garden out the back. It is amazing what will grow in the sandy soil here.

 

Another view

Simple and comfortable, this house is built just across from the Caribbean Sea and you can see the beautiful view from the living room windows. Conveniently, there is electric available here in this location.

 

Cuban seafaring vessel

Freedom calls to every human heart.

We had been hearing about some Cuban refugees landing at the beach at Xcalat and on our way home we stopped to see the boat that had been filled with people. This seafaring vessel landed just a few weeks before we arrived and the passengers dispersed quickly.

Previously a wooden boat made it to the Xcalak coast, and that boat was promptly dismantled for the use of the wood.

 

A look inside, not exactly a luxury cruise from Havana

A car motor drove this boat across the sea and landed here at the beach. I don't know how long it took them to go from Cuba to Mexico, and the boat was far deeper than I had imagined one to be. The passion to be independent from imposed restraints and holding faith that they could build a better life drove these people to take their lives in their hands and cross the Caribbean Sea to live in another land.

What courage!

 

A view of the ocean from a second story hammock

Back in the outback, this is the house to the right of Vonda and Jon's. The owner had it hand built and claimed that no power tools were used in building it. This house is also for sale. What a lovely view from the second story.

 

Walking down the deserted beach to a place to find Maya pottery. Could the sky be more blue?

Another exciting day in paradise and today we are on our way to discover pieces of Mayan pottery from centuries past. Somewhere close by must be a Maya site, and pottery simply washes up to shore on a regular basis.

 

Tree roots make beautiful drift wood

Sunblock, good shoes, some drinking water and a hat to give shade from the blazing sun and we're all ready. It's a peaceful shore walk about a mile. The ocean is very placid here and tiny fish swim close to shore.

 

Braving the elements - in and out of water

Life here is pretty undisturbed with nature playing out its course and we have a leisurely walk down the beach searching for ancient pottery and anything else we could find.

 

Mayan pottery from centuries ago washed up on shore

 Lots of pieces of pottery were 1 inch chips but then we discovered several handfuls of pieces 6 inches by 8 inches with finished ridges at one end. These must have been vases or water jugs of some sort. Many were painted red, and some had inscriptions and designs on them.

Where were the archeologists?

 

Private peer and palapa

Returning from our Mayan beach discoveries we go meet a friend who is caretaking this mansion - currently the very last house on the road at Xcalak. The paving stones on the left in this photo were made from filling old tires with cement and letting them dry. Then the tires were cut away, leaving individually shaped stepping stones.

It seems that if you're interested in house sitting, this is an area with good demand. The snowbirds are here only months out of the year and they want someone responsible taking care of their place while they are gone.

Not a bad deal for everyone concerned and worth looking into.

 

The farthest house on the beach

And a fine mansion it was. With a swimming pool moat and a walking bridge at the front door, it was one-of-a-kind. It also had several free-standing guest rooms for friends and family to stay.

 

Another map of the area showing the marine reserves

 If life off the grid in a beach town with few amenities but full of nature appeals to you, you have found your spot of paradise in Xcalak.

We would like to thank both Jon and Vonda for their open-heartedness and generous offer to have us stay at their place for a few days. Without this amazing offer we would not have been able to experience the unique town of Xcalak and the surrounding areas.

We're living the dream.

Awesome.

For more stories about places of interest in Mexico, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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