To continue our on-again, off-again look back at the time we spent in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico in late 2015, this post takes us back to the charming fishing village of Celestún on Mexico's Gulf Coast. This is the last new spot we visited before heading back to Florida in January of 2016 and buying our motorhome, Pearl.
The big draw of Celestún for the traveler is to see the flocks of hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of gorgeous pink flamingos in the Celestún Biosphere Reserve. Even though we didn't pick the very best time of year to go (i.e., when the flamingo population in this area peaks, in late January), we were excited to see as many flamingos as we could and to check out what appeared to be a quaint and quiet village, as a welcome break from busy Playa del Carmen, where we were living.
We had spent the previous couple of nights in Mérida and caught a second-class (but still nice) bus to Celestún in the morning. These buses run all day long, every hour or so. Although the drive takes only about an hour in a car, with the bus stopping here and there along the way, the ride ends up being about two hours. We were hungry when we arrived in the village so immediately headed to one of the several gulf-side seafood restaurants, Restaurante Los Pampanos, for some sustenance.
Thus fortified, we set off on foot to the guest house where we'd spend the next few nights. Just over a kilometer outside the village proper, the walk along a sandy road was a big change from the bustling concrete of Playa.
At last, we arrived at Celeste Vida and got settled in. What a lovely place! We had our own apartment downstairs, La Maravilla, while the owners lived upstairs. There were two other smaller apartments (Casita Brisa & Casita Flora) downstairs as well, but our unit was the largest and most comfortable, and the only one with a TV. While not fancy, it was comfortable and private and decorated with Mexican flair.
Since we'd done plenty of walking already, we spent the rest of that first day getting settled in and relaxing on the beach right behind the guest house,
The back yard of Celeste Vida is private and well-groomed yet lush, a real treat.
Here's the back of Celeste Vida as seen from the beach. It just disappears behind the tropical foliage.
This is as far as I got into the water. It was December so a bit nippy!
A storm out at sea passed us by but looked dramatic and urged us inside.
A couple of interesting sights from our time on the beach: a Horseshoe Crab shell and a fortress wall constructed of concrete and thousands of conch shells around the house next door to Celeste Vida. Not sure what the owners are protecting, but their tall fence and wall make a strong statement.
Since we didn't have a car, we strolled back into town for dinner. We ate at the same spot where we had lunch, Los Pampanos, and enjoyed more simple but delicious fresh seafood along with our sunset over the Gulf waters. Barry always enjoys his fish a la diabla, and I had the crab (jaiba), which was lip-smacking good!
Stay tuned for more from Celestún, including photos from the village and, of course, the flamingo tour!
After leaving Towns Bluff and before my bike accident, we headed up to another campground we'd enjoyed last year, Petersburg, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers (COE). Although we prefer not to make reservations, this campground takes them on most sites, so in order to get our preferred site for three nights over a weekend, we had made online reservations in advance this time.
Petersburg Campground is right on the southern shores of Lake Strom Thurmond, in Georgia near the South Carolina border. The setting is heavily wooded, hilly, and serene, making it a great place to get away from it all. All campground roads are paved, though sites are gravel. RV sites have water and electric hookups and most have nice separation from your neighbors. There are a small number of primitive sites for tenters as well. There is a dump station in the park, along with several bath houses, one with laundry facilities. RV sites run $26/night, so we paid just $13 with Barry's pass.
Here's a map from the lake's visitor center showing the location of Petersburg, the lake, and numerous other recreation and camping facilities in the area.
We reserved the same site we were given last year, when we arrived mid-week without reservations, Supposedly this pull-through site only takes a 25' RV, but Pearl, at 32'9", fit in it just fine. Their measurements must allow for a truck or tow'd vehicle to stay hooked up to your RV.
From our site, our Verizon Mifi box picked up 1-2 bars of 4G LTE, and we were able to use our Dish Playmaker to pick up satellite TV stations.
Due to drought, the lake level was way down, which meant that the little finger our site sits on was almost dried up! Instead of water, we saw mostly green growth. However, the creek remaining attracted birds and large, sunning turtles and was still scenic. The difference between our view from last year and this year was significant.
Here's this year's view from our campsite, then walking down the back a bit for a closer look. Not much water to see!
These photos we took last year, show a much higher water level near the same campsite. Also, we visited earlier last year, so the deciduous trees are not leafed out.
Unfortunately, our stay at Petersburg did not turn out quite the way we'd hoped. On our first full day, we had a glorious bike ride over to the South Carolina border and to check out the Lake Strom Thurmond dam. Unfortunately, this is the ride when I had my accident, while finishing up in the campground after over 20 miles of bliss. Here are a few photos from the fun part of that ride.
We took this happy shot in front of the lake with my camera's self-timer right before heading back to the campground. I hope that one day we'll be able to take another one like it, when my recovery is complete.
After Easter it was finally time to get Pearl moving again. We spent nearly five months in Winter Garden, Florida and enjoyed it for the most part, especially the local bike paths and close proximity to downtown shopping and markets. It's a good spot to be car-free! But this time the campground clientele tended more towards workers and permanents, with fewer travelers and snowbirds, and it just wasn't as pleasant a place to stay as the year before. So we were more than ready to get going.
Our first stop was a park we stayed in last year and really liked, Towns Bluff, a county park near Hazlehurst, Georgia adjacent to the shores of the Altamaha River. This campground is a bit out of the way to drive to but perfect for us, as it doesn't take reservations, and sites always seem to be available mid-week. Not sure about the weekends. There are day-use areas and boat put-ins, so it gets some day use as well, but the campground is separate from the day-use area, with a security-coded gate to enter, so you don't get the annoying drive-through "lookie loos" so common at many public campgrounds.
There are 24 sites in the campground, but one belongs to the camp host and three to rental trailers. With the park's senior discount, our site with water and 50-amp electric cost us $22.50/night ($25 without discount). We chose the same site as last year, a large pull-through. Because the park was fairly empty, there were no other rigs close to us. This was a pleasant change from Florida.
Just look how much breathing room Pearl had to herself here! Ahhhhhhh....
There are very clean bathrooms in the large bath house, and a small laundry room with a great price, only $1 each for washer and dryer. We had just done laundry before arriving so didn't avail ourselves of the facilities. There is a dump station in the park as well.
We got between 1-2 bars of 4G LTE signal on our Mifi device, so were able to use the internet, but there are no OTA television signals available. Although the tall pines made satellite reception tricky, after Barry moved our Dish Playmaker around a few times, we were able to pick up stations other than locals (since we were still set up to receive Orlando stations and too far from there to get those).
We enjoyed hiking around the park, and aside from a couple of passing pick-ups on the roads, had the place to ourselves. No one else was using the hiking trail. We didn't try mountain biking, but the roads inside the park would be good for an easy ride as all are unpaved.
The trail goes right by the river providing a perfect environment for birds.
In addition to fishing, the river is popular for canoeing and kayaking.
We consider this park one of the hidden gems of the southeast and would happily return anytime.
Emily & Barry
We're a long-married, early-retired couple who are currently traveling as nomads with no fixed home base. After years of living in North Carolina (Emily's home state), we spent 18 months living oceanfront on Ambergris Caye, Belize, a year road-tripping the US in a Honda CR-V, a year in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, and are now roaming North America in our 32' motorhome, Pearl, following warm weather whenever possible.
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