La Jungle, Catemaco, Mexico

This place almost became our personal Heart of Darkness.

We arrived at dusk, after a tortuous drive on Highway 175. The road to the campground (see video below) was barely wide enough for our van. Barely driveable without four-wheel drive. Yet captivating. You wanted to see what was at the end of the road. You hoped it was monkeys. Or an undiscovered ruin. Or a tribe of indigenous warriors dancing around a fire.

No one was at the end of the road. The place looked abandoned. A rusting Dodge Neon was being swallowed by the jungle. Mosquitos were buzzing and biting. Lights, from various structures in various states of decrepitude, were flickering. We didn’t know where to pay. Where to park. But we’d seen the location on iOverlander, and some fellow travelers had just stayed there a month or so ago. Could it have been abandoned in a month?

We setup our side, awning tent for only the second time on this trip, mainly to deter mosquitoes. Instantly, we were like: Why don’t we use this more often?! It’s, like, twice the square footage as our van! We were in that tent, playing a round of Sorry! lit by LED lanterns, when the owner Antonio materialized and scared the Modelo Especial out of us. He said he’d been at a party. Clearly. Then he inadvertently flicked his cigarette in the grass, introduced himself, and told us to enjoy our night.

The next morning, we further explored the campground, the resort really, which is snuggled around Lake Catemaco. Several cabanas, none of which were functional (I asked), dot the lake. A, sort of, natural pool fed by regurgitated lake water is sunk in the center of the resort. A palm-leaf-covered palapa plagued by vines and moss stands next to the pool. Remnants of a restaurant are behind the palapa. An out-of-service waterslide, and not just a pool-style slide but a full-fledged waterpark-style slide, plummets into a murky, half-full pool. A rickety deck flanked by rusty ladders juts into the lake.

The kids wanted to swim first thing. Antonio was fishing a few leaves from the pool — hundreds more remained on the surface and bottom. I, sheepishly, asked if the pool was safe for swimming. Antonio said of course. Our kids jumped in without hesitation. I asked Andrea how much diarrhea medicine we had left.

The pool was awesome, despite the layer of leaves and algae lining the bottom. In fact, the more Andrea and I looked around, the more we thought everything was awesome. It just needed some clearing and cleaning. A new coat of paint. And that pool referenced earlier, it wasn’t half-full, it was half-empty! You can sense what this resort was like, back before the jungle took its toll, back in its heyday. Behind the decay and overgrowth, a jungle oasis remains. Paradise in need of TLC.

Andrea and I nearly asked Antonio what he’d take for the place. Had he sold, had we bought, it would’ve become our Heart of Darkness.

4 thoughts on “La Jungle, Catemaco, Mexico

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