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Beyond the Postcard: Discovering More Than a Geocache in Aukmal, Mexico

For this installment of our “Beyond the Postcard” series, we wanted to share a memorable experience that we had in Mexico; where seeking a particular Geocache provided us with a reminder of the kindness and charity of humanity.  As Liz and I were making our way up and down the east coast of the Yucatan Pensula in Mexico, we planned on doing a bit of geocaching.  During our research about the caches around our itinerary in Mexico, we noticed that there was a highly favored geocache at a library in a town called Aukmal.  Never having done a library cache before, we had to give this one a go. I mean, who can say they’ve been geocaching in a library?

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Enjoying the sounds and beauty of Aukmal

Akumal, Mexico – “Place of the Turtles”

Aukmal is a small beach town known for its sea turtles, in fact, the name “Akumal” is a Mayan word meaning “place of the turtles.”  We first drove through the town, consisting of a lot of beach front homes for expats and foreign visitors, and found a great restaurant on the beach where we could have a snack and a drink while listening to the ocean waves.  Afterwards, we made our way over to the library.  This particular day just happened to be Halloween, and although the days after are more festive & meaningful for the locals (“dia de los muertos” or “day of the dead”) we did notice a group of kids walking in costume toward the library.  The group seemed to be congregating in front of the library entrance having some sort of party, so we stood back at first out of respect.  Then we noticed one woman who looked to be running things, and she came over to us and introduced herself.

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The kids gathering at the Library

Her name was Anne, and she had such a bright glow about her.  She was smiling from ear to ear as we introduced ourselves and told her were in search of her geocache.  We didn’t even have to explain, she knew exactly why we were there!  She confirmed that we were in the right place and that the cache was inside the library. We asked her what type of library this was, because honestly this did not look like any type of library we have seen, nor what we had expected.

Hekeb Be Biblioteca – Akumal, Mexico

Anne explained that Hekeb Be Biblioteca was a volunteer library run by a non-profit dedicated to helping the local the kids in the area.  The provide a valuable (free) after-school program for the local children with classes in English, art, music, environmental education, as well as help with their homework.  Their goal is to excite the children about learning and encourage them to stay in school.  They receive no funding from the local, regional, or federal government and rely entirely on donations & volunteers.

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Liz and Anne inside the library

Anne further explained to us that the library is not only a great resource for the local kids, but it also gives them a safe place to gather and play.  When we visited, we learned that the library had taken on an even larger role because the local teachers had been on strike for several months (yes, months)!  So the library has become even more valuable to the community because Anne and her staff have essentially become teachers too, providing the only kind of schooling the children of Akumal were getting at the moment!  While Anne was explaining the situation of the community and library to us, you could see the smiles on all the kids faces as they were running around playing in the playground.  It was immediately apparent that they respected Anne, as if she was a mother to a lot of the kids here.

The Akumal Library Relies On Donations & Volunteers

Anne depends on volunteers to help run the library, whether local expats or visitors who make time during their visit to help out.  She also explained that some people come by for several hours while on vacation, they may read to the kids or help with their English, or put other skills to work.  In fact, we met a volunteer from Australia who had been in the area for some time, their resident “painter” and she happen to be painting a giant mural while we were there.  We also met a man from Canada who was helping with their website.

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The kids are trading candy from their recent halloween adventure

How to Build Awareness…Hide a Geocache!

We were so touched to hear about Anne and her work that she was doing for the community.  And what’s even better is that she has found a way to bring awareness to the organization and the cause to many people from around the world…when they stop by to find the Library geocache!  After she finished explaining her charity and what she was doing here in Aukmal, she pointed us towards the library and said  ”you are on our own to search out the geocache, all I can tell you is it’s inside the building.”  Liz and I had never done a library cache before, so we had no idea what we were looking for.  So we had to go to our clue, which gave us a couple vague hints, but we figured out what section of the library it would have to be located (based on the clues).

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Liz searching for the Geocache inside the Library

Once we were in the right section of the library, Liz looked all through the books, then her face lit up and she reached up to pull out a particular book; the geocache!  This cache was cleverly disguised among all of the other books, and I wouldn’t have been able to find it myself, but that’s what Liz is good at; so it would only make sense she that she made the find.

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Liz figured this one out. The clues made it even more fun.

This geocache was literally a book with a big hole in the inside pages cut out to make it like a box.  Once we opened the cache we noticed it was filled with trackables from all over the world and tons of fun swag items to trade with.  The book itself was also the log, so we signed the log, dropped off some personal trackables and picked up a few others to take with us.

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A volunteer paints a mural for the outside of the Library

After finding the cache, we stayed for a bit longer to chat more with Anne and some of her volunteers as they worked on their projects.  In the end, we left with much more than a smiley and a cache find, we walked away with insight into the kindness and charity of people like Anne and her volunteers who work to make the community of Aukmal a better place for the youth in the area.  What a great idea to hide a geocache here so that we can all be a part of it & be able to spread the word.  We would like to extend a special thanks to Anne Gabbert for her dedication and all the great work that she is doing!

To learn more about the Hekab Be Biblioteca (Library) and Akumal, Mexico, please visit the pages below & consider making a donation or volunteering with this organization on your next visit!

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3 Responses to Beyond the Postcard: Discovering More Than a Geocache in Aukmal, Mexico

  1. Erik (ErWenn) January 22, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    Hey that’s our cache! Kira and I are glad to see that people are enjoying our cache and that it’s bringing people to the library. I’m also happy to see the picture you posted of the cache because we forgot to take any pictures after I built the thing and we hid it!

    If you don’t mind a little plug, I’d like to mention the charity that both of us volunteer for: Books for a Better World, which brings Spanish-language children’s books to schools and libraries (including Hekab Be) throughout Latin America. If you’re interested in making a donation or volunteering, you should be able to find their webpage pretty easily.

    Again, thanks for the kind words and the great photos.

    • Josh & Liz January 22, 2014 at 4:58 pm #

      Thank you guys for placing this cache and bringing awareness to us travelers. We loved discovering this cache and discovering the charity. It was such a warm place full of love and the kids were so happy and having a blast. We thank you so much for placing this cache and thank you for the work you do around the world with Books For A Better World.

  2. Kira January 22, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    What a fantastic article!

    I am kiralira, the owner of this library geocache (along with my husband erwenn, who made the actual cache). We placed it in the summer of 2012 while on vacation with my family. My mom, Alice, is on the board of directors of the Hekab Be Library, and has been helping this library in Akumal since she found it while vacationing in 1999, back when it was just a one room shack with half a shelf of kids books. Now it is a hub of education for the whole area.

    My mom and I are both on the board of directors of Books for a Better World, a non-profit that brings books this library and 100 other schools and libraries throughout Central America. Hekab Be is definitely one of our best success stories.

    Thanks for finding my cache and for visiting the library!

    check out http://www.booksforabetterworld.org

    and the page for the geocache: http://coord.info/GC3P9X7

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