When it was time to leave Palenque, I discovered that the only buses to Merida left at 9 and 11pm and would take 8 hours. Rather than catching an earlier bus and arriving at 5am I decided to wait in town for 9 hours and split the time between an internet cafe and the bus station. I had intentions on catching up on new episodes of Game Of Thrones but with waiting area in an open space with no privacy or security, I decided it was best that I didn’t spend 4 hours with my iPad on show to the world. Instead, it was 4 hours of 90’s classics and a few techno mixes to pass time.
I wasn’t sure on what the ride would be like considering my previous bus experiences but thankfully the road were straight and flat all the way to Merida. I didn’t know much or what to expect with Merida. I knew it was on the way to Holbox Island and Playa del Carmen where I wanted to go. This would turn out to be a blessing as I wanted to spend some time chilling out to focus on the blog again and go through the hundreds of photos that I had taken over the past few weeks.
As the bus pulled in, I decided to go to Hostel Zocalo which is located in the centre of town literally opposite the main square where everything happens. Generally a place in the middle of town means one thing. It’s a crazy run down party hostel and a magnet for liver damage or STD’s. Luckily when I arrived, I found that it was pretty chilled out with plenty of open spaces, a friendly vibe and staff. Although they didn’t speak much english, I always seemed to get by. Maybe I’m becoming awesome in sign language? Each day they’d prepare fresh fruit, cereal, yoghurt and even the owner of the hostel would cook delicious omlettes for everybody and we’d happily scoff it down in the open spaces under the tall ceilings. I knew this would be a great place to zone out to catch up on the blog.
The daily routine in Merida pretty much consisted of going to the market and buying fresh ingredients to cook with. Having spent 4 weeks in Mexico now, I had the urge to each vegetables as it’s severely lacking in the cuisine. I met a chap from Mongolia called Tom so we spent a bit of time hitting the markets, buying blue crab and vege and he taught me a few words of Spanish as he’s working remotely for a Chinese internet company and spending time in Mexico to learn Spanish. I also found myself obsessed with this hole in the wall torta (sandwich) place run by two women and all the would serve is smoked pulled pork or roasted pork tortas for $1.20 each so I’d be there most days for a mid morning snack.
Since reading about seeing flamingos from SarahSomewhere’s blog and having seen them in Kenya I was keen to see some again. There was a tour going to Celestun which was on the western side of the peninsula. It was only an hour and a half away but time flew by as we had a good chat with the driver and guide. He was a local Mayan and despite living in the states for 10 years, felt that his place was back home with his people. By now, I felt that most of the Mayan people felt this way about their history and place within Mexico.
So the thing I now know about flamingos is that they prefer shallow water. The area had recieved a massive downpour the previous week which pretty much raised the water levels in the river where the flamingos hungout for their diet of shrimp. As a result, we only saw a few flamingos. Was I dissapointed? Not really. Whateves. It takes a lot to get me upset or flustered now. We decided to go for a cruise in the boat inside the network of mangroves and cruised past something you don’t see everyday. We came across a bride who was having her photos taken….on the actual mangrove trees! Apparently it’s considered good luck, so we slowed down for a look and I took a few photos, actually more photos of her than the flamingos. After the boat ride we decided to head to the beach, grab some lunch and have a swim and bake at the beach. This was actually a really enjoyable part of the day. We had an amazing ceviche of octopus and crab for lunch and spent the next hour baking and swimming in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
By now, I had decided that I needed to get a better understanding of the local Yucatan cuisine. We were recommended a place called Chaia Maia by the tour driver so I decided to go with a couple from Oregon who came along on the flamingo tour. As a pork lover I had to see what the local pork dish was. It was called Orden de Conchinita and boy wasn’t it delicious. This dish is made up of pork marinated in achiote (or annatto) and orange juice then slowly cooked in a banana leaf and served with pickled red onions and beans. The pickled onions were had a perfect balance of sweet and sour to offset the richness of the pork whilst fresh tortillas cooked in front of us on a traditional comal within the view of restaurant patrons near the entrance were served to mop up any leftover sauce or to make your own tacos.
By now I was umming and ahhing whether or not to check out anymore Mayan ruins sites. After seeing the grand pyramids of Teotihuacan and the jungle ruins of Palenque, would it be overkill or would it just feel like another tourist attraction? Something I could go to just to tick off the list? I decided to go and it ended up being the right decision. Again I went on a tour and this time it was a bus full of spanish speaking people. Despite this, the guide did a very simple and ‘brief’ translation after speaking in Spanish. Despite this, I still had my Lonely Planet so didn’t feel too left out.
It’s unsure as to why Uxmal was abandoned, but with the lack of water around the area and despite the presence of the water god in most of the architectural designs, it is assumed that this is the reason as to why the Uxmal population moved on. As a visitor with little knowledge of the area and armed with a lonely planet and a guide with broken english, I could still form a good idea of what life was like at the site as it is well preserved over the years especially the detail in the architecture and the condition of the remaining buildings. After the tour we were treated to a light and sound show in the nunnery quadrangle. Despite being quite cheesy and in Spanish, I enjoyed the effort they put into making it happen as well as seeing the stars dot the sky on a clear evening. Before the show we were had a bite to eat and a Colombian gentleman who spoke good english came up and chatted to me. Turns out he had lived in Melbourne and Cairns for twenty five years as an engineering teacher and had only just recently moved back to Colombia to retire and travel. He ended up giving me his details as I’ll be passing through his town and he’ll show me around. It’s this open hospitality within people that I’ve been experiencing throughout this trip that continues to blow my mind.
Overall, I enjoyed Merida for the peace and time out that I needed at the time. I would still recommend people to check it out as it’s still a beautiful city with friendly people. I felt welcomed the entire time and like most places met some cool people and continued to eat awesome food.
So my friends. Have you ever felt like you needed time out from a trip to wind down? Or are you an all or nothing kind of person?