One wrong turn and I'm in Mexico (not Belize!) Palenque, Campeche and Merida
Jan 16, 2011
|My last day in Guatemala was a great laugh, we were expecting to catch the 9am bus to Belize the following day, so we decided to have a fun day. We started by taking the deflated hostel raft, by way of tuc tuc to the next nearest gas station to fill it with air, then transported it on the top of the tuc tuc back to the hostel. We had a good few hours splashinng arounnd on the water before going for a nice meal and then I booked myself in for a lovely massage, on the roof of the hostel as the sun was setting. So far a fun yet chilled day. The evening went by pretty uneventfully, I was catching up with some of the people I'd spent time with and was saying casual good byes, when at about 11pm, Isla came out to the communal area with a look of concern. Apparently talk was ripe in our dorm that Belize was experiencing some severe weather conditions. After some research and much discussion, we decided that perhaps we should take the 5.30am bus to Palenque, Mexico with Lotte and spent some time in Mexico instead. There were more things to do inland in Mexico and hopefully be the time we reached the Caribbean shoreline, the weather would be perfect!
I had also rushed through Mexico on my way to volunteer, so wouldn't mind revisiting some of the places I'd rushed through.
So after actually finding space on the early bus without booking, a dodgy boat and another bus, several boarder taxes and a lot of random conversations with offical looking characters, we made it to Palenque. The place to stay there is called El Panchan, just outside the ruins and more backpacker friendly than the town of Palenque. We booked into a 4 bed private room with the first hot water Id had in a very long time. The prices in Mexico were a shock to the system. After travelling in Central America where the average dorm price is $5, suddenly we were having to pay nearer $12, a sharp increase in daily allowance, but one that would be worth it if I could only get to those tropical beaches!
The Palenque ruins were amazing. I'd loved all the other Ruins I'd seen in Guatemala, El Salvador so far, but Palenque seemed to have a much more spiritual feeling to it. I even had a short 20 minute hippy break to do a bit of meditation on their most spiritual of temples. I was thoroughly glad that we had detoured through Mexico.
Every thing seemed to be going great, buses were there when we arrived, hostels always had space, the universe seemed to be pushing Mexico to us and who were we to complain!
El Panchan was also an amazing place for another reason, I saw my first family of wild howler monkeys. They were the black variety that I had been led to believe only existed in Belize. They are amazing creatures. Their howl really does sound like a scarey lions roar, but after working with them in Bolivia all those years ago, I know them to be one of the most placid of monkeys. We watched a family of mum, dad and 4 kids for a while and it was an amazing thing to see in the wild.
After Palenque, we were headinng for Campeche, a place not even mentioned in my Lonely Planet, but a place we had heard nice things about. It proved to be a relaxing stop for us on the long journey from Palenque to Merida. A really pleasant city, the hostel was a little neglected (there seems to be a big difference in standards between internationally owned and locally owned places unfortunately). But this was pretty much the only hostel in Campeche, it had its own Kitchen and lovely roof terrace, so we were happy. We stayed there for a few nights, the took the bus from Campeche to Merida.
Merida is the capital of the region and we had heard that there was a lot to do there. We were told right! We stayed in a fantastic hostel, with a kitchen, pool, hammocks galore and free Salsa dancing lessons, which naturally we took advantage of! Although our Salsa teacher was a little more strict than necessary, it was still a good laugh.
Merida was also a great place to get my cultural hit. I hadn't visited a museum or gallery in a while, so it was great to get out there. First I visited the Anthropological Museum to get a really good feel for the Mayan culture. The museum was labelled in both Spanish and Engish, which was a real relief! There was also a photographic exhibition in the upper floors reflecting on the Mexico revolution of the early 1900s.
After that I hit the Museum of Contemporary art, which I found a little odd and they only had originals from local artists, everything else looked photocopied. I did like the Mona Lisa effect of being secured behind glass. They should protect that rarity of photocopies indeed! After that I had a walk around the city, popped into a few galleries, learnt how to remove the fat from Chorizo from a local chef and then went back to the hostel for food and a wee swing on a hammock. Then it was out again for more art in the form of the Museum of Popular Art, which was fantastic! I loved this place, it really epitomised the vibrancy of the Mexican culture. Everything was vivid and bright, and most of all fun! It's a good job I don't have much space in my rucksack or I'd be spending up big time!
The day after my culture day, we had a day of nature. I had never heard of Cenotes previously, they are basically sink holes, what look like flooded cave, for swimming in. Used by the Mayans for spiritual and social interaction. It was a really fun day. We decided against doing an organised tour, as diy-ing it would be 3 times cheaper! As luck would have it, we met a few people in the hostel that night up for joining us and we ended up with a group of 8, perfect numbers for all the transportation. We buses it to the town nearest the cenotes, then caught motorbike taxes to our next mode of transport; a horse and buggy drawn on rail lines. That was really fun! The Cenotes themselves were also remarkable. I was quite proud that I'd been one of only two of us girls who used the rather high diving platforms into the Cenotes in each of the 3 we visited. It was a really fun day, we had a great group and a real laugh.
When we got back to the hostel, we cooked again. (In all the countries I've been to so far, fried food seems to be the preference for travellers and its really great whenever possible, to get into a kitchen, which not all hostels have, and cook a good healthy meal with loads of veggies! So that is what we did in Merida and had some great food. It was also the first time that Ilsa had EVER cooked a meal. No panicks though, she isn't a bad chef!
After our two days of activity in Merida, we were starting to get itchy feet for the beach. We had heard some pretty negative things about Chichen Itza, one of the most famous of Mayan sites, being very touristy, expensive and not great value. So after experiencing 4 great sites already we plumped to head straight to the beach; Isla Muheres (Island of Women), which is just off Cancun.
I also had another motivated to get over there asap, Mary, my north Californian travel buddy from Guatemala was due to fly back home in the next few days, and I wanted to have one last blow out with her before she was back to normality!
We took a bus and Catamaran over to the Island and instantly fell in love with the white beaches and blue blue sea.
But I thing I'll leave this blog at our arrival, we have been here for a few days, it has been pretty uneventful but thoroughly enjoyable.
Take care people, big hugs Amanda