Time for the first entry of the trip (finally!). The first twelve days I spent with Maria, a friend I met in London. For her it was a holiday, for me, a beginning of the journey into… unknown? Certainly, past experience has shown that you can not plan everything. This is not just another continent, everything else is so different from what we know from Europe. Starting from simple things like weather, through food, music, and the people most of all.
We landed on New Year’s Day in Cancun and were greeted by a heat. At the airport, a lot of people whose sole mission is to help tourists, they all speak English – it doesn’t happen very often in Mexico. Most of the newcomers were heading to the Hotel Zone, which looks like a typical resort. A number of hotels , shopping malls and a lot of European and American tourists. We had booked a hostel in downtown (for just $ 6 per night) and a very good thing that was. On the square near the hostel (Parque Las Palapas) we enjoyed fiesta, people danced (really good), ate, the children were running around – mostly Mexicans. Lots of booths with food (tacos for 15 pesos). After an advice we tried Chicharrones (pig skin fried in deep fat) with cabbage, tomatoes, cheese and plenty of free spicy salsa. Moments later we met Leticia, a Mexican who lives there, who gave us plenty of advices on places to visit and places in Cancun where you can eat well (some of the places we visited). The people of Yucatan are very friendly and always smiley, wished us a Happy New Year and interestingly, we haven’t seen any alcohol.
There’s not much to see in Cancun, the city mainly serves to many as a first stop in the Yucatan Peninsula (3 million people a year land in Cancun). After visiting the Mercado 28, a large market with lots of gift stalls (where because of my white skin I received from one of the vendors nickname Mr. Clean 🙂 ) we took the local bus (old and rickety) to the Hotel Zone, because there are the only ruins in Cancun (El Rey) and Mayan Museum. First disappointment – according to great Lonely Planet museum should be in a different place… Ruins are tiny, but there was not a lot of people, and the small forest, in which the ruins are located is very atmospheric. Modern museum, but only part of the descriptions were in English. In the evening we met for a pint with a pair of Poles we met at the airport, Maya and Szymek (Simon). They have very interesting ideas for articles that they want to write and sell to newspapers in Poland – good luck and maybe see you somewhere in the world!
Next morning, bored of Cancun we boarded a bus to Tulum, the first major ruins. Communication in Mexico takes place mainly by coaches. There are different classes thereof. A second class, favoured by Mexicans is less expensive, but still very comfortable (more legroom than in many “cheap” airlines in Europe), however, there is a small ” but “. These buses pass by all the smallest towns, for it is often the only means of transport between towns and villages. But you can at least see how people live in rural areas. First class coaches are more expensive (to Tulum 40 pesos more), but you stop only in bigger cities. There are also luxury buses, the “business class”. If someone has a lot of money and have to travel for several hours, it makes sense. You should, however, check the domestic flights. A ticket from Cancun to Mexico City costs more or less the same as for a coach, and you save around 22 hours.
The entrance to the ruins costs 59 pesos and the views are spectacular. Ruins are picturesquely situated, surrounded from three sides by walls (Tulum means wall in Mayan, Mayans, however, called the city Zama – Dawn), with the fourth side adjacent to the Caribbean Sea. Near the shore there’s a coral reef, which makes the whole coast a paradise for divers. In front of one of the buildings (called El Castillo) is the isthmus, where you could get past the reef and get to the city. On the tower of El Castillo Mayans were burning fires, which indicated the boats the way. These are not very large ruins, not as nice as Chichen Itza, but because of the location, highly recommendable. They are also not very old, were inhabited from about the thirteenth century to the first half of the sixteenth. There were a lot of visitors, Americans and Russians dominated (one of American tourists thought iguana basking in the sun is not real…), but you could easily see everything. At the end of the visit it started to rain, so we had to end the visit. The lady selling bus tickets quite effectively ignored me, serving the Mexicans before, until the intervention of others in the queue and my murderous glances forced her to sell me the tickets. In Mexico, you must be patient, customer service is a bit like the one in Poland before 1989, but we, the Poles, are prepared 🙂
The next day we said goodbye to Cancun and boarded the bus to Chiquila, where we took a ferry to the island of Holbox (ohlbosh). Beautiful island, where you can rest properly. Sunbathe, swim, walk on the beach, watch the stars at night, eat well or try kite boarding. All that is provided if the weather is nice … During the four days we spent there, it rained for three. The wind was so strong that Maria could forget about the kite boarding. What can you do when it rains? Sleep, read, sit on the internet, eat, drink the stuff brought from Poland, take a bath in mud, talk with other people, take part in activities organized at the hostel (acro-yoga, pub quiz, watching movies), talk to a Polish girl working at the hostel and pray to the Kukulcan (god of wind) to clear the sky. The only consolation is that apparently when it rains a lot in the winter, the risk of hurricanes in the summer is much smaller. And looking at the materials used to build most of the houses, after passing a large hurricane island probably can be settled again. Luckily got one hot day and when the weather is nice, Holbox is a real paradise.
Well, everything what’s “good” comes to an end, so hopefully looking at the sky, we got on the bus going to Merida, where we had booked a couch at Cristina’s. But I’ll write about our exploits there in the next post 🙂