Palenque, Merida & Cancun (again)

A bus crash wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world was the thought going through my head at 3am on a cramped bus. It also wasn’t far from a possibility as the driver was swerving across the road.

I kept waking up disorientated, one time carrying on whatever was happening in my dream and shouting gibberish at a confused Anna. I’m just glad it wasn’t a Mexican sat next to me as it may have been quite terrifying for them!

Luckily my mood improved as we got off the bus and I was glad we made it in one piece.

This was our first day of rain and as the geography had drastically changed, we were fully aware of being in a rainforest.

With limited time and a lot of ground still to cover, we chose to go on an organised tour around Palenque and it’s famous sites.

The first stop was the Mayan ruins, a huge archeological site in the middle of a jungle.

We spent a couple of hours climbing around these amazingly preserved temples, leaching off tour guides that other people had paid for, up until the point we were suspected of such tactics.

After a couple of hours learning about Mayan history, we were collected and bundled into a minibus and transported to Mexico’s largest waterfall, Misol-Ha.

Despite the water being clear and the fact that we hadn’t had a shower in three days (due to the water being ice cold in our last hostel), we resisted the urge to jump in. Mostly due to the fact that we still had a lot of time to spend in a bus, also as it wasn’t that warm outside..

The third stop was at Agua Azul, which translates to blue water. This is a large collection of waterfalls which descend down the face of a small mountain.

After walking to the top, Kurt and I couldn’t resist jumping into the freezing yet beautiful water.

Getting out and feeling as clean as we had in days, I nearly slipped in the mud whilst getting changed.

Much to Anna’s delight as she was “helping”, this happened as a family including some small children walked past.

Luckily I caught my balance before falling and exposing myself to the poor kids.

We were so thankful that our hostel had a warm shower (the first decent one we’ve had in Mexico), we all spent quite a while getting clean and I even had a shave.

The rain had stopped too so we went out for some food before having an early night and catching up on some sleep in a comfy bed.

We particularly enjoyed the bed after grabbing broken sleep on the bus the night before.

The next evening would also be spent on a bus.

Before that however, we had ten hours to kill so we went to a local eco park which cares for nearly extinct and injured animals.

My personal favourite part was watching Anna sprint through an avery, trying not to encounter any of the birds she is so scared of.

As we were leaving, we heard somebody shout ‘Hola’ (hello) but couldn’t see anyone which was a bit creepy.

We then realised it was a parrot which was sat just out of view..

Still with some hours to kill, we found a nice cheap bar and killed the evening with tacos, nachos, tequila and beer.

You would have thought it would of helped us sleep on the bus but alas, we suffered another crap nights sleep before arriving in Merida at around 7am.

Again, this is a far different city to anything we had seen before in Mexico.

Clearly more affluent and they even follow proper traffic etiquette here, how boring!

Named as the Americas city of culture two years in a row, the streets are lined with large impressive buildings and Italian style coffee shops. Unfortunately, they haven’t quite got the fine art of proper coffee down yet.

After breakfast in a local market we had a stroll down the city’s centrepiece, a long tree lined promenade styled after Paris’ Champelyses.

We were enticed into a small cacau museum by a free tour. It included tasters. Much to Kurt’s amusement, as British folk, we felt awkward leaving without buying something.

The thing we bought was possibly the most expensive bar of chocolate we will ever buy. I guess that’s how they can afford to offer free tours…

We then went onto the museum of anthropology and learnt a lot about Mayan history.

Following an hour in the museum we walked through the busy city towards a huge market where I had heard there was great seafood cocktails.

We were distracted on route by a charming little local bar so obviously had to stop in for a beer.

With the addition of free tapas, we stayed for another..

Finally reaching the huge, sprawling market we eventually found the seafood stalls.

We chose the one that didn’t have a woman whooping at me. It was flattering but a bit much!

Unsure of the safety of the cocktails which included shrimp, octopus and sea snails we ate away regardless.

I was a little worried that sea snails were molusques and would flare up my allergies but I was fine.

We walked on through the city stopping off at a beautiful church and sitting in on a live song that was playing out. I’m not usually one for religion but it was pretty nice sitting in there.

Deciding it was a safe and good option to dilute the questionable seafood with tequila (sound science) we found a bar. The first one we came across happened to be a comedy bar.

Watching live comedy in a foreign language is a new experience but we enjoyed it all the same, especially as we were given piles of free tapas with our drinks.

From here, we moved onto another bar and watched a really good local band play (what I presume are) a mix of original ska songs.

We were in full swing by this point so when the bar filled up, we moved on to a quieter bar with another live band.

Slightly more traditional there were couples dancing throughout the place. Latin rythm is important but drunk confidence goes a long way. Anna and I did our best interpretation of salsa whilst Kurt danced around too.

Calling it a night around 2am we’d had a great spontaneous night out.

We had to get up early the next day, which was a struggle. The promise of seeing one of the 7 wonders of the world, Chichen Itza, did get us going.

We managed to catch up on some sleep on the two hour bus ride too.

After entering, we walked past the rows of stalls selling random crap and got to the world famous pyramid.

Before long, the heavens opened and we had to find shelter.

A large crowd gathered under a seller of random crap’s tarpaulin before the strong wind ripped it up and his products started flying off of the shelves and tables.

For a few minutes I thought a cyclone was coming through!

All the rain did dampen the experience a bit and we were a bit underwhelmed by Chichen Itza actually. Especially in comparison to other temples we had seen at much lower prices.

When attempting to purchase our bus ticket out of here and back towards Cancun, there was a power cut caused by the storm. No power meant no ticket.

We tried negotiating with taxi drivers and even bribing tour bus drivers but to no avail.

Eventually we found a bus that was going to Cancun, it was just a different company to the one we had been using for the past three weeks. Half the bloody price as well!

We arrived late in Cancun but as it was Kurt’s last day with us, we still decided to go out. The time didn’t matter as Mexican culture means nights out usually start at around 11pm.

After some food we found a karaoke bar and fuelled by cheap tequila I gave terrible renditions of Country Roads (or Cancun Roads as I ingeniously changed the lyrics to) and My Heart will Go on by Celine Dion. I ended the latter with a mistaken tribute to the definitely still living singer by saying “rest in peace Celine Dion”, I must have had more tequila than I had first thought..

The next bar we went to had a group of very friendly Mexicans in it who we got talking to. They tried to teach us to dance, a harder task than they could have imagined.

The night quickly took a dodgy turn as two men ran into the bar fighting.

The bar staff and our new amigos quickly hurried us all into a corner as they told us these men were rival cartel members and there was a real chance they had guns.

I was the last to make it to the corner as I was unaware of the potential danger but luckily they eventually left without causing us more than a small fright.

Having felt extremely safe during our time here, it was a stark reminder of the problems which are still evident in this country.

Before we left, Kurt needed something from a shop. He returned very rattled as he had been roughed up by two policemen who took the money out of his wallet and claimed he was carrying drugs.

Fortunately he speaks Spanish and as he has family in Mexico, has a vague understanding of the law. Threatening to call his embassy, he was let go.

It was a sobering experience and left a sour taste in our mouths but we felt it is important not to judge the whole country on these events. Sensibly however, we decided to get a taxi back to the hostel.

Kurt left us the next morning but Anna and I had to extend our stay in the hostel due to us both having succumbed (again) to food poisoning.

I said that those seafood cocktails were dodgy…

This was made all the more unbearable by the electricity and water being shut off in our neighborhood.

Waking up the next day after a long, painful and boring day stuck in bed, we moved hotels to one with water and electricity. Through the worst of it, we were both still quite weak and tired.

Our flight to Havana the next day was also thrown into doubt as we received the horrible news of a tornado that had just torn through the city.

With a lack of communications in this part of the world, it took a few hours of digging to understand that our flight may not be affected.

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