While still in Campeche, I dropped off a load of washing to the local laundromat, and relaxed until 4pm, when I could pick up my clothes. I'm packing prettylight, so everything I have fits in one machine. I also had my motorcycle gear washed, which was comparitively expensive. Was so worth it when I got the clothes back - having been on the road for several weeks, an in hot weather the whole time, I STUNK, but not anymore. But I couldn't stop and smell the rose scented tshirts for long - I had to make the 100km or so to Merida. A pretty easy and uneventful ride, except for the rain. Rain in the tropics tends to be dramatic - one moment it is hot and humid, the next the temperature plummets, and the torrential downpour begins. Just as quickly, it ends. It seems as thought the word 'drizzle' doesn't exist.
I pulled into Merida, and quickly fell in love with the place. I'm a sucker for a place with a picturesque town square, and Merida definitely has this. My first preference for a place to stay was right on the plaza, but it was pretty obvious that there would be no room for isabella, so I headed to my second choice. It should have been my first - pool, parking, wifi, breakfast and a cool vibe all for less than 10 bucks. I got settled in, and headed out to the plaza to see a live dance performance, and dinner.
FYI, that meal I had in Tampico is called a Torta al Pastor - it's esentially roast pork with pineapple and other spices. I will definitely be cooking this when I get home. Which gives me an idea - whoever finds themselves wanting something from my gastronomic adventures, let me know when I get back, and I'll cook it for you. Perth lacks many true American (excepting the US) restaurants, and there is so much more than the taco. (in fact I've yet to have what we would normally call tacos - the Old El Paso shell with ground beef - they're not really popular).
I left Merida early the next day for one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, Chichen Itza. If you've ever seen a photo of a large Mayan temple, chances are it's Chichen Itza. It's a must see in Mexico. Unfortunately, his means everyone in Mexico comes to see it. There were thousands of people there, all jostling for the perfect photo and all trying to avoid the similarly nuerous vendors trying to sell every possible type of cool-but-useless souvenir available. The ruins are located somewhat close to Cancun, and quite a few people dressed as though they were still on a beach. I had applied the usual "no visible shoulders or knees" policy normally in force at places of signifcant historical or religious significance, and to see people in bikinis and boardshorts at such an important site annoyed me. Go work on your tanlines somewhere else, not at a country's most significant historical landmark. Overall - something I had to do, so I could say I've done it.
After checking out the ruins, I pointed Isabella in the direction of Tulum. I have decided to give Cancun the flick - It is only really famous for spring break - and that's well past. Tulum is alot quieter, with arguably better beaches and a much more relaxed backpacker vibe. That, and the local Mayan ruins are located right on a white sand and palm tree beach. I checked into one of the many hostels, and relaxed.
Turns out, I relaxed a bit too hard. The thing I love about hostels over hotels is the communal atmosphere. In a hotel, you check into your private room, have breakfast the next day without saying a word, and checkout by handing over your key to a polite yet disinterested concierge. At a hostel, it's a different story. After checking into my dorm bed, I met James, an Englishman on his way to Cancun. Having dinner at the communal table, I met a pair of Irish teachers, a pair of Germans and a Frenchman. Somewhat inevitebly, the drinking games started (a deck of cards is a hostel necessity). Next thing I know I'd missed the early bus. The only thing to do would be to catch the lunchtime bus to the beach (therefore mising the early bus back), and spend the whole day on the sand. Such is the life of a traveler.
After some time on the white sand, drinking from a coconut under the palm trees (jealous yet?), the Irish teachers and myself decided to check out the ruins. We tried to sneak around via the beach (I really just wanted a beach-and-ruins photo), but cliffs and rocks stopped that. So we paid our entrance fee and had a look around the ruins. We had another quick swim and photo before heading back or the bus. That night, they had salsa lessons in the hostel. I didn't particpate this time, but you guys as my witnesses, I will learn to salsa before I come home. I had a reasonably quiet night to prepare myself for the road the next day - when I crossed into the first country of Central America, Belize.
I got up early and headed out to a cenote for a morning swim. Cenotes are limestone sinkholes filled with freshwater, and often caves and aquatic life. Grand Cenote consists of several sinkholes connected by underwater caves (some only accesible by caves), and filled with fish, turtles, birds and bats. It was a relaxing and enjoyable experience to snorkel through the caves and experience the wildlife.
After Grand Cenote, it was time to check out and head south for Belize. The Mexico exit fee must be paid at a bank before entering the frontier zone, and so I checked with some soldiers at a military checkpoint - the last city (Chetumal) was not in the frontier zone, like Nuevo Laredo - I could pay the fee there. I was still nervous, as I really didn't want to have to turn around and backtrack 200km or so to Tulum to pay a simple fee. Why didn't I simply pay earlier? I have a citibank account which allows free withdrawls from certain banks, one of which was in Cetumal, and not in Tulum. Anyway, none of the banks in Cetumal could help me - they all said I needed another form from the Immigration office. So I continued to the border and explained my situation to the guard. He explained I could pay there, and pointed to an official looking document with the right amount on it. I paid there and then. I'm pretty sure it went into his pocket, but short of heading back to Tulum, there was little I could do. I got out of Mexico, and went through Belizean immigration and customs. It's much easier when you speak the native tongue, and I had no real problem getting into Belize.
ALL PHOTOS OF MEXICO IN PREVIOUS ALBUM