Published: December 5th 2009December 4th 2009
Step out the door from our hostel and this is what you'll see street-side.
Okay, this entry is a couple days late but we've been really busy and haven't had a decent Internet hookup until today.
We left Merida on Monday because that's the day that most shops and major public buildings close to the public. So though it dashed our hopes of seeing the archaeology museum and having some kind of urban adventure, we were eager to push for the coast and some highly anticipated beach time.
On the way we went through another military checkpoint as we crossed state lines, but the soldiers were really just going through the motions so I have a sneaking suspicion that my zip-tying our bags shut was a tad over zealous. One soldier was more interested in his Blackberry, to give you an idea.
My first impression of Campeche was that they must really take pride in their town because of how clean it is and the ever present reconstruction. Later we learned that it is partially due to the ten year anniversary of the city's designation as a World Heritage site. Campeche is a town rich in history, from the Maya to marauding pirates in the late 16th through the 18th centuries. Every
This cathedral anchors the city alongside the central plaza, and was built some three hundred years ago.
building near the downtown core is a pastel colour and evokes memories of the Spanish colonial days.
This stop we decided to stay in a hostel, called Parroquia, which (according to Lonely Planet) was based in a late-1500s mansion of the Spanish Lt. Governor. The beds were springy and not exactly great for a restful night's sleep, but the price was right at M$210/night, and it was the only game in town (for hostels) that had fans in the rooms.
Shorty after we checked into our room, we went for a stroll along the promenade and lapped up the salty breeze that flowed in off the Gulf of Mexico. Once we'd had our fill we located a nice little spot called Manganzo for some vittles, and though it was called touristy in the guide book we were the only gringos in sight. Complimentary starters included a bowl of fresh tortilla chips and pitas and bread, to go with a garlicy whipped avacado butter that was truly out of this world, and (yes!) shredded manta ray in a delectable tomatoe sauce. Dinner for Jenny was a fillet of fish in a tomatoe sauce with grilled veggies, while I had
Just a typical street scene in Campeche.
Maya stuffed chicken (kind of a cross between kelp and spinnach). Afterwards my intended siesta turned into a very early night due to a case of the who-knows-what-I-ate-yesterday-is-kicking-my-ass.
The next day we attempted to rent bicycles but everyone gave us the run-around, passing the buck to the next hotel so after a couple attempts we gave up and opted instead to walk to the beach. In 31C heat, 40C with the humidex. Two and a half kilometers later we find that the so-called beach was nothing more than a spot where the water is somewhat clean compared to the rest of the area (though we dispute that with the storm sewer drains dumping in nearby). So we soldiered on and went to one of the town's old colonial forts, Fuerte de San Miguel which conveniently houses the Museo Arquelogico de Campeche. Luckily, we had the place to ourselves as we tromped between rooms oohing and aahing the relics. Especially the jade burial masks and skulls and skeletons. Just as we were finishing snacking on cups of skinned and sliced grapefruit and papaya and pina from the local market, a dozen or so gringos arrived so we took our cue
Authentic canons, little more than relics today, were the city's next to last line of defense against marauding pirates.
and left for lunch. Another walk of 1.5 km and we stopped at a nice seaside restaurant under a thatched roof for a drink and small meal to share. We were both blown-away at the cheesy mushroom tomatoe sauce on our chicken. On our walk by the seaside we noticed many fish, about three varieties, and even a pair of rays that appeared to be mating.
From there we returned to our hostel for a refreshing (brrr... cold!) shower and headed out for some local grub. Must say, tamales are going to become standard fare for me from now on, they are absolutely amazing. And cheap! From there, we went to a stuffy, over-priced restaurant for drinks (in our backpacker's garb, haha) to watch the goings on in the town square from a second-story balcony. Because of the celebration for the city's ten-year World Heritage site designation, there was quite a lot going on, like the local press milling about strobing people blind with their flash photography, spanish guitar music over (incredibly) loud speakers, and school girls in flowery colonial spanish dresses. After much ado, there were a few fireworks that lept into the night out of nowhere and
An odd place for an obelisk, this far away from ancient Egypt.
then there was nothing.
Since I was still hungry (my tamale was rather small) we went over to a taqueria that smelled amazing for some real-deal tacos. I ate one jalapeno from the onion garnish they bring out with the picante sauce on a taco and it made me burp for almost a half-hour. Good, I say, as it probably helped kill anything evil that was lingering.
Which makes me think of something we encountered on the way back to our hostel. A regional government truck was spraying something out the back of it, what it was we could only guess. But because the markings on the truck indicated the health department it could have been to do with Dengue Fever, and trying to control mosquitos. Either way, we steered clear and were a little concerned if not disturbed at the sight.
After all that excitement and we were pooped so we headed back to the hostel for some rest. Along the way I had a brainwave. We were interested in going to the local mega ruin, Ednza (En-zah), but doing so would necessitate another night's stay on that awful bed... something we were keen to avoid.
Fun and Games
Not content to simply hold the ladder, the gentleman on the ground was painting the other guy's shoes. I laughed as I took their photo and he smiled back.
So why not see if we could book a one-way tour to our next destination? First thing in the morning we went to the local tour outfit, Xtampak Tours, to try our luck. While it took some doing, we managed to arrange a car to take us to our intended lodgings near Xpujil (Rio Bec Dreams) via the back road and three ruins.
Stay tuned for more on that advenutre! Until then, adios!
There are more photos below