El Castillo (The Castle)
What a change of pace! Although motels in the US aren’t that great they are a world apart from accommodation in Mexico. Our first night in downtown Cancun was a reality check. Although the accommodation and location was a lot to be desired we still managed to find some cool spots. In the local square / meeting place for locals, they served up food in a half permanent outside food hall thing. There was great Mexican cuisine. It was very cheap and a good selection too. To be honest the food was better than some of the restaurants we’d been to.
The bonus of staying in Cancun is that it is easy to get to many other places. We took a day trip to Chichen Itza to see arguably the famous of all Mayan ruins. We arrived at about midday, stupidly, which meant that the sun was beating down, so much in fact Kelly almost passed out, thank god there was an ice cream shop at the end of it all!
After one last night in Cancun we hopped on a small ferry to Isla Mujeres, a small island just off the Caribbean coast of Mexico. It was small, still
The south coast.
full of tourists but much, much more laid back than Cancun and nowhere near as busy, cheaper and overall a nicer holiday feel. The beaches were much nicer too. The easiest way to get around was by golf cart - so that’s what we did! It takes about 20mins to get from one end of the island to the other and about 3 mins across so you get the idea of how small the place was. We spent a couple of days just hanging round on the beach, eating and drinking.
Back on the mainland, we decided to head down the coast to Tulum. A great beach town with lots of Cabana’s dotted along the shore line plus more Mayan Ruins and Cenote’s (small under ground fresh water swimming holes). The first night we stayed in town at what we thought was a really nice place, cabana style rooms, hammocks out the front etc... when, whist chilling out on our veranda having a beer we were approached by one of the other residents. I think he just wanted a chat, but his Gary Glitteresque appearance and tales of tarantulas, whore houses, crack dens and being on the run from
Where we stayed.
A 'Pirates of the Caribbean' kind of place.
the police made us check out pretty quick. We spent our last night on the beach in a rustic style cabana which appeared to be in a Pirates of the Caribbean setting? The cabanas are basic and only have electricity for a few hours a day. Our room had two beds that suspended from the ceiling so when you got into bed the whole thing swung around. There was a small restaurant on site and bar, the showers were practically outside (anyone could see in) and there was a constant breeze from the sea that kept the place relatively cool. Much more relaxing and no weirdos, had a bonus too, because as we went to check out the Voodoo woman who ran the place thought that we had already paid. So we left without exchanging any money!
So, after a few days of lounging round on the beach we made our way inland to Palenque, seemingly the hottest, or should I say most humid place ever! As fast as you can drink water you sweat it out, no need to go to the toilet - unless it’s number twos!! The bus journey was over night and took 11 hours.
Strangely it didn’t seem too bad though. We stayed in a place called el Panchan - a collection of rooms, cabanas and places to string a hammock in the jungle just outside the national park. The ruins in Palenque are largely untouched and surrounded by thick jungle, with wild monkey’s living in the trees. There are also more waterfalls! But the falls in Palenque, Misol Ha and Agua Azul are pretty impressive and you can swim in them, which we did, much needed after a day at the ruins in that heat!
From Palenque we took another bus through the mountains to San Cristobal de las Casas, a small colonial town in Chiapas, southern Mexico where they mine amber and grow coffee, it was much higher up at about 2000 metres. The drive through the mountains was nice, quite a twisty road but as we ascended the scenery started to look like the Swiss Alps in summer. The temperature was much more bearable, so cold in fact that at night we had to wear jeans! We also were welcomed by a few thunder storms which were very loud and very wet. The place has a real European feel, which
Pretty village - with lots of beetles.
was comforting! We mainly just wandered the streets looking at all the old churches, drank coffee and hung around our hostel in the evening which was cool because everyone sat round a bonfire at night.
We also visited the ‘Centro de Desarrollo de la Medicina Maya Museo’. Loosely translated this is the museum of traditional Mayan medicine. People still go there today to be cured of all sorts. There was a man in there (- possibly looking for a cure for baldness ?!) being treated by one of the healers. First he had to light about 30 candles, then the healer did a chant, hit him with a bunch of flowers and a few statues of Jesus or something and cracked open an egg. Lets hope it worked for him!
San Cristobel is a really nice place and was definitely worth the visit before we left Mexico and journeyed onward to Antigua, Guatemala - our next stop...
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