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Published: March 4th 2016
Cancun never came close to making our bucket lists and it held little attraction to us. The only reason we found ourselves here was that we needed a neutral country between Cuba and the United States; Mexico filled that niche more cheaply than the Bahamas and Cancun seemed the safest and cheapest option.
"Blackpool in the tropics" is the image that came to my mother's mind when we told her where we were going. She's never been but she wasn't far off the mark. I hate to say it but Blackpool may have a little more charm.
Cancun is just a horrible place. It has a crocodile infested lagoon and a twenty seven kilometre stretch of nothing but hotel after ugly hotel. It has dozens of beaches but most of these are either small or almost inaccessible. Perhaps the worst thing is that it is so full of really annoying tourists.
Away from the tourist hub of the hotel zone, the city centre itself is a chaotic maze of roads with limited signposts and no lane discipline. Once, we came to a roundabout without any warning and discovered four "lanes" of traffic bearing down on us. There were
no markings on the road and nothing but the sense of impending doom to warn that this was a major intersection. Every few minutes you come to a police car cruising along and feel nervous because of their reputation for corruption, imposition of arbitrary fines and even confiscation of driving licenses. Our Accommodation
The guy in the car hire place had said our accommodation was luxurious. He'd also charged me an extra $160 for insurance, which I wasn't told was mandatory when I booked, so I wasn't sure what to believe any more.
We arrived at a very dark holiday park, called Mecoloco, someway down very dark country lanes on the edge of the city. We went to reception and found a locked building with no lights and no guidance as to how to check in. We went to the restaurant next door, "The Rice", and asked the man behind the bar; he took no information from us but showed us to a cabin on the other side of the park. He opened the door and an unpleasant smell emerged. After showing us around, his parting words were "the TV doesn't work". No kidding... It
wasn't even plugged in! We sat on the extremely uncomfortable bed wondering what we had signed up to.
Desperate for food we went back to The Rice and ordered. The food was almost as lousy as the cabin. Just one example of this was the still frozen chocolate brownie. We went back to the cabin. Trying not to touch anything, put our sleeping bags on the bed and tried to get some sleep.
In the morning we got up to find a cloud of insects in the shower, the smell was worse and, to top it all, there was a pool of water under the sink. We had decided the previous night that we weren't going to stay. Our morning discoveries just confirmed this. When we looked though we couldn't find any reasonably priced accommodation which we were confident was any better.
Instead of leaving we decided that two intrepid adventurers could find a way to make the place habitable. We headed out to the supermarket to buy towels, bed sheets, large quantities of bleach and a couple of air fresheners. It was surprisingly quick to freshen the place up and we were satisfied we could stay.
There was nothing we could do about the leak under the sink, nor the darkness inside the shuttered cabin but the smell had gone and we didn't need to touch the mattress or the towels.
This worked for about four nights, until the weekend, when there was a huge party on the other side of the site. The noise intensified as the evening went on. By midnight it had reached a raucous din. By 2am the ambient noise was more like a nightclub. Then, at 3am, a penetrating drum beat started with the cadence of some ritual. Given the location I was thinking it was some kind of Mayan sacrifice. At 4am a woman started running around the campsite shrieking and howling, which did nothing to dispel the idea of trying to appease the gods. At 5am the noise finally stopped, only to be replaced at 7am with the blaring of a car horn and a man shouting about the bananas he was selling.
As the woman started howling, Lindsey went into the bathroom and then shouted through to me... "There's poo in the shower!" It turned out that whenever we flushed the toilet, water was rising in
the shower drain forming a small fountain of faeces. The mystery of the smell and the swarm of insects was solved. Right then we decided it didn't matter how much it cost, we were not staying another night. As the banana salesman started his noisy pitch we were frantically throwing everything we had into whatever we could carry it in. We went down to reception to get internet access and found accommodation in the towns of Tulum and Chichen Itza, where we had already planned day trips. Within an hour we had handed back the key to the manager, who was neither surprised nor apologetic, and sped away. What We Did
Right next to Mecoloco is El Meco, a Mayan ruin. We spent a fascinating couple of hours in the early morning sun poking around here, with the site almost to ourselves. The main ruin was a pyramid temple in excellent condition. Aside from this there were several other buildings but low walls and a few pillars were all that remained. Whilst we were wandering around we disturbed a coati, which is a bit like a raccoon. The coati scrambled up the pyramid and we didn't
see him again. In the trees were bright yellow and orange birds but we didn't get a good glimpse. Also around the ruins were many iguanas and other smaller lizards, basking in the sunshine. We thought it was an interesting place and worth the few dollars we paid to get in but we'd have liked a lot more information on the site.
The first time we tried to go to the beach we drove through the hotel zone; following signs to the beaches we tried to get to several. The first couple we attempted proved to be too difficult to find with the poor quality tourist map we had. On our third attempt we found one which the information we had described as "spectacular". What we found was a narrow strip of sand next to quite rough seas. Between the sand and the water was a horrible large pipe, overgrown with weeds. The thought of swimming here turned our stomachs. Behind us was an ugly apartment complex with signs warning about trespassing. This was not our idea of paradise! We ate lunch quickly and then left. We tried one more beach but the wind there was whipping up mini-tornadoes
of sand and it was very unpleasant. Even the restaurant owners had had enough and were packing up. We gave up on beaches that day.
In the horrible hotel zone of the main city there is a little gem of a museum about Mayan history and culture. The museum is bilingual, Spanish and English, though sadly many of the artefact labels are not translated. The museum houses an amazing collection of ancient pottery with many completely intact and still vibrantly coloured pieces. There are also a good number of giant slabs of stone, no doubt the walls of ancient buildings, which are ornately carved with scenes of Mayan life. The museum cost a few dollars and was well worth the price, especially before embarking on visits to larger Mayan sites.
When we went to the museum we parked just above another beach, Playa Delfines. Here we found something more like our idea of a Caribbean beach - a wide and long expanse of white sand bordering turquoise waters. After we'd been to the museum, just before we left town due to our accommodation, we stopped at the crowded beach for a picnic and then couldn't resist a swim.
I don't really like going to the beach but even I had to admit that it was glorious. The sea was lovely and warm and swimming in it was one of the most enjoyable things we did in Cancun. Food
Aside from The Rice, which I won't describe further, we only ate out once in Cancun. This was a wonderful experience... We went to a restaurant, Labna, in Downtown Cancun. Here we found exceptional service, a wonderful guitarist and delicious Yucatan food. We ordered from the extensive and relatively well priced menu. Crackers were brought to us with a few dips, including one we were warned was very hot.
To start I ordered a local smoked sausage and Lindsey had a cactus salad. Definitely not the "Mexican" food we are used to but delicious and all the better for being unfamiliar.
For our mains, I got three steaks in different sauces (green tomato, cheese and "Mexican") which made the plate look like a Mexican flag. Lindsey ordered chicken molé... chicken in chocolate sauce. We shared our mains which also came with rice and fresh baked tortillas. The mains were outstanding and we really enjoyed
Finally, for desert we ordered crepes between us. The desert wasn't as good but did finish the meal appropriately.
We left absolutely delighted and feeling that we'd had a real experience of the local culture. We were just sad that the restaurant didn't have more people in it.
Tot: 2.123s; Tpl: 0.068s; cc: 16; qc: 28; dbt: 0.019s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 2;
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