Getting up at 3:30 AM for the flight was the most challenging part of the trip for me, but was just the beginning of two big problems for Margaret. One was her computer stopped working entirely on Day 4 of the trip, and on Day 6 she was awakened by the bank telling her that her credit card had been hacked.
Nonetheless, she bravely carried on before, during and after these setbacks as though they hadn’t occurred. The worst thing I encountered was my camera breaking on Day 3 so that was quite the annoyance, but luckily Margaret had both her phone plus a camera so I ended up with a lot of pictures after all.
We really dislike Cancun due to the throngs of tourists, so landed, got into our rental and drove two hours to the largish town of Valladolid in the state of Yucatan. We had our own little house there with a tropical garden out back. Lots of wild cats so I put out a bowl of cream before bed and it was clean in the morning.
From there we saw both Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, which is smaller but was our favourite ruin due to the beautiful thatched roofs. We made fun of a fat woman climbing down a pyramid then had to turn around and crawl down on our hands in the same embarrassing fashion. Instant karma.
On the way to Merida we wanted to have lunch somewhere and saw a sign that said Izamal, and went let’s pull in there. Little did we know we’d stumbled upon one of the oldest towns in the Yucatan with a 500 year old convent.
We had a very nice lunch there, then toured the convent as the bells tolled and three monks in brown robes tied with belts appeared, then a nun in a habit walked by. The whole exterior, which is huge, is painted mustard yellow so it was a gorgeous sight on a sunny hot day.
We had an absolutely magnificent house in Merida, the capital of the Yucatan, and an old colonial city of about two million people. Our house was a few metres from the fabled Paseo Mantejo the ‘Champs Elysees of Mexico.’ A great old colonial house, and a fabulous location made for a particularly enjoyable visit.
The only downsides were we weren’t able to figure out how to use the TV or watch a movie, and again, I’d noticed a black and white wild cat on our wall, so decided it’d be nice to put out some chicken, however was probably wrong.
My bedroom was at the front of the house, and Margaret’s was at the back, so while I heard a bit of caterwauling outside, I could put in ear plugs and close my door, so thought nothing further of it.
In the morning Margaret came into the kitchen pale, frazzled and saying there’d been hours of cat fights right outside her bedroom, sometimes with the sound of cats bouncing off the wall. She said she had a few hours of sleep at most and said maybe it’s better if you don’t feed the cats tonight.
We spent four days exploring Merida, and one day we went to the town of Progresso right on the Gulf of Mexico and perhaps a twenty minute drive from our place. We walked along the beach and took a boat out to a mangrove swamp filled with tame raccoons and several cenotes where one can swim.
In Merida there’s a lot to see and do, and I had the blistered and bandaged feet to prove it. Plus the heat there is unimaginable, and what we found particularly fascinating were the old colonial mansions and the descriptions of people’s dress at that time.
The women would have on stockings, corset, slip, bustle, bonnet, dress, boots and gloves, and we were in sleeveless tops and shorts and bathed in sweat, plus in those days there was no air conditioning. The natives must’ve really shaken their heads at that.
The former governor’s mansion is now used for government offices, however the ballroom contains 11 large murals depicting the history, and is open to the public. It’s the usual disgusting tale of domination of the Maya who were minding their own bees wax but were unfortunate to have things like gold.
In both Valladolid and Merida we found ourselves shopping for hand made Mayan products, and came home with a few nice things. It’d be wonderful to be able to buy things right from the producers as I’m sure those poor women embroidering away all day are given a few pesos for their efforts.
I bought a Mexican style Barbie dress with hand embroidery from an old gramma who was standing there crocheting as she waited for sales, so felt good about that, though it was only something like $4. Needless to say, I didn’t haggle with the woman.
Our last five days were spent in Tulum, back on the Mayan Riviera, and just south of Akumal where we stayed last year. We thought it’d be a quiet little town and were surprised by the volume of tourists there. The only positive result of that is the haggling is good due to the competition.
Our condo wasn’t great, but turned horrible when on night #3 Margaret was awakened by the sound of something on her water bottle. She turned on the light and a cockroach the size of a lighter was a few inches from her face, antennae waggling.
The manager came in the next day and together she and I lifted the mattress and saw a couple of them hiding on the slats. We killed those and at least one or two more, but it meant Margaret had spent two nights with a family of cockroaches partying underneath her.
Once again we carried on, Margaret slept in the single bed in my room, and we went out to the beaches daily and often headed north to favourite spots from last year.
If you go to Akumal, you must find the Beached Bikini Bar and Restaurant. It’s not only fabulous to sit there, eat and drink, or just drink, but they’re also very successful with their turtle conservation program. Their website is easy, savemexico.org.
My final tip: stay the hell out of Cancun, there’s so much more of the Yucatan peninsula to explore.