From Playa del Carmen to Laguna Bacalar - Mexico round-up

From Playa del Carmen to Laguna Bacalar - Mexico round-up

It took a while but as the 11 hour flight from London to Cancún was drawing to an end it finally started to dawn on me that I'm on a holiday - on an actual holiday - going somewhere a bit further away. The flight itself went relatively fast, BA had a nice selection of movies and ok food and the 3 hours of sleep I had the night before (thanks to another night of zouk and late night packing yet again) helped me to pass out instantenously as the flight took off.

It was +27 C when I arrived to Cancún in the afternoon. I got randomly picked for security screening in customs (yes, it was random! :D) and got to practice my Spanish right away with the cute & smiley customs officer. Found the bus to my first destination, Playa del Carmen without effort and was on my way. Was happy I had an easy start (good choice for my first Latin American stop?) and the bus was good even in European standards - was I really in the "shabby & dangerous" México??

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San Cristobal de las Casas – cooling down up in the mountains

San Cristobal de las Casas – cooling down up in the mountains

San Cristobal de las Casas is a town in the Chiapas region mountains, located 2000m above sea level. I took a whirlwind minicab ride to San Cristobal from the Palenque jungle and was greeted by a cold cold night air upon arrival. I wouldn’t say I was delighted to be there, tired from the jerky ride, arriving to a dark, wet and cold little town. After a long walk through town (thinking ‘ok, the pedestrian street and the restaurants look nice’) I got to my hostel, took a hot shower and collapsed to my bed.

The morning was even colder than the night and I was in shock – I want back to the beach, NOW! I decided to give the city a try and went out for a walk wearing basically all of the clothes I could think of, luckily all my warmest clothes were clean! And I could finally give the all the sand, sea and sweat covered clothes to the hostel laundry for a proper washing. Before 9am it was still nicely cool out and I was enjoying my ski pants. But suddenly, some point between 10 -11 it was so hot I couldn’t take my clothes off fast enough. The sun was really piercing! First looking for the sun and now looking for the shades, I continued through the town. There were lots of lovely pedestrian streets with shops of beautiful local handcrafted clothes, bags, woodcarvings, clay animals, Zapatista dolls. The area seemed to be full of artisans and artists!

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Machetes and mushrooms in the Palenque jungle

Machetes and mushrooms in the Palenque jungle

Ok - didn't see either machetes or mushrooms in Palenque. But that was the what I had basically pictured from all the Palenque stories. I'm sure both were available, no one just thought about offering either to me (luckily).

We arrived 6 am to Palenque pueblo after a lovely (the buses are better than in Europe!) but still tiresome night bus ride. An hour late but just in time to see the sun rise behind the jungle hills, all wrapped in strips of mist. I was travelling with a Chinese girl Yuxing from Campeche and we hadn’t manage to secure a hostel, so we took a taxi to an area close to the ruins in the jungle, El Panchan, which was supposedly a lovely place. And again, we were not disappointed. There were couple of hostels with many cabanas spread in the jungle and amongst them some restaurants and tour agencies. I took a walk on the paths around the different cabanas and saw a nice creek teeming with fish!

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City life in Merida and the colorful Campeche

City life in Merida and the colorful Campeche

Leaving from the adorable Valladolid it was not easy to feel at home in Merida. It’s a city of about a million people and what feels like a million cars too. Streets are packed with people with either meandering or (more often) rushing and pushing. The weather was hotter and the hostel, even though very nice, was not as good comparing to the warm-heartedness of Valladolid. But as before, I’ve been meeting really nice people from around the world and enjoying my time with them - Emilia from Sydney, Patricia from Monterrey, Allison & Pat from the UK, Yuxing from China.

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Nature explorations in Yucatán: flamingos, crocs and cenotes

Nature explorations in Yucatán: flamingos, crocs and cenotes

After a night of beers, Mexican shots and stories, I got up at 5am yesterday to jump on a second class bus to Tizimin with Pedro. There we would – if lucky – change straight away to another bus for Río Lagartos. It was pitch dark when we sneaked out of the hostel  and headed to the bus station.

When we arrived to Tizimin our connection to Río had already left so we went to see if we could find a collectivo (a shared taxi van) but no luck either. So we walked around the poor little town and had a fantastic 10 peso breakfast. I can tell you there are zero tourists in Tizimin - and frankly after the gorgeous Valladolid it felt the only interesting thing to see is the local people!

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Mexican charm in Valladolid and Indianajonesing in Chichén Itzá

Mexican charm in Valladolid and Indianajonesing in Chichén Itzá

After some beach life at Playa del Carmen it was time to dip into the Mexican culture. First on my agenda was to discover the Mayan history and where else to do it than at one of the new seven wonders of the world, Chichén Itzá. I unfolded a map of the Yucatan and the town of Valladolid was the closest place so decided it would be my base for the next couple days. I had read nice things about the town itself; there are lots of cenotes and the Río Lagartos nature reserve is easy to access from Valladolid as well.

I took a morning first class bus from Playa to Valladolid and immediately when we started to pull into Valladolid I was in love with the town. The charmingly shabby small streets with colorful buildings and no tourist-looking wanderers was a sight for sore eyes.

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