From Cuba to Mexiko, First days in Yukatán: Cancún, Mérida, Chichén Itzá and Tulum.

Hey everybody!

After this blast of information on my backpacking trip through Cuba I have to catch up a little. I’m already in Belize and LOVE it here but more on that later. Firstly I believe I have to resume the last week in one, maybe two short entrances. If not I will be constantly behind and only catching up with what I’ve already done a long time ago.

After we came back “home” to Havanna from our Cuba trip I just had one free day to rest to wash and pack my bags again. The 8th I had my flight to Cancún, Mexico, already. The evening before leaving I sat down together with my flatmates, some of their friends and Maricel and had a little good-bye party. Not a party really, rather a nice meal and some beers. Loved it.

To be completely honest I didn’t want to leave already though. Just got home, spent two nights in my bed and then take off already again? It wasn’t easy but the second I got to the airport everything was exiting again and every remorse had gone.

My flight left at 11.30 in the morning and – having learned how to get around tourist prices – I managed to get to the airport with only 20 cuban pesos and 2 CUC in my pocket. Don’t trust the cabs: Take a taxi to Santiago (not Santiago de Cuba) and tell the driver to let you off at the height of the airport. Then jump off and taxi/hitchhike to the airport. In the waiting hall I learned to know Kathrin, a swiss girl that went to Cancún as well and we decided to meet up later in the “zona hotelera” of cancún to have supper. Once in Cancún I found myself with the biggest culture clash possibly imaginable (see post Just arrived in Mexico) and spent the rest of my day in the internet. Uploading pictures, blogging, talking to friends and family, all that kind of things I couldn’t do in Cuba. An incredibly stupid thing to spend a day at the computer but that was soooo necessary!
Had really great but expensive supper with Kathrin and camped at the beachside in Cancún. There is no really legal place but some people I asked all pointed me to the public entrances to the beach where I could camp. Make your way to one of the many sand-dunes on the beach and there you go. Great ocean right next to your side, no problem at all with any kind of security, enough privacy while being still at the best beach right where other people pay a lot of money to stay.

Next day: Morning at the beach and in Cancún with Kathrin. It was then when I first seriously took out my now beloved LonleyPlanet guidebook and started to roughly organize my upcoming week through Yukatán. There are many things to see in Yukatán, believe me. Lonelplanet actually advises you to do a tour of all the peninsula alone if you don’t have more time then a month but I would have to do it a little quicker, even If I had to cut out something. My decision: Go from Cancún to Mérida to start the trip from there.

After some two hours at the beach I took of to Cancún downtown. I was walking down one of the little side streets when suddenly somebody said to me in german: “Hey, wenn du willst schleif ich dir deinen Namen in Tequilagläser!” Without noticing I had been walking around with an ugly “Rewe” fabric bag haging at the outside of my nackpack and the swiss guy had noticed. Turns out he is a swiss expatriot and has been travelling through and living in Middle America since about 12 years already. We had a nice chat, something to eat and he invited me to spend the night at his place. I gratefully accepted, left my heavy bagpack at his place and went back to downtown to check out bus connections to Mérida.

I had elected Mérida as the starting point for the journey because of its beautiful location in the north of Yukatán. it’s supposed to be a beautiful colonial town and one of the oldest spanish settlements in all of Central America. At the bus station, it turned out that the same night there was a great connection to Mérida. I bought it right away and this way didn’t even have to use Pedro’s hospitality. Hopped on a nightbus at 23.15 and arrived in Mérida around 5 o’clock in the morning. Took a taxi to my dear guidebook Lonelyplanet‘s choice and slept on the sofa there because there were no free beds at the moment.

If you pass through Mérida: The hostel is GREAT – a huge colonial house right at the central square “plaza grande”. It’s called Hostel Zocalo. Cost: 125 Pesos, I really recommend it. The guy running it is a really nice person and it has a good backpacker’s vibe. The place itself is stunning – fantastiv people and hammoks everywhere, nice little garden and 6m high ceilings. Oh, and a really really rich breakfast with omlettes, crepes and fruit on the house.

After I had finally gotten some sleep I took off for a trip around the city of Mérida. Nothing special, really, I was a little disaoppointed. Very little interesting buildings, apart from a few outstanding colonial style villas. Not that big of an attraction, though. No worries, I had a great time at the hostel and used my time to write all the last flood of blog entries on cuba and relaxed.

Next day I set off to Chichén Itzá which is one of the most famous and oldest Maya ruin sites in Mexico. Quick bus ride (2,5h) to Chichén Itzá. During the ride I learned to know two charming german girls, Lisa and Anna-Larissa witch whom I then visited the ruins and spent the day. Thanks for a great day, girls!

The ruins of Chichén Itzá itself are amazing. Built in around 500AD, the site is incredibly well reserved, a lot better then you would imagine. The central piramide, el castillo, has 9 steps. Those nine steps divide into 2 steps each, representing the 18 Mayan months. Every Month had 20 days, after those 360 days they would then add an extra 5 every year, making exactly 365 days a year. El castillo also makes woo-ing noises when echoing a clap, it’s incredible! Altogether, Chichén Itzá is a magical place. But quite touristy, mind you! It was a little annoying at the beginning. 10, Pesos, 1 Dollar! 10 Pesos, 1 Dollar! 10 Pesos 1 dollar! There’s is a big ball park for the famous mayan ball game which apparently ended deadly for the losing team’s captain or even the entire team sometimes. 10, Pesos, 1 Dollar! 10 Pesos, 1 Dollar! 10 Pesos 1 dollar! There also is an incredible observatory and a big cenote, a huge sweet water filled cave where some 50 skeleton’s have been found. 10, Pesos, 1 Dollar! 10 Pesos, 1 Dollar! 10 Pesos 1 dollar!
For more detailed and serious information please go see Wikipedia. Oh,one great thing about the 10 Pesos-guys was that I could exchange two Cuban baseball caps (that a cuban friend of mine had given to me as a present) for some souvenirs. Cuban caps seem to be seriously popular there 🙂 Had I only known… My luggage is growing: At the moment it’s around 24 kilos.

When the girls and me got to some columns behind the observatory there was a big group of Mayans, dancing and praying. First I believed it was a tourist attraction and already wanted to walk past but then I noticed that they were celebrating the 11/11/11. Hadn’t even noticed the date but apparently we had run into a celebration where people from all over Mexico took part. Me and the girls followed the celebration and then said goodbye one to each other – I had to get to a nearby Hostel and the girls were going back to Mérida. I spent the night at Piramide Inn, about 1km away from the ruins, where I could put up my tent for good money. 50 M$, a pretty good deal I believe. Had great dinner at “Fabula” – the last food stand which has tables outside past the bus station (ADO).

The morning after I got up early to see and dive in one one the region’s many cenotes, Ik-Kil. Famous for his especially spectacular eye I had only learned to know it because I had seen a picture post card of it and went “I have to do that!”. It’s only some 10km away from Chichén Itzá and absolutely worth the 30M$ taxi ride. The cenote is a real beauty but one of the more expensive cenotes in the region (70M$). 2 hours, a great dive, and some great pictures later I took the bus to go to Tulum, the next stop on my Route.

What can I say about Tulum… New York Times elected it as the most beautiful beach in the world. There are Maya Ruins right next to the beautiful, white beach and the clear blue water. It’s a great backpacker vibe with a really sweet hostel at the beach where you can rent/buy hammocks, put up a tent or sleep in cabins, all right at the beach. I couldn’t resist and bought myself a hammock (some more kilos for the backpack…) and stayed two days at this fabulous place. The ruins in Tulum are great and give plenty of interesting angles for your camera but it’s not only the beauty of the ruins but also the vibe and the beach that made it two really special and beautiful days.



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