I know it’s been a while since my last entry but in my defense, I have been having a lot of fun.
Our journey from San Cristobal ended up being the first decently sized foul-up of the trip so far. We took the overnight bus to Merida, in the north-west corner of the Yucatan, which deposited us at around 9am, from there it was a relatively short journey to Chiquila and we assumed there would be a few buses running throughout the day.* Nope, one bus a day. At 10.30pm. After a few swear words and short-lived research into the viability of hiring a car, Ben convinced a central hostel to let us use their showers, lounge and WiFi for the day for a small amount of money. From that base camp we showered and explored a city we had no intention of staying in for longer than three hours, and salvaged the situation into an enjoyable day.
Over 13 hours later we got on our second overnight bus in succession (who needs sleep anyway?) and at 5am the following morning were yawning and stretching in the tiny port town of Chiquila, where we immediately took a ferry to our next stop, Isla Holbox.** This thing spit of land, just 25 minutes off the coast, had come highly recommended from fellow travelers and we were both very excited, though if you’d seen us traipsing the 15-minute walk from the port to our hostel with our bags, you might have been hard pressed to tell.
After checking in and collapsing into bed, we emerged again at around midday to get out and about. Holbox is an amazing place, with hardly any development, precious few cars and a transportation infrastructure built primarily around golf buggies. As its north of the main Mexican landmass, you get stunning sunrises from the east end and, as we would later find out, incredible sunsets in the west. Nestled in the bottom of the Caribbean Sea, you get super soft, white-sanded beaches and warm, tranquil waters. With the rest of that day we found a spot on the main beach and generally lazed around, as is one’s want when you’re in such a paradise, picking up food when we were hungry and ending the day with a few hard-earned cold ones at the hostel bar.
The next day, we hired a golf buggy*** and set off to explore the extent of the island, and it was these extremes that delivered the real jewels of the place. The beaches were long and untouched, the sea was glass-smooth and the sense of peace was palpable. We found an amazing hidden cafe for some brunch, run by a lovely Italian lady and her legion of dogs, chewing over a distinct sense of envy at her lifestyle as well as the best bacon that Mexico has produced so far.
We continued buzzing around the island on our noble little buggy, with another session on the beach absolutely necessary. In time for sunset we drove out to the west and, well, I’ll let the pictures below speak for themselves.
The next day, alas, time to travel again, as the Merida mess had chopped our Holbox retreat from three nights to two. This time we were off early, catching the 7am ferry back to Chiquila. The spoonful of sugar that helped this rather grim early start go down was an amazing sunrise.
We had to be up and off so early in order to fulfill one of my chief Mexico requests – being in Cancun for Superbowl LI. Having become an American Football fan in the last three years or so, the idea of watching the Superbowl at a normal time (6.30pm not 1am) and surrounded by Americans and NFL-crazy Mexicans (of which there are many) was too good to resist. Upon arrival in Cancun we ventured out to the ‘Hotel Area’****, where we didn’t have too much trouble finding a suitably un-cultured place to watch the game – a sports bar with a million TVs offering a deal of 550 pesos (about $29) for an open bar and generous serving of chicken wings during the match. Again, an extravagance, but the very essence of ‘When in Rome’-ing. The game was incredibly close, our heroic waiter never let our glasses fall empty (with obvious and inevitable results), and suffice to say a great time was had by all.
After a recovery day (and a massive McDonald’s)*****, the real reason we needed to make so much haste to Cancun arrived, in the form of a third member of our travelling team******. We didn’t let him sleep, despite having been travelling for nearly 24 hours, and instead took him out for an enormous pile of Mexican street food, before jumping on a bus down to Tulum.
Mike is flying out of Guatemala City in 10 days, so again we need to beat a fairly hasty pace in order to see enough between here and there. Tulum was absolutely fantastic. Our first day (two days ago from today, just to keep you up with where I’m writing from) we availed ourselves of the local nightlife and ended up salsa dancing to a live band in a fairly grotty bar, where the dancefloor spilled out into the street.
The next day, feeling tender, we went down to the beautiful beach to sweat things out, and then engaged in an hour-long trek to find some the local ruins. It turned out the ‘path’ some locals encouraged us to follow was thick jungle and its direction was not particularly obvious. We also emerged, covered in sweat, bugs and scratches, to find that we were there an hour after closing time. Still, it’s all about the journey not the destination, right? (The journey was awful).
Yesterday, we checked out of our hostel and went to a local cenote, the name given to natural rock pools that are scattered throughout the state of Quintana Roo and are often, such as with this one, big enough to swim in. This was one of my absolute highlights so far, and we had a fantastic time jumping, swimming, diving and generally pratting around in the cool, clear water. Some fantastic footage was added to the ‘As Yet Unnamed Film of the Trip’ library, and [second consecutive] hangovers were virtually banished.
We then bussed down to Chetumal, right on the Mexico-Belize border, where we were staying for one night before today’s epic travel day that will deliver us to Flores in Guatemala. I’m writing this blog on a bus in Belize, but we’re only transferring through this country to get into Guatemala, preferring to prioritise Mike’s holiday there instead. I will upload this from Flores once we arrive, and as I type we are pulling up at the Guatemalan border.
Bye bye Mexico, you’ve been better than I could have possibly imagined and I will most certainly be back.
Bye bye Belize, it’s been very brief and you’ve been, well, extremely hot.
*’Assumption is the mother of all f*** ups’, I hear you say. Well yes, evidently. Thanks for your input.
**Pronounced ‘ees-la holl-bosh’
***When I say we, I mean I. It was expensive and a bit of a luxury, but I wanted to do it so much that I was willing to pay for the whole thing. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear I couldn’t resist hiring a motorised vehicle at any cost.
****Basically the concentration of enormous hotels, casinos and generally debauched nightlife that gives Cancun its well-deserved reputation as a party resort filled with Americans.
*****Sorry not sorry.
******Dr. Micheal J. N. Penn. Fresh off a brutal stretch of A&E night shifts and temporarily replacing Ben as the trip doctor.