From the Gulf to the Caribbean
18.02.2007 - 24.02.2007 30 °C
Well, nothing is going to top last weeks post but the entries must go on...
So after the wonderful time in Palenque, we headed north to Campeche. I wasn´t expecting much out of this town as I was qutie ready to head to a beach town and this wasn´t it. Although it is situated right on the coast, it has no beaches, only long walkways. But as we got off the bus and found our way to the Centro Tess reminded me that the center of town is a Unesco World Heritage site. Good reason for it, the center of town is still within the original city walls (much like Quebec City), the stone streets are spotlessly clean, old fashioned lamps line the sidewalks, the building are all brightly painted and multi colored and the Zocalo (city center square) was beautiful and pleasant to sit in.
So we found a hostel that was right around the corner from the Zocalo that included breakfast in the price. The restaurant next door was owned by the hostel and the food was so good and soo fairly priced we ate their everyday
We didn´t stay long in Campeche, because we wanted to hit the beach in Celestun, but the highlight of our time there was the Carnaval. We happened to travel there at the exact time of their Carnaval parade. It was a three hour parade with floats and performers and what seemed like the entire city out along the coastline. I only managed two hours of watching the parade go by before I had to head back, but it was fun while we were there and the music lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
The next day we headed off to Celestun. A super tiny beach front town where everything seemed laid back and chill. We managed to snag a perfect room in one of the hotels directly on the beach for faily cheap. $18 per night for a decent room with a perfect ocean view and a balcony with the beach right outside the door.
Our first day there we walked down the costline and came across what looked to be a very expensive mini resort. Complete with a topless sunbather We ended up using their palapas and streched out under the sun, drinking Don Julio Margaritas for about 7 hours. The sun burn sucked but it was quite a relaxing day. The water of the Gulf is a gorgeous green shade and relatively easy to swim in. When the sun is beating down, the waters make a perfectly refreshing way to cool down.
After soaking in too much sun that first day, we opted for a nice boat trip around the entire peninsula. <Tess interjects - We thought that we would be able to get a better deal at the river than at the beach because I had a conversation on the bus with a nice local schoolteacher who instructed us to not pay more than 120 pesos. Unfortunately, the get up at the riverfront was an official Mexico CULTUR group and they charged 500 for one hour! As we stood perplexed and frustrated on the bridge overlooking the river, a man pulled up on his moped and after some negotiation informed us his friends ran a tour from the sea and he could ask them if we could go on the tour for 120 pesos, which we gladly accepted! We hopped on his moped and he took us down to the beach, where we climbed on a lancha and took off!> It took a couple of hours and we got to see the Flamingos up close, a petrified forest, and mangroves (basically, trees growing above the water in what looked like a super wicked swamp where fresh and salt water meet. Alligators supposedly live there but unfortunately we didn´t get to see them.
<Tess interjects: The next day Jay decided to go for a walk to the end of the beach a couple of kilometers away, and I took the opportunity to chill on the beach again for the morning, after going on the internet. After I had had my fill of the sun, I saw the same guy who took us on his moped and while chatting with him Jay showed up. The guy, Daniel, offered to take us to his friend's house for some shark meat and then to Real de Salinas, a colonial ruins site (not as old as the mayan ruins, but still 300 years old!). We popped on his moped again and went to his buddy's, where we sampled true mexican style eating, using tortillas as cutlery, grace before eating, and the most amazing shark stew! After thanking his buddies, we went through the nature reserve to Real de Salinas, which featured corrals, an overgrown church, and other colonial buildings. The area was originally built to house the mayans who were hired to mine the salt in the area. After a while they all moved to Celestun, and the area became a ghost town. When we returned to town we chilled in our hotel for a while, and then met up with Daniel again and he prepared for us some Poc Chuc style fish, grilled whole on top of glowing hot coals. We peeled back the skin and the meat slipped right off the bones, it was so amazing! We thanked him for his hospitality and returned to our oceanfront hotel, a steal with a balcony for 18 dollars a night!>
So we spent three full days there, and as normal, we found a perfect place for food. I think I ordered pizza everynight that we were there. It was impossible not to for the price. An extra large pizza was less than five bucks!!! They made for the best breakfasts I´ve had yet
So now, we have arrived in Piste, just outside Chichen Itza. It´s still debatable whether or not we are actually going to go see the ruins or go to see the underground caves the are nearby. Either way it should be fun tomorrow and since the comming weeks are going to be spent on the Caribbean coast it should be awesome.
<Tess interjects: so, we ended up not going to Chichen Itza. Jay was tired and so I let him sleep in, and instead I got up earlier and decided to visit some nearby grutas', which is a cavern, and cenotes, which are underground freshwater pools. I went to the taxis in the zocalo and inquired as to the price to visit 2 particular locations, Balancanche, and Ik Kil. The taxi driver stunned me with a return price of 200 pesos, and even after he lowered it to 150 I bid him adieu and hopped across the street to wait for a bus. I had brought the camera and made Jay and myself tunafish sandwiches (Jay eats tuna now, thanks Uncle Bob!), and within 10 minutes a bus came by. I asked him to drop me off at the furthest stop, Balancanche at 7km, and for 5(!) pesos I was there. Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow fewer than 2 people into the caves at a time because of the cost of running the light show and the tour guide, and I was the only one there! Not too concerned (although resigned to waiting, this was 10am), I strolled the gardens surrounding the cave, ate my tuna sandwich, admired a passing iguana, and chatted with the workers. Finally, at 11, some American tourists came by and I joined them on the trip in.
Balankanche was very, very cool, or I should say it was neat but extremely humid and hot, which I found strange for a cave. The cavern continued for over 500 meters and had impressive stalagmites and stalagtites, original mayan pottery offerings, and a muffled voice through the speakers giving a historical account of 'his people' in perfect English. I thoughroughly enjoyed it, especially the water near the end that we couldn't believe was water until we tossed a pebble into it, I have never seen water so clear in my life. After I said goodbye to the Americans, I walked to the main road towards Ik Kil and an elderly taxi driver pulled up and offered to take me there for another 5 pesos. I relented and climbed in, paid the entrance fee to Ik Kil, and thanked the driver and left.
Ik Kil reminded me of another location prop from a movie. A large azure circle of 40m deep water beckoning from a large hole in the ground. stairs, tree roots and gentle waterfalls descended to the little cutout of paradise, and lucky for me I had arrived just as the large tour bus left, leaving me alone again! This time, however, there was no problem of electricity to stop me, as the sun filtered in the hole and provided unbelievably heavenly light. I got into my bathing suit and jumped into the cool, fresh water, which was definately welcome after the stifling heat of the cave. Little black catfish swam lazily in the water too, and it was possible to get close enough to them to touch them before they darted away. I chilled and swam for about half an hour before I got out of the water and dried off, again at the perfect timing as a tour bus had just pulled up! I splurged on a tourist priced ice cream bar and headed back for the main road, just as another bus came by and picked me up to take me back to town for another 5 pesos! So there, expensive taxi, I got there and back for 10% of your price!
I met up with Jay back in town, he had been lazy and chilled and took his time setting everything up, and he enjoyed his morning a lot too. We went to a chicken stand, where Jay bought half a roasted chicken with veggies and rice, tortillas and a pepsi for 25 pesos, and we caught a colectivo to Valladolid a half hour later. In Valladolid we got on a second class bus to Cancun, and we were there by 6:30. After a taxi to the dock and a water taxi later, we were in Tourist friendly Isla Mujeres, unable to find a place to sleep (everything was fully booked). We finally found a dive of a hostel (the Urban Hostel) for 80 pesos each, and this morning we resolved to move and upgrade for a hotel, which is more than we're used to at 250 pesos per night but at least it's private and has its own bathroom. We saw the beach this morning, it looks unbelievable! However, the prices here are astronomical, we are a little tourist shocked by all the Americans and the English that is everywhere (it's actually not comforting at all, we much prefer the more chill mexican haunts now.). Most of the people we see around us, even those running the stores, are all white and English speaking, and the prices here are not much cheaper than at home. It's a drag when you have to go to 3 different restaurants before you find eggs for less than 50 pesos. To think we just left a place where a 12 inch pizza cost 45 pesos! In any case, I think we won't be staying here too long, although that beach looked very enticing, and apparently the snorkeling here is unreal. I guess we'll just have to see if it makes up for the hustle and bustle on the shore!>