We have been in Mexico for about a week now, and what a week it has been. This is definitely my new favourite place.
Getting off the plane in Cancun you are immediately aware of being in a tropical Paradiso, something about the flora and fauna, the air and warm sun , the people and the big blue skies, and the way people say “Hola”.
There is that same sensation of being in a movie that I had in Texas, we see so much about Mexico (or as I shall from now on refer to it, Mehico, cause I like the way it sounds) in entertainment,that suddenly being a “gringo” and being called “amigo”, feels bizarre, but cool at the same time.
We made our way by bus from Cancun airport to Playa del Carmen, our home for the next few months, we had organized to meet Elizabeth (our very helpful and effective discount house organizerer) the following day, at 5th avenue and 32nd calle (or street). So deciding to find a place as close to our meeting point as possible, we set off in about 35 degree heat down the busiest tourist street in Playa, looking as touristy as it is possible to look, needless to say the walk was tough, and the touts tried their luck, but the uniqueness of being called amigo, and the funny ways they get your attention (“Everything 10 pesos amigo! No? Ok, everything free just for you”), made the 30 minute backpack slog rather enjoyable.
We spent our first night at the Blue Banana, a decent place for $50 a night (ouch on the purse strings), after dropping our bags we made our way down to a beautiful beach, crossed over white sand, and plunged into cool, clear water, what a place. Nothing stung me (Cambodia), the water didn’t cause my manhood to retreat for fear of freezing (Perth), and I did not have the sensation of swimming in luke warm urine (Thailand), this was perfect.
Later we wandered to a lucky find taco joint, where we delighted in some authentic Mehican cuisine, for about $10 we wolfed down all manner of tacos and things I can’t pronounce, had a couple of fresh fruit juice things, and made our way home for a weird jet lag induced sleep type thing.
The following day we woke up ridiculously early and made our way down to the beach to watch the sunrise, there are times in life when you just have to pinch yourself, there are also times when you have to pinch someone else, but that is somewhat irrelevant. Watching the sunrise over the Caribbean sea, standing on a beach in Mexico, with just a few locals around doing the same, one of which was a woman I suspect of being a man playing with her Chihuahua (not a euphemism, but I think it should be). I was struck by how fortunate I am to have made the decisions I did, when I did. Luck be damned, I made this happen, because I really , really hate working.
Later that morning we met up with the delightful Elizabeth, and enjoyed a coffee and a brief chat where she gave us the low down on Playa, and then showed us to our new home for the next couple months. A pleasant and good size studio with kitchen, in a well-kept and pretty gated block. The owner is very friendly and helpful, as are the staff which maintain the place, we are about a 5 minute walk from the amazing beaches, about 10 minutes from a super market, and if the urge ever takes us, a few minutes from the touristy nightlife street. Pretty much in the centre of it all, for about $550 a month. Score.
We dumped our bags in our new home, surfed the internet for a bit, watched telly, jet lagged, woke up, ate more tacos, and then jet lagged some more. By this time it was the following day, and we set about organizing things. I joined a gym to try and keep my baby bump from increasing (and have been almost everyday, you should see me, I’m huge already), we went to the supermarket and stocked up on the essentials, taco’s, taco meat, taco sauces, and coke.
After a week of gyming, beaching, taco’ing, and believe it or not, working (I am currently building 3 websites, and they’re awesome), it felt like time to go out and see some Mehico. We hired a car from around the corner (what did I tell you, location, location), and hit the road the following morning at about 4am (easy to wake up with the jet lag, 4am in Mehico is 5pm in Perth, trippy). Our destination? Chichen Itza, one of Mehico’s most famous ancient sites, 3 hours of driving down a highway on the right hand side in the dark (which by the way has a toll fee of $22, which you find out about near the end, you furkin what?), and we pulled off the highway, drove through some quintisential Little Mehican towns, and found ourselves at the entrance to this great Mayan relic, and man is it cool.
I have to say, I was getting a bit over Buddhist and Hindu temples and such, seen one seen ’em all sort of thing. That overness made the unique nature of this ancient city that much more exciting. Having arrived so early there was next to no one aside from staff there, and we made our way around snapping photos and reading about the place on an app I had downloaded (guides be damned, I don’t have the patience). It truly is an amazing place and well worth a look, especially if like me you have never grown up around this particular historical area (i.e. the states and that).
From the temple we headed to a town called Valladolid, it was kind of just on our route, and we had no intention of stopping there, but then we passed a sign saying “Cenote” and followed it until it lead us straight to the town. I’m glad it did, Valladolid is an old spanish town, and it reeks in the best possible way of Mehico. It has fabulously old school buildings, extremely Mehican sounding and looking people, and a cool chilled out this-is-definately Mehico feel that any traveller here would be chuffed as hell to find. And to top it off, it has an amazing Cenote.
A Cenote, in a brief and completely unlearned explanation, is a part of the underground rivers (which are apparently all over the place), which has caved in somewhat, making it accessible to people to go and have a swim, they are spread all over the place and contain gloriously cool, fresh water, sometimes cavernous depths, little fishes, and on our particular visit, a high diving iguana.
We followed the signs to the middle of town, a few stalls and parking the only evidence of the Cenote, not holding out much hop considering the location and seemingly tiny little stairs to the tiny little cenote. We paid about $1 each and made our way down the steps, and then, BAM! unbelievably there lay a huge open to the sky cavern, filled with clear fresh water, a few people swimming and diving into its obviously, ridiculously refreshing wetness.
We made our way to the waters edge, and very quickly dived in, it was as refreshing from the hot day as I expected. Such a beautiful place, and seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Mehico, your schmick. After swimming around for a bit, I turned startled by an unusually loud splash, looking for the person who had jumped from god knows where, I saw only a giant iguana, swimming in my general direction, he had fallen several stories and now found himself surrounded by floating people, needless to say, I made a hasty retreat and left him whatever space he required. After the turmoil of the giant iguana, I heard another splash, and spotted a fella jumping from what I initially thought of as a ridiculously high natural platform, and then I thought, “Is it?”. I made my way up to the platform with the intention of just having a look, and just to see if maybe I had the cahones to do it, on arriving at the edge and looking down, I very nearly shat myself, it was very high, and then someone shouted “Vamos!”, or, “Come on mate, everyone’s watching now”, it took one more cry of “Vamos”, and I found myself falling with a desperate swing of the arms, as if some ancient evolutionary part of my brain thought I could fly, this was followed by a high-pitched “uhhhuhh”, and a splat. Fortunately I had actually managed a decent landing, and aside from half a cenote up my nose came out of it chuffed as hell, so much so I did it again for the camera.
Cops and Coba
From there we made our way to some more ruins, these ones in a place called Coba, on our way there we passed from the Yucatan province back into our home province of Quintana Roo, stopping only at a police roadblock where on of the policia tried to extort $65 from us for not having our passports, saying that in the Yucatan you had to have it at all times (which we later found out was poppy cock). To be honest I probably would have paid him off eventually, but Sarah stuck to her guns and refused, saying that if he wanted to fine us he should right it out and we would pay it at the police station, his rebuttal was that if we wanted to do that we would have to drive 6 hours in the opposite direction and pay in a place called Merida, Sarah said no, and eventually he gave up, stopped stating that this was a “Big problem” and let us be on our way, a few times the thought of being locked up with some hefty tattooed Mehican amigos had me a little worried, but in the end we drove off and were back in Quintana Roo about 2 minutes later, Naughty little policia.
The rains set in and we found ourselves on a bicycle riding around the Coba ruins in record time, we climbed a huge temple pyramid thing and were treated to an amazing view broken by lightning strikes in the distance. It was amazing to be standing on top of this 2000 odd year old ruin, where more than a few people had lost their heads, staring out at the vast expanse of a crumbling mayan empire. Back in the car we made our way through the town of Tulum (which after a day of driving and more jettlagy stuff did’nt really get a good look at), and then back home, dropped off the car, and settled in for a shower and some “grey’s anatomy”, all in all, a pretty awesome day.
A week in and we have settled into a bit of a routine, wake up about 6am, eat a bowl of cereal,I go to the gym while Sarah goes for a walk on the beach. We meet up for a swim in the Caribbean, head back home for a coffee, and then both get stuck into our respective work for several hours, broken up only by tacos or some such thing for lunch, my smoke breaks, and occasionally, a snorkel in the sea. Then dinner time at our local, a bit of Grey’s, Big Bang, or whatever happens to be on, and bed. What a life.
If you didn’t already guess, I love Mehico, the people and place have an awesome feel, and more than anywhere so far I could easily imagine myself coming back here to spend a year or 2 chilling. It is Mehican independence day tomorrow, and the streets will be full of people shouting “Viva La Mehico”, fireworks, food and parades, schweet, I will let you know how it goes.