The next day, some of the group depart on an optional excursion to visit cenotes (underground sinkholes), while I visit some of the buildings in the city. The Governor's Palace contains giant murals on the walls depicting the history of the Yucatan Peninsula, and there is a large, ornate hall containing various other historical pieces of art. There's an interesting art museum, I think that's the second art museum I've been to in my life and they're both from this trip! The Casa de Montejo is a palace built soon after the Spanish conquest and is interesting for it's politically incorrect carvings on the front showing a Spanish Conquistador crushing Mayan heads underfoot. There are also the obligatory Cathedral de San Ildefonso in the main square, which is pretty bland inside, and the Iglesia de Jesus in a nearby square which was built using stones from the Mayan city of Tiho. Some of us spend the evening in a cool Mexican bar, nice decor, great food, free hats and guns for photo opportunities!
The next day, we have a 2 hour bus trip to the ruins of Chichen Itza, a Mayan religious centre which flourished from 300-900AD, but was then taken over by the Toltecs from Mexico City who were war-like and heavily into human sacrifice. The main pyramid, El Castillo, is actually the Mayan calendar set in stone, eg. there are 91 steps on each of the four sides and one shared step at the top making 365. The ball court is the biggest in Mayan culture. Two teams of 7 had to propel a rubber ball through a hoop high up on each wall, but not using hands or feet (eg. they could use knees, hips, elbows). The winning captain was decapitated - this was considered a great honour, and thousands were sacrificed in this way!
After the tour and a bit of shopping at the on-site stalls, we're off to Cancun. Between 1970 and 1974, a deserted stretch of beach was transformed into a massive entertainment complex - a bit like Ibiza but for pissed up Yanks on Spring Break rather than Brits.
We arrive when it's dark so it's a quick get ready and off out for a farewell meal and drinks for those of the group for whom it is the last night of the modular tour.
The next day is free and still no sun, so some of us spend the day shopping at malls, eating, and a few drinks of course. The malls are very "American", Western brands, souvenir shops, food and drink places galore. A few new people are joining us for the next leg of the trip which comprises about 11 days from Cancun, Mexico to Antigua in Guatemala, so we have a group meal. The rum and cokes are flowing well this night and I can't even remember getting back to the hotel, the most pissed I've been on the trip so far, like every weekend in Bridgie in fact!
We have an early morning bus trip to the resort of Playa del Carmen, a mini version of Cancun but not so Americanised. Nice beach, clear, turquoise water, plenty of souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants. You could easily spend a few days relaxing on the beach, but we have only one day here before we're off so we head to the beach and do some shopping. In the evening, It's Alex's last night so me, Alex, Kaine and Evie head off to Ajua Maya restaurant, which turns out to be a good move - good live music, excellent food (albeit pricey), waiters bring your drinks over balanced on their fingers Harlem Globetrotter-style. Alex gets a farewell bottle of Scorpion Mezcal, and he has to do the scorpion, yuck! We have to get up at 5am tomorrow for a full day travel to our next destination in Belize and do the Mexican-Belize border crossing, and I don't get to bed till 2am, damn! Kaine and Alex decide to head onto somewhere else to carry on the night. Will they make it back in 3 hours to carry on the tour? Stay tuned for the next instalment, lol!
Adios Mexico! I wasn't too sure what to expect of Mexico, but I must say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Modern tranquil cities and towns where you can relax and watch the world go by, I didn't at any stage feel unsafe walking around (even in Mexico City), the hotels were of good quality, the locals were friendly, good weather and food (no tummy problems), plenty of sights to see such as Mayan ruins, more adventurous activities too for those so inclined. Maybe too much drinking but hey, I'm on holiday. I can catch up on a bit more culture during the rest of the trip. I'd definitely come back to Mexico sometime for a relaxing break and can highly recommended the country, but learn some Spanish first!
A long 9 hour bus journey takes us to the biggest city in the Yucatan Peninsula, Merida. It was built in 1524 partly using stones from a Mayan city called Tiho. It is a very touristy city, there are loads more tourists here than all the places we have visited so far put together. We have an orientation walk of the main square and surrounding buildings, followed by a group meal in the evening, with drinks of course!