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Entry 15: Campeche – Merida – Valladolid – Playa del Carmen

MEXICO | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | Views [1524]

Campeche’s 16th century anti-pirate wall apparently worked because the colonial core that it protected is looking pretty damn good these days and affords good walk and gawk turf. That said, I failed to bring a camera while out and about so you’ll just have to trust me. The first week of March is Carnival time and the townsfolk had a little pep in their step which may or may not have come with a zig-zag walking pattern. The nighttime parade that I witnessed followed the seaside malecon, was well attended and its  participants ranged from kids in costumes to mariachis on a flatbeds to sculpted Sol beer girls shaking their shakables aboard a party float.    

Merida is the cultural hub of the Yucatan peninsula and day trips to ruins and cenotes aren’t too far from the city’s colonial core. One could easily spend a couple of weeks exploring the area and still not see everything. I bedded down at the Nomadas Hostel and I would recommend it to those who like hammocks over swimming pools, salsa dancing, cooking lessons, yoga and listening to live acoustic music. Another bonus of the Hostel was that I was easily found by The French Connection (Mat & Pamela). More and more I am starting to realize that I kind of like sharing experiences rather than just doing something with no one to enjoy it with. Anyway, guided by Mat’s GPS we toured some back-roads south of Merida, swam in the awesome cenote Kankirche, climbed down a of couple sketchy ladders into the Calcehtok caves and took a 30 minute self-guided tour of the ruins at Oxkintok just before closing time – all free of charge.     

Valladolid, like Campeche, is a purdy little colonial town that has a bunch of ruins and cenotes that lie within easy striking distance – it’s no wonder that Lonely Planet listed them in the same sentence on their places to see in the Yucatan list. I took up digs with the good folks at Hostal del Fraile which also had a little pool and hammocks but not quite as chick as Nomadas. Apart from strolling around town, checking out the local festivities in the square and eating stuff, my two main excursions were to the ruins at Chichen Itza and Ek Balam. And unlike the similarities between the aforementioned colonial towns, visiting the two ruins was anything but the same.

Chichen Itza’s entire sight was polished, manicured, developed and full of tourists running the gauntlet of trinket slingers camped between sites while the sometimes chilling but most often annoying leopard shriek was being emitted from a carved cat head. PS - one is not allowed to set foot on any ruin.

Ek Balam was only partially excavated and partially polished, it wasn’t busy and was free of leopard shrieks, trinket slingers and if something had been excavated and spruced up then it was game-on for those compelled to scramble around buildings and bag a pyramid (peak-bagging reference).

I won’t go into much more detail about the two sights other than to say that they are both well worth a visit. Chichen Itza has the biggest ball-court in the peninsula and Ek Balam has Mayan Angels.  

Playa del Carmen: I met up with the Swedish Grizzly Adams / Kenneth with whom I was out till the wee hours – saw Mat & Pam in said wee hours – saw the beach but didn’t go swimming.

Next stop – the Mayan port city of Tulum.

 

PS: I found a new rear tire in Merida and slapped on that puppy... the old one wasn't going to make it to Panama.

 

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Colorado: 1995 & 2013

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