A Travellerspoint blog

Mérida and the Yucatán

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I feel more and more than it is now getting harder to find time to post articles and pictures in this blog as I am either busy or really tired in the evenings (or sometimes a bit lazy) but here are a few lines which describe my stay in Merida, located in the Yucatán state, still in Mexico.

As I have mentioned in my previous post, the first hours in Merida didn't go that great as my stuff had just been stolen and to be honest it took me a few days to really get over it. So the first days actually were quite chilled out, spending most of my time in the hostel talking with people or wandering through the streets of Merida, trying to look for a replacement camera and laptop.

Mérida, like much of the state, has heavy Mayan, French, British and to a lesser extent Dutch influences. Mérida has the highest percentage of indigenous persons of any large city in Mexico with approximately 60% of all inhabitants being of the Maya ethnicity, according to wikipedia. The city itself is vibrating with life and there are several markets and buildings which are worth a look. I think I still prefer Oaxaca and San Cristobal though, but you can easily spend a few days in this city without being bored.

Somehow a baby-bat which got itself surprised by the rain or must have fell down from its nest.

The hostel I was staying at, called Nomadas, was a really nice and charming hostel and I have to give praise to the staff and the owner who were really nice and helpful during the week I spent there. I definitely recommend this place if you are planning a trip in Mérida, to enjoy the swimming pool and the hammocks, the free yoga, salsa and cooking classes and all in a very relaxed atmostphere.

Not far from Mérida are several Maya ruins and one of them which I visited is called Uxmal. Probably not the most impressive but the restauration work is quite impressive and a lot of building have now been restaured in their original states.


The other thing which I discovered in Yucatán are the hundreds of cenotes, scattered all along the coast and in the state. For those who like me, don't know what a cenote is, it is, I quote:

" a deep natural pit, or sinkhole, characteristic of Mexico, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula and some nearby Caribbean islands, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings. The term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya, "Ts'onot" to refer to any location with accessible groundwater. "
source: wikipedia

Some are really small and look like more to a water well than anything, but some are really spacious with a water so transparent you can hardly distinguish the limit between the water and the walls. It was quite dark when we visited them so I don't have very good pictures but I have added some more from the internet just to give you a rough idea. In most of the cenotes you can actually do snorkelling and for some you can even dive through the endless underwater tunnels.


Posted by manolo84 14:03 Archived in Mexico Tagged ruins hostels mayas cenotes Comments (2)

Bad beat

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As with any travelling adventure, there are unfortunately some days where everything goes wrong, despite taking all the precautions in the world. I wished for me that it would have happened a lot later (or not at all) and not after just one month of travel but you never choose...


Basically the story is simple, in order to reach Merida from Palenque (about 8 hours drive), I decided to take a night bus which had the advantage for me of saving the cost of a hostel night. That day I had been visiting the ruins of Yaxchilan, starting at 6am and by the time I got back to Palenque and got on the night bus at 11pm, I was litteraly exhausted. With the main bus company called ADO, you put your big backpack inside the bus and they give you a ticket to ensure that no one takes your bag except you. Besides they are responsible for anything which would happen to it so you generally feel quite safe. However for my small backpack, containing all my valuable things like camera, computer, passport, etc... I always take it with me in the bus. My mistake that day was to be too confident and to believe that I was safe like I would be on a plane and I decided to put my small backpack in the overhead compartment just on top of me. ADO claims that all valuables that you take with you in the bus are YOUR responsibility...

The bus then left and soon after I felt asleep like a baby but still waking up frequently as I never sleep very well in any kind of transportation anyway. Going from Palenque to Merida, you actually leave the Chiapas state in Mexico to enter the Yucatan and the bus stopped a few times to let the police controlling the passports and visa of a few passengers, including myself as it is frequent that illegal immigrants from Guatemala and the other coutries of Central America try to reach the Yucatan on their way to the USA. At that point, by 2 times I took the passport out of my bag on top of me to show it to the officers, without noticing anything wrong. Actually the second time, thinking about it, it seemed that my bag was in a different position than the one I had left it previously, but when you wake up your mind doesn't really process all the details very well. The bus stopped at Campeche on the way to let a few passengers off and started again to Merida.

Arriving at Merida at approximatively 7am, I noticed without paying too much attention that the young couple next to me stood up very quickly and left the bus in a heartbeat. Maybe this should have alerted me at that point but I had just waken up and was still busy putting my shoes back and sorting out my sleeping bag which I had taken with me. I then took my backpack and got off the bus to retrieve my big bag inside the bus. And that's only at that point, when I tried to open my small bag to fetch something that I realised its weight... a much more lighter bag I should say. Opening it I had the "pleasant" surprise of not finding my camera inside its case, nor my laptop inside its case as well. They (or he) had taken all my equipment whislt I was sleeping less than a meter away... Camera, laptop, smartphone and sunglasses were all gone but all the rest was there. They had even left some documents like my ID card, driving license and other documents which were inside my laptop case! Only a cheap mexican phone I had bought a few weeks ago had not been taken but basically everything of a value which could be sold quickly was now missing. I don't know if the incident happened before or after I had taken my passport out of my bag to show it to the police (after when I had kept it with me) but this could have been far worse I suppose if they had taken it. The more I think about it, the more I suspect the couple who was next to me as they could see very well who the bag belonged to and when I was sleeping exactly. But who knows, it could have been a guy leaving at the stop before.

Still under the shock, I decided to go immediately to the police to report the incident in order to try to get something out of my insurance. I won't enter the details but you can imagine the scene: almost still asleep at 7am but really angry, having to go to the police office which was way out of town, waiting hours for an officer to take my complaint (with the help of a translator thanksfully), coming back to the hostel I had booked in the day before, trying to contact my insurance, only to be told that unfortunately because I was sleeping then they won't lift a finger and won't reimburse me. I am a peaceful guy but in those times murder ideas towards my thief and my insurer definitely crossed my mind.

Yes I was the one at fault because I had left my bag "unsupervised" as per the policy wording states but still, it's not like I had forgotten it anywhere or left it in a place only to come back hours after... Sometimes honesty doesn't pay unfortunately and I think I have learnt my lesson here. The worst thing for me is not really about the money lost (because I now have to buy a new camera and laptop) but more about the memory card inside the camera which contained all the really cool pictures and videos of the last week (including the ones of the Yaxchilan ruins) and the camera itselft which was perfect for me in term of size and features (a Sony NEX-6). Having to replace everything without the insurance helping a little means probably that I will last less longer in Asia at the end of the my round-the-world trip for example or that I won't have the money to carry on to Africa but we will see, I will probably try to pay more attention of the money I am spending in the next months or even find a place to work a little bit to compensate the loss. Fortunately for most of my pictures, I had considered this scenario before travelling and had backed up everything online regularly (except the pictures from the last week as I was in the jungle with poor internet access and all the videos as they were too big) with Bitcasa, a Dropbox-like which I definitely recommend (I pay 99$/year for unlimited storage which is quite cheap).

Anyway so goodbye to my little Sony camera....

And welcome to my new babies, a Sony Alpha 57 camera and Acer netbook! :-)

That camera is a bit better in term of photo quality and videos than my previous one but is also more bulky. Unfortunately I couldn't find the same one in Merida and didn't want to go back to a compact camera, which is generally really handy but doesn't deliver the same quality of pictures, nor videos. As for the laptop, I went again for a 10 inches screen laptop as that size is perfect for travelling but couldn't find the same specs so this one has less memory and also less battery. I thought about not replacing the laptop and taking this "opportunity" to travel lighter but thought that without a laptop it would be hard to maintain a blog and manage pictures during a whole year. Besides not all the hostels have computers with internet you can use. As for the prices, I could manage to find some good discounts so just paid a little bit more than I would have had in the UK and probably paid less for the camera.

Anyway to conclude, don't leave your bag even 50 cm from you when travelling (or don't sleep) and in the worst case, make up story for your insurance (be aware that honesty doesn't pay...). It took me a few days to get over all this but fortunately I met some really nice people in the hostel I was staying in who all tried to help me, both the staff and the guests. Being with good companions always make the pain easier to bear. So thanks to everyone and thanks as well to all the support messages I received from all my friends and family, it really helped. As for me, the best is to carry on and to take this as a lesson from which to learn, at all levels.

PS: I swear to god that for the next person who tries to steal some of my stuff, especially my camera, I will do something very very nasty to his ass. I mean it.

Posted by manolo84 19:09 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Palenque or the Maya ruins paradise

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Next stop after San Cristobal, still in Chiapas, was Palenque, a maya city from the 7th century. Nowadays a modern city has been built next to the ruins so very little interesting things to see there, the main "attraction" being the ruins themselves.

Taking the bus from San Cristobal, you need approximatively 6 hours to reach Palenque and so I arrived there at about 10pm, gave my directions to the taxi driver and 50 pesos and 5 minutes later I was in a hotel right near the ruins, in the middle of the Jungle... The hotel was called El Panchán and had a few cabañas where you could stay for about 150 pesos a night (almost 10 euros). It featured also a nice restaurant which had every night live music and fire shows which were quite nice, especially because as I said before, it was right inside the jungle, with all its sounds. Temperature wise, it was about 30 degres and 86% humidity so basically every small effort you do, you end up sweating a LOT... but you get used to it after a while.

As I mentioned before, I don't have anymore the pictures from that period... so here are a few taken from the internet, jsut to give you a rough idea. Basically I had exactly the same pictures taken but in better of course! :-)


The next day, I decided to pay a visit to some popular waterfalls around Palenque, especially one wich was supposed to have a really nice blue colour, called Agua Azul. Unfortunately it had rained the day before and it was more "Agua marrón"... but still nice to see:


Misol-Ha, another waterfall I visited that day:


Finally, the following day, before taking the night bus to my next destination, Merida, I took a tour to visit the most amazing and most impressive Maya ruins I have seen so far: Yaxchilan. In order to go there, you need to take a bus from Palenque for about 2-3 hours (it means to leave at 6am.. ouch!) then a boat for about an hour and you then reach the ruins of Yaxchilan, completely isolated in the Jungle, at the border between Guatemala and Mexico. To be honest I am so guted I have lost all the pictures and videos I took that day because they were so good... but anyway, we were in the middle of the Jungle, surrounded by monkeys everywhere (especially the howl-monkey, which is a tiny one but has a huge scream, surely to impress the other animals), and I even saw some tarentulas and other weird insects (without forgetting the f****** mosquitos which even managed to bite me through my trousers!). You could climb and go inside the buildings without problems and to be honest I could have definitely spent more than a few hours, just trying to get the mayan feeling...


Finally we stopped on the way back to Bonampak, some more ruins which had some very well preserved murals.


Posted by manolo84 22:48 Archived in Mexico Tagged waterfalls ruins mayas Comments (1)

San Cristobal de Las Casas

or the hippie feeling...

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After another long journey by bus overnight (around 10 hours), I arrived in San Cristobal de Las Casas, described by some people as the most european of the mexican towns, where a friendly "hippie" feeling can be felt. For me San Cristobal is somehow similar to Oaxaca, although it is located in a different state, the Chiapas, land of numerous indigenous maya villages. Following a recommendation from an Irish guy met before, I booked into a hostel called Rossco which was offering cheap deals and good accomodations (about 65 pesos a night = 4 euros). I originally planned to stay only a few days but found myself extending my stay as the city really invites you to do so. So I stayed a week there, some days spent doing absolutely nothing apart from chilling out at a nice cafe, checking internet or reading books to improve my spanish.

Here are a few pictures taken that week:

The Amber stones are popular in Chiapas as it is one of the only places where they can be found in the world. Here is a stone with a fossilised insect in it, more expensive than the "pure" ones as this is more rare...

There are also a couple of other interesting things to do or to see around San Cristobal though.

Cañon del Sumidero

With a tour booked from the city, I headed to a famous cañon near San Cristobal where some majestic views can be found, along with a few crocodiles and monkeys (unfortunately I did not see any monkeys that time...). I would have liked to show you some videos but unfortunately my camera and computer got stolen recently, with all my videos so I only have a few pictures to offer. I will talk about this incident later in a different post (with hopefully a happy ending thanks to my insurance) as this only happened today and I am still quite angry about it.
Anyway to come back to the cañon, once thing which quite frankly shocked me is the pollution in the river. Plastic bottles and other things were flotting and could be seen all along the trip, sometimes even forming a floating "island". I am pretty sure that the tourists are not involved in this situation but rather the locals who do not see the damage they are causing by throwing their shit everywhere without any consideration for the environment. Hopefully this will change in the years to come and they will realise that the only thing they achieve is destroying the land they are living in and from.

A crocodile getting a bit of tan...

Waterfalls of El Chiflón

Another impressive site, formed a main waterfall and a succession of several smaller ones. It took us a while to get there as we didn't want to book another expensive tour, so ended up switching between local buses ("colectivos"), facing a strike, walking a while under the heat, but at the end we made it and it was quite rewarding. You could even go down near the main waterfall and experience the "rain" as the water splashes around. I think the main waterfall was about 56 meters if my memory serves me right.

Enjoying the "rain" coming from the waterfall...

Posted by manolo84 21:13 Archived in Mexico Tagged waterfalls cities nature Comments (5)

Session bronzage!

Puerto Escondido and Huatulco

sunny 35 °C
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Bon a la demande générale, voici un post exclusivement en français...
Sorry for my english speaking friends but maybe you can try Google Translate?... ;)


Après avoir vadrouillé pendant plus de deux semaines et demi a travers le Mexique, il était maintenant temps de faire un petit tour par la côte histoire de parfaire un peu mon bronzage (ou pas pour ceux qui savent comment je "bronze"...). D’après quelques recommandations le choix s'est porté sur Puerto Escondido et Huatulco, deux villes du même état (Oaxaca) mais situées dans le sud du Mexique. Puerto Escondido est environ à 10 heures de bus si l'on fait le trajet de nuit, pour environ 380 pesos (24€), donc pas trop cher et de plus cela fait économiser une nuit à l’auberge de jeunesse.

Voici la carte et l'emplacement de ces deux villes:

Puerto Escondido est une ville réputée pour ses plages et plus particulièrement pour ses spots de surf, apparemment il n'est pas rare que chaque année quelques surfeurs se noient à cause des vagues ou des forts courants. Si j’étais resté un peu plus de temps je pense que j'aurais pris quelques leçons mais bon c’était déjà pas mal de nager un peu, de plus les températures étouffantes (35 degrés) et presque 70% d'humidité font que tu as presque envie de passer toute ta journée dans l'eau...


Sinon à 20 min de Puerto Escondido se trouve une lagune appelée Manialtepec où l'on peut trouver une faune et flore impressionnante. On avait le choix entre faire le tour avec un guide et un bateau mais on a préféré faire du kayak, qui est un peu moins cher mais plus fun à mon opinion...


Le jour suivant le voyage s'est continué vers Huatulco (situé à 2 heures de Puerto Escondido), ville réputée pour ses plages de sable fin et eaux claires, pour ses activités aquatiques et ses hotels de luxe. Bien entendu les hotels de luxe bon c'était pas pour moi mais vu que le mois de Juin c'est la basse saison il est possible de trouver des hôtels pas cher pour environ 200 pesos par nuit par personne (12.5€).
Au programme: repos sur la plage avec une petite bière a la main, entrecoupé d'une petite pause pour aller faire coucou aux poissons avec masque et tuba. Vraiment sympa! La vie est dure!

Spéciale dédicace à toi Thibaud... :)

Les oiseaux aussi se plaisent bien à Huatulco... ;)

Posted by manolo84 14:29 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches birds nature french lagoons Comments (1)

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