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20. Cancun

Mexico

After our day of cenote action in Merida we caught a bus to Valledolid at night, purely so we could be close to Chichen Itza the next morning and hopefully beat some of the tour buses. Our plan was flawless. We arrived 15 minutes before opening time, we were first in line and no mobs of tourists were in sight. Doors opened, tickets bought and a powerwalk-sprint completed to the main pyramid, solely to take a postcard-quality photo with no one else around. I know in today's age it's all about selfies and portraits, but I still prefer to see the landscape and buildings rather than random people I don't know (or worse, myself). I gave myself a high 5 for my achievement.

 

Chichen Itza was huge, with ruins scattered about all over the place and many in good condition. There were also these fantastic lizards running around, making some weird head movements that could have been saying, "Have you got any food for me?" or "Don't come any closer or I'll bite your hand off". We kept our distance.

Chichen Itza: not another tourist in sight.

What I love about ruins is climbing inside or on them, allowing me to semi-experience what it might have been like to live there hundreds or thousands of years ago. At this site, you couldn't come within five metres of any structure. I felt like I was in a glass museum rather than looking at giant rocks. Plus it didn't have the jungle surroundings that made Palenque so cool. Overall, a little disappointed. Not sure how it is one of the seven wonders of the world. 

 

Nearby to Chichen Itza was another cenote, Ik-kil. In a word: stunning. Gorgeous colour, jumping platforms available and roots extending from the ground above all the way down to the surface of the water. I would have listed this sinkhole higher on the list of world wonders. 

From Valledolid we caught a bus to Cancun, party capital. As we are not party animals we stayed well away from the action, in the old town. Dinner was street food, including quesadillas and the surprisingly good churros with chili sauce (how have I not thought of that combination before?). It was a pretty relaxed night for us, drinking more convenience store wine, eating convenience store popcorn and watching movies at the hostel in air-conditioned comfort.

Hitting the night market for these tasty quesadillas.

The next day was possibly our lowest point of our Mexican travels. We caught a bus to the hotel zone, the most modern and sterilized part of the country we had seen. We jumped off at Playa Tortugas and quietly congratulated ourselves for not staying near the beach. There were only a few thousand people crammed into the small space, mostly waiting for tours to begin. The boarding time for our tour (booked the night before) was 9:30am. At 10:30am, we were the only two people left on the dock. When our tour leader arrived, we were told that today was the first day they were running this particular tour and we were the only two people going out. Commencing one hour late was probably not a great way to start a new tour.

 

We had signed up for an excursion that included snorkeling at three sights (including an underwater museum) plus snacks, and was supposed to finish at 3pm. Our first stop was at a coral reef that was so far below us we were lucky we could see it. The next was the underwater museum, where we saw three sculptures and that was it (the rest, we discovered later, could only be accessed via scuba diving). And then we were taken back to shore, arriving at 12pm. With no snacks. To put it mildly, we were a little peeved. We expressed our concerns as politely as we could and eventually managed to get half our money back. Cancun will never be high on our "places to revisit" list.

 

As an upside, we had to change hostels and we scored one that had not only a rooftop terrace, but also a hammock in our room! All we wanted to do was buy a bottle of wine and chill out in the hammock, but there was some strange law that prevented people from buying alcohol after 3pm on Sundays. It seemed sort of backwards to buy alcohol in the morning but not the evening. This law would not go down well in Australia. We still got some good hammock action in.

Hammock in the room: Best. Idea. Ever.