We decided early on in our planning that Mexico was far too vast a country for us to attempt to explore in any depth given the time constraints of our trip, So, alas we simply spent a few days in the Yucatan region before making our way further south. As soon as we stepped off the plane from Cuba we had our first encounter with the illegal touts – did we want to buy bus tickets for 5 times the going rate? Of course they worked for the bus company – the tourist info guys didn´t know what they were talking about! Thankfully we continued past them to find the genuine tickets office 200m down the road. I get the feeling this could be a common theme for the trip!
A few hours later we were in Tulum, our base for our time in the country. We checked into a place which has been our most luxurious so far, four-poster bed, air con, mosquito nets, massive breakfasts and the biggest extravagance – our own bathroom. (I think it will be a while till we get anything like that again). Tulum is a small town on the main highway consisting of a handful of bars, restaurants and hotels. However, it also boasts two key draws – a stunning beach with white sands and turquoise sea and an impressive set of Mayan ruins overlooking said beach.
We borrowed bikes (no gears, brakes, bent handlebars, flat tires etc) and cycled to both on a very hot morning. The ruins were stunning, especially given the backdrop. And the site is guarded by literally hundreds of giant iguanas – they look very majestic as they sit atop the ancient ruins. We spent some time on the beach, chilling out, swimming and watching kite surfers doing flips and turns off the beach.
Tulum is only a couple of hours drive from Chichen Itza – one of the most important Mayan sites in Latin America so we hired a car and made a trip out to the ruins. This time we hired a guide, which made a massive difference and helped us understand much more about Mayan culture, the calendars the people used, the importance of their gods and the sacrificial rites they believed in. The structures were incredible, and understanding how they had been designed heightened our appreciation of the area. The only damper on the excursion was being stopped at a police road check on our way there – they said they´d have to give us a ticket for not having both our passports with us as ID. This would mean us making a trip to the state capital to pay it etc. However, they would help us avoid this inconvenience if we paid them a small “fine” instead. We had little choice but to pay up – only a few dollars as we persuaded them we didn´t have any money on us but frustrating to experience this example of corruption nonetheless. Thankfully, we stopped at an internet cafe to print off copies of our passports for the return trip – just as well as they stopped us again, but this time we were prepared!
We left Mexico the next day to continue on to Belize and Caye Caulker – a fairly brief stop in Mexico but we enjoyed the beautiful scenery, the yummy food (think giant burritos) and the lessons in Mayan history.