Campeche and Merida, Mexico – On the road between Palanque and Campeche we kept passing people running or riding bikes who were followed by a pick up truck full of people. They all wore tee-shirts with the Virgin of Guadalupe and some of them carried torches or Virgin statues. We correctly surmised that this had something to do with the upcoming Día de la Virgin de Guadalupe. Turns out that thousands of people around Mexico make several day pilgrimages to celebrate the holiday.
When we got to the hotel in Campeche – which was located right on the central square – we were excited about the great location, but that is about all we could say about the place. As I stumbled through asking for a room in my broken Spanish, the woman at reception looked so annoyed and bored that I actually felt bad for inconveniencing her. We finally managed to book a room and she tossed the key at us and went back to her telenovelas. This was the first time in Mexico that we weren’t warmly welcomed by hotel staff – super weird for Mexico.
Actually, Campeche was weird in general. When we first arrived the town seemed happening – there was live music pouring into our room from the square and people milling about, but when we decided to go out to eat at the usual time for Mexico (9pm) the town shut down and remained quiet for the rest of our stay. We struggled daily to find places to eat. We weren’t sure if things were shut down because of the holiday or if it was usually like this.
It was still a fun town to explore. It’s located was on the gulf coast, and once a hot spot for pirate action during the Spanish rule, so they built a wall around it. The wall is mostly gone, but the baluartes remain and many of them have been turned into small museums about the area’s history. There is also a nice promenade along the water, a couple forts on the hills and colorful buildings that reflect a rainbow of colors onto the street.
The ruins of Edzná were just an hour’s bus ride away and we arrived just when they opened and had the place to ourselves for a couple hours. The site was fairly small, one big temple surrounded by a grand plaza. What we really enjoyed was the solitude, the quiet and the hundreds of iguanas that came out to sunbathe on the rocks.
After Campeche we headed to Merida – and checked into a private room in a hostel that was really cool. They had hammocks hanging over a swimming pool and a free breakfast that turned out to be a great place to meet fellow travelers. But we were surprised to find out the next morning that they were sold out for the rest of the week so we had to scramble to find somewhere else to stay.
We managed to get a hotel a few blocks away, but we were super sad to leave the hostel and the hammocks. We also got a little freaked out that places were booked, so we spent a good portion of the afternoon booking places for the rest of our stay in Mexico. Turns out a lot of places were booked up – people were flocking to Mexico for the start of the high season and the impending so-called Mayan apocalypse. So we ended up having to rearrange the order of our trip so we weren’t stranded with nowhere to sleep while the world came to an end. FYI places were booked up for the day AFTER the end-of-the-world as well. I guess, just in case…?
We had a couple of interesting days walking around Merida. We hit up a few nice plazas and met some locals. One was from a family of healers from a nearby village who was in town to bring some medicine to some townsfolk. He actually ended up inviting us to come stay with him in his village – we thought seriously about taking him up on his offer since hotel costs had gotten sky high! This guy also told us where everyone would be celebrating the Virgin of Guadalupe day – not at the main cathedral in the square, but at another church out past the bus station. We tried to go out there, but the area seemed to get more and more sketchy and then I got pooped on by a bird, so we gave up.
We got up at 5am to catch a 6am bus out to the ruins at Uxmal. It was worth the effort to get there early. Uxmal is a popular site and we arrived with just a couple of other people before it opened. The first thing you see when you enter the park is the massive Casa del Adivino – the Temple of the Magician. It’s not the highest temple in the Yucatan, but it is certainly the steepest.
When I was five my parents took us on a trip around the Yucatan and I remember climbing to the top of a temple with my sisters Rose and Katya and being terrified to come down. Katya keep insisting that we get a helicopter to pick her up. Upon seeing this temple, I was sure this was the same one that we visited all those years ago. You can’t climb up the temple anymore – or most of the temples Mexico. It’s a real shame – but I guess it keeps the temples protected and the tourists safe.
We both thought Uxmal was the most impressive of all the ruins we had seen so far, and the site was also filled with interesting birds (none pooped on me) and more iguanas. We spent a good fours hours there and our early arrival paid off: we missed most of the crowds and the heat of the day.