21st- 24th October 2015
Our journey from Cancun to Valladolid was with the ADO bus service, which is a bit of a luxury. The seats are comfy, the air conditioning is good, and they were even playing one of the hobbit films in Spanish so we tried to understand that (I struggled even though I’d seen it before…)
On arriving it was clear that the town had a very different feel to Cancun. It is very pretty and old fashioned, with a big church looking over a central plaza and a grid of streets with colourful buildings and touristy trinket shops. Our hostel is definitely a step up as well, with a clean bathroom and rocking chairs on the porch which we have enjoyed using immensely (I am in fact on one now as I start to write this).
There’s been plenty to do, the main things being:
These Mayan ruins have been somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a while, and apparently are also one of the seven modern wonders of the world. We decided to save some money and travel to Chichen by colectivo, which is part shuttle bus part shared taxi. We arrived and got in, and then waited for more people to join until they decided there were enough of us to make the journey. It was a surprisingly comfortable trip and saved us money on getting the ADO again.
The ruins themselves were pretty impressive, and also lots more expansive than I’d expected. The main event is el castillo, the huge central pyramid, but there are also ball courts, temples, a church, and a couple of cenotes (sink holes) to see. There are also a massive amount of souvenir stalls lining every single path you could possibly walk down, meaning that everywhere you went you were greeted with a chorus of “hola hola”, “$1 muy barato almost free”, “very nice present for your boyfriend chicas” etc. One guy went with “very cheap, make my day, never forget me my name is Pepito”. So there you are Pepito, you are not forgotten.
I was also very excited by the wildlife around us. There were iguanas everywhere, sunning themselves on the ruins or eating flowers in the grass. There were also leaf cutter ants which were pretty cool too. A less welcome animal visitor was a huge spider, which Rav discovered on herself when we were sitting and having a rest in the shade. They are massive out here…
We were glad to have got there in the morning as midday got both hotter and more crowded, so we called it a day and got the colectivo back to town. This was tricky as we had no idea where to wait for it so we just sat by the entrance to the car park for ages until one turned up and flagged it down. The journey back was a bit more crowded, but it was still a super cheap way to get about.
The guy who checked us into the hostel recommended a couple of cenotes for us to visit a few miles out of town. On our second day we took another shared taxi out to Dzitnup, which is the home of the Samula and X’Keken cenotes. We’d heard that X’Keken was the more famous and beautiful of the two so headed to Samula first, and were amazed to find the whole cave completely empty, with not a single person around.
This must be one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done, swimming in the clear water of a cave we had all to ourselves except for the fish (most of which were of the kind you get in foot spas and had a great time eating our legs. We stayed in for ages, amazingly only joined a couple of times by other people who were then on their way. It was well worth going early just for this experience.
X’Keken was much busier – there was a big group of English speaking travellers and a few older Mexican locals relaxing in the water. This cave was definitely impressive – long tree roots hanging from the small opening at the top and bats flying around everywhere. It was awesome, but didn’t feel quite as special as our private cenote previously. It was worth organising the trip there ourselves, as the whole excursion including travel ended up costing less than £7 which is a fraction of what you pay if you go to the cenotes with a tour company, and we had no time limit on how long we could stay there.
The town itself
With our mornings spent out and about, we spent most afternoons in the town. It tends to rain mid afternoon so we’d spend some time in the hostel, then wander the rest of the time. The town has a mixture of colonial and Mayan history, and there were plenty of buildings and churches to look at. Lots of the women, particularly the older ones, wear traditional Mayan dresses which are white with floral embroidery. The feel of the whole area is really nice and felt very safe and friendly.
Eating on a budget was relatively easy (although there were some expensive restaurants around, especially on the main plaza), and we are getting used to what the different foods of the area are. Highlights included pollo pibil, which is chicken slow cooked in a banana leaf and tasted fantastic, and a little local cafeteria we found with super cheap sopes and panuchos which both look a little like tacos but have different bases. Budget lunches have included Rav making her own quesadillas, and me eating a pot of something called ‘instant lunch’ which was basically a pot noodle and although it wasn’t the tastiest thing ever, did only cost 5 pesos (about 20p).
I’m sure I could say so much more about Valladolid and we could have stayed even longer and done more things (there were also some ruins about 20 mind away at Ek Balam which we missed), but that seems plenty for now otherwise I’ll end up falling behind. Will be writing again after Merida, our next town.