24th- 27th October
Another town another complete change, and as we drove into Merida on another comfy ADO bus (after the important business of catching up on the Apprentice), it was clear it was a much bigger city than the smaller towns of Cancun and Valladolid.
Lucky for us our hostel was close to the bus station, as the weather was much hotter and brighter than we’d been used to and it was hard to walk for very long in…
Merida brought us:
La casa del tio Rafa
We picked our hostel based on great reviews, plus it only being £5 a night, so were interested to see what it would actually be like. For such a low price it was great; Rafa, the owner, was very friendly and treated us like house guests, making us a different breakfast each morning (a huge plate full of fruit/eggs/quesadillas) and giving us good recommendations for things to do (especially as every morning he would ask us “plan?”, and our reply was also “no plan…”).
There was even a pool of sorts in the garden, at least that we could dip our feet in, which was lovely as Merida, and especially the inside of the hostel, was SO HOT.
Having not really been bitten yet this trip, Merida is where the mosquitos descended. I seriously haven’t experienced anything like it ever – according to Rafa it was a citywide ‘invasion’ of mosquitos following the wet weather previously. We got bitten, a lot. This added to our already very touristy look, being covered in huge red blotches and having to stop to constantly itch.
I think I got off more lightly than Rav, though we both ended up having to pretty much cover ourselves in deet to prevent ourselves turning into one giant bite. Makes us look forward to further south and even more mozzies…
Apart from the mosquitos, I really loved Merida as a city. It is definitely touristy, but aimed more towards Mexican tourists than English ones. We spent most of our time wandering around, sitting in parks, and generally taking it in.
There were also a good few free museums and galleries so we got to be a bit cultural. My knowledge of the Mayans and Spanish conquistadors was very low so it was very interesting to learn about it in all its nasty detail in the Governor’s Palace, where a local artist had painted the history of the native Mayan people and their struggle against the invaders.
Some of the best views in town come from the balcony of the municipal palace. We weren’t sure whether we were meant to go in because there were two police guarding the door, but then found another door in which no one seemed to be watching. Out on the balcony there were great views over the square and huge cathedral.
Festival of Mayan culture
As luck would have it, we arrived in Merida at the end of a festival of Mayan culture, featuring lots of events and evenings with music and restaurants taking over the streets. Our first night we went to ‘noche Mexicana’, which was not Mayan culture at all but (as the name would suggest), Mexicana style singing and dancing.
The next night there was a big street party with more dancing and live music. Generally just loads going on, so we were very lucky!
On our last full day, we weren’t sure what to do as the festival had ended and we had seen a lot of the city for the past couple of days. Rafa from the hostel recommended some more cenotes for us to visit, so we hopped in a colectivo and headed on the hour long journey out of town, through pretty villages with colourful churches and some little ruins.
Once we got to the point he had suggested we get off, it was clear that where we were heading was neither busy nor easy to find. It was recommended that we hire a motorbike taxi (sort of like a motorbike pushing a golf cart) to take us around the different cenotes but we decided we could walk it. This meant a couple of kms in the boiling midday heat as well as getting slightly lost and finding ourselves at some small cenotes which were definitely off the beaten track (and down some rocks which were too scary for me to climb down). The weirdest thing is that although we only saw a couple of people the entire time we were wandering these paths, they all asked us if we were there ‘from tio Rafa’. Very odd. We didn’t know if he’d texted about us in advance or he’s the only person who sends non Mexican tourists out to the middle of nowhere where we were…
Finally we found ourselves at an accessible cenote though, and having a swim to cool down was the best thing ever. Plus we managed to have it to ourselves again, at least for a bit! There are so many around that they just don’t seem to be that busy, which makes them a really peaceful place to relax for a while.
So that’s pretty much all I can think of for Merida. I feel like I’m just writing lists a bit about what we’ve done, will try and put some more interesting things in the next ones I’m writing this from back in a pretty flooded and rainy Cancun as we are here for a day before flying tomorrow to Mexico City for a few days (including my birthday and Dia de los Muertos), so should be plenty to update with after that 🙂