Zocola and German Engineering Part 1 & 2


Ahh, Merida.  The main transportation hub of the western Yucatan, I had high hopes for the place.  The bus dropped me off way in the south, and I had no idea where I was, so I wandered for about an hour before I found the travellers salvation, the internet cafe.  Ten minutes later I was on my way.  I found a hostel on the main square called Hotel Zocola which looked clean enough and was inside an old colonial mansion.  I wasn’t too picky by that point as I had been walking around the city in 30 degree weather with 30 pounds on my back and it was time for a shower.  I booked in and found that the female dorm was also the main throughfare for the ladies bathroom.  Awesome.  I decided to stick around since I had already paid and just lounged for the rest of the day in the common area, which was actually quite gorgeous with vaulted sealings and arches that looked out into a little courtyard.  My sleep wasn’t great but I met a gal from Britain named Kia and we both decided to tag along on a trip to the seaside town of Progresso that the hostel owner had organized.  Turns out he just wanted to show off the new hostel they were building but we went off on our own and found a great little stall in the market that sold some really great battered fish.  There was a brief moment of panic when Kia noticed that the menu sign showed the word Delfines which translates to Dolphin, but it turned out that that was the name of the stall, not the fish being served, so I didn’t end up eating Flipper after all.  The day ended with another somewhat restless night of sleep.  I was woken up by a Mexican man crawling into the bunk above me.  I poked him awake to alert him that this was the female dorm and he should leave.  He replied that he worked there and that the male dorm was full.  Awesome.

The charger on the laptop I am using is sparking so I am going to continue this story when there is less fire hazard



So where was I?  Right, so Kia and I met a German named Andi in the hostel and we hatched a plan to check out some Mayan ruins along the Ruta Puuc via car rental since the bus route was bit of a pain in the ass.  We ended up with a blue VW beatle because it was way cheaper than renting something new.  They still manufactured the old style Beetle in Mexico until 2003, which was the year of our car, but it looked like it could have been from the 70’s; the stereo had been torn out and the gear box was pretty interesting to try and shift. It had always been Andi’s dream to drive an old Beetle.  He was an engineer so he considered it a bit of a right of passage as a German.  We set out in the morning {the same morning the Mexican guy woke me up by crawling into the bed above me} and  were on our way.

Many many many ruins later,  we finished off the drive at a huge cave, called Grutas de Loltun;   it had a cathedral ceiling 40 m high and it was used by the Mayans to hide from the Spanish.  Definitely a highlight for a rock jock like myself, though Kia and Andi weren’t quite so awed.  We got a bit lost on the way back and ended  up in a village called Oxkutzcab as the sun was setting and decided to stop for food as we were all starving.  We found a little place by the market and I had the most amazing soft tacos of my entire life.  The restaurant didn’t even have a name above the door, and I don’t know if I could even find it again.  Alas.  We made it back to Merida in one piece and Kia and I split a private room for the night to actually get a proper sleep.  She locked her laptop in one of the metal locker in the main room and we went to sleep, set to depart to Campeche the next day.  In the morning we found that someone who had been staying in the hostel had picked the lock of some lockers and her laptop and a bunch of cash was gone.  Another man had everything including his passport taken, so I suppose it could have been worse.  My passport was in the locker with Kia’s so we really lucked out there.  She had to spend the entire day in the police station and I waited for her at the hostel.  After she was done they offered us a free room but we decided to get the hell out of Merida and got on a late afternoon bus to Campeche.

Road to Ruins

So other than my drunken post at the beginning of the trip, I have been a bit lax on the blog front.  Apologies!  I just got into Merida and realized I forgot my map, so went wandering in search of internet.  I found this lovely umm…cafe a few blocks from the bus station.  It is actually an old garage of some sort but it is air conditioned so one must not look a gift internet cafe in the structural structural stability, or something…

Playa del Carmen was a bit wild to be sure- when I rolled into the Rio Playa hostel, I saw there was a bar on the roof and a club next door, so I knew in advance sleep was going to be scarce.  But when in Rome, get smashed on tequila, right?  It was actually a gentle introduction to a grand trip as I was able to ease my way into the culture as opposed to jump in with both feet and my nose plugged.  I did encounter my first scam as soon as I made it through the resort taxi gauntlet at the airport.  Some fellow with greased back hair and a quick smile claimed to be a ticket agent from ADO bus lines.  Is lack of official shirt or anything other than a clipboard made me suspicious so I eventually found the proper ticket window and was on my way.

I just arrived in Merida, but yesterday I left Playa for Vallidolid halfway between here and Playa del Carmen.  My plan was to get as close to the Chichen Itza ruins as I could so I could then arrive early in the morning and avoid the tour bus hordes.  The hostel sites did not show any availability for the night so I thought I would wing it and see what I could find when I got there.  I found a small hostel a few blocks from the bus station but the gates were locked and it was a bit dark.  I went up to the door and to older men playing dice were sitting nearby and said it was open.  I spotted a young woman in the window with a laptop and assumed she was a traveller.  I knocked for a while until an older lady opened the door- she spoke absolutely no English and I had crappy Spanish so she quickly got cranky with me as I tried to indicate what I wanted.  Finally, a price was established and she led me very slowly up the steps.  The other girl was actually her granddaughter and there were no other travellers to be seen.  She led me to a room with a king bed and pointed to where the bathroom was.  Sweeeet.  The room looked like it used to have multiple beds but the place had been downsized.  For less than what I paid for a dorm in Playa, I got a place to myself.  I got up at the crack of dawn so as not to further annoy the señora and had some real Huevos Rancheros before catching a bus.  I made it to Chichen Itza by 9. 

The place was incredible and no matter what they say about it being a tourist trap, it was totally worth it.  When I rolled in none of the vendors had set up yet and there was no one in line.  By the time I left there were literally hundreds of people in the entrance hall and you couldnt walk 10 meters without someone trying to sell you something, so I think my plan worked.  If you want to avoid the vendors, I would suggest the Tulum ruins as even if it is smaller, it is by the sea and much quieter than its inland cousin.

Now to find a hostel!


Donde Esta El Walmart

I request some apologies as I am writing this drunk and in the dark.  I am in Playa del Carmen and in the last 12 hours have found and used the services of a Mexican Walmart, muddled my way through a Spanish keyboard, inadvertently flirted and been turned down by a B.C. lesbian (oops!), rescued an Australian from alcohol poisoning, had 4 shots of tequila, and danced on the main serving bar of a Mexican cabaret.  Not bad for less than a day in Latin America.




After several weeks of delay (mostly unavoidable), I am finally leaving on my journey south tomorrow.  For my first day, I will fly into Cancun and then catch a bus to Playa del Carmen.  I have planned for about 10 days of wandering in the Yucatan and then it will be on to Belize.  My flight leaves at 8:40 or thereabouts, so it is going to be an early morning, if I sleep at all.  Methinks I need a beer to calm the excitement.  I think I have everything I need, but I am sure I have forgotten something- I never get going without a few hiccups.  Case in point- my trip from Grande Prairie on Friday involved flight delays, a frantic race across Calgary, and at some point I was sprinting down Bowness Road, dodging traffic and trying to catch my errant hat.  This was all for a one hour flight in Alberta.  Once you add foreign languages and passports into the mix, everything just gets more fun.  Onward and upward!


Heading to a land of unreliable maps