Saying goodbye to
Ambergris Caye, Belize,
we got up early to catch the 8:45 a.m. water taxi to
Chetumal, Mexico. We were instructed the day before - when
we paid $60BZD per person for our tickets and registered
on the manifest - that we needed to arrive before 8 a.m.
Passports and customs forms in hand we wait along with
other travelers to board the boat.
of our water trip from San Pedro to Chetumal
was fairly organized that morning and immigration
officers were waiting for us on the dock. We each paid
$7.50BZD exit fee and got our passports stamped for
Passengers waiting to board
Sometimes days of travel are really days of sporadic
wating. This was one of those times.
Arriving at Chetumal, Mexico
ride itself took about an hour and a half, and for the
first time in our recent water taxi transport, we
weren't crammed in elbow-to-elbow.
arrival in Chetumal harbor, the military were waiting
for us. Everyone's bags were taken off the boat by
employees of the water taxi and lined up in neat rows on
the dock. Military dogs sniffed every bag for drugs and
explosives and I was hoping our travel food wouldn't
kick off a hungry dog's curiosity.
would be embarrassing to be arrested for transporting
raisins. I couldn't tell if I was sweating due to the
humidity or to my anxiety.
German shepherds must have eaten recently or weren't
interested in our dried fruit so we proceeded on to the
customs/immigration area to get stamped into Mexico. We
asked for 180 day visas and received them.
map shows our overland route from Chetumal, to Playa del
Carmen, and then on to Valladolid.
mentioned before in our piece about San Pedro in Belize,
that Chetumal, Mexico is the place where many expats living in
Belize go to shop. Prices and selections are better here
than what is available on Ambergris Caye.
drivers were waiting on the dock to take people to the
bus station, and most of our fellow travelers were going to this location. For 60 Pesos for 4 people, passengers
packed into the taxis and headed on to the station
however, wanted to exchange BZDs into Mexican Pesos at a
cambio house and headed on into town first. It's easier
to change money at a border location than further
was a five minute walk from where we were dropped off,
and the cambio house was located on the right side of
the large government building. We parked ourselves in
the shade, and while I watched over our gear, Billy went
off to exchange money.
turning our funds into Mexican Pesos we then flagged down
a street-side taxi and for half the asking price of the
taxis at the dock, we were taken to the bus station.
cabana in Playa del Carmen
Without realizing it, by crossing into Mexico from
Belize, we were in a different time zone and had "lost"
an hour. Our cell phones read 11 am, but in Mexico it
was already 5 past noon. We purchased the last
tickets (230Pesos each) on the first class bus to Playa del
Carmen and we saw many of the same passengers from the
water taxi waiting.
It was a smooth
4.5 hours to Playa, and soon it began to drizzle. Dark, dreary,
rainy weather met us when we reached town at 5 p.m.,
and it was much later than we normally plan our arrivals.
the first night we stayed at a reasonably priced, but
inconvenient hotel in a loud location and the next morning, we found the
front door. The hammock, umbrella, table and chairs are in
a common area.
Casa Tucan was running a special and for 450 Pesos a
night (normally 550), the room offered a queen sized bed
and a side
twin, a refrigerator, wifi and a view of the swimming
pool below. Billy bargained with the manager and
we were able to
get the room for 400P per night. So all in all, we saved
150 Pesos per night.
There were more
tropical birds calling here than we have ever heard in
our entire lives. They call or sing from sunup until
Even though we
had a refrigerator, we still needed to go out for some
meals and it had been pouring rain since we arrived.
Getting rain-drenched each day when we went out for
meals and with little blue sky to go to the beach, After
4 nights of this, we decided to move on.
Pastel painted archways typical of Valladolid
feeling that we had really seen Playa del Carmen but
tired of running through sheets of rain, we caught
the 8:45 a.m. bus to Valladolid at the ADO bus station.
Ninety-eight Pesos each bought us tickets for the second class bus
and we arrived in Valladolid at about noon.
Unfortunately for us, it is raining here as well.
Valladolid (pronouned Va-yah-do-LEED) is the Yucatans's
third largest city and is known for its quiet streets
and sun-splashed pastel colored buildings. We were
looking for the "sun-splashed" part.
hotel swimming pool
a couple of addresses to check out for hotels and our
best option was full. Another place had a great price
but the beds were just too soft. On to one more and it
was rather dumpy. I was beginning to feel like
Goldilocks. Where was my "just right?"
ended up spending the odd price of 413 Pesos a
night for a centrally located hotel with a swimming pool
and wifi included in the price.
Since it was cold and dank, there was no possibility of
using the swimming pool, but it was a nice thought. Most
hotels of any comfort ran between 400 and 700 Pesos a
got ourselves settled into our hotel room and went out
to scout the town. The heaviest rains had settled on a
continuous drizzle so that was an improvement over
Playa. Maybe things were looking up.
Plaza in Valladolid and a patch of blue sky!
Taking advantage of the tiny break in the weather we
headed on out to the Plaza. Here we found the regional
Maya lined up with their wares for sale and behind them
they had hand painted signs that read:
are not meat for anyone
are not hook or bait
are the real economy
last thing we wanted was to get involved in an angry
political discourse with the local natives. The effect
of the signs was to chase me away from looking at what
they were selling. And some of what they offered looked
like fine work.
don't imagine the rainy weather was helping sales
Sun-drenched pastel walls as promised
we did catch a bit of sunshine here in Valladolid. The
city was very clean, and the sidewalks were amazingly
unobstructed. Anyone who has done some time touring
Latin America knows how crowded, blocked and cluttered
sidewalks can be. But as you can see here, there are
long stretches of unimpeded walkways.
no street vendors!
Marketplace in Valladolid
wasn't much street food in Valladolid and that surprised
us. We were used to being able to go out to the street
and grab a meal from a local vendor's stall but we
didn't see anything like that here.
fresh food market still enabled us to get some snacks
and fruit for in between meals.
Sitting on Chac-mool at the Zaci Cenote
Cenotes (pronounced: seh-NO-tays) are underground pools
of water with undetermined depth. They were considered
sacred by the Maya, and on occasion, human sacrifices
were thrown into the cenote to please the gods.
Mayans believed these pools led to another world.
Chac-mool is a figure you will often see in this area of
the Yucatan. He is the bearer of the gifts that are
thrown into the cenote, often human hearts.
costs 25 Pesos per person to walk down to see the Cenote
in person and to take a photo.
iguana sunning himself on a rock near the Cenote
sure this iguana was loving the few rays of sunshine
available during this weeks' long storm. We were
appreciating being dried out too!
Taking a relaxing break from the humidity
a bench in the shade. All we're missing is an ice cream
from the government building
the Plaza, there is a government building that gives a
good view of the activities below. We walked up the
steps and saw some beautiful murals of Maya history.
Colorful mural of the Maya history
you see in picture form the history and symbolism of the
Maya traditions, including the Zaci Cenote in the middle
right. The familiar pyramids are in the background.
were astoundingly accurate mathematicians and
Valladolid was clean and well-kept. With the sun coming
out even for only a few hours while we were there, it
was easy to see how enchanting to the camera's eye this
city could be.
Another small park
can see how clean this town is. Refreshingly so. Notice
the white chair-type benches in the center of this
photo. These are concrete chairs where, when you sit
down, you face each other. Each of you has another view,
plus you are directly facing each other.
have seen these winding chair benches before in other
cities of the Yucatan. They seem rather romantic.
concert and dancing!
a week of continuous rain and traveling hundreds of
miles through dark weather, it was wonderful to get
outside a bit. We found this free concert under the
arches at the plaza and decided to see what it was
keyboard player, a couple of drummers, a wind section
and a singer. A complete band!
there were others who felt the same way. Let's get out
of the house for a change! Let's go dancing.
Chairs lined both sides of the hallway that served as
the dance floor. And there you were dancing to your
heart's content. Lovers, friends, family members and
hopefuls all tried their dancing style.
That's what one has to love about the Latin culture.
Dancing, music and getting together socially is a
finish up our
105 Day Adventure by moving on to the
Colonial city of Merida, Mexico.
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