Sunday, December 4, 2011

2011 November 28-December 4 with Suzanne

Alberto came for breakfast on Monday morning but I was preoccupied with trying to get ready to go to Akumal so we didn't really get to spend much time together; he was also flying out of Cancun that day, although his flight was earlier than Verena's. I had decided the previous night that I was sick of waiting around for Jonathan and Suzanne was planning on going to Valladolid, which I had wanted to spend more time in, as well as traveling around to some other places I thought sounded like fun. Besides, I was really enjoying talking with her and was very open to the idea of spending a little more time in her company.  I feel like our spirits are very similar and I guess I look up to her a little. She's refreshingly frank and confident about what she wants in life and what she expects from the people around her and I appreciate that because I wish I could be more like that.

Suzanne and I said our goodbyes to Verena and were off for Akumal. The weather was overcast and we weren't sure we'd have nice weather at all but figured we'd be able to snorkel even if it was pretty crappy out.  In reality it turned out to be a lovely day! We were both able to get in some snorkeling, see some turtles and soak up some sun and it was nice to just lounge on the beach and have good conversation; I find Suzanne incredibly interesting and though I've only just met her I could see us being friends for life. She's very adventurous and has done a lot of traveling so she has tons of great stories about the places she's gone and the people she's met.

We successfully navigated our way back to the rental agency and dropped off the car, hopped on the R1 bus back to the ADO station and Suzanne went to a hostel while I went back to Paco's for the night so I could pick up my stuff and hang with him one last time. He was hosting three other surfers that night and one of them was a Canadian guy named Mark who will also be traveling in CA over the course of the next few months, so it was nice to connect with someone I will likely see again in the months to come.  Paco and I went for a couple of quesadillas and then called it a night.

The next morning I arrived a bit late to the station, which ended up being fine but which I felt a little crummy about, especially when Suzanne said that she'd arrived like 30 minutes earlier than we had planned to meet!  No biggie though; we were soon off on the second class bus to Valladolid. We later found out that there are something like 150 “topos” (speed bumps) on that road! Lol Suzanne was not pleased.   :D  We arrived in Valladolid around noon and checked into the hostel- La Candelaria, the same place I had stayed with Natalia. We decided to have a look around town, which sounded great to me because I hadn't had the chance to really explore much on my previous trip. We went to the Monastery of San Bernardino of Siena first, which was really cool. During the caste wars the Spanish threw a bunch of their weapons into the cenote there (from whence the friars drew their water) to keep it from falling into enemy hands. At the end of the 20th century the city recovered these artifacts and they, and the church and grounds, are available for the pubic to view for a donation of 30 pesos. The monastery, gardens (where a multitude of fruit trees are planted) and artifacts themselves are a wonder to see but the real highlight for me was when a guy named Richard, who later ended up being our unofficial tour guide for the day, showed us the crypt where the bones of the priors were held. He lifted up a trap door in the floor of the church and led us into a small dank space where we found several boxes filled with bones, which were crystalized with age. Later he took us up on the roof of the convent, from where we could see the city of Valladolid spread out below us.

The kitchen
Two "matate", used with another stone called a "mano" (not shown) as a mortar and pestle would be for grinding grain.
An opening in the cenote above which the monestary is built.  The cenote is quite large, covering nearly two city blocks.
Really cool centerpiece thing at the front of the church that is about 100 times cooler in real life than in this photo.
me, Richard and Suzanne
Dude in back of shop who was bottling the liquor. 
After leaving the convent we checked out this little chocolate shop, where we got a tour of the process of cocoa refinement and were given samples of the chocolates. Suzanne had seen a similar tour before and was unimpressed but I knew nothing of the process so I thought it was pretty cool.

 Then Richard took us to a little mom and pop shop where they made liquor, which they sold for a reasonable enough rate (75 pesos) that I felt it necessary to purchase a bottle for us to sip on in the nights to come. 

We purchased some groceries from the local supermarket and cooked dinner that night at the hostel. I was getting sick with a cold so I called it an early night.

The next day we went to Rio Lagartos, where we went on a boat tour to see the flamingos. Our guide showed us about 10 different species of bird and the tour was very cool; we had found 4 other tourists to go in on the tour with us so it was actually pretty affordable (120 pesos each, about $10). At the end of the tour we stopped at a mud flat where our guide gave us a facial.

That night we cooked the remainder of our pasta and drank the last of the liquor.  Thursday morning we had a pretty lazy morning, taking our time with eating breakfast, drinking coffee and doing stuff online; I uploaded my ruins post to my blog which took forever because I couldn't bring myself to stop uploading pics! There were just too many good ones that I had to share!

We had heard about a couple of places that I, in particular, wanted to check out- a series of four paintings that illustrated key moments in Valladolid's history and a museum that had a bunch of Mayan relics. Suzanne made fun of me for taking pics, saying I was like a Japanese tourist. : D

"This mural represents the costumes, beliefs and religion of the Cupules, inhabitants of Zaci, nowadays Valladolid.  On the upper right section, the god Chaac spills water from his jug, representing 'the one who gives water, life and housing'.  In the middle, the symbols of earth (a pheasant and a deer).  At the bottom, the woman with the kid represents the god's worshiping.  The prophet, Chilam Balam, looks into his Zastún, a transparent blue stone to look into the future, where he sees 'the arrival of barbairan men from the East, coming to subdue the Mayans'.  The clay codex represent the activities carried on by the Cupules.  Depicted on the left side is the violent clash of the Spanish (the lion) and the Mayan (Kukulkán, the feathered snake) cultures.  The sun God descends towards the fangs of a sea monster, symbolizing the downfall of the Mayan culture."
"This mural represents the conquest, the Mayan sacrifice, the catholic religion and the handcraft work of the region.  Depicted on the right side is conqueror Francisco de Montejo, whose nephew founded Valladolid.  In the center we can see the leader of the Mayan people and next to him Francisco de Montejo, representing the imposition of a new culture in the region.  On the upper left side of the painting we can see the representation of the customs and offerings that were performed by the sacrifice of maids.  On the lower left side are depicted the hand works and crafts that were used for the economy and feeding of the Mayan people."
"This mural represents the slavery and the Caste War; this movement began on November 9, 1546, when the indians upraised in Yucatan to destroy the Spanish.  The Mayans attacked with unforeseen fury, with the participation of people coming from the nearby provinces.  The movement began in Chemax and made its way to today's Valladolid.  On the right side of the mural we can see the way the conqueror used to torture the indigenous people and enslaved them during those times.  On the central part we can see an arch, representing the churches built in the city, and on the left side is the representation of the struggle against slavery."
"This painting is a small summary of the events taking place in the city of Valladolid on June 4, 1910, named 'The First Spark of Revolution' movement that kicked off the campaign that took Francisco 1 Madero to end the Porfiriato dictatorship, alongside valuable men who knew how to arm themselves to defend their ideals.  On June 4, 1910, hundreds of people, mostly Mayans coming from towns in the south, prompted the first spark of the revolution movement in Valladolid.  On the left side we can see the fighters of the movement:  Maximiliano R Bonita, Atilano Albertos and Miguel Ruz Ponce."
We grabbed some cheap quesadillas at the Bazar, a little collection of shops and stands located in one of the buildings on the north side of the plaza, then collected our bags from the hostel and went to catch the bus to Merida. We took the second class bus again, despite our expectation of innumerable topes, because it was nearly half the price of the first class bus (which travels on the “cuota” [toll] road). We were pleasantly surprised when there were relatively few, at least in comparison to those we experienced on the “libre” (free) road on our way from Cancún to Valladolid! We were both able to get in little naps on the way, which was totally unnecessary as we'd both slept just fine the night before but it was a nice way to pass a portion of the 3.5 hour drive.

Cool church near the Plaza de la Independencia in Merida 
We arrived in Merida and successfully navigated our way to the hostel Zecalo, at which the sweet guy named Jose who worked at La Candelaria had booked us two beds prior to our departure from Valladolid. We were disappointed to learn that there was no longer access to the rooftop, as Suzanne had heard from one of her dorm-mates on Holbox that the view of the sunset from there was superb.  Also, there was some renovation going on in the plaza out in front of the hostel so that was closed off as well, which was disappointing because we thought there probably was usually something going on there. We walked around Merida a little but didn't find much of anything going on so we called it an early night.

The next morning we went to Progresso in hopes of finding some nice beach to chill on. The girl at hostel Zecalo had recommended a hostel in Progresso that was just opening, and a sweet girl named Patty who worked at both hostels showed us the way. The hostel is still very much under renovation but it was fun to see what it looked like and imagine how it might look in a year or two.  

Also, we got a room to ourselves for only 100 pesos each! We dumped our stuff in the room and went out to the beach in search of a nice place to take in some sun. There were work crews all over the road by the beach so we had to walk a ways but we were able to fine a place with some palapas providing a bit of shade if we needed it.  After about 15 minutes of laying out we realized we had an audience; a group of about 4 or 5 guys were standing by the entrance to the playa openly staring at us! Not exactly the most comfortable thing ever but we had heard that Progresso was pretty conservative so we weren't exactly shocked. Thankfully, after another 15 minutes or so they left so it wasn't too bad.

Suzanne trying to shove a massive slice of lime into her beer.
We asked some local guys about places to eat and they directed us to a restaurant where they served free “tapas” (small plates of food) if you ordered a drink! It turned out to be a pretty good deal; we each ordered a beer for about 35 or 40 pesos and the waiter brought us food until we told him to stop. Most of it wasn't great but it did the job of filling us up!

We bought some stuff to make salads for dinner at the store on the way back to the hostel, as well as a liter of rum for 42 pesos! We spent the evening chatting with an Irish guy named Sean who was also staying at the hostel.  

In the morning we made our way back to Merida, grabbed our stuff from the hostel and were off to Campeche. The drive was very pretty; the country started to have some hills so that was a nice change after the flatness of the Yucatan. There was a scary moment on the bus when our bus was passing a bunch of other vehicles and a truck was coming in the other direction. I kept waiting for our bus to pull in behind one of the vehicles he was passing but no! He just kept on driving and the guy in the oncoming lane moved over into the emergency lane like it was no big deal. I know our bus driver didn't slow down at all and I don't think the other guy did either. When I asked Suzanne about it she said it was normal! I am most certainly going to be involved in a car/bus accident at some point in my travels.

We had to take a taxi from the bus station to the hostel in Campeche (the Monkey Hostel) because it was several km away. The architecture of Campeche is very interesting, very colonial. The buildings are all painted in bright colors and it seems that there are very few individual buildings. When you drive down the streets all the shops are part of a single building, like there is one large building the size of the entire block that is built from tons of little buildings.

The view to the east off the balcony of the Monkey Hostel

There is a beautiful church right outside of our hostel that is very tall, which is nice for navigation. Something is definitely messed up with my navigational sense; if not for Suzanne I would have been “lost” several times along this journey!

After dumping our stuff in the room we went out walking around the streets of Campeche. We had a bit of difficulty locating food but eventually found some hamburgers, which were definitely not 100% beef. Pretty sure the “bacon” was turkey bacon. Oh well though- it was food! We walked around a bit more but it was still pretty early out so there wasn't a lot going on, besides people hustling to and fro and stores playing loud music and trying to get people to come inside. We chilled out in the plaza for a bit and saw a group of people protesting with “No Mas Sangre” (no more blood) signs. Apparently this is a movement in Mexico but I don't know much about it- something about Mexico's war on drugs... I'm trying to research it more but it's difficult finding “legitimate” information and not just people ranting on forums... most people seem to be trying to force the government to do better education but it seems that some people are advocating for the legalization of drugs, so there is definitely more to learn here...

Later there was a show in the center of the plaza. I only caught a little of it but what I saw was interesting, and it was fun to see all the people, mostly locals, out and enjoying the entertainment put on by their city. While I was watching the show a German lady named Renate came up and started talking to me. Her story was really interesting; she and her husband and their two children are traveling around Mexico and possibly later to Central America. They have pendulums that they use to make all of their decisions. The pendulum swings a certain way for yes and another way for no. I love it! They use it for all sorts of decisions- from buying fruit to deciding where to travel next. It was amazing to talk to them and I hope I'll run into them again on my travels.

On Sunday we walked around Campeche a bit, checking out all the cool buildings and the remains of the bastions.  Campeche is the capital city of the state of Campeche and, as a port city, it was regularly attacked by pirates for nearly 160 years following its founding in 1540. In 1686 the government began fortification of the city. 

 Here's a link to wikipedia's page on Campeche:

From wikipedia...

The French engineer Louis Bouchard de Becour was commissioned to uinfy all the defensive works that surrounded the city with a wall.  At its completion the wall surrounding the city of Campeche was 2,560 meters in length, forming an irregular hexagon around the main part of the city, with eight defensive bastions on the corners.

The Land Gate
The wall no longer encircles the city but the bastions are still in place and have been re-purposed into museums, gardens and libraries.  There are also a couple of "gates" that are still intact.  

We were a little surprised to discover, upon surmounting the bulwarks of the Land Gate, that a lot of the cute buildings we had been walking past were simply walls that had been painted nice colors!  After having seen the view from the top it was hard to not feel like we were on a movie set as we walked past the same buildings which had so enthralled us previously, which unfortunately sort-of sullied our view on Campeche a bit!  

After completing our circuit of the bastions we zipped through the "mercado", a hubbub of stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and veggies to clothes and souvenirs.  We grabbed some lunch and fixings for dinner and headed back to the hostel for some down time, as it was getting quite hot out!

It's now the evening of my last day in Campeche and my time in Suzanne's company is drawing to an end.  I know I will find other travelers so I'm not worried about companionship but it has been nice getting to know her and traveling with her.  I've learned a lot from her in my time with her and I know without a doubt that I will travel more safely now as a result of having had her in my life.  She feels a little like a big sister to me, sort-of taking care of me and teaching by example.  Hopefully our paths will cross again in the future!

p.s. many of the photos on this page are Suzanne's.  Also, many of the photos from my ruins post were either 
Natalia's or Hannele's.  Just giving credit where credit is due!  :o)

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