Merida Travel Blog

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Our tour group arrived in the city of Merida in the evening after having spent the day at Chichen Itza.

After getting in to our hotel we took an orientation walk around the city centre. Todd showed us the town square which was busy with locals. We went into the town hall adjacent to the square and found ourselves in a huge art exhibit by a single painter. The large paintings were very intense depictions of the struggles of the indigenous population as the Spanish arrived and put them to work in the mines.

Now well orientated we headed to a classy restaurant for dinner. The local crowd there were quite upmarket, along with the obligatory tourist, such as us. The waiters put on a bit of a show at the end with lighting the liquor they were putting in the coffees.

Some of us went out to a nearby bar afterwards for some drinks. I was drinking the beer Sol which seems to be popular like Corona around the world but I haven't seen much of it in Australia. We stayed out until about 2am and then went back to the hotel for much needed sleep.

The next day I went on a trip out to some local cenotes with most of the group. First we walked through the streets of Merida to get to a place where collectivos drive out near the cenotes. We got in the van and just drove around seemingly random streets and towns, picking up people and dropping them off all the way. When we got to our stop there were a bunch of people with reverse tuk-tuks, with two passengers on the front contraption and a guy on a motorbike on the back. I went with Gary and we drove along slowly for maybe 20 minutes on a decent road to get to the next mode of transportation.

Next up we had to get from the road to the cenotes out in the middle of the bush. The transport method they devised was to build a shoddy narrow rail track and then build a small wooden carriage with train wheels that would be pulled along the track by a horse. It was by far the most bizarre mode of transport I have ever taken. It took a good 45 minutes going through dense scrub that was only just cleared enough to put the track in before we arrived at our first cenote, which was actually the furthest out of the three.

I was expecting the cenote to be like the one at Chichen Itza where the water is fully exposed to the sky above. Instead the cenote is accessible only by a metre-diameter hole in the ground that goes straight down, with a wooden ladder to get you down there. Since I am kind of scared of heights it was a bit intimidating to see this wooden ladder just descend into the ground in darkness. Best I can compare it to is the ladder going down the hatch in Lost. If you don't watch that show then shame on you.

With enough courage plucked up I scaled down the ladder very slowly and made it to the platform constructed inside. It was a very cool view inside - there was this very large circular pool of water, with ground rock basically forming a dome over the whole thing at great height. There were actually a few more similar sized holes up at the surface in different spots so there were narrow streams of sunlight shining in on the water. There was an older couple in there visiting with a guide but they soon left without swimming.

We had already got changed back up on dry land so we all jumped into the water. It was a good temperature to swim in so we just took it all in and swam around the cenote. There were a couple of points in the water where you could tread that had the sunlight beaming directly down on to you.

After a good swim we climbed back up the ladder and got back on the horse train cart thing back to the second cenote that we had passed earlier. The climb down to this one was a more accessible stairway into a similarly enclosed cenote to the first. The two things that made this one different was that there was a big platform at maybe 3 or 4 metres high that you could jump into the water from, and there was the large roots of a tree growing at the surface that descended down into the cavern nearly all the way into the water about 20 metres below.

We jumped off the platform into the water and swam around for a while. Todd and Vicky managed to climb pretty high up the roots of the tree before jumping back down in. A couple of other people turned up and we left to go to the third cenote.

The third one was even more accessible and also had lots of people in there. This cenote was exposed to a lot of sunlight on one side but the other side was near pitch black. We didn't stay long as it was a bit crowded and we had already been doing the whole cenote swimming thing for a while at that point.

We got the horse train back to the road and then took the reverse tuk tuks back to the main road. The difference this time was that the tuk tuks were bicycles instead of motorcycles, so the going was tough for the poor guy when he had to ride us up the small hills along the way. At the main road we soon got a collectivo back the same way we came to Merida.

For dinner that night we got pizzas at the hotel and ate them up on the balcony of the roof. We went out for a few drinks afterwards but it wasn't a real big night.

The next morning we departed for the small town of Palenque, home of the Mayan ruins of the same name.
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photo by: Cho