American consum life in Cancun, discovering that 100million Mexicans are short and poor, remains from antient Mayas and big disappointment from people
The Mexican security border check reminds entering to USA – long queues and waiting. In the customs form we declared we carry food. After getting our luggage they ask us for control and the home-made rice and beans end in garbage (3 more days big cuban cockroaches crowl out of our bags and to imagine that one of them would crowl the policeman arm when she was checking the bag makes us always laugh :))
The view through the window in the bus is shocking – are we in USA or in Mexico? Fast foods, shops, hotels, restaurants … this is Cancun, 40 years old city built like a holiday resort for rich Americans. Our hostel is quite expensive (we are 12 in one room) but it’s full of young people who party during a night. In the evening we visit one shopping centre to look for good and cheap bicycles but without success.
On Sunday morning we have a long skype with our families (we were one month without internet on Cuba) and go looking for some bike shops. Of course, most of them is closed (on the 7th day you are not supposed to work but rest!). Elite cyclery is open but most of the bikes are small and expensive. Tommorrow is a state holiday and it is almost impossible to get any information about stocked bicycles or prices (this is when we don’t plan properly and buy the flight ticket for weekend).
In the evening we book a cheap accomodation for next days and meet the only inspirative traveller in our hostel. Tomek from Poland bought a car in USA and now is travelling to South America. He made some research about the places where we also want to go so we talk more than 3 hours together. The rest of people here are young guys who came to drink and pary… we don’t find many common topics for talks.
We pack our things and find out that our reserved hostel is empty and it looks like it hasn’t been working for a while. We come with a plan B – rent a car, visit bikeshops, some ruins and other sightseeings on Yuacatan. In the downtown is one car rental but we think it’s too expensive and so we book a really cheap car at the airport. Of course there is a trap and after adding all needed insurances and reserving another 2500usd from Jan’s card we realize that this isn’t a good deal.
Around noon we leave Cancun – the road is narrow with lot of cars and speedbumps. Before sunset we arrive to Coba. We meet there an interesting guy from Argentina who teaches the local kids here how to do the traditional mayan potery. We sleep in the car at the ruins parking lot and pee behind the garbage bins. In the morning 8:00:53 we are the first ones to enter the ruins (this is probably the first time in our life when we are somewhere earlier than everybody else :)). It is possible to rent bicycles or let a bicitaxi drive take you, but we choose to walk. After 30minutes a pyramid appers in the middle of jungle (the second tallest mayan building on Yucatan – 42m – and one of a few which is still possible to climb).
We start going up. The steps are high to the knee (a small kid can have similar feeling using normal steps) and soon I crawl on four. I’m missing the railings and my brain counts how many purlers I take before I reach the ground. There is a perfect view from the top – but only what you can see is an endless jungle and couple of other buildings. We go down and I almost shit my pants (where are the times when I wasn’t afraid of heights?) . Our “hiking boots” (Tarahumara luna sandals) are really slippery, because I have swet on my soles from the fear. The descend takes more time then ascend and I step on the ground shiverring.
In the complex are many stelas (a stone with graphics used for ceremonies or as a milestone). Somewhere is also the one where our Mayan brothers stated the end of the world on 21.12.2012, but we cannot guess which one it is, because instead of normal writing, they just painted pictures. Walking is not very popular here and we need to give away to the crowds of cyclists (but we admit, that bicycling will shorten the time between the groups of ruins and also the price wasn’t so high).
In the next day we look for our future two wheels friend – bikeshops in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Chetumal… Mexicans are short and poor (translation: all bicycles are small and the big ones are imported and at least 30% more expensive than in Europe). We talk with Gina from Elite cyclery and she ordered bicycles for us – we should have it next Wednesday :). That means we can finally start to enjoy the Yucatan. We visit a cenote (cenote – a hole in the ground or a cave filled with fresh water) and after 3 days we finally wash ourselves. We see just the last 10minutes of lightshow in Uxmal, spend the night in nice and neat Merida, visit a museum and instead of Mayan artefacts we see traditional women dresses (similar variety is possible to see in a marker for free) and we visit the Uxmal ruins during the day.
It’s perfect! We are like on a private tour (there are only 10 people together), the buildings are well-preserved with original deorations, there are a lot of iguanos warming in the sun, it’s possible to climb one pyramide (today it’s better with my fear of heights) and the whole area is like a big grass field – a big difference to the jungle in Coba. The entrance fee is high but it is worth it!
We reach Chichen-Itza before it’s dark. A big chaos, a lot of sellers, buses of police and queues of cars. The evening light show is cancelled so we go to look for a place for our tent. In the hotel we meet a Polish guy Kuba who spends winter here. He brought also a folding bike, but haven’t used it much in those 5 months. In the morning we are one of the first cars in the queue at the gate to the 7th world wonder and we meet 3cars of czech divers who advice us some cenotes.
Chitchen-Itza is known by the highest pyramid where a shadow during the equinox forms a snake on its wall. During this occation there are always many people from all around the world (this explains the yeasterdays crowds here – it was 21st of March). Everything in the area is neat but everywhere are railings to keep the tourists in a distance and you cannot climb anything. There are plenty of stands selling souvenirs and everywhere are tourists (it’s difficult to take picture without them). It’s expensive and too protected – thats the result of calling it a world wonder.
We think we need to bath again and we visit cenote next to Valladolid. This one is underground, there are stalactits hanging from the ceiling and from an opening in the top, tree roots hang 20m down to the middle of the lake. A tiny ray of light from the opening shines into the water. The water is fresh cold and the air is also much better then outside (the temperature is now around 35-40 degrees Celsia without any wind – like in sauna). In the water are tiny fishes who like to eat old skinn from feet – it’s ticklish and everybody looks like he’s laughting on himself.
We are going to spend the night in Puerto Morales, which according to our guidebook is a small town not affected by tourism (of course, maybe it was like this before somebody wrote it to a book and sell it all around the world). In the morning I buy breakfast an coffee and get wrong change (this is the side of Mexico we don’t like – everybody tries to cheat, not much but still it leaves a bad feeling).
Before returning the car at the airport we go to gas station. The guys tries the card in two terminals but none works and we pay in cash. On the way we realize that we didn’t get any bill and only from the second terminal we got the receipt of the canceled transaction. But we refuse the thoughts that he could cheat us like this – people aren’t so bad. In the car rental we see that even if all prices were written in USD they will charge us in mexican pesos with their own exchange rate and this rises the final price again. Jan tells them that this is not very nice and that this is the last time he rents car from the company. Our mood is bad and get even worse while eating over-expensive coffee and pancakes (only way how to get password to wifi on airport) we see in internetbanking that the card transaction from the gas station has been reserved! Bad bad bad… my usually low blood pressure is unhealthy high and I swear more then I did in last 5 years together. We try to find a taxi which takes us to the gas station which is only 4km away from here but the lowest price is 30USD! After half an hour of desperation I find a colectivo but a taxi driver comes to talk to owner and says that they cannot take us. We see a police car and ask for help there – they cannot help us when we don’t have the receipt of payment. We ask them to give us a ride there, but they refuse… I cry, I’m sad and disappointed from people. The worst is that because of these couple of guys I feel a deep anticipation to all Mexicans and whole country. We try to hichhike but without success so we go by bus to Cancun. At the bus station we check the prices of busses directly to Belize, so we can leave as fast as possible from here when we get bikes. I’m bad to everybody who tries to talk to me – I know that it’s not their fault what happened, but I cannot help myself.
Then we meet Juan Luis who answered our couchsurfing request. After almost one hour in a bus which brakes stronly on each speedbump we get to his small and a little dirty apartement at the edge of the town. J.Lu grew up with his 11 siblings in a jungle and came to Cancun because of work. He is not used to socialize with neigbours but every week he hosts at least one traveller. He smiles with his whole face and when you see this smile you want him to laugh all the time. Because of him we see that there are also some great unselfish people here. The following week is Eastern so people are celebrating and on the square we see traditional dances from different regions in Mexico.
On Monday Gina calls us that our bicycles are at the store – yeppie! We replace saddles, mount stands, racks, water holders, we buy helmets, padded pants, spare innertubes, tire… and the transaction with my creditcard doesn’t go through. After entering the “wrong” PIN for the second time, the terminal warns me that there is only one try left. We try to withdraw money from ATM but all are set for much lower limits. We connect to internetbanking to change limits on Jan’s card, but … we don’t have our Slovak SIM card so cannot authenticate. The 3rd try with my card we do with different teminal and wait what is going to happen – will be the card blocked? Bicycles are ours! Transaction was approved and we and also Gina are happy.
Jan is looking at the bicycles the whole evening and I’m afraid I couldn’t get his attention even by walking around naked :). Last days in Cancun we do shopping, buy a stem and then some food and definitely decide that we cross Yucatan and go to Chiapas – we give a chance to Mexico. After we’ve packed our staff Jan smokes one “winning” cigar outside.
We are ready to be cyclists again and not a regular tourists!