Into the West

Day 7 - Merida

We bid farewell to Hostel Rio Playa regretting that we didn't have time to bathe in their foot-deep 'swimming' pool even though, as notified by sign, diving was prohibited. Our early bus was of the plush (no really) ADO variety, I sense our standards of carriage can only decline as the trip progresses. We set our compass to Merida, the cultural capital of the Yucatan. First stop was Valladolid though for a brief excursion to the Mayan ruins at Ek Balam (Balam meaning Jaguar, Ek as in 'ooh ek'). A collectivo taxi with two Mexicans heading that way provided an economical connection. The Mayans put up some pretty impressive structures without the use of metal tools or draft animals and though most had crumbled the 29m pyramid still stood resplendent amongst the trees. The ascent was jagged and unforgiving and a slip could be painfully, bone-breakingly fatal. The view from the top, however, engorged the eyes with its vast verdancy. The climb down was more harrowing yet with our momentum towards a steep, staccato death. Visions of mine being another head bouncing down the stone steps were not easily put from the mind. But I leapt from the bottom step once I reached the bottom with a profound joy at still being alive. Cenotes dot the peninsula and are large cylindrical sinkholes filled with water, created by both natural forces and the hand of man. The complete lack of rivers or lakes in this part of Mexico made them life giving resources and a fixture on the tourist trail. The tour of Ek Balam's cenote we took was informative, interesting, entirely in Spanish. There is only so much nodding a person can do before it becomes apparent thye have no idea what you are on about. When our linguistic ineptitude dawned on our guide she....ploughed on with her script regardless. A colectivo with a couple of Czechs set us back on our way to the West. We were entertained on the bus by one of the Terminator films which, it should be noted, lose very little in their dubbing to Spanish. A hostel on the Grande Plaza gave us shelter from the storm (light drizzle). We took beers and endless tortillas outside a restaurant staffed by a waiter whose slow, deliberate delivery redolent of a sloth earned him the original sobriquet of 'Speedy Gonzales'. Above the pleasant woodwind of the house band he did manage to alert us to an evening of music in the nearby plaza which would be taking place the following day, Merida would have us for another night it seemed. The house band was certainly an improvement on the one in the previous bar whose oeuvre was limited to limitless variations on the same song. A Mexican Scouting for Girls if you will. They were supported by a wildly gyrating patron who, having abandoned attempts to be served another beer, took instead to flinging his arms and legs around in a blind, orgasmic salsa, a Mexican Bez if you also will. We took an open-topped bus tour (forshame!) around the city the next day. The commentary was, again, entirely Espanyol but the sites would only have been dangerous distraction from the very real hazard of low tree branches and power lines. Still, an enjoyable couple of hours was spent throwing ourselves beneath the safety of the seats. We wandered the market in the afternoon past stalls whose merchandise was nigh on indistinguishable save for one selling pets (or the freshest of meat if you incline towards racial stereotyping which, of course, I do not). Michael needed some persuading as to the impracticalities of bringing a puppy along for the trip. His dislike for bottles, finite taste for beer and disdain for lime was starting to limit his drinking ability (that and the humidity of course) so maybe the time had come to head South. The musical event was a bust by the way, we turned up in time to hear copious tributes to the benefactors and very little of what sounded like a decent chamber orchestra. Next stop Belize.

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