My final week of the trip was ending in Cancun where I was to take a bitter-sweet flight back to Dublin. The rest of my time was spent in Merida, known as Latin America’s cultural capital. It has so much to give. My time was mainly spent eating (The Yucatan is one of Mexico’s foodie highlights). One of the days myself and Iv went to a group of cenotes which are natural waterholes. This was an incredible day, to access them we had to go by horse and carriage. We were essentially alone for the most of the time and had the cenotes completely to ourselves. The Mayans consider the water in a cenote to be sacred and are very protective over them. There is something magical about this water for the next few days our skin felt like a baby’s bottoms.
Some of the other foodie highlights of Merida included; tacos borracho aka drunk tacos where they cook chorizo in beer (a ridiculously good combination), salbutes (fried tacos), cochinita pilbil (divine pork), queso relleno to name just a few. The Yucatan hands down has the best food (with the exception of Mole from Oaxaca; a glorious concoction of chocolate and chili’s and lots of other divine ingredients).
En route home from the cenotes I really wanted to try the Yucatan’s iconic dish of Poc Chuc where pork is marinated in citrus juices and seasoned with achiote paste from the annatto seed. It is cooked in strips on the grill. So we drove the guts of 2 hours to the desolate town of Mani where they are famous for the creation of this dish. We screamed our hearts out to Mexico’s most famous singer Luis Miguel en route. For those of you that know me will know I have become a little bit obsessed with him. There is a netflix series about his life which is a must watch for everyone! When we arrived in Mani the fecking restaurant was closed. Apparently the town of Mani shuts down after 6pm on a Saturday. Anyway positive as always we bombed it back to Merida and settled for a mountain of Panuchos, fried tortilla topped with all the local favorites of shredded turkey, cabbage, picked red onion. Anything tortilla based in Mexico (which is basically everything) is bound to be gorgeous. Be warned! the food in Mexico will make you fat! It is just sooo good.
One of the days we just went exploring the gorgeous town of Merida where I was lucky enough to bump into Mexico’s newest president. We did a spot of shopping and of course plenty more eating with Iv and all of her family. The family were genuinely like saints and treated me like I was more important than the president.
One member of the family that can’t be forgotten is the adorable Sheldon. A legend of a dog that I wanted to take home with me. He joined us on all of our excursions.
We finished the day by making our way to the beach the most northerly point of Mexico, Progresso. It was so beautiful watching all of the fishermen do their sunset fishing.
My last night spent with Iv and Magda consisted of a Mayan fashion shoot where I got to try on all of the traditional clothing. All of the clothes are beautifully hand stitched and like nothing I have even seen before. Magda gave me a gift of a gorgeous red dress as a memory of Merida and a tutorial on how to properly sleep in a hammock (this is a skill). The dress has since gotten a lot of airtime I love it. I will never be able to thank this family enough, truly special people who treated a stranger like royalty. I met Iv in the desert in Mexico in a remote place called Real de Catorce. I was camping and she was staying in a hotel. She used to supply me with the free shampoos and breakie bits, like gold at the time. She was travelling solo around her own country and we bonded over some gorditas (Mexican tacos) and our love of Mexico. We have stayed in touch ever since.
I made my way to Chichen Itza to see the famous archaeological site. This is like the Machu Pichu of Mexico and is known as one of the man-made wonders of the world. I wasn’t going to bother going as I had been to Palenque but you get a sense of FOMO if you don’t go to see a wonder of the word. It was a very pleasant morning I nipped in and out early to avoid the hoards of tourists. What wasn’t so pleasant was my refusal to pay for the cloak room which meant I had to cart my backpack around the sacred site. Served me right. I am not that obsessed with ruins so a quick in and out job is perfect for me.
Afterwards in an attempt to cool down I went to cenote Ik kil for a dip. It was beautiful but way too touristy for my liking. It was completely different to the ones in Merida where we were lucky enough to have them to ourselves. I was too scabby to pay for another locker so myself, backpack and additional bags walked down hundreds of steps to get into the cenote. A gorgeous day all round ended by me hitch hiking to Valladolid where I was eventually making my way to Playa del Carmen for the home stretch of the trip. I stocked up on some corona and peanuts with a few old mexican men and we all squeezed into a TINY collectivo for the 3 hour journey. (peanuts and corona were a mistake in hindsight, I ended up puking out the window in true Ró style!).
In Playa I was meeting my friend Brenda who I used to work with in Cusco in Peru. She is working as a doctor in Play del Carmen but is originally from Monterrey. I ended up leaving all my bits in a Mexican dentists office and went exploring as Brenda had to work. I have to say Playa lived up to its awful expectations. I felt like I was in Magaluf. It was a real slap in the face that my trip had come to an end (and apparently Cancun is much worse). This place is filled with western restaurants and bars, hoards of Americans, all english speaking, high-rise hotels, tacky shops and you pay for things in dollars. It was horrific and I immediately to decided to escape to a nearby Island for my last 2 days.
Iv, my friend from Merida put me in touch with her friend who lives in Cozumel, an island near Cancun. The gent sorted me out with free ferry tickets and offered to drive me around the island. An offer I couldn’t refuse and I was delira to leave grotty Playa del Carmen. I just went for the day. It was absolutely idyllic. I splashed out on a private bed on the beach and amazingly it was deserted so I had the place to myself. The snorkeling was really impressive. Crazily I only had my first margarita on my second last day (I had been sticking to straight mescal and tequila). It was dolla bill but worth every penny. Long gone are the days of eating stale bread in Patagonia and cold pasta out of cereal boxes.
I wanted to spend my last night on an Island avoiding Cancun like the plague. The plan originally was to go to Holbox which is supposed to be more authentic than Isla Mujuers. Anyway time was not on my side and I only had one night left so myself and Brenda opted for Isla Mujuers and it was perfect. There is no doubt that it is very touristy but if you search enough you will find quiet pockets of absolute bliss.
Our last night was perfect. We dined in one of the Island’s best restaurants; Limon. Ta Jo for the serious recommendation. They are famous for their caramelized pineapple desert. The owner/head chef Sergio is bbq-ing the finest seafood and meat in his garden. I am allergic to taxis, no matter where I go so I convinced Brenda the walk wasn’t that long. We walked the entire length of the Island (about one hour) until we arrived drenched in sweat to the finest restaurant going. Nothing a few margaritas didn’t fix. The pina is a sensation. You get served half a pineapple where they caramelise the inside and flambe it with rum and serve it with ice cream. Definitely a contender for the best dessert I have ever eaten.
The airport was a disaster with the bag 10 kg over weight it was going to come with a hefty price tag. I was a bit of an emotional wreck anyway that when the flood works came on your woman left me off scott free when I explained to her that I wante to keep my tent. There was issues going through security when they found 6 pork and mole tacos in my bag. I explained to the police man that it was my last Mexican taco and he let me away with it. I gifted him with a taco to thank him. There is no end to the disasters but I wouldn’t have it anyother way make life more interesting.
Mexico you have stolen my heart. I will be back