Our final stop in Mexico- a week on the Yucatan Peninsula with the plan to see some Maya ruins and hit the beach. After some ‘umming and ahhing’ (cue: my worst case scenarios involving various combos of breakdowns in the dark, guns, and carjackings) we decided to rent a car to get us round for the week… nowhere near as luxurious as Penelope, it was a bit of a miracle that we and the Bambino lasted the week together! With a gruntless little engine and no power steering, we navigated through the pot-hole riddled ‘highways’ and jostled for position in the tiny town streets.
First ruin- Ek Balam; a peaceful site which is not yet overrun by tour groups and you can climb onto the structures! Getting to the top of El Torre, the tallest structure, is no easy feat in the kind of heat we had… but once up there, not only is the view awesome but there are some amazingly intricate carvings and murals on the tomb at the top. Oh, and you thought getting up was hard work… I think it took me almost as long getting down- damn those narrow steps.
Second ruin- Chichen Itza; one of the most popular of the Maya sites judging by the number of tours that go there. We were staying only 20 minutes away (at the strangest little resort literally in the middle of nowhere) so were able to set off nice and early to beat the crowds… and boy were we glad we did. When we arrived we managed to take undisturbed photos of El Castillo, probably the most famous of its structures, but by the time we’d strolled through the Group of Thousand Columns, the Market, the Observatory, and back again… there was no clear shot in sight- the masses had well and truly arrived!
On the way back to our hotel we stopped for lunch in the town of Piste, right next to Chichen Itza. The tacky buffet restaurants lining the main road do a roaring trade with the tour buses but we cruised right past them, following our noses to a roadside BBQ selling nothing but chicken. The wife grills all day long- flipping, basting, fanning, while the husband takes the orders- breast or leg? We sat at the front table, about a metre from the road, devouring our chicken- we thought a quarter each was enough, but who were we kidding… tender meat, crispy skin, all round smokey goodness- we had no choice but have seconds!
Third ruin- Tulum; well that was the plan… we would do a day trip from Playa del Carmen but after one look at the beach, that plan went out the window! We arrived in the popular beach town of Playa del Carmen on Christmas Eve, checked into our apartment, braved the Christmas rush at a huge Mexican supermarket (while I love going to supermarkets in other countries, a certain someone was less amused by my enthusiasm), and spent the next few days baking on the beach and cooling off in the sea!
This Christmas day was a little different… a day on the beach with all the other Mexican and tourist families, then home to make our Christmas dinner with only one frypan, one small saucepan, a steak knife, and a tiny wooden pot stand used as a chopping board at our disposal. The steak dinner was nothing like mum’s glazed ham but it was nice to actually cook something after almost 2 months on the road! We washed that down with a bottle of bubbles, opened each other’s present, and skyped our families- all in all, a very merry, Mexican Christmas!