Travel blog – Day 4

The day started very early. I couldn’t sleep all night because of blood-thirsty bugs. Originally I thought it was mosquitoes. Even though I was trying to ignore them, their bites kept waking me up. Then, at around 6am it occurred to me… what if these were not mosquito bites, especially since I could feel some at areas of my body which were covered. I woke up for good and started looking. True enough, there were little insects, very very small, that were attached to the body having a go at my blood.

A very worrying thought came to mind… bedbugs. If they were indeed bedbugs, I was in deep trouble. I would probably have to throw away my entire backpack and its contents before I return to the US. I love that backpack, it has taken me to many many places around the world.

I could have never believed in my life that an army-related experience would have come useful at some point. (For those who don’t know, I was drafted for a year. In Greece, military service is compulsory. I was mostly cleaning toilets, doing dishes, writing documents, etc. No actual military training whatsoever.). Back then, we had a bedbug problem so I knew how they looked; these were not bedbugs. In the army, the way to deal with such a situation was to take all the bed frames outside and disinfect them, thoroughly wash all bed covers, all clothes too.

One cannot be too safe. I went straight to the shower for a looong time. I then started washing all the clothes that might have been exposed. One never knows, bedbugs in Mexico may look different from those in Greece :-) If this had indeed been a bedbug problem, I would have blamed the hotel in Progresso, the one with the ants, and not the one I was currently in. (As it turns out, I now – when I am writing this entry – know that it was a false alarm and all is good… more in tomorrow’s entry).

After a quick breakfast at the hotel, I get into Julio and navigate my way outside of Merida. The back seat of Julio is full of clothes drying up :-)

I am now equipped with confidence that the newly acquired maps will safely take me to my new destinations. Indeed, my planned route holds no surprises until I reach Muna. There is something going on (don’t know… could be construction or some celebration). The police have completely blocked access to the road and everyone is diverted. I ask the kind policeman about how to get to Uxmal now. He laughs (which means I get worried) and gives me complicated directions. Even if I spoke Spanish, I could have never remembered them.

I trust my intuition a lot (I go through life like that… sometimes it’s not good). I see a minivan in front of me and I say to myself that he was probably facing the same problem but he seemed to know his way around. Even if my intuition was wrong, I would have just had to ask again somewhere in the narrow and complicated streets of Muna. He’s fast through the narrow streets but I manage to keep up with him up to a point. Then I lose him (I didn’t want to violate traffic rules, like he did). I was fortunate, though, to have a reached a point that put me back on track. I confirmed with another policeman I was indeed heading the right direction and I was on my way (it seems that we ended up at the other say of the blocked road :-).

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I arrive at Uxmal. It’s a gorgeous Maya site. I must have easily spent 3 or more hours walking around. BTW… don’t you just love those signs with the Maya pyramids? They are all over the Yucatan peninsula.

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It turns out that the iguana I saw the other day is not an uncommon encounter in this area :-) There were LOTS of them in Uxmal.

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In Uxmal, we were allowed to climb one of the pyramids, the “Great Pyramid”. The highest structure of the site was the Magician’s Pyramid, which looks really beautiful, as you can see in the first and second photos above. I stayed for a long time at the time of the Great Pyramid, admiring the view and also thinking about lots of different stuff. Here’s a panoramic view from the corner of the Great Pyramid

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Something in the landscape didn’t look right. It made me think about politics and religion. Here’s a zoomed part of another photo from the top of the pyramid. Can you notice a yellow structure at the left? That’s not Maya. That’s a Mission building, the entrance to which I noticed on the way to the ruins. I was surprised to see that it had become part of the beautiful landscape after I climbed at the top of the pyramid. For those who are interested in my rant, you can find it at the end of the post.

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While in Uxmal, I tried my luck going into the jungle. Apparently there was a structure far away for which there was no cleared and well-marked path. I followed what seemed to be like a candidate path but after 20mins or so, it was too difficult to continue while making sure I could find my way back.

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After the wonderful time in Uxmal, I headed south, taking the side roads. Now equipped with a good map, I was confident doing so :-) In fact, at some point I stopped at an intersection to confirm the turn I needed to take and an Argentinean couple stopped at my side to ask for directions :-) I was more than glad to help, of course. I saw them again at Kabah, the beginning of the Puuc Route (a road connecting a series of Maya cities), where we chatted for a while.

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After Kabah, I thought of heading south again to find a small town for a break and perhaps stay for the night. My target was Hopelchen. The drive was absolutely beautiful. I could tell that the landscape was changing. The colors, the smells, the atmosphere are the reasons I love road trips. Endless miles of road, all to myself for most of the time.

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And then, I reached the end of the Yucatan state and went through the Campeche state’s gate, literally :-)

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More road ahead, leaving the Yucatan state behind for good. The landscape is definitely different now.

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I finally reached Hopelchen. It was around 4.30pm and nothing was moving. Of course, sensible people don’t drive around like me, they go for a siesta :-) Cute little town but not the type where I would end up spending the night. I found a small “restaurant” (they didn’t have any options but they were very cute trying to serve me the only thing available) and got some lunch while reading. Do you see that small bowl of green stuff next to the fajitas? I thought it was a type of spread. Little I knew that they were stomach-hole-opening peppers. They were wayyyy too spicy, especially given that I spread them all around my first fajita :-( Serves me right for not trying first.

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Since I didn’t fancy staying at Hopelchen, I decided to head west. That presented a change of plans again since I was really planning to continue south and then cut inland towards Xpujil before reaching Chetumal and heading towards Belize. Well, I am glad I changed the route once more. New destination was the seaside city of Campeche (the capital of the state I guess… I need to check it out).

I found a wonderful hotel through one of my guides. Another beautiful hotel, the type that makes me stay more than one nights. It reminded me that hotel somewhere in Cuba when Jon MacLaren and I stayed an extra night just because we loved the building, even though it didn’t have any running water throughout the two days of our stay, despite the assurances we were getting from the great guys who worked there (we actually bought them pizza and beers but we still didn’t get water :-). The rooms were huge at that hotel.

The photo of the room in Campeche looks a bit distorted, an artifact of multiple-photo stitching

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After I settled, I went for a walk and some night photography.

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There was a local festival going on at the central plaza. It was magnificent.

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I took a break from the festivities for a walk and some food and then back to the central plaza. Most of the people had gone. The night was gorgeous, the vibe absolutely ideal, and I was sitting at the plaza, under the stars listening to Mexican ballads. A memorable end to the day.

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Lesson of the day: Check for ants AND bedbugs.

<rant>

That building is totally out of place. It was established there because the Spanish wanted to convert the Maya people (more than 25,000 in the area) to Christianity. The reason I took this photograph was because I wanted to rant about the repetition of history when it comes to imperialism. I guess things never change.

What’s it with humans and their eagerness to impose their own values and belief systems to others? They appear as if they have this internal certainty about the correctness of their beliefs and they are more than eager to impose them to others. Or is it just an excuse, a way to control people by converting them to the one belief system that they are in charge of? I suspect the truth is somewhere in between. I once saw a great sticker at the back of a car: “If you don’t agree, we’ll bring democracy to your country” (or something like that :-)

Don’t get me wrong. I am all in favor of fighting for equal opportunities amongst people, for their education, for their medical care, for lack of oppression, for human rights, etc. But it has to be done for the right reasons and not because of the hidden agendas involving coffee beans or oil.

</rant>