/ Campeche

Campeche and Merida

From Palenque it was down along the coast to Campeche, the peaceful, picturesque state capital with pastel coloured houses and a long (albeit under utilised) beach front esplanade. Two of it's previous walls remain, a 17th century remnant of the string of piracy attacks the city suffered when British interests started to conflict with the Spanish.

We're firmly on the Yucatan Peninsular now. It's still Mayan country (and will remain so for the rest of our trip). Unlike Mexico City and the North, the Spanish took about 130 years to fully gain control over the region - jungles are notoriously difficult places to conquer. Many of the Mayans continue to live in villages outside of town, still keeping in touch with a more traditional way of living, only coming into town from the surrounding region to work.

There's not a lot to say about Campeche really. We spent three nights there just wandering around. Unfortunately the beach is pretty much just a wall so there was no swimming but it was nice to be by the seaside again. The Baluartes (Bulwarks) that are still part of the remaining wall all contain small museums about the town of varying levels of quality.

One of the Baluarte puts on a sound and light show most nights, and as Ariane has a 'bit of a thing' for them, we coughed up our entrance fee with fairly low expectations. The wall itself served no purpose other than as a projection screen for which is was ill-equipped given it's roughness and large black patches. Thankfully it was subtitled though which helped us make sense of what was happening on the wall behind where a small band of adolescents acted out what was being show on the screen.

It's hard to find the right words to describe what we saw. Amateurish, sure, but the history it presented had a particular flavour to it as well. For example, apparently 'the natives' were compensated for the loss of their land and culture by being given the opportunity to accept 'the one true god' into their lives. In another part, the Mexican skin colour was celebrated as a mix of the dark native skin and the white Spanish skin. The commentary was accompanied by what could really only be characterised as a rape scene where a Mayan woman is dragged screaming away by a conquistador. Then appeared happily together a few scenes later though.

The next stop was Merida 'capital of the Yucatan Peninsular' and tourist hotspot. We had a week there which we initially thought would be way too much but as it happened time flew by.

We'd met a young Australian couple in Oaxaca who were staying at the same AirBnB as us. We bumped into them again in San Cristóbal where we had a couple of beers with them and as it it turned out they were also in Merida at the same time (thanks Facebook). We spent quite a bit of time with them in Merida which was really lovely. They're both really sweet, infectiously enthusiastic, and at the start of a big trip so eager for travel tips from weary old travellers like us.

Our time with them largely consisted of two failed attempts at a day trip. The first was to the sea-side town of Progreso. There's a Ecological Reserve out there which we tried to find but failed after wandering about in the mid-day sun for a while. When we couldn't find it and decided to head for the beach instead, where we were met with a strong onshore wind and murky and uninviting water. So we just and lunch and headed back to Merida. It was actually a nice day, just not the intended one.

Our second day trip attempted was to Dzibilchaltún, about 30km out of town where there are some some ruins and a Cenote. Throughout the peninsular there is limestone bedrock that rivers run through underground. Occasionally there is an opening to the surface which create these ideal swimming holes - Cenotes. The one at Dzibilchaltún is meant to be 40 meters deep. Initially we followed the Lonely Planet's advice on how to get there which was quite misleading. And then when we finally asked a few people and were pointed in the right direction, it turned out the buses don't run on a Sunday. So we whiled the afternoon away in a bar and no one really minded.

Otherwise Merida consisted of a couple of small museums and galleries as well as plenty of shopping (but very little buying). The hustle is much stronger in Merida than it has been in other cities but I guess that comes with the tourism. Nothing has a price tag on it - it's always a give away.

It came to Monday and thankfully I checked our bus ticket because we were due to leave on the Tuesday but were both pretty sure it was Wednesday. Like I say, time flew by.

We arrived in Valladolid last night but more of that next time.

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Campeche and Merida
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