Mexico & Belize – Yucatan Peninsula

London sucks in the winter, and particularly sucks if your going to be unemployed. Anyone who’s spent time there knows its an incredibly expensive city so it not only sucks because of the cold and lack of things to do, but is literally a money suck. So…I needed to get out. Run away somewhere warm for a while.

Fortunately my good friend Simpson had recently arrived to London via Mongolia, Russia, Lativa and Spain. He wasn’t planning on sticking around for long so I proposed the idea of heading somewhere together – though it needed to be cheap and adventurous. Somewhere that would give us maximum bang for our buck. We considered Eastern Europe, but weren’t sold and as I had just come from South America, that was out too. We looked at flights to Mexico—only around $800. Booked. Passport, Customs, Baggage Check, Touch Down, What up Mexico!

We’re assailed by 35c heat the moment we walk out the airport in Cancun. Now lets be clear – Cancun is not our thing. However it is a gateway airport with cheap flights and allowed for a nice entry point to make our way south down the Yucatan and then into the highlands of Central America, before coming out again for the coast line and finishing up somewhere down in Costa Rica.

We hail a taxi and head for down town. Its so westernised and touristy it almost feels part of America rather than Mexico. I shouldn’t be surprised after all over 300,000 Americans flock here for spring break each year.

We are booked in a hostel down town rather than staying in a beach from hotel on the Hotel Zone. Cancun is a funny place – the city/town its self sitting a few kilometres inland from the beach is very authentic and only a little touristy – with the biggest section being the central mercado full of tourist markets and gift stalls selling cheap silverware and knock off Mayan trinkets and artefacts. The other section of Cancun, is the hotel zone – a 25mile strip of white sandy beach lined with enormous hotels and super clubs. We make it out here for a day venture – the beach is excellent, really all its cracked up to be and its quite time so its quite pleasant, though you can imagine the party carnage come busy season.

2 days in Cancun gives us our bearings and we make the essential day trip pilgrimage to see the Chichen Iza. The tour takes us to some ceynotes for s swim before the temple. Its quite pleasant and the whole coast is lined with them – underground water holes and caves formed in the limestone bedrock from ground water. Some even used to be used by the Maya for sacrificial offerings. Cool huh?

Chichen Iza itself its equally impressive and disappointing. Lets start with the tales of the good – as a ore columbian Mayan city, it is quite a collection of ancient temples and buildings, with the centre piece being the El Castillo (the giant temple you see in all the pictures). There are some really cool architectural elements at play here – perfect alignment for sound echoes from certain spots and what not. And its sheer size is impressive even if you’ve seen some of the other worlds grand archaeological sites.

However, its essentially a Mayan theme park – not a lost city. With carefully manicured grass and lawns, a busy entrance to collect fees and amenities, along with hundreds of vendors selling cheap trinkets, masks and Jaguar whistles (more on these later) it has no resemblance to a lost city of ancient archaeological discovery.

Its the last of of time in Cancun and the next day we are rolling on a bus to Belize.