Well, here I am safely in Merida in the Yucatan state of Mexico. Funny considering a month and a half ago I could not have found it on a map. At this point, I´ve thoroughly read the Merida part of my Lonely Planet Yucatan guidebook and I´ve even retained some of it.
Flight down was fairly uneventful. The lines at security at Hartsfield in Atlanta were the worst I´ve ever seen, but apparently they were not all bound for Merida as there were plenty of empty seats on the plane. I think pretty much anyone flying solo had the option of sitting on their lonesome.
Immigration and customs was an experience I still don´t entirely understand. The immigration part was fairly straight forward. It reminded me a bit of the lacadaiscal Italians. I never really said more than ¨hola¨and ¨gracias¨and here I am, free to roam. Now customs is the part I failed to understand. You sent your stuff through an X-ray machine which half the people failed to notice was there and were sent back to. Then you appoached a row of, I kid you not, traffic lights. This was seemingly inspired by American game shows. Because when you got there, you were instructed to push a button. Red light, go get your bags searched, green light, go on… Guess which one I got? If you guessed anything other than red, to the back of the line with you!
The searching, however, was pretty much of the why bother variety. I opened my bag, she looked at what was on top and walked away. On a side note, my daypack, which has all my electronics (camera, portable hard drive, phone, etc) in it, got the once over on the x-ray belt in both Hartsfield and here, but never searched. I was slowing down the line in Hartsfield, tho – made me a tad self conscious!
After finding an ATM and exiting the airport… I proceeded to look for the bus described in the instructions I had to find my Hostel… Taxis… parking lot… no bus… hmm… I found a couple also in search of the bus and they got the instructions to find the bus, which involved a couple of blocks. In the end, we took a Collectivo into town. This was kind of a large van/bus. I get the impression these are independent of the buses. But it brought us into town for about $1 each. Had a few blocks to walk before parting company with my fellow Americans and then meandered through the main square and up Calle 62 to Nomadas, where I´m staying. Considering the price of things here, I splurged on a single, which is costing a little over $100 for a week. One could definitely travel Central and South America fairly cheaply – the dorms are cheaper still.
I have a choice tonight of a bed or a hammock in my room. There are also some outdoor hammocks. I kinda doubt I´ll do the outdoor, but I may try the one in my room. The locals like to sleep in them because it´s cooler to have air moving around your body. I lay in the hammock for a bit to cool off after my walk. Did the trick. Not positive yet that sleeping in one would not end with Mark on the floor, but hey, you live once.
I meandered for a bit after my near siesta and boy do I know now why people here take Siestas this time of the day. That blazing tropical sun… wow… I was already a bit flushed from my walk to the Hostel. I´m glad I applied a generous coat of sunscreen while there because I think I´m already getting some color, which for me is tantamount to a sunburn. In my wandering I found Paseo de Montejo, a wide boulevard from the 19th century that was built to be similar to the Champs Elysees in Paris. I´m starting to get a feel for Merida. It has a kind of decaying beauty. Grand architecture, some pristine, but most decaying but doing it in a scenic way. I hope that paints the proper picture.
The funny thing was I get to more or less the end of the Paseo de Montejo and I see this building that looks somewhat new but done in a very wild and beautiful design. I knew there was at least one museum along that road so I thought maybe I had stumbled upon it. Nope, this would in fact be Wal-Mart. I have never seen such a pretty Wal-Mart in my life. I got some provisions and some much needed liquids and set back off for the Hostel to make a drop off. On the way back, I saw the Anthropological Museum, has some Sunday hours but before I even got into town, so that will be another day. Possibly tomorrow.
I think tonight is going to be more wandering and hopefully after the sun gets a bit lower in the sky and everything looks less harsh, some photos. Believe it or not, the camera has yet to even come out of the bag. Tomorrow I suspect will be mainly local wandering. I´ve got a veritable list of things I want to try to see before the week is out, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, the Puuc Route, and Celestsun to name a few. Those will all mean day trips out. Many I can just hop a bus, some I may check into tours through my hostel (one of the winning points in their favor aside from the good reviews was that they also book local travel). I may even rent a car for the Puuc Route, but if I do, that will be later in the week after I have my bearings.