Valladolid, Chichén Itzá and A One Way Ticket Home

After over a week in Mérida it was finally time to leave. I took a bus to Valladolid, and the trip in total took a little over 2 hours with ticket prices ranging from $115 MXN to $200 MXN (about $6 USD to $10 USD) depending on the time of day.

Getting to Valladolid was scary but also a breath of fresh air. I realized it was going to be the first time I was on my own in about a month. I hadn’t traveled anywhere by myself since arriving in Oaxaca. It felt nice to have some alone time after being constantly around people for so long.

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Woop – Woop! That’s the Sound of da Mexican Police!

I was ready to get the hell out of the jungle and into an actual city. Mike’s plan was to go to Merida on Friday night. Nelly and I were on the fence about what to do. That’s the problem when you can do anything, you tend to be very indecisive. After changing cities twice in less than a week we decided it’d be nice to set up camp somewhere for a week or so. We had heard great things about Merida and without Mike we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves, so we decided to join him. The band wasn’t going to break up just yet!

We decided to take a night bus from Palenque to Merida. This would not only make sure we didn’t waste a day in travel time but we would also be able to save on accommodations. The bus ride from Palenque to Merida cost around $400 MXN (about $20 USD). When we arrived at the ADO bus terminal in Palenque our friend José from Chile was there and waiting to take the same bus! He hadn’t booked a place to stay in Merida yet so we suggested he stay at the same hostel as us.

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Clowning Around At Hierve el Agua

When I arrived to Oaxaca I had chosen to stay in a co-ed dorm in my hostel. I thought why not? More opportunity to make friends. At first the room was completely occupied but slowly as the week went on people began to trickle out and no one was coming to replace them. There was an older man in his 70s, who was a chain smoker with a terrible cough and had been in my room the entire time I had been there. He didn’t look like he was going anywhere anytime soon. At breakfast one morning I asked the two remaining guys in my room when they were leaving, they said today, so after that it would be down to me and the old guy in the room. I decided I had better move into an all female dorm.

That morning a new woman arrived at the hostel and was staying in my new dorm room. Asta is from Norway and backpacking Mexico solo as well. She will eventually fly to Colombia where she will spend three months. Asta LOVES Colombia, she thinks it’s the greatest place on Earth. She was compelling me to skip Central America and just fly straight there after Mexico.

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Trump and Tlayudas

After Guanajuato, I spent the night in Mexico City with my friends Cinthia and Perla before catching a morning bus to Oaxaca. The 7 hour bus ride would be my fourth this week and I was exhausted from traveling around so much. I decided I would stay in Oaxaca for a week and take a Spanish and cooking course. In addition to rest, I needed a little more structure to my day and I also desperately wanted to improve my Spanish.

Just as I was about to doze off on the bus a rock was thrown at one of the windows! It immediately shattered into a million little pieces. Everyone quickly moved to the other side of the bus as the shattered pieces of glass began to fly into the bus. The bus driver knew the window had been broken but didn’t stop. I’m not sure if it was because there was no where to pull over or if it was because he didn’t want to stop anywhere near the person who had broken our window. Welcome to Oaxaca…?

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Crashing the Party in Guanajuato

While I did enjoy staying with my host, Angel in Morelia, I was very lonely. I was also missing Cuba terribly. There was something about that Caribbean vibe that I missed. Maybe I was just missing constantly being drenched in sweat. I decided to change course – instead of going North into the cold as planned, I would go South and start staying in hostels to meet other travelers. Before making my way South I decided to first stop in Guanajuato, I had heard amazing things about this city and didn’t want to miss it.

On the bus ride to Guanajuato I met a woman named Grecia – I hadn’t had anyone to talk to in over a day so, I was so exited to make a new friend. Grecia grew up in Oregon and ran away from home to Mexico when she was 16. Her parents are Mexican so she speaks Spanish and has dual citizenship. She got a job on a border town then eventually found her way to Morelia where, she’s been living for 7 years.

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Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

 

Back in Mexico City and at first I was enamored! The delicious food on every street corner, the abundance of everything – including water and medicine, the ease of getting around and most of the comforts of home. After the first few days the novelty of it all wore off and I began to miss Cuba. I still miss Cuba. I couldn’t tell you why exactly. Cuba had really pushed my limits – I had experienced every emotion there from depression and heart break to love and pure bliss. Even after all the ups and downs, I still love Cuba. I think what I really missed was the friends I made there and the times we shared.

In Mexico City, I was luckily able to stay with the same Couchsurfing host again in the neighborhood of La Condesa. After sitting in traffic for an hour on my way from the airport to my host Gerardo’s, I met up Cinthia and Perla to grab tacos! I quickly filled them in on everything that had happened in Cuba while I’ll filled myself up with tacos. In a way it I felt like I was back home.

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4 Scams to Avoid in Havana

 

On average Cubans make around $20 a month and don’t even come close to making ends meet. Many of them see tourists as an opportunity to them help them survive. This does not go for all Cuban people, once you get outside of Havana the attitude and motives starts to change. However, here are 4 scams that I have personally fallen victim to in Havana. Hopefully this will help you avoid them before visiting Cuba!

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This isn’t Goodbye but See You Later

 

During the 7 days I was in Santiago de Cuba, I can honestly say I didn’t do much – there also isn’t that much to do. My days consisted of sleeping in late, taking a few cold showers, going out to eat and taking naps. I got into a routine of getting a daily cappuccino at my favorite coffee place, Wen (for only .45 cents), then trying to do at least one thing with my day.

I’ve now learned that once you’ve been traveling for awhile many of the things that use to be important to you stop being important. I just don’t have the energy to care about things that don’t directly impact my trip. As I’m writing this, I’m on day 43 of my trip – I don’t wear makeup anymore or really put that much effort into my appearance. Just thinking about how I wanted to bring my eyebrow dye on my trip makes me laugh – even though they really need it.

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I Just Came Here to Dance

 

Santiago de Cuba may be Cuba’s second largest city but it has a small town feel. You run into people you know all the time. In the day and a half Lucas and I had been there we had already made friends and had a chance to run into them several times.

Lucas is now pretty much glued to the hip with Mariano, we call him Lucas’s dad. I’ve gotten into the routine of spending my days with Pepe (it went from a one time thing to an everyday thing). We occasionally combine the two groups for meals with Lianne or as we like to call her, Momma Chicken. We always eat at San Fransisco, the food is amazing and it’s pretty cheap. I’ve been eating there at least once a day. I’m also terrified of getting food poisoning again so, I haven’t been that adventurous with my eating.

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Late Buses and One Night Stands

 

Lucas and I arrived at the bus terminal at 1:15am. There were two other women from Holland waiting for the same bus. We were all really looking forward to sleeping on the bus.

We started chatting while we anxiously waited for the bus. Every time we heard a noise that sounded like it could be a bus we jumped up in anticipation. By the time the bus was an hour late we knew something was up. Of course the bus station didn’t have any information so we just kept waiting. Finally at 3:30am we were told the bus had broken down so it wouldn’t be arriving until 4:30am or later. So much for taking the over night bus.

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Losing It in the Streets of Santa Clara

 

Lucas and I took a the morning bus North from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara. It was only for $6 CUC for the hour and a half bus ride. We had planned to spend the day sightseeing and would then take an overnight bus to Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba is located 16 hours (by bus) East from La Habana. I was still feeling very sick and tired so, I spent most of the day sleeping instead of sightseeing like we had planned.

We met a woman at the bus terminal who, let us stay at her home for the day for $10 CUC. Dinora was an older woman in her 70s who, lived with her husband as well as her daughter and her daughter’s family.

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Food Poisoning and Single Cuban Ladies

 

I can’t stress enough how nice the people are once you get outside of Havana. It’s not that Cubans living in Havana are terrible people, they’re just living a different pace of life, in a different culture. You can see a real switch in the genuine kindness once you get outside the city.

The casa particular Lucas and I stayed in in Trinidad was owned by one of the nicest families I have ever met. The husband, Emilio was Swiss and his wife, Marcia Cuban. They had met here two years prior while he was on vacation. Marcia showed me how to prepare food the Cuban way using a pressure cooker for everything but rice which you use a rice cooker for. Their cleaning lady, Belkes even taught me how make Cuban blacks beans. Most people use a pressure cooker to cook everything and a rice cooker for rice. It’s rare here that a kitchen will even have an oven.

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