Flamingos, Mangroves and Ricky Martin, Oh My!

A friend that I made in Mexico City, Perla, decided to come visit me in Merida. She has close family friends in Merida who she hadn’t seen in over a year, and me being there was the perfect excuse to come visit.

Perla’s friends, Jorge, Roxanna and their daughter Andrea, are the nicest people I have ever met. Jorge is like the picture-perfect TV husband and father: very generous, caring and patient. Jorge and his wife made me feel so welcome and part of their family. They own two homes, one of which they use for storage. Perla and I were lucky enough to be able to stay in one of their homes while she was visiting.

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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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Magic Mushrooms and A Jungle Palace in Palenque

It was time to hit the road again and our next stop was Palenque! The three amigos were sticking together for one more city! Mike was even already planning out our days before we left San Cristóbal. We were told by the ADO bus station that the bus ride to Palenque was 7 hours from San Cristóbal. Since the bus ride was only 7 hours, if we had taken an overnight bus we would  arrived in Palenque at around 5 or 6am, meaning we’d have to wander the streets until check in time, which is normally around 12pm or 1pm. So we naturally opted for the morning bus in order to arrive at a decent hour.

Right next to the entrance to the Palenque ruins we heard there is a small community located in the jungle called El Panchan. Someone had recommended we stay at a place called Jungle Palace which is located in that same community. They have no phone and don’t respond to emails so we were just going to have to show up and hope they had room.

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Freezing My Ass off in San Cristobal de Las Casas

After spending a week in Puerto Escondido, it was finally time to hit the road again. Helena would take a flight to Mexico City and then eventually to Lima, Peru. Bernarda would go North as well, but to Oaxaca. Nelly and I had decided to head east to San Cristóbal de Las Casas on an overnight bus. Before leaving our hostel for the bus station, we met a guy named Mike from New Zealand who was on the same bus as us and staying at the same hostel in San Cristobal.

We boarded the bus to San Cristóbal at 7pm.  It was a 13-hour bus ride that arrived at 8am. ADO seems to be the only bus company in Southern Mexico. Our tickets were $500 MXN (about $25 USD). Most of the backpackers I’ve met while traveling seem to prefer overnight buses. By traveling at night you don’t lose a day of exploring or have the added expense of a hostel for the night. I, however, am not a fan. I have never been able to sleep on an overnight bus and I just end up feeling groggy and out of it the next day.

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The Gang Learns Spanish

Before my trip I made three goals for myself, to learn Spanish, how to surf and dance salsa, or the three Ss as I like to call it. My new roommates Bernarda and Nelly in Puerto Escondido as well as my Austrian traveling partner, Helena had similar goals so we all decided to take Spanish and surf lessons together. After doing some research online I found a Spanish school close to our hostel, Instituto Lenguajes de Puerto Escondido. It had good reviews and was reasonably priced at $8 USD an hour, so we decided to head to the school to check it out.

The four of us loaded up into a taxi instead of walking because Helena had sprained her ankle the day before. On the way there we realized it was a little farther than we had originally thought, which meant we would have to take a taxi there every day. Bernarda began complaining about the distance and said she probably wouldn’t end up doing lessons there, Nelly and Helena were in agreement. I was thinking to myself, fine then! Find your own damn Spanish school!

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The Road to Puerto Escondido

My next stop after Oaxaca was Puerto Escondido! I had put it down on my maybe list of cities to visit. Most of the backpackers I met in Oaxaca were headed either there or Muzunte, a smaller beach town close to Puerto Escondido after Oaxaca. One of my goals for this trip was to learn how to surf and Puerto Escondido is famous for surfing so it was my obvious next choice.

I was happily surprised that Helena, my Austrian friend decided to join me! To get to Puerto Escondido from Oaxaca there are two options, you can take an ADO bus which takes about 10 to 12 hours or take a taxi collectivo which only takes about 6 to 7 hours. The ADO bus goes around the mountains and is a much smoother ride while the van goes through them, it takes less time but in my opinion is not worth it.

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How I Almost Shit My Pants in Cuba

 

Well we all have to get sick at least once in a foreign country and I did…

I met up with my friend Tim to go to the beach and all the sudden my stomach started to ache with pains. Thank god we were close to a hotel so I could use their bathroom. Bathrooms are hard to come by in Cuba, they are always usually missing a toilet seat, toilet paper, soap and sometimes even running water. Make sure to always carry toilet paper on you and use hotel bathrooms because they’re sure to have the most amenities.

I thought I could walk it off but it just started to get worse and worse. My doctor had prescribed me some medicine in case this happens. I had left some items with my Couchsurfing host in Mexico City because I had too many things to carry and of course I stupidly I left those pills.

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Exchanging Money and Sweaty Ladies Twerking

 

Saturday was insane in La Habana. I woke up early to exchange money at the bank, early being 9am. Inside the air conditioned bank there were about 20 people sitting down waiting for their turn. You call out,”la última” meaning the last and whoever is last inline let’s you know. Then you don’t actually wait behind that person, you just sit down and remember who you were after.

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Cuba – Hurry Up and Wait

 

Welcome to Cuba. Home of famous cigars, the best rum in the world, and the land of old cars. Welcome to the place that isn’t in a hurry to do anything – meeting times are more of a suggestion and nothing is done in a logical way. But for some reason – I love this place.

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