I arrived in Merida feeling a little worse for wear.
I had spent the last couple of days not feeling quite right gastrointestinally, and things seemed to be getting worse. I was struggling to eat, even though I was hungry, and let's just say things were moving quickly once they were consumed. Although there were no urgency issues (the bus ride, for example, was not a stressful experience), there were frequency and volume issues that made me an unpleasant person to share a bathroom with. Zev's a trooper though, so we checked into our new accommodation in Campeche, I made use of the facilities, and we beat a hasty retreat out to find some lunch.
In an attempt to avoid spicy local food to allow my stomach some time to settle, we headed to an Irish Pub for lunch. As expected, it wasn't the best pub food we've ever encountered, but it was a welcome break from tacos. We spent the afternoon making a plan for our time in Merida, and catching up on some life admin.
Music in the square
That night, at the suggestion of our hosts, we headed out to Plaza Santa Lucia to see some live music. We couldn't remember exactly what time our host said it started, but we thought he said 8.30pm, so we Googled it. Google told us 8.00pm, so we aimed for that. We arrived to the square at around 7.45pm. There was a lively atmosphere, with cute (but expensive) restaurants dotted around the outside, and food carts selling Mexican crepes (which I can't find the name for). The plaza was filled with huge trees, and lit with lanterns. There were bleachers set up around an as yet empty stage, in preparation for the festivities to follow.
Since we weren't yet hungry, Zev and I decided to get a cold drink and head back to claim a seat. So we waited. And we waited. 8pm rolled by - no musicians. 8.30pm ticked past - no musicians. At least the plaza had started to fill up a little more, so clearly it was happening soon. A woman came and sat next to us. She sat sideways on her chair, facing towards the person with her so that she was mostly on my seat, and her long, flowing hair keep rubbing against my arm. We moved to one of the top row bleacher seats. 8.45pm passed by - no musicians. People came and sat in the row in front of us, so we had to shuffle back on our bleacher. They were so narrow that our asses were no longer on our seats. We moved again. We stood between two sets of bleachers, next to a rubbish bin. 9pm arrived - no musicians.
Finally, just after 9pm, the musicians started dribbling onto the stage, and at 9.15pm, they finally started playing. And they were awesome! They played one song alone, and then two more songs with some traditional dancers. Then they took a break (of course, they must have been exhausted) and a guitar playing duo took their place for a few numbers. Then things got weird. They were replaced by a man reciting historical poetry for about 20 minutes... Next, the band came back on, and we listened to a couple of numbers before our hunger got the better of us and we wandered off in search of food.
Not far from the square, we stumbled upon Mercado 60, and what a find. It was a super cool little foodcourt (for lack of a better word), with lots of stalls selling different types of food, and a live band in the centre. Zev got some kind of delicious looking deep fried tacos with cheese and pork, but I still wasn't feeling quite right, so opted for a slice of Tiramisu. In hindsight, the dairy may have been a mistake....
A sleepless night...
Friends: if you don't like poop stories, give this section a miss. But I know many of you do, so here it is.
That night was hell. I must have been up to go to the toilet at least 6 times. Every time, I could not believe that so much fluid could come out of me without me dying of dehydration. I expelled LITRES of horrific sewage that looked like miso soup, before you stir it. I flowed out of me at a velocity that nigh on lifted me off the toilet seat. In fact, I kid you not, I BROKE THE TOILET SEAT. I tried to fix it, but it was beyond what I was capable of with my bare hands.
The foul matter would not be contained either. Far from falling straight down, neatly into the bowl, it exploded, leaving the toilet and seat looking like a shitty (pun intended) Jackson Pollock. It was a disaster zone. And there was nothing I could do - they had not provided us with a toilet brush, or any kind of cleaning implements.
Eventually, at around 6am, I collapsed into bed, completely exhausted. When we woke for breakfast at around 8am, I finally had the presence of mind to take some antibiotics, and some loperamide. After breakfast, and another visit to the biohazard zone, I took a couple more - better safe than sorry. Zev wisely avoided the area. We headed to out tackle the day, hoping to return to the accommodation intact.
A careful morning out
As my confidence improved, we caught a taxi to the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, a local museum dedicated to the history and culture of the Maya people.
The building housing the museum is stunning. The architecture of the building is based on the Ceiba tree, which is considered sacred by the Maya people. They believe that the universe exists on three planes, and that the Ceiba tree communicates with all of them.
During our visit, we entered through a temporary exhibit about dinosaurs and natural history in the region. We then spent some time walking through the four permanent exhibition halls, containing excellent displays containing artifacts from local Maya sites, information about ancient and present day Maya culture and traditions, and the impact of Spanish colonisation on the Maya people.
Lunch, and an exploration of Grande Plaza
After a quick stop for lunch at Pancho's, where the lovely waiter encouraged me to try the local Sopa de Lima (lime and chicken soup) to help settle my stomach. He was right, it was delicious, and it worked. Okay, the antibiotics and loperamide probably helped, but it was good either way.
Next, we headed back into the Grande Plaza. The afternoon was pretty stormy, and after a quick look at the outside of the Cathedral of Merida and Piaje de la Revolucion, we beat a hasty retreat home to try to avoid the storm. We did find time on the way home to pick up some heavy duty gloves and bleach wipes, so that I could go home and deal to the mess I'd made in the toilet the night before, making it safe for use once more.
Oh the horror...
We arrived home to a terrible scene. Our hosts had cleaned our room. While this may not sound unusual, so far in Mexico, none of our rooms had been serviced during our stay, so we assumed that it was the norm that they didn't do it, especially after only one night. To add insult to massive embarrassment, they'd fixed the toilet seat, and left two spare rolls of toilet paper for me... I suggested to Zev that we burn the place down and flee the country to avoid seeing them again, but he thought that might be an overreaction...
Naturally, we spent the afternoon hiding in our room, with me too ashamed to show my face. Eventually hunger got the better of us, and we slunk out to nearby El Apapacho, where we tried some local delicacies. We shared enchiladas, and tried mole, a traditional sauce containing chocolate and chili. The food was amazing, and the cute little courtyard setting was a nice place to pass the evening.
Wandering the central streets
Breakfast the next day was mortifying. The hosts worriedly asked me whether I was feeling better after yesterday. I buried my face in shame while the incredibly nice people who'd cleaned up my horrific mess the day before brought us breakfast. I sincerely hoped they'd washed their hands. Or bleached them.
Our first stop for the day was the Anthropology and History Museum. Housed in a beautiful old building, it houses many Mayan artifacts and tells the history of the local area. Sadly, all the signage was in Spanish, so I couldn't read any of it, but the displays were very interesting.
We stopped briefly for some delicious gelato, before taking care of some chores (searching for a post office, and buying onward bus tickets), and ended up back in Grande Plaza.
We checked out Casa Montejo, a Spanish home dating from the 1500s on the main square. It has been turned into a museum of sorts, displaying some original furnishings in the style of the time.
By the time we finished in Casa Montejo, we were ready for some lunch, and we stumbled across a nearby hole-in-the-wall shop selling Gorditas. To cut a long story short, Gorditas are little pastry pockets stuffed with tasty treats like cheese or meat. Gordita translates to 'chubby' in English, which made sense when my pork Gordita turned up stuffed not with pork meat, but pork cracking. I ate until I felt sick. And then I ate a little more.
A spot of frisbee
When we arrived in Merida, we looked up the local frisbee team and got in touch. They invited us to join them for training and a game. Everyone was very welcoming, and we spent about 3 or so hours running some drills, and then playing a 5 on 5 scrimmage. Their skill levels varied wildly at the training - one girl was at her first training, and others had represented Mexico at the beach World Championships. We had a great time running around, but by the time we were done, we had to turn down their offer of a drink because we were both exhausted! It was home to bed for us!
Sundays in Merida
After a traditional Sunday breakfast of pork tortas (basically sandwiches), we headed back in to the main street of Merida, Paseo Montejo. Every Sunday, they close the street to traffic and allow cyclists free reign up and down the road. One of the telcos, Telcel, even offer free bikes to borrow. We decided that it was far too hot however, and after a brief moment of people watching, headed back down Calle 60 to Plaza Grande.
Again, every Sunday they have a big market which sells local arts and crafts, and all sorts of delicious local food. Having just stuffed our faces with park tacos, we settled for granitas. After wandering the stalls, we sat down to enjoy some live entertainment, thinking that it looked like some music was about to start. Instead, a clown came out (shudder) and starting performing in rapid-fire Spanish. While most of it was lost on me, Zev seemed to be enjoying himself, and after an excrutiating 15 minutes, I had to drag him away.
Monumento a La Partria
We jumped in a cab to get as far away from the clown as possible, and headed to the Monumento a La Patria, a monument telling of the key moments in Mexico's history via carvings around its sides.
As we made our way back to the accommodation after a spot of lunch, we heard from our frisbee friends that they were playing again that evening at 6pm if we'd like to join them, so we had a bit of a nap to prepare.
At about 5pm, we started to think about getting ready for the game, so went to get our clothes back from our hosts, who were doing our laundry (for a fee of course). They weren't home. Over the course of the next 1.5 hours, we kept going back and checking, but we couldn't find them anywhere, so in the end, we made do with what little clothing we had left in our bags, and headed to frisbee, arriving about 45 minutes late - eeeek.
Luckily everyone forgave us, and we had another great game. At the end of the scrimmage, we were invited for a drink. Two of the other participants at the game were also tourists, visiting from Spain, and it was also their last night in town, so off we went.
We arrived at La Negrita Cantina, and it was NOT what we expected for an after frisbee drink. The place was PACKED, and there was a live band playing some sweet Mexican Mariachi tunes to a dancefloor full of people salsa dancing like they were extras in the background of a movie scene. It was completely overwhelming. The tables were full, all the walkways were packed, and there was nowehere to stand where we weren't in someone's way. After 20 awkward minutes of shoving our bum's in people's faces, we finally got somewhere to sit. We had a couple of drinks there, including a michelada (a mix of tabasco and spices mixed with beer - not as gross as it sounds it turns out), but the kitchen was closed so we headed elsewhere for some food.
We ended up in a classic plastic furniture side of the road place that we would never have found on our own, and took the advice of the locals on what to order. We had a great meal with everyone, speaking a mixture of Spanish and English so that everyone was included, and waved them a sad goodbye at the end of the evening.
We'd really loved Merida, and were sad to leave the next morning, but it was time to move on to Campeche.
Lots of love,
S & Z