This year we decided to not to buy each other Christmas presents as we can barely cram anything else into our backpacks. Instead we came up with a better idea and treated ourselves to a Mexican ROAD TRIP!
We hired a car and set off in search of flamingos and Mayan ruins. Meet ‘Pedro’ our faithful steed:
After being in Playa Del Carmen for nearly a month it was a perfect cure for our itchy feet and just the adventure we needed.
If you look online you hear all sorts of horror stories about hiring a car in Mexico; the crazy driving, terrible roads and overzealous police officers. I’m not sure if we got lucky or whether people just like to scare monger, but we found it very easy and aren’t dead or in jail.
I quickly became use to seeing the cops with massive guns at the roadside and not breaking into a panicked sweat if they asked us to stop, which they rarely did. Most of the time they seemed to be texting on their mobiles rather than searching for criminals… The roads are pretty clear outside of the cities and you become skilled at avoiding the potholes and suicidal dogs.
Disaster struck the morning we were due to set off! Kellie looked like a ghost. Pure white. This is her favoured look when ill. She had a dodgy stomach. So I drove off on my own. One man looking for adventure on the open road. How dare she hold me back with her weak digestion system!
Just joking of course. I was a good boyfriend and cared for her every whim until she was feeling better. A little later that afternoon, we hit the road!
First destination, Vallodolid. A lovely little City with cobbled streets and brightly coloured buildings. It was a world away from the busy avenues of Playa, where street sellers constantly demand your attention. Here we walked peacefully across the sleepy central plaza, which was overlooked by a beautiful cathedral.
Kellie had found a funky little budget hotel to rest our bones (All details at bottom of post) right in the centre, with a free breakfast included. Although the weird yoghurt did make me gag, so I opted for the pastries instead!
Most people when they travel tend to lose weight, but I have to admit since we left I have been on the pastry/donut diet, which you won’t find in many health magazines. In less than four weeks I have managed to put on 3kg. Damn you Mexico and your love of sugary snacks!
The next day we headed off bright and early to Las Colorados, in the hope of seeing wild flamingos for the first time… We weren’t disappointed!
There in the salt flats they hang out munching on shrimp. The landscape is pretty incredible, huge ponds filled with bright pink water and the bluest sky I have ever seen. It’s a strangely barren, yet stunning wildlife haven, which is right next to a salt factory.
Then we were off in a flash. The best thing about hiring a car is the freedom it brings. You can do what you want, when you want. This is great, as my attention span is pretty short. As soon as boredom strikes we move on. There is no waiting for the tour group, plus you see things well off the beaten track.
There wasn’t another soul to be seen as we walked amongst the ponds. Most people head to nearby Rio Logartos to catch a glimpse of the flamingos, but sometimes we like to avoid the crowds.
Merida was next on our hit list. A hot bustling city, which on first glance looked like it was decaying. Buildings crumbling, music blaring out of shops and traffic bombing through the tight streets. For some reason I loved it!
I was a little disappointed we only had one night there, but we spent our time wisely. Armed with a top tip, from our hotel owner, we headed to a local restaurant. They served up lip smackingly good chicken wings, the best chicken burrito on this fine planet (I will fight anyone who dares say otherwise) and a couple of beers, all for less then £8. Two happier people you will not see…
At the crack of noon the next day we made our way to Chichen Itza, to see the much-hyped Mayan ruins. Quite often with ‘must see’ tourist destinations I am underwhelmed, leaving disappointed and a little lighter in the wallet. For once I was pleasantly surprised. Which I know is a ridiculously inadequate statement given that it’s one of the ‘new’ Seven Wonders of the World.
This was despite the long queue to get in, the confusion of where to pay and having to pay at two separate counters (I should have researched this more before arriving), and the huge number of tour buses. Sometimes you follow the masses for a reason.
It hit me on many levels; the advanced civilisation, the beauty and scale of the city, and the fact that something so impressive and ground breaking could suddenly be abandoned in such mysterious circumstances… ‘Who knows, maybe it could happen to us,’ I happily pondered as I chomped on a Snickers bar.
TOP TIP: We didn’t hire a tour guide, which you can do. Instead I subtly lurked at the edge of groups and picked up a few interesting facts here in there and disappeared off when my short attention span began to waver. A bit naughty I know, but I couldn’t imagine walking around with a guide for the entire visit. By the way did you know all the buildings used to be painted with brights colours rather than the grey stone we see now?! How cool is that?
After gently strolling around the ruins for a couple of hours we hit the road and headed into the night. It definitely raises the pulse driving in the pitch black, with the rain driving at your windshield. Many Mexicans like to make it even more of a challenge for you by driving with their lights on full beam. In a strange way I enjoyed it and we arrived safely back in Playa three hours later…
First road trip done! Ready for more! In fact, maybe we need to buy a car for this big escapade…
The money part…
I have not been sponsored or asked by a company to give these details, just merely helping fellow travellers.
Hotels 2 nights = 995 pesos (£46 or $76)
Both found on booking.com and good budget options, with breakfast included and WiFi.
Hotel Maria De Gaudalupe – Vallodolid.
– Right in the centre of the City. Average breakfast, Satellite TV, triple room, ensuite bathroom. Cost = 535 pesos per night
Casa Chalia – Merida.
– This was an absolute bargain. A whole apartment with kitchen, perfect for longer stays. 5-10 min walk from the City and the owner was full of top tips. Breakfast was lovely! Cost = 460 pesos per night.
Car hire cost (including petrol) = 3385 pesos (£157 or $259)
Company – Price Rentals on Calle 28. There are loads of car hire places in Playa Del Carmen, but these were the cheapest we found and full insurance was covered in the price.
845 pesos per day (There are cheaper models available at 645, but it being peak season they had already been booked)
850 pesos petrol for 3 days (Over 850km driven)
Chichen Itza two people = 386 pesos (£18 or $30)
You need two tickets per person, paid for at separate booths:
The first booth = 125 pesos
Second = 57 pesos
Parking = 22 pesos
Food costs = 905 pesos (£42 0r $69)
We mix it up; made our own sandwiches, free breakfasts at the hotels, one posh meal and one cheap but delicious meal.
Home of the World’s best burrito
A restaurant called Las Vigas on Calle 63, just off the main plaza. It’s tucked away up some steps above a hotel. Takes a bit of finding, but it’s well worth it!