Welcome to part two of Duncan's travel dispatches. It's been a while since my last post, but between overnight bus trips, staying in the jungle, etc it's not been so easy to get to the keyboard. I can't blame a lack of internet cafes though, as they seem to be on every corner. In a country like Mexico computer ownership is not an option for many people so the cafes serve a real purpose, and are nearly always full.
Thanks to everyone who replied to episode one .. all replies read and appreciated. I haven't had time to reply (see above) so sorry, but keep them coming ...
I'm writing this from Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula. Tonight is my last night before i fly to Havana tomorrow (Monday) morning. I have been told that internet access in Cuba is rare, slow and expensive so i might disappear for a while.
Ok, first the summary for the impatient ones:
Food: getting better. Even tried gapuchines (not a Spaniard with a cold ordering capuccinos, but grasshoppers) which are surprisingly tasty, drowned in guacamole anyway. This is as close as i get to a Mike style scary food story.
I still haven't managed to order a dish without getting a bowl full of tortillas, but it happens to others as well, so I'm feeling better about that. While travelling the regions the food has got tastier and more interesting.
Corona: yes. Anyone who tells you how cheap coronas are in mexico is lying ... even in the dodgiest of bars you won't get one for less than 9 pesos which is probably $1.60 ish aussie (90c US) - not the 20 cents of legend ! The standard price in moderate restaurants is double that. My new favourite beer is Montejo, and the Modelo negra is pretty nice as well (like a classy Tooheys Old, if you can picture such a beast).
Tequila/Mezcal: yes as well. Mezcal is slightly smokier, from a different type of cactus and is nicer. Strangely even an order of beer always arrives with salt and lime, although i haven't seen anyone use the salt with their beer - yet !
Coffee: universally disappointing. As far as coffee is concerned, the USA has won over Spain in the battle of the influences. Even if some parts of Mexico are now producing coffee beans. There is the occasional Starbucks-style cafe around, but ... well, it just ain't coffee !
Weather: bloody hot ! Reading my guide book, the towns I have been in recently have March average maximums of around 20 - yet it hasn't got below thirty during the day at all the whole trip. It rained last night (for the first time all trip) which was a relief, but it was straight back to blazing hot sun by 11am. This is playing havoc with the clean clothes and laundry schedule !
Transport: getting mighty sick of the busses. I spent a good 40 hours getting across the country to Merida (where I am now), and i'm glad i changed my Havana flight to leave from here instead of Cancun, a further 4-6 hours away on the coast. More about these busses in the detailed version ...
Ruins: yes, heaps and they're great ! I've taken too many photos of them though - be warned. Some nicely restored (not really 'ruinas' anymore, but that's what they call them), and some fantastically jungle strewn, with trees growing out of them etc.
Obligatory Mexican crime experience - yes. My (unusual for me) paranoia and preparation stood me in good stead and my losses were limited to one phone card. Don't worry Mum, I'm completely ok !
Jungle - yes ! No mossie bites so far, amazingly. Great monkey noises at night time but haven't seen any monkeys yet.
Prison cell - sort of. It was called a hotel room, but with the rotating clanging fan, naked bulb, swarms of mossies and concrete walls, you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. I can recommend a great place not to stay in Piste (near the Chichen Itza ruins) if anyone is interested.
Negotiating skills - managed to haggle 70% off initial offering price for hammock and jewelry (my Danish friends were buying). Haven't got much myself as i over-packed and have limited room, plus i really hate the hustlers.
Ok, more detailed than expected. Stay tuned for part two ...