Generally, western travellers in Mexico, even those on a budget, take the first class busses to get from A to B. The reason for this became clear to me as I took my first second class bus (if that makes sense) Friday out to the village of Piste, which is town that is used base to visit the ruins of Chichen Itza, the most famous ruins in Mexico, and probably the best - although I personally preferred Palenque, for its 'romantic' jungle setting, and more practically, for the shade that the jungle provided !
Anyway, the first class bus from Merida to Piste takes 1.5 hours, the second class one 2.5 hours. It soon became clear why, as 10 minutes after we took off from Merida, we stopped - in Merida still. This was the pattern for the rest of the trip, in every village we passed we stopped at least once, and normally twice, and locals would struggle on with all sorts of things (no chickens yet though) and then struggle off again at the other end of the village. In addition street vendors would regularly wave the bus down, come on board with trays of cakes, ice-creams, fruit or whatever they had, walk up and down the corridor, and then wander off ! The upside is that you get a real chance to see the villages, and gardens as you pass them, especially as the bus had to slow down almost to a complete halt before what must be the world's most vicious speed humps. I took very few photos, as I was sitting next to the people who lived in these places and felt a little self-conscious.
These busses are also 'speed limited' by virtue of a red light and buzzer that come on if the driver exceeds 95. Travelling between towns, you get used to the pattern of waking to a beep, flashing lights and then a surge as the driver takes his foot off the accelarator, then puts it down again to repeat 40 seconds later ... very peaceful !
At Piste we were surrounded by a horde of kids, trying to shepherd us to a local 'posada' (somewhere not quite classy enough to be a hotel, which given what I've experience so far here in Mexico is fair warning). Obviously if the guys needed kids to round up suspects, the place was pretty dodgy, but as the other place in town that might have been an option was at the other end of town and hidden, we relented and went to the Hotel Posada Maya.
The owner showed us to our cells, and we were too tired to argue or look for others (we had slept the previous night on busses) so we accepted. The only other guests in the venue (the Texan documentary makers from the Chichen Itza post) said they had seen three other places in town that were more expensive and worse, so i guess we weren't too badly off. The perils of a tourist trap !
Our host, short, fat and topless, returned to his hammock, rolled up newspaper in hand, where he was watching a discovery channel documentary on mosquitoes. It reminded me of the Leunig cartoon with the parent and child admiring a beautiful nature scene on their television, while outside, visible through the window in the room, is exactly the same scene. This guy (thwack) whacked himself every 30 seconds to get rid of some of the swarm of mosquitoes around him (thwack) as he watched intently more mosquitoes on the box. I was glad of my malaria tablets and spray - miraculously i haven't been bitten yet (no Mexico tummy either). *
My cell had been recently sprayed, but the shower was ventilated with a hole in the roof (covered by a slab of concrete supported by bricks) which was a fairly inviting entry for our buzzing friends. Anyway, i was exhausted and managed to sleep reasonably well until 6am wake up - again to avoid the ruins heat.
There are, of course, many more tales to tell, but it's getting late and time for dinner, so you'll have to wait until the slide show(s) on my return.
Mexico has been a tiring but fascinating experience. I knew I was in for a bit of a rushed trip, in order to get to Cuba in time and that turned out to be the case, but only as much as many other travellers. I saw as much as I expected, and everything that I really wanted except some of the villages around San Cristobal, but the early departure from there gave me today's rest day which will be used as preparation for Cuba.
So thanks for getting this far, and you'll hear more from me hopefully some time (internet cafes permitting) in the middle of my Cuba trip.
* One of my Danish friends ended up contracting Dengue fever - we suspect from here.