Merida is a very busy town - not the prettiest but a good jumping off point for lots of sights. It is really hot here and thankfully we were able to get cabs to the hostel rather than the normal 30 minute walk with heavy bags. The hostel was great and we even had a small swimming pool. This was our first stop. Dump the bags, don the swimmers and splash!!! Absolute heaven.
It was Alana's birthday whilst we were here. So we all went out to celebrate. The meal was good followed by yards of cocktail at a bizarre bar. Bizarre because for reason they got out rifles and sombreros for us to wear. This was definitely a first for me - rifle in one hand and a foot high cocktail glass in the other. Annie Oakley eat your heart out! Then it was back to the pool for Oscar made vodka cocktails and a paddle.
Went swimming in Cenotes - sink holes. These are caves in the ground where the surface has caved in - no pun intended! So they are basically pools underground with holes letting light in. You have to climbed down to the water. This can at times be quite treacherous. For example imagine a drain hole and a ladder against it and you have to climb vertically down into darkness for at least 50 rungs. Very interesting. To get to them we had to travel by horse and cart through jungle which was an experience in itself. Once in the sink holes, you get to jump into the water from great heights. Unless you are a wuss like me and you scramble down the slippery vertical ladders. They are beautiful As your eyes become adjusted to the darkness you can see the lovely clear blue water, stalactites, and the tree roots growing down through the ground desperate for a bit of water. The water is incredibly deep and tend to have only one area where rocks have been piled up to give you a break from treading water. Unfortunately this was never that large and it was interesting to see 10 people trying to all fit a toe on it. The group was definitely becoming closer.
We visited Chichen Itza - a Mayan ruin. I had visited these ruins in 2003 and had thought the were wonderful. A lot has changed in 7 years. It has become really tacky with ruins flanked by market stalls, the grass has been worn away, the ruins are cordoned off and you can no longer climb the main pyramid because a lady fell in 2006 to her death. The whole visit was not helped either by having a guide off his head. The reason for everything per our guide was "it is physical, metaphysical, religious, spiritual, cosmic, astrological", followed by a "you know what I mean amigos?" Well no but he seemed to have selective hearing and didn't respond to that. Once we finally got rid off him (we paid him to go away), I went into team leader mode and gave a mini tour from what I could remember and dragged everyone round the bits he had missed out.