From Tulum we took a little bus to Valladolid, another cute town with colonial architecture. Valladolid is a popular tourist destination for its cenotes as well as its proximity to Chichen Itza, the Mayan ruins that was elected as one of the 7 Wonders of the World. We tried to get there as early as possible to beat the crowds, the heat, and the vendors that start harassing you as soon as their souvenir booths are up (“1 dollar for this necklace” – “Really?” – “Yes, 15 dollar for this necklace” – “…”). The archeological site is huge and has been restored beautifully, the main pyramid being very impressive.
Late that day we went to the Oxman Cenote which is a deep hole in the ground with hypnotizing dark blue waters at the bottom. The roots from trees above the surface come all the way down to the water and you can use a rope to swing yourself into the water, Tarzan style. It was extremely beautiful and fun at the same time so we spent the whole afternoon at that place.
Between visits we relaxed at our hostel where we met other travelers with whom we played cards and shared cuba libres. A Swiss guy was also around and took hostel cooking to another level with his Mango Daiquiris, guacamoles and spaghetti carbonara. At night we went to watch the light show that tells the story of Valladolid by projecting colorful images of the Convent’s stone walls.
We also met our fellow traveler John from Korea, that we had got to know in Georgia (yes, it’s a small world sometimes). Together, we explored some more cenotes, including the Suytun Cenote where you should go at midday when the sun rays sneak through the small hole in the roof and give you the feeling you’re being abducted by martians.
Food-wise, we had some delicious meals but two dish stood out for their flavour and unhealthiness: a giant plate of nachos with melted cheese, grilled meat, bean sauce, tomatoes and jalapeños; and a huarache, meaning “sandal” as it is some kind of giant taco in the shape of a sandal, covered in cheese, al pastor meat and other delicious stuff in this case.
It was finally time for the beach, and not the seaweed beach that we saw in Tulum. A bus and ferry ride away, Holbox is a tiny island that greeted us with white sand beaches, turquoise water, plenty of mosquitoes again, and a party hostel with a tiny pool (you don’t want to know what happens in that pool at night…). Luckily, we joined some friends that we had met while traveling and spent a lot of time together lazying at the beach, eating crispy fish tacos and refreshing ceviche, and dancing salsa.
One of the highlights of our Mexican adventures was the whale shark tour that we did on Quentin’s birthday. We took a 3-hour bumpy bumpy boat ride (that left everyone sick for a bit) on the open sea to get to a spot where whale sharks are known to come hang out in the summer, and maybe they knew it was Quentin’s birthday because about a hundred of them showed up to the party! The captain said we were very lucky that day. We grabbed our mask and snorkel and the guide took us by pairs to swim with the sharks while the rest waited on the boat. The size of these creatures is unbelievable! They just swam around with their mouths wide open to catch plankton and didn’t mind us at all. Despite looking slow we had to swim as fast as possible to keep up with their pace and had to be careful not to touch them or get in their way. One good thing about this tour was that the guide was extremely strict and if anyone would try to touch the sharks they would be sent straight back to the boat and forbidden to swim again. We each had only a few minutes with the whale sharks but it was an unbelievable and unforgettable experience.
We were all still dreamy after swimming with the sharks but our captain took us to some shallow waters where we snorkled and spotted turtles, eels, pufferfish and sting rays. We then ate some freshly made ceviche and guacamole that were prepared in front of our eyes on the boat, and were brought to some mangroves/lagunas where we saw a few flamingoes and took some dumb pictures.
That night, our party hostels had overbooked our room so we had to find a new place but it turned out well because we got a fancy flat for half the price and threw a little “homeparty” before walking to the beach to join some improvised party. It quickly turned into some hilarious dancing contests until the music went off at 2:30am. That’s when a Mexican guy convinced us that we should all run into the water to observe bioluminescent plankton. We first didn’t believe him but as soon as we got away from the shore the water started lighting up with billions of tiny little lights activated by our movements. A fantastic day and a magical conclusion for our Mexican adventures!
We were very sad to leave Mexico, a country that we originally hadn’t planned to visit but which turned out to be one of the biggest “coup de coeur” of our trip. It was a delicious cocktail of mouthwatering food, interesting culture, beautiful landscapes and amazing people that we met on the way!