Hello readers, it’s me, your favorite absent blogger. And this time I’m back with a big old trip. Dani and I spent the last three weeks in Mexico and Guatemala, but I’m going to divide that into one post for each country bc you and I both know how much I can talk. Or in this case, type.
We didn’t have a lot of Vorfreude (German word for excitement leading up to something) in the months and weeks leading up to our trip bc life was busy and Covid ruined our ability to get excited about any given trip due to its potential to be canceled. Our dear friend Anna is much too nice of a human and drove us to the airport at 3am (obviously I couldn’t sleep bc travel anxiety) and we set out on our way.
A three hour flight, an almost-missed connection bc the Lisbon airport people wouldn’t know what empathy was if it punched them in the face and wouldn’t let me get through faster despite the fact that our flight was LITERALLY LEAVING and my lack of EU citizenship was preventing me through going through the fastline, and one very long 9h flight later (including a lot of Dani getting pissed at the person in front of him for having the audacity to lean their chair back), we landed in Cancun.
Mind you, we do not care about Cancun. After making it through the initial round of very fast Spanish thrown our way by the immigration officer (which hit me like a freight train considering I haven’t been using my used-to-be-completely-fluent-Spanish much), we were hit with what felt like 20 people yelled at us to take their taxi service and luckily were able to walk past them (which took a lot of effort) and head to the bus station bc we are bus budget people.
Instead of Cancun, we headed to Playa del Carmen… also a mistake. Still very touristy. Don’t go there unless you use it as a port to Cozumel for amazing diving. Aaaanyway, Dani was exhausted and hungry (unsurprising) on arrival, so we made our way to our AirBnB (which was way farther than we initially thought bc nobody told us there were two bus stations in town and I initially mapped from the wrong one). Our tired brains thought it might be a good idea to pull out cash on our way at ATM’s that were not bank ATM’s (don’t do that - bank ATM’s are safer) and finally found our place by asking locals which way to go due to our lack of data. Mostly they laughed at us and told us we had a waaays to go. We did. But we found our place and settled in and looked for a place to eat a bit off the beaten path bc the town itself was v touristy. We ended up with cheap tacos and beers before heading home to sleep for 12h.
We woke up the next morning whenever the hell we felt like and went for a walk on the beach. We asked some locals to find out where the good stuff (i.e. food) could be found and were sent to Avenida 30 where there were street carts and people selling food out of bike coolers, which is exactly what we were looking for. As a fun fact, apparently empanadas (breakfast food, of course) aren't sold till around 10 bc breakfast starts late here, but we found a little family run shop called El Huerto with licuados (smoothies) and huevos moltuleños (egg-based dish), empanads and tostadas (my fav), and endeared ourselves to them by making fun of Dani’s inability to eat a tostada without getting sour cream all over his face.
We took a break back at our AirBnb to wait out the rain - we are traveling in the rainy season which mostly gets a bad rap bc all it means is you get a built in break for a few hours of the day while you wait for the rain to pass. This worked out for us bc we didn’t book anything in advance and we were able to use the rainy times to book our accomodation for the next few nights.
We snacked on 1$ tacos in the same street the mechanic recommended the same morning and then went home for a nap… which turned into a 12h sleep… and we woke up at 5am ready for the day.
Dani did some programming and I packed and got us ready for the day before we enjoyed a coffee and some meditation on the deck. We picked up some fruit at a small store where I was judged when I asked how to eat the guava we were buying, and then headed back to El Huerto for some breakfast tostadas and to grab our bus.
The next day we took a van to Tulum for 5USD/person and wandered through the very touristy (and to be honest less than impressive) town before stumbling upon Hidalki, which boasts some of the best barbacoa tacos and consume de carne ever (we were on a brief vegetarianism-hiatus during our trip bc we knew how much of a meat-based diet we would be confronted with on arrival).
We then made our way to the beach on the world’s most questionable rented bikes - I am already absolute trash at cycling as my shattered shoulder will attest to. But my kickstand kept falling down, much to Dani’s chagrin as he laughed at how super tense I get on bikes i.e. death traps. We drove to the beach which featured some ruins and way too much seaweed bc we are in the off season and no one is taking care of such things. Also, everyone yells at you to stop and let them sell you a tour and we were offered a discount bc i speak Spanish (which he told me to my face). We beached and Dani somehow got sunburned and then biked home and immeeeediately gave back our death traps thank goodness before heading out for dinner at tthe best ever taco place - Antojitos de Chiapaneca. We ate all the tacos and our whole meal including beers cost us 15 USD. But theeen we spent all our money on super expensive margaritas around the corner from our place bc it was the only place with a less party more chill vibe (we are old). This is where we learned that hibiscus margaritas are the shit but also not in our budget by any stretch of the imagination. We passed out by 9 and were up at 530 bc Dani clogged the toilet due to his new meaty diet.
Dani was cruisin’ for a bruisin’ so we woke up the next morning and headed to Crossfit Tulum (a much longer walk than anticipated) and while he worked up such a sweat he had to literally wring out his soaking weat shirt afterwards and barely made the walk back to the AirBnb, I had a coffee at the shop around the corner. I think it’s clear who made better life choices here.
We grabbed some delicious vegetarian tacos and tortas (same toppings but on a small bread roll i.e. more filling for Dani) and got ourselves some agua de sandia (watermelon flavored water) which changed my perspective on non-alcoholic beverages forever and made use of the sink placed in the middle of the restaurant bc the owners knew what kind of mess you would make eating their tacos. Then we made our way to what we thought would be the first of three cenotes but ended up being the only one for the day bc they were expensive as hell to get into and Dani (in stark contrast to myself) is not a water person so there was no reason to walk further outside of town (bc we were too cheap to get a taxi) so that he could not-swim somewhere else. Plus Cenote Calavera was cool enough that we didn’t need any more super cool open-cave experiences. We picked up some crema de coco on the way home which changed the beverage game all over again and discussed how not-beach-town-touristy-people we are bc we would much prefer to go somewhere with things to do rather than a beach to sit on (to each their own of course).
We grabbed a coffee and planned our lives a bit bc we decided to skip belize bc it was too expensive for no good reason (except diving) and we were worried we wouldn’t be able to grab a flight from Flores (northern Guatemala) to Guatemala City (which we could have, but the internet made us believe the airline was super unreliable – we should have just gone for it). We planned our upcoming nights in Valladolid and Merida before wrapping Dani’s laptop veeery inconspicuously in his rain jacket to carry it back home. We had a bit of a questionable food night for the first time since our arrival in that our dinner was not as delicious as most of our meals had been thus far – Dani got overpriced and questionably seasoned fish tacos and I got enchiladas and enfrijoladas with the world’s driest chicken, but at least we ate! And the watermelon water that accompanied our meal softened the blow.
We woke up at 5am again bc that’s what the cool kids do and went for a walk hoping for coffee, but Tulum wasn’t awake yet so we went home and got packed before grabbing the world’s quickest coffee which burned all the way down accompanied by the world’s most expensive croissant (cannot recommend to gtfo of the touristy areas when eating while traveling, we would never have stayed close to budget if we hadn’t consistently eaten where more of the locals eat).
We then made our way to Valladolid, grabbing tacos on the way bc I was getting hangry which is usually more Dani’s wheelhouse but that morning it was my turn. This was a biiig mistake. The tacos did not sit well. And then they gave us Motezuma’s Revenge. But more on that later.
A 1.5h bus got us to Valladolid and we dropped our bags at the AirBnb before sweating our way through the lovely town that is Valladolid, which I can oooonly recommend much more highly than Playa del Carmen and Tulum bc it is an actual town with actual culture and beauty instead of a town built on tourism. We walked around the market where Dani had his first experience seeing meat hanging around not being cooled with flies crawling all over it (which for the locals is fine, but for us was foreshadowing on what was to come and a great reminder of why we are vegetarians at home).
We stopped by Cenote Zaci (which was unfortunately closed for construction but still visible) in the middle of town and made the incredibly stupid decision to go to the grocery 1 mile outside of town in 95* heat just so we could make some veggie pasta so our bodies got a break from the meat. Not to be dramatic, but we basically almost gave our lives to make it happen, the heat stroke possibility was real. We grabbed ourselves some beer to enjoy when we got back and dove into the shower at our AirBnb, not leaving the house again till the next morning as we spent the evening calling our families to prove we were still alive and watching a movie before passing the heck out.
Dani made breakfast the next morning and I (ineffectively and very slowly bc mornings are not my game) packed our to-go bags for Chichen Itza and Cenote Ik Kal, both of which i couldn’t recommend more. Seriously, if you want to see cenotes, go to Valladolid. The cenotes are way more awesome and the world wonder that is Chichen Itza is close by (unless you want to dive in the cenotes in which case I guess go to Tulum but don’t say I didn’t warn you).
We took a colectivo (one of many vans that locals take to get anywhere in or outside of town with the concept being that the driver doesn’t leave till the van is mostly or very very full) to Chichen Itza. I helped translate for a couple from some somewhere whose accent I couldn’t place as they were upset that the saleswoman didn’t speak any English… as if that was something she, a local, needed to be capable of, in her native land where Spanish is the official language. We paid 100 pesos each round trip, meaning 5 bucks per person to get to Chichen Itza and then to Cenote Ik Kil and back, which was a pretty fab price. The driver catered to our foreignness and very randomly played music from the Grease soundtrack before we arrived and were whisked away by Raul, our guide, who was celebrating 40 years of doing these tours that day. He charged us each 100 pesos for the tour, again 5 bucks, again what a deal, and showed us the wonders of Chichen Itza. Friendly tip: get there as early as possible or else you’ll be stuck in line when you try to enter and you will never get a picture of the actual pyramid without way too many people standing in front of it. Also fun fact: there are people selling trinkets all around the grounds incl. a jaguar whistle which sounds absolutely terrifying the first time and incredibly annoying the 50th time you hear it. Dani and I did buy a beautifully carved magnet (we collect them from each country we go to together)… but not a jaguar whistle.
Another colectivo brought us to Cenote Ik Ka which blew our minds compared to the last one and allowed us to cool our incredibly stinky bodies. To top it all off, Dani didnt even have to swim bc they require the use of life vests, so he could actually just enjoy it while we held onto our GoPro for dear life bc we were dumb enough not to buy a flotation device to attach to it.
We waited awhile for a colectivo while I looked for somewhere to grab lunch (which was a total win and Dani loved his ceviche, go me) - might I also recommend a SIM card for such instances it makes a difference looking for food and making sure you’re headed in the right direction – in most countries you can buy one no problem out in town. In Mexico I recommend TelCel bc that’s what other people recommended to me it worked out fine so there you go.
Dani made veggie pasta for dinner again but we had a serious hankering for churros so we went on the hunt. The plan was to visit the churro cart 5 minutes away (according to maps) from our place, but it was fake news and Dani was very motivated so we walked another 20 minutes to the town square which was absolutely worth it bc we found fabulous and fresh churros and ate so many that we didn’t have space for dinner (Dani found space later though).
I woke up with a fever and body aches so none of the early morning plans like another cenote worked out so I spent the morning trying to survive while Dani did more of the packing and we headed out for our noon bus to Merida while I did my best not to literally throw up or pass out in the street. I slept the whole 4h drive into the beautiful city of Merida – best city in Mexico so far. We arrived at our AirBnb before it was ready so my sick self had to hang out with the host’s incredibly spoiled granddaughter who wanted to stick stickers all over Dani and I’s face and chat to me in Spanish (Dani was safe bc he doesn’t speak Spanish, jerk) and we spent the next several hours resting in the room bc I was struggling to exist. We got Dani a jalapeño tamale for like 1 USD and headed for some tacos before turning in for the night despite it being Mexican Independence Day and everyone else partying in the streets.
Woke up feeling slightly les dead and grabbed a churro bun thing (not a churro but like a churro’s cousin) for way too much money bc apparently bakeries are just expensive here bc of their rather uncommon nature in the area. We grabbed an “eh” breakfast before running into our new friend Antonio. He spoke to us as he heard us speaking German and was once in Germany and wanted to give us some travel tips. It was then that he shared we should hit up the Mayan market (we did, and we found out that Dani and I are compatible according to Mayan culture based on our birthdays so I guess the odds are in our favor), go to Palenque to cross the border into Guatemala (we did) and watch the traditional Mayan game of Pok Ta Pok in the city center later that night (we did, it was awesome). He then informed us (not knowing I was from the US) that Guatemalans aren’t big fans of US citizens bc we stole Guatemalan children in the 70’s so they could be adopted in the US which is both disgusting and unsurprising. And then when he heard my Spanish accent (which I had been trying vehemently and unsuccessfully to get rid of) he shared that Guatemalans (and many other Central Americans) have a general dislike for the Spanish bc, you know, colonization. So basically I was recommended just not to talk in Guatemala in any language other than German. FYI: I did discuss the US-friendliness topic with several locals in Guatemala who said of course people don’t forget it but in general there are no collective negative feelings towards US citizens.
Our lovely AirBnb host ordered me some pepto bismal as I was still suffering from the joy of Montezuma’s Revenge and Dani took a nap while Pilar shared with me that tourists often come to Mexico and think “wow, these people are so poor, how unfortunate” but that in reality, the people make what they have count and are not focused on material goods but rather family and friends and living in the moment, which is the right way to be if you ask me.
We took a night bus to Palenque which was not wildly uncomfortable and it was Dani’s first night bus so that was a fun little first for him (the ones in Southeast Asia are muuuuch nicer but also they don’t account for the height difference of many tourists any more than the buses in Central America do). Our arrival in Palenque marked a transition of pain from me to Dani as I started feeling better and Montezuma’s revenge basically punched him in the face.
We couldn’t check in so we grabbed some freaking fantastic pancakes with melted butter and some sort of very strange corn-based drink with which we were not particularly impressed. The next few days were spent with Dani in and out of consciousness as he googled the symptoms of malaria and I googled the closest hospital and the ladies who ran the BnB laughed at how much toilet paper he needed (poor Dani) and I basically spent the whole time picking us up some food and heading back to the hotel to feed my poor sick bucko. Unfortunately this meant that we didn’t get to see what we had hoped to see in Palenque but we can only recommend it as it’s a gorgeous area in the highlands with beautiful landscape surrounding it (including gorgeous waterfalls) and much less tourism.
Fun fact: you cannot travel the normal route between Palenque and San Cristobal as the area is run by gangs so you have to take a completely roundabout way (unless you want to take your chances with a colectivo, but the buses won’t take that route).
We extended our stay in Palenque one more night before heading to Flores, Guatemala so that Dani had more time to recover. We specifically avoided booking with a certain company which had poor reviews and spent 15USD more per person only to apparently have booked with the exact company we wanted to avoid and just paying extra for a middle man. It happens, but man did we feel dumb.
We hopped onto our van and met Robin and Nina, two Germans on sabbatical from teaching, and talked all the way to the border while we stressed about having to pay money to get across (which is what, according to the internet, is often the case). Turns out our worries were sorely misplaced as the border officers were delightful, but that didn’t make up for all the other issues we experienced trying to get into Guatemala the border… So as most of you know, I speak Spanish. Fluently, in fact, though to be fair it was a bit rusty leading up to our trip seeing as how I mostly only speak English and German on a day to day basis. But using it every day for the last 1,5 weeks had gotten me back to a very comfortable level, which worked out considering by the time we were allowed to officially enter Guatemala, the entirety of both the Mexican and Guatemalan immigration teams were on a first name basis with yours truly.
Essentially it went as follows: We arrived. They did not want our money. But they did want us to fill out a form... online. By scanning a QR code. But on the border of Guatemala, your Mexican data stops working. So you can't load things like QR codes. And the lovely Mexican immigration officers couldn't help us because their power was out. So as team translator, I was brought (along with my team of German ducklings) across the border to ask if they had wifi so we could load the form and get across the border. They did not, because their power was out too. So we walked a few minutes up the road to the "library" which was in no way, shape or form an actual library where SIM cards were sold and they were kind enough to accept our Mexican pesos rather than Guatemalan quetzales bc seeing as how we hadn't even officially crossed the border yet, we didn't have any quetzales. They loaded in mine and Robin's new SIM cards and we fought long and hard with the website to get our data entered. This took a lot longer than it should have because the website kept telling us our data was invalid. Delightful. We finally got the information into the system, but then the form wouldn't be downloaded for printing, so it took us another battle to make that happen. We then headed back across the border (this happened several times that day) to show them we were done, but they needed us to print the form (despite the point of the online form being the goal of going paperless... but I digress. But they had no printer. So we went to a neighboring office and asked him very nicely to print our documents while we got stamps in our passports and picked up our things and made ourselves on our way. Like I said, by then everybody knew my name and wished me a wonderful trip as I thanked them profusely for their patience. To be completely honest, I don't know how that whole situation would work if there were no one in our group who spoke Spanish. I am fairly certain we would still be there, trying to download that damn form.
Regardless, we are super grateful to our awesome driver Hugo for not leaving us at the border despite the aggressive British family who was supposed to ride with us to the next stop telling them they should. And if you literally ever go to Guatemala and need transport PLEASE hit me up I will give you the number for the transit company he and his friend Eder run together bc trust me it is worth it.
So all in all, Mexico was quite a trip. But stay tuned, bc Guatemala was even better.
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About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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