Days 1-3 – Chichén Itzá, Cenote, & Valladolid

I am only three days into this trip and I am already having the time of my life. I cannot put into words how amazing things have been so far. I’ve met backpackers at every single step of this journey (flight, tours, busses, hostels). I stayed in Cancún the first two nights at Mezcal Hostel. It was a really great hostel with very friendly people. The first day I landed I stayed in the hostel all day drinking beers with a group of Germans. One of them was a federal police officer at the Frankfurt airport so he had a myriad of stories about the current Syrian refugee influx in Germany. We ate ceviche tostados at this little hole in the wall place that was cheap and magnificent.

The second day I booked a tour of Chichén Itzá through my hostel. It was a really long day but it was definitely worth it. I was shocked by the brilliance of the Mayan people despite living so many years ago. I was also surprised by how many of their own people they sacrificed to the rain god (like 2,000 or so). They were brutal. I spent the first few hours of the trip conversing with a Costa Rican pastor who spoke very little English. It was challenging but I was surprised at how well people can communicate even with language barriers. I told him I will be passing through San Jose I’m a few weeks and so we got each other’s contact information via WhatsApp. Everyone uses that down here. I’m not exactly sure why we don’t use it in America. After a few hours and a restroom stop I switched seats so he could sit next to his wife. That put me next to a girl backpacking Mexico and Panama from Hungary. We talked for a long time about lots of political issues like guns, war, and many other things.

In the middle of the tour I ran into an American named Sara who was taking a short vacation from law school in Pennsylvania. She was really funny and was staying at the sister hostel of mine. I also met a banker from Atlanta who was escorting his Grandma back to Colombia. After the tour of Chichén Itzá we stopped at a cenote for about an hour. We had all been waiting for this part of the trip the entire day because it was extremely hot at the ruins. I could’ve stayed at the cenote all day it was so stunning and refreshing.

After the cenote we stopped in a colonial town called Villadolid. The bright colors were beautiful, but the most impressive sight was a church in the city center that had not been renovated for hundreds of years. I also got a real churro and for those of you traveling Mexico this is a must. They filled it with chocolate and it was life changing. I spoke on the bus on the way back with a couple from Nicaragua and Guatemala. They were sort of surprised to see an American from the Midwest backpacking. They lived in LA so we talked for several hours about all sorts of stuff. All of us American backpackers on the tour got each other’s contact information before getting off the bus. Since everyone asks how old one another is they found out it was my birthday at midnight. Despite leaving for Belize at 7:30 AM, I was coerced into go to the club with them. We all got pretty intoxicated but it was fun. I was amazed that people directly offer you drugs in the bathroom of the club. After many hours I rode back to the hostel with Germans and fell asleep immediately.

The bus ride to Belize was absolutely miserable because I was so hungover. I didn’t wake up in time to fill up my water or eat food so all I had was a bag of trail mix for the 9 hour ride. I slept for many hours and was fairly worried about trekking through Belize City solo. However, I was woken up by a whole crew of backpackers leaving Bacalar headed in the same direction, so that was really nice. I know I’ve only been traveling for a few days, but I am so grateful that minute details like that just kind of work themselves out.

Crossing the border was really easy. We just had to pay the Mexican officials $30 to leave the country. Customs in Belize was also super quick and I got through even faster after he saw that it was my birthday. A few hours later of my tormenting hangover, we arrived in Belize City. Our group of backpackers consisted of two people from Israel, two from Australia, one from England, one from Switzerland, and one from the Czech Republic. We also had a local Belizean guide us almost the entire way to the ferry station and ATM. We all killed time for about an hour asking questions about each other.

The water taxi out to Caye Caulker took about 45 minutes but it felt short because I spoke with the guy from Switzerland for most of the ride. He has traveled virtually the entire world over the last 16 months and has a ton of stories. We arrived to the island around 6:30 but it was already dark. As soon as we arrived our group of backpackers trekked to the city’s ATM. I’m now staying in the same hostel as the Swiss guy and English girl. It’s called the Go Slow Guesthouse. That seems to be the entire island’s motto because it’s written on everything.

The Swiss guy (Ramón) and I were starving so we walked back to a place called Steve’s Grill. Ramón happened to walk into this older Australian woman who also travels the world. They had met earlier this week in Tulum or something. Then for the next two hours we ate a freshly grilled seafood meal and shared stories of our different life experiences. This island is pretty expensive but it’s paradise. I am considering staying a day longer than I originally planned. Tomorrow I am going on a snorkeling tour with Ramón. They also have Blue Hole dive tours, so I may do that over the next couple days.

I have already learned so much about other cultures in only three short days. I can’t wait to see how much more knowledge I will gain in the coming weeks. I am happy right now. Making the decision to travel was the right call. Meeting new people is fun, too.

Countries I Have Met People From:

  • USA
  • Mexico
  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Hungary
  • Costa Rica
  • England
  • Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Belize
  • Israel
  • Czech Republic
  • Australia
  • South Africa
  • Guatemala
  • Nicaragua
  • Colombia
  • Taiwan
  • Italy
  • Japan