We’ve been in Merida less than a week and it’s beginning to feel a bit more normal. My parents arrived on Monday afternoon so after picking them up from the airport I obviously made my mother walk around with me for forty minutes looking for a ‘pollo asado’ (roast chicken) shop. We didn’t find one but she sure got to experience the heat of Merida! And, ahem, had we turned left rather than right, out of the house, we’d have found one within minutes. Whoops. Luckily she was still excited to see us all so claims she didn’t mind!
On Tuesday, feeling sure that what my parents really needed was more walking in the heat and humidity, we made them take a forty minute walk to the main square. To be fair to me, I did stop to get everyone ice lollies on the way when I noticed them melting (family not lollies). Once we got to the square we had a brief sit down before deciding that it simply wasn’t interesting enough so we got them up again and made them check out the main cathedral (which really wasn’t cold enough, quite frankly) before marching them off to find somewhere delicious for lunch. Col had a plan in mind and we just had to follow until (it felt like) hours later, we arrived. Admittedly, the restaurant was amazing. It was an outdoor courtyard filled with interesting things and it served truly delicious food. I quite enjoyed watching my mother eat a never-ending salad! Post lunch Col took the kids to the playground and I took my parents to their favourite playground – the largest supermarket I could find!
Wednesday was an incredible day as we got up super early (no rest for parents who ever claim to be tired here!) and drove off to Chichen Itza (see main picture). It takes about two hours to get there and handily I’d tanked up SG on her car sick medicine so she had a nap in the car while SB and my mum played silly games. Our aim was to get to Chichen Itza before the crowds but it seemed that the crowds wanted to get there before us. I’ve never seen ruins that are so busy before. We had to queue for ages for the tickets, then queue for the loo and then to get in to the ruins themselves. To actually get to the ruins one has to walk through streets of artisanias, all selling the same stuff. I’m sure some of it is lovely but it’s just more of the same, but more expensive than in town. The sellers were everywhere, even on site. At other ruins there are big signs reminding people not to buy from anyone trying to sell stuff on site as it’s illegal: not here!
The ruins themselves are truly beautiful, obviously. They wouldn’t be so popular if they weren’t beautiful but, for me, the sheer number of tour groups took away any atmosphere there might have been. I LOVE the ruins in Mexico, they’re incredible but this just didn’t do it for me. We only visited them because the Go Jetters had been and SB was so excited to realise he was actually going to be near something that had been a battle ground for Grand Master Glitch and the Go Jetters. It would have been cruel not to visit.
After the crazy that was Chichen Itza we drove for about twenty minutes to the not very well known cenote at Yokdzonot. It’s a lovely place that was restored and opened as a cooperative by women in the local village. There’s a restaurant on site too. Before swimming we had lunch, which was fine. It wasn’t anything incredible but the setting was lovely and there was a playground for the kids, which always makes a place a winner in my book.
So then we got changed, had a shower to get rid of our suntan lotion and donned life jackets before going down the path to the cenote. Wow. Just wow. The water is 22 metres below the rim of the cenote so down we went until we hit the wooden platform from which one enters the water. The water itself is thought to be about 45 metres deep, yes, 45 metres deep. Every time we go to a centote I kick myself for forgetting SG’s rubber ring and then quickly remember that if she slipped out of a ring in water that deep we’d have a serious problem. In fact, I feel sick here now just thinking about it. So instead, we put the kids (and parents!) in life jackets and felt a lot safer. My dad and Col were the first in, quickly followed by my mum, who was super brave because she really doesn’t like water very much. Both kids were refusing to get in and SG was having a tantrum about even wearing her life jacket on the platform. Funnily enough, she didn’t win that battle.
Mum soon got out and I jumped in, leaving the stropping kids in her care. What an incredible feeling to swim here! I took our new waterproof camera with me, all the while having small panics about losing that in the water too, and took some great shots of Col under water.
Then SG decided she actually needed to get in, closely followed by SB who didn’t want to be outdone by his baby sister. There’s no point in hassling our kids in to trying new things. We just have to leave them to watch and decide that something looks fun. We knew both would end up in the water as they both love swimming and they’ve enjoyed previous experiences.
We got them both in and then, once they’d seen Col and me jump from the platform into the water, they both did the same! It must have been 1.5 metres above the water, I reckon. SB went first and came up happy. A group of Mexican guys were very impressed and commented on how athletic he is as he was swimming around beautifully too. Then SG got herself psyched up and jumped too. She wasn’t as sure as SB. She’s extremely brave generally but her face showed that while she really wanted to jump, she just wasn’t quite sure. To help her out, Col joined me waiting to catch her and she she did it, she jumped! It turned out that everyone was watching and she got a round of applause! The Mexican guys (maybe 10 of them) and the American couple in the water with us couldn’t believe that she was two and so brave! We were all so proud of the kids. Once they’d jumped once, they had to jump again and again, and again. They loved it. I’m pretty sure I saw a guide filming them jumping and for once I didn’t tell this guy to stop. I’d have filmed them too had I been a stranger.
(no pictures of jumps, only videos but can’t upload those here)
Once we got back up to the cafe and the kids were playing in the playground I noticed the group of Mexicans surrounding them so zoomed over ready to be all protective. What I found was a group of guys totally in awe of the kids’ bravery. They just wanted to talk to them and asked if they could take their pictures. I actually quite wanted to say yes but I asked the kids and they didn’t want anyone taking their pictures. So instead we had a chat with them and then went our separate ways. I’m sure they’ll long talk about the tiny blond kids who jumped in to the 45 metre deep cenote!
And in case I didn’t exhaust my parents enough, today we made them walk a mile to the zoo and then walk all around the zoo and park for hours. Before going in to the zoo I suggested to SB that he think very hard about what he was seeing and try to compare it to other zoos (ZSL in London primarily) and then tell me what he thought. Yeah, I was pretty sure that we weren’t going to love what we were going to see.
I was right, sadly. Merida zoo has a lot to improve on. It was really sad. They have some incredible animals, particularly the felines (include white tigers) but all are in awful tiny cages with nothing to do but pace around and look miserable. My heart bled for the animals. My mum even saw a man poke a monkey in the tummy and laugh. The monkey then apparently retreated to the back of its cage and sat huddled up. SB and I stood and tried to talk to a chimpanzee that was just lying watching us.
The only bit I really enjoyed was seeing terrapins launching themselves in to their pond. Oh, and some of the snakes were pretty impressive. Watching SG enjoy the flying terrapins was just wonderful. She has the best giggle.
SB was very clear that he didn’t like what he was seeing. He was very aware that the animals were in terrible conditions and that in London the animals have much nicer cages and don’t look so miserable. I’m glad he realised without us saying anything as I know he was thinking for himself here. He also did some good reading of the animal signs. The first one we came to was ‘zorro gris’. He read it in Spanish and then translated it for me (grey fox). Little smartie (he also corrected me the other day when I got a verb wrong in Spanish).
The zoo is free and the teeny tiny train is 1 peso each – yeah, 1 peso! That’s pretty much free: it’s so cheap, so we went twice. We also spent ages in the playground (well, the kids did), they went on the trampolines, on the chairlift twice and then we went for lunch. First stop we ordered three hot dogs and two pork sandwiches. Dad refused to eat anything, saying it looked unsanitary and horrendous. In retrospect he was very right! So after we realised the sandwiches were bad, we found a restaurant that was randomly inside an old train carriage. We were suspicious but they made very passable pizza and complemented me on my Spanish so I was happy!
By the time we got home, my parents were well and truly walked out. I think they may refuse to ever walk again. But then there was a massive downpour so we all piled in to the pool for some skinny dipping in the rain …it was dark, it’s fine! Post swim we had mince pies that flew from the UK and now we’re all shattered.