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The Travels and Adventures of
Stefano Capacchione

The Travels And Adventures Of Stefano Capacchione San Pedro Guatemala


15th July 2016

The same bus run by Oriente that had taken us to Chichen Itza the day before brought us all the way to Mexico's 11th largest city and our 6th destination… Mérida. After a pretty uneventful journey, we arrived in a city with a population of 1 million. A mix of locals and tourists gathered themselves, dispersed from the bus and made their way to their homes, hostels and hotels.

Surprisingly, not one of these 30 or so people took notice of a poor old lady who was struggling to move her luggage more than a few steps. She had two crates with no lid that were very full and the only way to stop her food, clothes and other items falling out was to clasp them together.

Lady In Need
Every little helps

With our own backpacks, Sian and I had a lot to carry but we thought it was only right to give an offer of help and the lady who was clearly struggling gratefully accepted. Her home was just one block from the bus station but it would have taken her more than an hour to get there by herself. Once we reached her small abode, we were surprised to see 3 men awaiting her, completely unoccupied and very able. We surmised that they must have just mistaken the time because we could not see any other reason for them to ignore the bus' arrival or their friend in need. We said our goodbyes with our good deed done for the day and made our way towards our hostel.

Nomades hostel was yet again an improvement on our standards of accommodation although it did have its problems. There were not enough fans in the bedrooms to cover everybody and therefore, we were too hot at night but some of the other features helped to make up for that. Breakfast was included in the price and contained eggs, toast and a mixture of fruit. The wifi was the best we have had since arriving in Mexico, there was free purified water (very useful in the heat of Mexico), a lot of common space to meet people but most importantly, there was a swimming pool!

Merida Hostel
Nomades Hostel Mérida

After a trip to the ridiculously large (honestly, British supermarkets cannot compare) Walmart, selling motorbikes next to children's dolls, we wanted to take full advantage of our "fancy" lodging so we relaxed by the pool for the afternoon before spending the evening meeting new friends and enjoying the live music provided free of charge by our hosts.

Emma from New Mexico in the U.S.A. was one of the friends we met and she decided to join us as we meandered around the city the next day. It was the first time we had been anywhere big enough to be deemed a city in Mexico, which made the mixture of Spanish and Mayan architecture all the more interesting.

As a backpacker, it becomes quite apparent that most overly “friendly locals” have an agenda. Often, they will explain some details that were readily available about a building before asking for some money. Sometimes, they will offer you a “free” taxi ride but you will have to spend a few hours in between visiting their various shops or restaurants and occasionally, they just want to be close enough to you to be able to take your wallet. For that reason, the cynic in me was very wary when a man from Mérida started explaining some of the finer details of one of the buildings in the main plaza.

Important Stone
Stone from Chichen Itza

It wasn't long before I realised how wrong I was to be such a cynic on this occasion or in fact on any occasion that a local approached us in Mexico. The explanation of the history of the stones that had been brought from some of the ruins nearby and the history of the buildings in the area were given to us freely and without any expectations. The gentleman had a huge pride in his town and wanted us and others to love it as much as he did. For him, that was reward enough.

Flag Monument Statue
Flag Monument Statue

Just a few hours later, another gentleman added weight to our belief that the people of Mérida only wanted to be of help. We stumbled across a roundabout on the outskirts of the centre, which we now know is called the flag monument. From a distance, we could tell that this was a spectacular site but with the constant flow of moving traffic, it was almost impossible to cross the road safely to get a better view. Seeing that we were struggling, a local traffic officer called us over and kindly offered to help. We graciously accepted and instantly, he blew on his whistle, walked into the traffic with his arm outstretched and died! Only joking! He stopped all in his path and ushered us across.

Flag Monument
Flag Monument Mérida

He could have just left us to it at that point but he wanted to give us an even better impression so he walked around the monument with us explaining in fast flowing Spanish what each of the engravings and artists depictions stood for. Thankfully, we had Emma with us who spoke fluent Spanish as I understood about half but missed out the most important parts. One of the most interesting helped to explain why there is an eagle in the Mexican flag. According to our traffic officer, a leader had seen an eagle eating a serpent in a vision and this was supposedly a mark of a great place to build a city. When this happened in real life, the decision was made and Mérida was built.

With the excitement of exploring the city behind us for the day, we were looking forward to exploring our taste buds and our cooking skills as the hostel put on a cooking class for just 25 pesos (roughly £1 at the time). Daniel Diaz taught us to make some sumptuous Mexican Empanadas. These are deep fried tortillas often filled with beans and chorizo. Mmm mmm mmm!

Blistering heat woke us up the next morning with Mérida reaching 37 degrees Celsius once again. 25 minutes walking was exhausting us that day so we were very pleased to have a means of reserving energy. Inside of the main plaza, local singers, dancers and comedians were celebrating the fact that it was Sunday. They displayed both traditional and slightly more modern entertainment and we were able to sit on our backsides and watch.

Merida Dancers
Mexican wave

Our plan was to exert just as little energy the next day as we decided to spend some time with our new friends Beatrice and Sandra on a nearby beach. Progreso, the town where the beach was located had lit up a sign on a colectivo passing by our hostel on numerous occasions so we had planned to walk outside our front door, hop on the bus, reach the beach and relax. This particular route was unfortunately rather different to most colectivos. Instead of stopping to pick people up at every possible occasion, it would only go from the station in Mérida to the station in Progreso. Once we managed to get to the station in Mérida, which was more than an hour's walk away, we realised that this was because the route is so popular that the bus gets overly full and there are queues of people waiting to get on the next one.

Progreso beach itself is no Caribbean paradise (for one thing, it's not in the Carribean). The sand is nice but full of shells and the sea is salty and quite dirty but it is still a nice place to relax and watch the many tourists from nearby towns enjoy their seaside getaway.

Other than eating, drinking and sleeping, people watching was our favourite hobby and one particular person swayed our interest more than any other. The lady in question was a passing vendor but unlike the vendors selling food, drink, clothing or jewellery, this lady in her nurses uniform was selling blood pressure check ‐ ups for 25 pesos. A few of the older generation were willing to take her up on the offer. Most seemed happy with the result but one lady looked extremely worried, which probably didn't help her blood pressure. We still haven't found out if it was a state / government initiative or just a chancer trying to earn some extra cash but either way, they could save a life some day.

Traditional Mayan Dancers
Traditional mayan dancing

If we had had an easy journey home, the day just wouldn't have been complete so when Beatrice's sandals broke on the walk back to the bus, we knew the return leg would be just as eventful as the journey there. Luckily, the place where her sandal broke was right next to 3 zapatarias (shoe stores) selling a large selection of sandals! Beatrice found a pair that she liked and the rest of the journey home was quite uneventful. It was time to sit, enjoy our resident guitarist again and await the hour of our first night bus in Mexico.