It appears that Mexico is one of those countries, of which there are many, that the existing taxi community has a problem with modern, helpful-to-the-rest-of-us services such as Uber! Instead of embracing new technology and making the switch, they stick to what they know and choose to resist change. As the detesters exist in their many, they do appear to have largely driven out (excuse the pun) Uber from certain areas of the country and Cancun is seemingly one of them! However, in their minority they still exist, like a secret task force, rebels if you like – non-conformists and we can now say that we’ve rode with one.

Having used and relied upon Uber for months, not being able to get one from the airport proved quite the shock – as was the sickening £25 cost for a 12 minute taxi ride to the airport hotel. That hurt. When we eventually left the first airport hotel two days later having arrived in the country at short notice, the following happened.

After we check out, we chill in the hotel whilst working out how we’re going to get to the centre.  Viv spends a long, relenting time on the Uber app trying to match a driver. Eventually and I mean after an hour or so, she gets paired with a driver. This is met with such a loud ‘YES’ in the quiet hotel lobby, many heads are turned lol.  

Now showing as 1 minute away, we leave the hotel to find a location that would make it easier for the driver. We arrive at a point the same time he does. Normally brief pleasantries and name-checks are exchanged but not this time. The driver is basically hurrying us in the car. We notice he keeps looking in the mirror and starts turning his head a lot and then he says: ‘Taxis’. As we had prior knowledge of the conflict we understood that meant that he did not want to be seen by taxis nearby. So in we get and off we set but it felt pretty surreal. It felt like the man was fearing for his life. Crazy. Still, we had pulled it and paid a third of the price!

Thank God, thank Uber, thank Viv.

Oh, and what’s more, Viv notices when we get to our next destination and hook-up the APP that the driver registered to the car that picked us up was not the driver that did pick us up! A first for both of us. Ah, Mexico and their suspect reputation, huh.

Before we headed to Valladolid, we had a couple of days in Cancun centre to rest, recuperate and plan. It’s unlikely many holiday-makers see the centre and even more unlikely they stay here and that’s understandable, especially when they are lounging around in 5 star bliss on what is known as the hotel zone (Zona Hotelera). It also happens to look like a number 7.

During this downtime, we discovered what there was to do around here and how to make it all happen without any Uber reliance. Viv’s “travelling” had finally begun…

Sunday 21st March: Valladolid

A city that feels like a village located just two hours away in-land from Cancun. In fact, it’s pretty much one straight road to get here. It’s popular for several reasons including the charm of the city itself, the proximity to Chichén Itzá and proximity to two very popular cenotes. 

A cenote (say-no-tay) is a sinkhole. How cool does that sound!? Not a patch on how cool they look though, as you’ll soon see.

Despite being just two hours away, being in Valladolid actually results in a 1 hour time-shift (backwards). So for the last few days we’ve been at UTC-6 instead of -5.

We arrived mid-to-late afternoon and chose to wander the city for the rest of the day. This would enable us to start early the next day (the only full day we’ll have) to visit both Chichén Itzá and the cenote our friend Alex recommended: Ik Kil.

Valladolid felt different the minute we stepped off the bus. I honestly think it’s the only bus depot I’ve ever departed where I haven’t been accosted for a taxi ride or something else!  We discovered it to be flat by terrain, charming by character and tranquil by feel. The latter largely being down to the way of the Mexican people. I knew from my first morning interactions with staff (even at an airport hotel) and from people I’d met during my solo travels that the Mexicans were amongst the friendliest you’ll find. I’d heard it about the Thai people and confirmed it; heard it about the Brazilian people and confirmed it. I have little doubt that the Mexican’s as a collective will prove to be level or even surpass the above. Sorry to disappoint those of you expecting drug cartel stories! 🙂 That said, we are planning to head to the infamous and sizable Mexico City so who knows if the people prove to be any different.

These few photos won’t do Valladolid justice. You could take endless photos of the architecture alone. It’s easily my favourite ‘little place’ of these last few months.

Monday 22nd March:

They say the best times to visit popular attractions are either first thing in the morning or towards closing time. We opted for the early shift to see Chichén Itzá and guesstimated a couple of hours there to then move onto the cenote Ik Kil. Unfortunately unlikely to be prime-time at the cenote but we should at least make it to Chichén Itzá without big crowds. But alas, the plan was not so and shaken up instead, it was.

We arrive at 7am to a location near the bus terminal to board a colectivo. (A shared mini bus). This is how the majority of Mexican people get about inexpensively without a car.

The mini-bus arrives and a handful of locals board. The driver asks Viv and I which of the possible 4 destinations on his route we are headed. We say Chichén Itzá but there’s a problem. He speaks some gobbledygook which I believe is what they call Spanish. Viv is doing a great job at translating parts she understands and worryingly she thinks she understands that it’s closed today and has been closed for days.

Shit. You have to be kidding!? This place hardly ever shuts. Why now!? For how long!? This is our only full day! We can’t leave here without having not visited!? This would be a calamity.

All the standard thoughts and questions go through your mind, even, is he pulling a fast-one? But why!? And he seemed legit and decent enough, I felt.

At this point, we can’t work out if we’re unlucky or lucky. By absolute chance a) the driver says tomorrow it will be open and b) our return bus for tomorrow isn’t until 2pm so conceivably this will work for us meaning we can promote visiting the cenote to this morning leaving all of tomorrow morning for the Wonder of the World.

Conductor, Ik Kil por favor. Vamos.

Low and behold when we arrive home later that day we do search and find articles in the local Yutan times regarding the closure. And it’s to do with timing and it centres around the Spring equinox. Apparently they see a super surge in visitors leading up to the equinox and so this is their attempt of curbing that. Funny to think we arrived on that very day by chance and were completely unaware of this timing in our own calendar.

We are dropped at the cenote a little before opening hours so had the whole area to ourselves before a few cars start arriving.

This cenote was very well organised at the business end providing plenty of facilities including showers, lockers, towels to rent, food and drink. Combined it all added up to a spectacular couple of hours – a great recommendation. And the icing on the cake? It remained relatively low in people for the duration of our stay which we were so thankful for for as this place that can get very busy. Instead, we had plenty of time and space to capture this amount of natural beauty and fun…

My youngest brother leant us a piece of equipment before we left the UK. We had used it once or twice over the months but today it really, really came in handy! Look at the quality of the images it took in and out of water!

As you can tell, we had such a good time here this morning that we wanted more so we sought out another popular cenote close to Valladolid. It’s actually the most Instagrammed cenote as these Photoshop artists apply wondrous effects to an already pretty spectacular setting. Unfortunately we can’t offer you that but you’ll see from our basic imagery its beauty and size.

This is Suytun cenote and it was bloody freezing. The low-light conditions meant it was hard to take photos so just a handful are available below for your viewing pleasure.

Tuesday 23rd March:

Reliving yesterday, we woke for 6am and arrived prior to 7am to the same spot that would hopefully take us to an open Chichén Itzá. We got a little lucky as the colectivo was nearly full when we arrived with just three spaces left. We consumed two and then watched over the next five minutes more and more people arrive which was so very different to yesterday. People that knew of the closure prior, we assume.

Forty five minutes later and we had made it to a not-very-busy Chichén Itzá. With 15 minutes until ‘doors open’, we both queue and marvel at just how unorganised it was. It might have been due to the fact they hadn’t been open for a few days, that’s the only explanation we could muster. Really awful. But that was just the beginning. Then consider this is one of the most visited places on earth. Mind blowing.

We see from the board above the cashier that there were two separate costs. We would discover that one was a Federal tax and the other for the city tax + the charge for the entrance for whomever, however and wherever that money ends up! Word is there is distrust between the divisional departments and it’s for that reason this happens and the rest of us suffer the consequences. They’ve also doubled their price in the last 6 months – a significant and shocking increase.

Begrudgingly we begin the payment process with not a very well English spoken cashier. I pay for the ticket but wait, it’s not the ticket, it’s the tax ticket. The cashier points to her colleague literally next door for us to pay again here. We move a whole two feet to the left and aim to again complete the process but this time we could not use the card. Wow. All very odd, a little suspect and massively frustrating.

I look to give some US dollars that I took out when we arrived in Mexico as I had read you could use them here.

“No dollars”.

Grrrrrrr. I take my card out.

“No card”

“Cash machine round side for Pesos”.

Arrrgh. We of course had Pesos but not the high-value amount they required.

Off I trot, get stung at the cash machine (not literally) and return with Pesos whilst Viv remains in the queue.

But it’s still not yet a green light to enter. Next, we are subjected to a bag search, fair enough. Except we’re told food isn’t permitted either is our tripod. We’re forced to hire a locker and leave these items. By now Viv has reached her boiling point which is many degrees lower than most lol. I’m pissed off too as we were within the first 20 people queuing to get in, but sadly no longer, although many are going through the same troubles we are. Thankfully by the time we reach the archaeological site ten minutes later, all was forgotten. Truth is that it’s so vast you’d need tons of tourists and coaches to ruin those perfect-picture moments so we were still able to grab some cool shots of El Castillo without people around. Check out these first two beauties….

The above shows two opposite sides depicting the restored steps and the original 1500 year old steps. Wow.

Apparently you could once climb the steps – which is surprising in itself. You certainly can’t do that in Egypt! However, I have it on good authority that back in 2006 a female tourist, an OAP I believe, fell to her death! How horrid.

The temple has 365 steps, one for each day of the year. Each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, and the top platform makes the 365th. Pretty impressive when you think back to how these primitive, yet advanced for their time, species created systems such as solar calendars. I read that twice a year on the equinoxes, a shadow falls on the pyramid in the shape of a serpent.

Alex – really hope these bring back good honeymoon memories for you. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed the pics too as technology has improved since your time lol. Then again, I bet processes and costs haven’t. I have to say, you guys chose brilliantly with Mexico and its luxury, culture, food and warmth of the people. 

So after a truly exhausting non-stop three days we headed back to Cancun arriving early evening Tuesday. We have some cheap accommodation booked for the following day to allow us to work on this blog post before I pull out the latest surprise for Vivian. Like you guys, she has only just learnt about that in these lines of text too lol.

Viv – you’ve been a trooper the last few days lugging all that luggage around in between hotels. I mean those bags total nearly half the weight of you! You’ve also now officially earnt your travel wings! 🙂 I’m thinking you deserve a day or two of some proper rest and recuperation, as do I. 

Viv, what’s your lucky number?

Mine’s a 7.

Any guesses…?

Folks, here’s “Viv’s vid” if you have a few minutes – it’s another good one.

6 Responses

  1. Awesome guys! Definitely brought back some fantastic and very special memories for us including Valladolid, which we had forgotten about. So amazing that you have experienced it too and probably in better conditions (less people). I was literally saying to Nat before I read your comment that I wish we had better cameras at the time. Our cenote pictures were terrible(dark).

    • Dude, thanks. Yeah when you get to set your own schedule it’s often for the better obvs but comes with challenges too. Also can’t imagine you went through any of those awful struggles at Chichen Itza payment desk! Ha, funny line about the camera and technology, must have looked very different. Looking forward to relaxing for a day or two now. Reckon I can blag a honeymoon suite!? lol.

    • Ta. Yeah, such a great little device, huh. Would imagine it’d be great in the right hands. Noticed how bad it struggles in low light, though both when shooting stills and how revealing that was in post processing. So gutted I couldn’t do more at cenote Suytun. I know you that shot with the ‘light’ beaming down. Your equipment over here would here would have been epic and your editing talents. Thanks again for the lend.

  2. Thank you hun for another incredible surprise/treat. You’re the best! Can’t wait 🙂 xx

  3. Hi Sami and Vivian, Spectacular sights, good video. Look like you are having a good time despite Mexico not being on your list. xxxx

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