Merida: paddling in hot water

It’s 3.23pm in Merida – out in Mexico’s elbow province of Yucatan, and I’m back to sweating.

Mexico City, for all its madness, has at least a level of heat that I find bearable, pleasurable. Merida sits close to the Caribbean and you can feel every inch of it. Still, it’s a pleasant town. I was wandering around last night and once you learn to think like a Mexican: walk slow, spend 11pm to 4pm inside and maintain a gentle inquisitiveness – you start to discover and appreciate the place.

It’s like a lot of towns in this part of the world – flat facades with a delicacy of delights inside. Alot of the buildings are rundown but often inside you see the most extraordinary homely spaces. Of course inside others, it is as bad, if not worse, than the outside.

My soft spot for cantinas – absolutely bare-essential bars with so much testosterone you almost choke on the fumes – is returning. Every one I pass, I’m tempted to pop in for a big bottle of cooling beer, but then I’m also aware I’m here to finish off my book so I am carefully avoiding them until I feel I have at least done a good day’s work.

General rule of thumb – if you’re wandering about and no one else is about, get inside. When there is a breeze and when you make sure you are walking in the shade, you don’t really notice the heat. Until, that is, you stop, and suddenly your shirt becomes flecked and then swallowed up by a darker hue as your body expels all the water you’ve gone to so much trouble to take in. It’s still worth walking that extra block to made sure you walk into a building that has air conditioning though.

Habla espanol?

My Spanish is gradually emerging. I had been learning it for two years but had to drop the course because all the PrepComs, World Summits, IGFs, ICANNs and so on keep meaning I was missing lessons and so would return out of practice and even further behind. I keep surprising myself by understanding signs. But I still have trouble with the Mexican accent, and the incredible speed with which everyone speaks Spanish.

I was delighted last night when having a water at Jonny and Suzanne’s babysitter’s house that I understood about 80 percent of what she was saying. I asked when we got back in the car if she was speaking particuarly clear Spanish and apparently she was. She’s from Veracruz, I was informed (I’m sure that means something). Anyway, it was a delight to be able to get a whole sentence rather than two words somewhere in the middle of 12 and try to work backwards to figure out what had just been imparted.

The basics are there though. I ordered lunch with surprising ease, even dealing with the various follow-up questions that I’m sure are a sub-conscious attempt by restauranteurs to test what measure of tourist you are. I even knew that “pierna de pavo” was turkey leg. And my god what a leg. It looked as though it was the only part of the beast’s body they had been able to get off before it charged through the doors and legged it for the coast and a life of comfort.

In fact it was so big that the cook decided there was little point putting much else on the plate – a few fried beans and some onions — Enjoy. I did. But the time I got back though, I could feel the overheat coming, so sealed myself in my room and turned the AC on full. I am just getting back to body temperature.

Time for some work on the book and then a dive in the pool just outside my door. A treat an hour or two away.


I should say quickly that yesterday we drove to some terrific Cenotes – basically huge underground water-filled caverns out near Uzcama (or Cuzama?), near Acaneh, near somewhere else. An extraordinary experience.

Yucatan is full of these things and the whole province is a diver’s dream. In theory you can go down one of the cenotes and get to pretty much anywhere else in Yucatan if you have enough oxygen and a decent map.

As if was, it was charmingly unspoilt. Quite a long way into the dense forest/jungle, you get there by sitting on a small horse-drawn carriage that runs on its own minature railway. There’s three cenotes in a row in Cuzama, an hour’s drive from Merida, although we only managed two because we arrived late and there wasn’t time. Just as well – we missed out the second and rattled onto the third and climbed down this sheer wooden ladder into a hole that only the able-bodied would be advised to attempt. At the bottom it was virtually pitch black with the only light from another hole (which was amazingly wide open above – you could easily wander off into and down it if you weren’t paying attention). It was eerie and spoky and terrifically other-wordly.

Jonny and I gradually got used to the very little light and dived in, which took some initial guts but once you’d got over the fear was oddly exhilarating. It may have helped kill my perpetual cold. And then we climbed back up and head back along the mini-railway for what much have been an hour in the dark – real, proper dark – and gave our guide a fat tip for knowing what he was doing. There are many middle-of-nowheres on this planet and we were definitely spending time in one of them.

Right, anyway, work…

  1. lovely blog, but Merida is near the Gulf of Mexico, not the Caribbean! carry on!

  2. Oi, matey, you may be on holiday but that doesn’t mean you get a break from spelling and grammar, you know!

    Sounds like good times – I’m jealous. Remember to take plenty of pics, eh?
    Right, back to ITV and Fosters…

  3. Yes, there were a few mistakes. Think I have corrected most of em.

    Will stick up some pics now if I have time…


  4. I beg to differ… Merida is one half hour from the Gulf of Mexico and three hours from the Caribbean. Near to both, in my opinion!

  5. Kieren if you have time go to Chichen Itza. It is about a 45 minute drive from Merida. Coba is also a great site on the drive from Chichen Itza to Tulum, and a good portion of it is still being excavated.

  6. Hey Patrick,

    I’ve been to Chichen Itza before, but I might try to make Coba. I’m also told there’s another ruins about 40 minutes from Merida in a different direction that aren’t anywhere near as busy as Chichen Itza, so if I have time…

    Found my Chichen Itza photos on my other site – here’s a list of em if you’re interested:


  7. Try Uxmal, I think that is the site 40 minutes in the opposite direction via Merida. Amazing ruins.

  8. That’s the one!


Comments are closed.