We finally dragged ourselves away from Roberto and Jorge at Shambala in Tulum on the Sunday 21st September. We were more than ready to get on the move and start exploring again and I was getting bored with sand in my bed and damp salty clothes that never seemed to dry properly. Maybe the reality of beach living isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We took the 10.30am Ado tourist bus from Tulum to Chetumal which took around 3 and a half hours and was a pretty uneventful journey arriving at 2pm. When we got there Chetumal was literally closed and like a ghost town. We checked in to the Hotel Ucum, a very basic budget style motel of walkways and staircases; £10 for a sparse double room. It was clean enough but I didn’t want to look too closely at the mattresses, it was very lived in and looked like a room used on a B movie set. Iron levered shutters at the windows and an iron door at least meant we weren’t going to get shot in our beds.
We found a local place for a late lunch. I ate the staple Mexican dish of chicken, rice and beans whilst Dave had another local favourite prawn cerviche. We wandered around the Mayan Museum which was pretty impressive and then along the avenue of heroes down to the sea front where a tatty funfair for kids was closed up and a few meager street vendors sold unappetizing fried foods. 5 young people we practicing their marching band drums and the harsh rat-a-tat of sticks on skins echoed around the buildings in the sea front plaza. Walking back to our hotel we noticed that the only places open other than a few small convenience shops were the shoe shops, or ‘zapaterias’. Mexicans seem to be obsessed with shoes.
Nervous about the border crossings as we hadn’t had our Mexican tourist card stamped in advance, we took a 20 minute taxi drive to the border with Belize to check out the situation with the frontier immigration. Army trucks with soldiers holding huge guns were driving around; but they were so smiley it was hard to be intimidated. It’s supposedly $20 to get your tourist card stamped before you leave Mexico and another $10 to be allowed to keep it in case you are coming back in to the country within the allocated 180 days they give you at first entry. One of the guys was the friendliest immigration person we’ve ever met but confusingly took us to a window where another immigration officer stamped our passports as leaving Mexico today when in fact we were going early next morning. After trying to explain in our awful grasp of Spanish they told us to come back the next morning.
We tried to sleep in our cell like room but the persistent barking of several local dogs and the heavy accents of people on the stairwells meant a night tossing and turning in the heat as the wobbling plastic fan attempted feebly to cool the room.
We had to get up at 4.30am to be at the bus station for 5.30am to buy a bus ticket for Flores in Guatemala; for some reason we weren’t allowed to buy one in advance.