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CAMPECHE

FROM MERIDA MEXICO

Day 19 - Wednesday, February 21, 2018. We were up at 5:50 am, flagged down the metro bus to Centro, walked to the CAME bus terminal to catch the 8 am ADO bus for the two-hour trip direct to Campeche.

Much of the Yucatan has a “Third World” feel to it. There is poverty, lots of abandoned and deteriorating buildings and houses in both rural and urban areas, an old infrastructure, and the plague of litter. But not Campeche; it is modern, clean, colorful, well maintained, and definitely “First World.”

After being dropped off at Campeche's modern ADO bus station, we took a taxi to the historico de centro (central historical area). We immediately noticed that in Campeche, stop signs were only a suggestion. Campeche has always been a rather prosperous town and plagued by pirates. I always thought that pirates just raided commercial ships, but apparently, they also raided seaside towns. The city built a wall around the original downtown  To combat this. This wall is still there.  Nestled inside the wall is a beautifully preserved historical and colorful commercial city center. Nicknamed the Rainbow City, Campeche’s walled-in city center is picturesque. Each smooth plaster-faced building in different pastel colors. The preserved old shops are low key with little signage, and the area is spotless. We zigzagged the entire square mile of the historical district which pleasantly lacked the crazy chaos of downtown Merida.

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The Mayan archaeology museum located at one corner of the wall had more preserved artifacts including a large, perfectly intact, double-godhead stone sculpture. So many of these godheads at the ruin sites have broken noses and beat up features. This sample was gorgeous. It would have been amazing to have seen these Mayan cities when they were in their prime.

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In front of the historical center is a long walkway that spans the oceanfront from one end of the city to the other with forts located at each end on hilltops commanding great views. It turns out Campeche is much larger than I had initially thought. Unfortunately, this day is insanely hot, 95- degrees. The walkway, as nicely laid out and landscaped as it is, provides no shade, and sadly, no beach along this long oceanfront walkway. We weren’t going to be able to walk the whole oceanfront to the opposite forts. By now my worn out shoes were badly rubbing my feet in several places, and demanding more attention.

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Plan B turned out to be walking past the fishing harbor to the grass-hut seafood restaurants lining the oceanfront. I read that these restaurants serve the freshest seafood anywhere in the world. As we walked past the concentration of seafood restaurants, the competition for our business became intense. One “barker” after another tried to lure us in using laminated pictures of gorgeous seafood plates as bait. Wanda has this thing when choosing restaurants – she picks the one with the most patrons as it probably has the best reputation. I read reviews on blogs and travel books. It turned out that the restaurant with the most patrons also received a good report, so that is where we parked ourselves.

The waiter, a large local man, treated us like royalty, serving us tons of terrific tapas just as he promised when he first approached us. His recommendations were spot-on. Wanda got large sautéed shrimp smothered in a fabulous sauce, and I got a tender flakey grilled fish of some kind. Rice, garnished potatoes, and tropical veggies rounded out the dishes along with the usual zillion tortillas, bowls of guacamole and beans along with a pile of tortilla chips and other tapas. Wow, it was a feast. The bill, with margaritas and tip, was only $25 US for a gourmet meal.

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I need new shoes. After supper, we walked to the mall. Both Merida and Campeche have robust malls. After browsing, we hailed a taxi to return to the ADO bus station to return to Merida. Both taxi rides were very inexpensive. If I ever returned to Campeche, I would use taxis exclusively starting at one fort, then taxi to the other fort, then taxi to the historic city center, then taxi to the fishing harbor and restaurants. I would also plan to stay a few days in Campeche specifically to catch a colectivo and visit the Edzna Ruins located 30 miles inland. We had heard many good things about Edzna through Barb, our Airbnb host in Tulum. Unfortunately, with my feet killing me and Campeche being much larger than planned, this visit was shortened. Oh well.

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Back at the ADO bus station, a group of police with police dogs roamed the station for a while. They were businesslike as they walked around with purpose. We speculated that they were looking for drugs. On the bus ride back to Merida we saw more police, and at one checkpoint our bus was pulled over. The driver was instructed to open the baggage compartment. One assault-rifle-toting cop randomly grabbed a large suitcase and brought it on board asking for the owner of the suitcase to follow him outside and watch as he opened up and searched the bag. (Similar routine as TSA doing a random search at US airports.) It was about 9 pm, under tons of bright lights atop tripods you could see other cars and trucks going through the same random-search procedure. Back to our bus search, once established that there was nothing illegal, we were on the road again.

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It was 10:30 pm by the time we returned to Merida. We slowly walked to the city center, my feet were getting worse. The plan was to catch the Carranza metro bus to the Airbnb. By the time we reached the bus stand, it was late, and most buses seemed closed for the day. Instead, we flagged down a taxi because I couldn’t take another step.