I have included a little need-to-know section towards the end of this post in case you are thinking of making a similar trip!
I left Tulum on the 12.30pm bus, which ended up leaving half an hour late. The station was slightly stressful as there were no signs or announcements and some confusion amongst the people working there as to which was the right bus but in the end there was no real hassle or difficulties and I made it on to my seat relatively easily.
For the next four hours we were travelling through acres of jungle, staring out of the window for hours on end to miles and miles of green jungle, treetops soaring high for as far as the eye could see. The monotony of it all sent me to sleep and I passed the time dosing and listening to podcasts. The ADO buses in Mexico are great – there was a clean and working toilet at the back of the bus and the seats were spacious and comfy. I was fast asleep when we pulled into Valladolid and the conductor even came all the way to the back of the bus to check it wasn’t my stop!
We entered Mérida through the ugly outskirts, our bus looking down on faded bungalows with their paint peeling and cracking and bare concrete backyards, rubbish blowing through the empty streets. The transition to the centre of the town was very gradual, buildings slightly grander, paint slightly less faded. I got off the bus at the Ado bus station and walked fifteen minutes towards the main square. This was a lovely public space with plenty of benches to sit on underneath trees and watch couples cuddling, old women chatting, tiny children chasing pigeons and each other around in the centre. There also didn’t seem to be a single other tourist there!
Once I felt ready to shoulder my rucksack again I went for a wander, past the cathedral and up towards the leafy Parque Hildago for a Diet Coke.
I was exhausted and worried about getting ill, really just wanting a bed to lie on and not having to wait until 10pm for an overnight bus, I had my rucksack and so wasn’t really able to explore Mérida properly. Everything was just about killing time until 10pm. Eventually I left Parque Hildago and walked down the street to Amaro, a restaurant recommended in a blog I’d read about food in Mérida.
It was a pretty restaurant, in a traditional open courtyard, with Mexican artwork on the walls and friendly staff. The blog I had read mentioned that Amaro served international food but really recommended the restaurant for its Mexican pork dishes. With my slightly dodgy tummy though, I figured a plain pasta would be best! It turned out I couldn’t eat anything as every bite made me feel queasy – both my illness and the fact that the food was really oily (even the nachos seemed oily!) but I did manage to happily polish off a glass of red wine – strange I know!
The minutes crawled by as I waited until 10pm, still just wishing I could be asleep in bed and wondering what on earth I was doing. Why was I going travelling by myself and not just going home with James? Why didn’t I just take the time off for lazy lie-ins, cuddles with Oscar-cat, and my lovely mattress at home? I wished I was on the flight home with my friends.
I also knew deep down that the feeling wouldn’t last, that it was just tiredness and illness and nervousness, and that if I was to spend five weeks at home I would be bored stiff in a matter of days. Travel is about pushing myself slightly outside my comfort limits, learning to embrace being alone, having to speak in Spanish and not having anyone else to rely on to do things with me. And I love being outdoors in the middle of nature, hiking and exploring new places, and I was not going to get that in south London! But on that night, as I waited for the bus, I wasn’t thinking about any of that, but more about how much I missed James already. And it hadn’t even been one day!
The bus arrived on time and it was relatively simple to get to it and get my bags onto it. There were a few families with babies boarding which worried me slightly as sleeping was going to be hard enough without screaming kids! But more concerning were the four lads in their vests and rucksacks that were sat right in front of me – I was worried they would be up drinking and enjoying themselves! Yes – I have turned into one of those old and boring people 🙂
In the end, I didn’t hear a baby all night and the four boys immediately settled in by getting out their eyemasks and blowing up their travel pillows. I slept, albeit brokenly, the whole way, waking up with various aches and pains in my back and knees and having to try to find a more comfortable position. It was a good reminder that I’m not a teenager anymore – I don’t remember my joints getting that sore from sleeping in uncomfortable positions before!
I woke up as we arrived in Palenque as the sun was rising only to discover that the boys in front of me had had some of their stuff nicked from backpacks they had put above the seats as they slept. I had also put my small rucksack above the seats, although I had kept my small bag with the my valuables with me, and so immediately went to check, but my bag was completely untouched – whether because it hadn’t been opened or because the thief didn’t fancy a cheap scarf, some insect bite reliever ointment and some printed off blog posts on Colombia I am not sure! I felt really sorry for the boys – it was not a nice start to arriving in a new place, but then again, not a sensible idea to have your valuables out of sight, unlocked, on a public bus.
I jumped in a taxi which took me to Casa Lakyum. At not yet 7am I had little hope of being able to get into my room but thought I might find a comfortable place to sit. But to my surprise, someone who I thought was probably the night watchman was able to check me in immediately and I was shown to a clean, large room where I stretched out in bed, enjoying the flatness of it and the ability to have both my legs and back straight. I fell into a deep sleep for over two hours and woke up feeling refreshed, no longer sick (almost) and with a much brighter outlook on my travels.
Need to know: the bus company that does this journey is ADO and their schedules are online. You can only book tickets online if you have a Mexican credit card although the website isn’t particularly clear about that! The bus station in Tulum is on the main road and I would recommend going the day before to book your tickets – you can also book the ticket from Mérida to Palenque at the Tulum bus station. The trip to Mérida takes about four hours and costs around 300 pesos – £12, the overnight bus is 8 hours long and costs about 570 pesos – £23. Both buses had a clean and working toilet with toilet paper!! Although I would still recommend you carry your own toilet paper just in case. Keep your valuables on you and sleep soundly (or as soundly as you can in an uncomfortable bus seat!). You can also get to Palenque by flying from Cancun to Villahermosa but Rome2Rio (a wonderful navigation / travel site) suggests that flying would actually take longer!