Mérida

Picking up our story; we are driving on the road from Campeche to Merida. The engine is working and so is the gearbox and it’s the first time we’ve driven more than 20 minutes in the last two weeks. That morning the rain and a horrid screaming noise in the workshop awakened us. It turns out a stray puppy had wandered in and Draco the workshop dog was terrorising it. It was shivering and covered in mites. We wrapped it in a towel and put it in the camper where it fell asleep. We debated what to do with it, we didn’t really want a dog but we haven’t got it in us to kick a starving wet puppy back onto the street either. Fortunately, the problem was solved when it chose to leave of its own accord and we in turn were able to leave the garage.

On our way out we drove past the stray kitten we had deliberated over a few days ago, sadly this time rather than hiding under a nearby step, it was dead on the road. It’s funny how things sometimes work out. It somehow felt like fate was trying to make us get another pet and that’s why we couldn’t help but stop and pick up Lizzy, knowing full well that if we had picked up another animal in Campeche we wouldn’t have been able to rescue here to. Let me explain; we were on our way to Cenote Kankirixche, a convenient stop before the city of Merida, in the middle of nowhere really. We drove down an empty road through the jungle. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted something, I thought it was a small black kitten on the side of the road. 

“Stop! Go Back!” I demanded of Lee, who was adamant it was a dog. 

We reversed up the highway as we were the only ones in sight. Walking through the undergrowth on the side of the road was indeed a cat. A very mangy looking one. It let me come right up and pick it up though, without protesting. I almost wish I hadn’t when I saw how covered in ticks it was. We had always said if we saw a kitten on the roadside we wouldn’t be able to help ourselves. I held it out the camper, while Lee dug out the rucksack to limit the spread of its many parasites. It sneezed a great big snot globule on me and then started purring ecstatically, like it had suddenly figured out it was being saved. It certainly needed help, it was clearly ill, covered in ticks and barely had any fur. It’s tall looked more like a rat than a cat. We packed it in the bag and continued on, Aimee oblivious to the fact that she might not be the only pet anymore. 

Our priorities had now changed from picking up some water, to finding a vet. On a Saturday though out in these small rural towns we weren’t having much luck. We finished the final drive to the cenote and parked up. We were looking forward to a nice quiet evening in the forest after two weeks of garage life. By now, that cat was called Lizzy. We were fairly sure it was a girl. We let her and Aimee out. Lizzy was quite content to stay under the camper, she wasn’t about to let this good thing go. Aimee ran off into the woods in a huff.

I went for a quick cool off in the cenote, which was quite beautiful despite the fact that it was now raining. Above me out of the opening, I glimpsed a flutter of white wings and saw a big hawk flying above, while swallows flew in and out of the top of the cave. Once I emerged Lee told me that the hawk I had just seen had nearly eaten Aimee. So now she was traumatised by the presence of the snotty new cat and by nearly being carried off by a hawk. She hid on the van roof all night in the rain and refused to come in. 

The next day we left in the rain, heading for a vet and now terrified of ruining another gearbox with slight drizzle. 

Merida is a large city, so it was easy to find a good vet for Lizzy. They saw us straight away and confirmed that she was in fact a girl as we don’t have a good track record of sexing cats. They gave her antibiotics and some vitamin supplements to try and help her gain weight and stop being anaemic. They also tested her for HIV and Leukaemia in case she could make Aimee sick, luckily she was negative or we wouldn’t have been able to keep her. We left with pills and pastes, and officially she had a new home. 

We followed in Hanno and Kikki’s footsteps, staying at Hostel La Ermita, in the city centre. There is a sizeable garden to park up the camper, and access to the hostel’s facilities, including the pool. It was very hot and a swimming pool sounded fantastic. Aimee in particular enjoyed relaxing on the sun loungers and spent some time trying to figure out the large iguanas that lived under the tree next to the camper.

We had spent a day or so in the town, and planned to stay for two nights as we needed to get some laundry done. There as also a Huawei shop here, a rarity in Mexico, and Lee wanted to get his phone camera repaired. We took it in that afternoon and we collected it a few hours later to be told it needed a new camera. It was a bit expensive but it’s what Lee uses as his main camera, and something that was important for the trip. We were told that the part would take four days to arrive so that was already our two-night stay out the window. 

Things escalated somewhat during the few days that we waited. My laptop had got a small crack in the screen, which while annoying as it was brand new, wasn’t the end of the world. Over the next day however, it spread and I now had a black screen. This was bad timing for us as the Euros were getting started and we needed a laptop to try and make some money. This was going to have to be an insurance claim and again, we had to wait for parts. We decided we may as well sample some nice food while we waited. 

Something else that had also been bugging me since Campeche, was my tooth. For a while now I had a big lump next to it and it seemed like it had an infection. Despite a complete phobia of the dentist, I bit the bullet as it were and went.

The place was very clean, modern and well reviewed. None of that made me feel any better. After some x-rays they told me there as no choice but to take it out. I knew this moment was going to happen one day, my dentist at home forewarned me. I was lucky enough to be born with several teeth missing and that meant that one of my baby teeth had been doing an adults job for the last thirty years. Now it seemed it had had enough. This didn’t stop my complete and utter meltdown that the current dentist had to deal with. Fortunately his was very nice about it and told me they had a range of drugs to stop me completely freaking out. This meant I left several hours later, wrapped in ice packs and quite high. We were now committed to another week to have my stitches out. 

The hostel was a nice enough place to spend time, and we made use of that to make some money. As with any hostel, there was a steady stream of guests, most of them appeared to be English and a lot of them were of the ‘lads on tour’ variety. After two weeks of Gerry’s garage, we were happy to socialise. Even if that includes sitting by the pool with a beer, while six teenagers rummage through a bag of used toilet roll searching for their lost weed. 

We met a Carlos from Honduras, who gave us some great recommendations for Central America. We took advantage of having access to a big fridge freezer, kitchen space and a blender. We met up with the Ana and Polo from Campeche and got our shock absorber welded back on.

Overall, we were fairly proactive. In the meantime, Lizzy and Aimee slowly became accustomed to each other and we made a trip to Petco for some pretty new collars for our girls.

I can now confirm later, that Aimee lost hers the next day and Lizzy licked hers so much that is now slightly disgusting rather than pretty.  We attempted to try and litter train Lizzy, but she was quite resistive to the idea. Preferring to do her business on the accelerator pedal, made significantly worse by the fact her stomach hadn’t got used to eating proper food yet. We moved the poop to the litter tray to try and explain what she should have done, but when she stuck her paw in there, hoiked it out and started to eat it, we postponed litter training and the nickname Shitgoblin stuck. 

In the end, most things slotted together nicely. I got my stitches out and my laptop repaired. We booked an appointment to take Lizzy to the vet again, it had nearly been two weeks since the last time and while she was making progress the vet wanted to see her again.

There were only two sticking points, one was Lee’s phone. Huawei didn’t appear capable of getting a new part so that we had to leave it unsolved when we finally were ready to leave. The other was a sizeable oil leak from the crank seal. It seems that new seal was 1mm the wrong size and had been working itself out the crankcase. I assumed it was only a matter of time before it shredded itself on the back of the flywheel. While I couldn’t face dragging the motor out again, I did order a new one as a precaution. 

We would have driven to one of the many cenotes in Homun that night and stayed there, but we had offered to take Caroline and Liam with us. Homun is a small town, and probably not the easiest to reach via public transport. It has the best cenotes in the area however. We left one rainy afternoon to check a couple out. 

For 130 pesos you get to hire a lifejacket you don’t want or need to wear, and see two different cenotes. For those who don’t know what a cenote is, let me explain. It is quite simply a pit or sinkhole where the bedrock had collapsed and exposed the groundwater below. They can be open, closed, above or below ground and range in depth from several metres to hundreds. The first one we saw doesn’t look like much from the top.

Then, duck down through a narrow stairway and suddenly you are inside a large cave with tropical plants and crystal blue waters.

Around half of the circumference, it was possible to access the water. Being below ground it was a cool refreshing temperature in contrast to the hot muggy day above.

The second cenote was accessed through someones back garden and then a similar unlikely hole in the floor where stairs continued to take you down, past a tree growing up through a hole in the ceiling and into another crystal clear blue pit. A guide was there, and I picked up a little of his tour, before he left and we had the place to ourselves.

This cenote was artificially lit in a pleasant contrast to the first. It was nice to do the two together, as they were very different. Little catfish swam around us and we enjoyed a few peaceful moments to ourselves before retracing our steps. 

Back at the hostel, we collected the remainder of our things ready to depart in the morning. Firstly we took Lizzy to her vet appointment. She got some more pills as she continued to snot all over the camper and was struggling to get rid of the bug she’d got, but overall she was definitely improving and had put on half kilo of weight in just two weeks. 

One final thing we wanted to do in Merida, was buy one of its famous hammocks. We stopped off in town, and picked out a nice blue one. At the back of the shop, it was unpacked and checked for loose knots and broken strings before being packed in a rather fancy bag and given back to us. 

Now ready to leave, we headed back to the hostel. The last few things were packed and the cats loaded in the van. We were going to give Caroline a lift to Valladolid, so she hopped in the back. Aimee made herself comfortable in the back, Lizzy snotted all over our nice new hammock bag and we set off. 

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