We had not made any hotel reservations for the return trip from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico to Belize as we thought we'd see how things went with the buses and which cities we liked best in order to determine how best to travel home.  Originally we'd planned to arrive back in San Pedro on Tuesday, December 18th, but that would have meant a couple of very long bus legs.  Since we were able to extend Paisley's stay at Pampered Paws for two days (thanks Kathy!), we decided to return on the 20th instead.  This gave us the chance to spend one more night in each of the cities we'd visited on the way to San Cristobal and avoided any 8+ hour bus rides.  We had determined that 5+ hours was plenty to be sitting in a bus.

Before we embarked on our journey home, we knew we should get a hotel reservation in Tulum.  It's the most touristy place we'd be staying, and since the end of the Mayan calendar was fast approaching on December 21, we figured it would be a zoo on December 19.  Fortunately, we were able to book the last available room at Secret Garden Hotel, the place we'd stayed at the beginning of our trip.  Relief!  We did not pre-book any other hotels for our return journey as we  thought we'd be okay walking in off the street in the less touristy cities, and that did prove to be the case.  

The day before departure, we bought all our bus tickets for the return leg of the trip from San Cristobal to Palenque to Campeche to Merida to Tulum at the ADO satellite station in San Cristobal, conveniently located quite close to the Hotel Diego de Mazariegos, where we'd spent the last three nights.  The clerk spoke no English, but since I'd transformed into my Mexican persona of Emilia (according to Barry), it was no problema, and it was nice to have it all taken care of at one time.
Emilia comprar boletos de autobus (Emily buying bus tickets)
We had a beautiful last morning in San Cristobal to walk to the bus station.  Just look at that sky!  Note that Barry was carrying our new duffel bag on his front side -- we couldn't have done without it as our luggage seemed to have magically expanded to fit its every nook and cranny.
One last photo op by the pretty Carolina blue and white church
Bus station
This leg of the trip proved to be the bus ride from hell.  In addition to the queasy-making mountain roads on the way downhill to Palenque, we were subjected to the gentleman in front of us seemingly coughing up a lung for the entire trip as well as other sickies all around us sneezing and coughing.  We actually resorted to hiding under our jackets to breathe as we so didn't want to catch a cold on the trip.  Traveling while sick is miserable, as I am sure the man in front of us could attest. It was a very, very long five and a half hours.  Fortunately, there were some nice mountain and valley views, when we dared to take a quick peek out from under our germ-blocking tents!
For some reason, we stopped at an OCC bus terminal in the town of Ocosingo for half an hour.  Normal stops are only about ten minutes, and there are typically only one or two stops on a five-hour bus ride, so this really prolonged the trip.  We were surprised by this as we didn't stop here at all on our way to San Cristobal from Palenque just a few days earlier.  Of all bus stations we'd seen on the entire trip, this one had the least to recommend it -- no nice food vendors, no colorful decor, and no free restrooms.
Even the sign was boring
Well, the tree behind the station was nice!
Our bus
I suspect it goes without saying that we were really, really glad to arrive in Palenque and get out from under our "breathing" jackets!  

They had made a lot of progress on the road paving work around the Maya head statue since our last time in town.
Much less dusty!
We were able to get a room for the night at the same place we'd stayed before, the Hotel Xibalba.  However, the front desk clerk was the same lady I'd basically accused of trying to double charge us last time, and I'm pretty sure she gave me a dirty look, though I was as polite as could be and used my best Spanish (which is probably laughable by her standards).  She assigned us a smaller, less nice room than the first time, with only one double bed, but there was no way I was going to complain.  We found out the next morning that our rate didn't include continental breakfast this time either, but at least the rate was the same $44 US as the first time.  It was getting into high season, so I had thought it might be higher.

We didn't take photos that night as we ate at the same place as before -- the Pizzaria Palenque.  We ordered the same pizza as our first visit -- why mess with a good thing?  This time we splurged on a large instead of a medium as we were really hungry. 

Stay tuned as we continue traveling home through Mexico to Belize.  I'm reposting this map of our travel journey since it's the same route in reverse this time.  Tomorrow we head back to the charming city on the Golfo de Mexico, Campeche.
Our route home from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico to San Pedro, Belize

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