Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Merida and around – Days 149 to 154

5 days in the Yucatan Peninsular, Mexico

We seem to have done a lot since the last entry, but I can't cope with too much 'history' and the sites are all blurring into one.

We went to Ek Balam, up, not quite so early, as we were getting a collectivo, so it would go when full, slightly more expensive than the bus, and just a car, but always with four people, so not quite so comfortable for me as I always end up in the middle, but a lot more flexible. This is a smaller site, with a lot less visitors where you can actually climb some of the pyramids (good in some ways, bad in others). The major pyramid has some amazing stucco work on it which we assumed was all reproduced, but on eavesdropping on a tour, he said it was all original. I managed to question him to discover it had been overtaken by jungle which has protected it till it was uncovered and given a new protective coating. 

Once the temperature rose, we headed back, we could have visited the local cenote, but they priced themselves out as far as we were concerned, with entrance and bike or bike taxi for the 1.5km. So collectivo back before walking down to the convent which was nice and cool, though not cool enough, we had to beat a retreat back to our aircon! We were accompanied back by a lovely dog, the only street dog we saw in Valladolid. 

We were sad to leave our quirky hotel to head off to Merida, but he's planned us a busy schedule for the next three months so following morning, back on the bus. Merida was bigger than we expected, the biggest city of the Yucatan apparently, but although we had to get a taxi to the hotel we were actually well positioned to walk to the main square. On arrival we ate the last of our cheese sandwiches courtesy of the three blocks of cheddar Louise brought us back from Ireland. Yummy while it lasted, but it wasn't travelling well!

The main square was a lovely place to walk around and to people watch, as well as visiting the tourist information in the government palace with some interesting murals on the walls. Heat again too much we headed back before coming out about 17.00 to find the pub with beer garden B had seen on the web. It was shut, however we were stopped a small distance further on by a nice man, and a sign saying cerveza, two for one! Into a lovely walled garden and onto a sofa, cold beer, Saturday night, great. All except for the mosquitos. We haven't seen any of them, and he was very quick to provide some spray, but not before they had a good feast. We ended up having three beers and something to eat, it was so comfortable, while watching our host turn from laid back to frenetic as more people came in. "Is it very late?" B asked, sadly no, it was only 19.30 so far too early for bed. We found the police band, in uniform, playing in the main square, so had a little dance. We then bumped into an American couple who told us there was going to be a light show projected onto the cathedral, so we sat and chatted with Roxanne and Darrel. Turns out their plans for the next couple of days were pretty much the same as ours, enjoy Merida on Sunday, with markets and bands before going to Uxmal on Monday. Only difference was, they had a car. We were thrilled when they said we were more than welcome to join them rather than get the bus.

Sunday went as planned, we walked in the beautiful main boulevard, closed except for bicycles. A lovely family atmosphere, people with dogs, families on side by side tandem bikes with three seats for the kids behind. Looked at the market, listened to bands, ate street food, had our pastries held hostage by a lovely lady. She looked after them while we did a rhumba to the band in the street, and wouldn't give them back till we did another! We did however fail to bump into Darrel and Roxanne, fortunately they had given us their card, with an email address on. Keep thinking we should get some printed with that and the blog address on, but it's just one more thing to carry.

Were really pleased to wake to a message saying yes, we were welcome to join them, they had looked into our hotel the previous day but been unable to leave a message without knowing our surname. Could we be at their hotel for 08.00? Better get a move on then. So pleased to be leaving by car at 08.00 rather than bus at 09.00, we had contemplated hiring a car but I suspect we would have wimped out. We all walked in having been to other ruins expecting it to be more of the same, but no, we were all blown away, different layout, more to explore, much more decoration, our favourite by far. We continued on to Kabah and Mayapan, which I have to confess have become jumbled in my mind, but the pictures will say everything. Cenotes next on the list as by now it was very hot. We followed the directions given us by a man at Mayapan, but decided that the unpaved road we found ourselves on wasn't for us, but sadly the kids following us got in the way causing Darrel to come in contact with a  large rock while turning round. So glad it wasn't our hire car. 

We were half looking for some cenotes we'd read about on Roamingaroundtheworld , the same blog we learnt about repositioning cruises on, but at this stage, any cenote would do, another sign, another dirt road, still no water, another sign, and this time men waving us in. We may have stumbled on what we were looking for, but it was 16.30 and he said it was going to take 2 hours, and nightfall is about 18.00! Oh well, it'll be fine, there are certain similarities between B and Roxanne! Transport to the cenotes was provided, a small cart on rail tracks, towed by a horse! Off we went all thinking we were slightly mad, the tracks were just lying on the ground and the cart had to be bounced round corners. The horse thought it had finished for the day and wasn't very keen, but hey. 

First cenote, down a set of ladders, which just went into the water, why are we still dressed at this point? It would have been much easier to take our clothes off at the top. Darrel had decided discretion was the better part of valour, and can't deal with the cold since a shoulder operation and the fitting of a pacemaker, so it was just the three of us. It was lovely to cool off, and really cool to swim round stalactites. Loved it. Walked to a second hole in the ground, more steep steps, this time with a rope to hang onto while lowering ourselves into the water. Conscious of the time we didn't spend long though, back out and back onto the truck, which had been turned round on the tracks, at least we were heading back, third hole in the ground, another ladder and a scramble over some rocks to find the deep water. Fortunately our guide has a torch as I don't think much light gets there normally, particularly as by this time the sun had set! Nobody went in this one as it was small, but deep, though Roxanne had stepped over a rock and found herself in it up to her ankles as visibility was sadly lacking! Back on the truck and on, to the biggest cave, open to the sky, perhaps we should have come here first, when there was still some light as we are sure it would have been beautiful. The ladders came down onto a little island, not that anyone swam round, in fact B was the only one to go in, well I was almost dry at this point. We did get a view most people probably don't though, that of the bats flying out of the cave! We arrived back at the car in the pitch dark, but we had certainly had an adventure! 

Despite being led astray by these two mad English people, R&D were kind enough to invite us out again the following day. We jumped at the chance, slightly later start before heading off to Dzibilchaltun more ruins, a museum and a cenote. Good value except for Darrel who actually had to pay at this one, the lady behind the desk refusing to accept his residents seniors card, that had been accepted everywhere the previous day! (They used to live in San Miguel de Allende before the altitude, had upset Darrels heart and caused them to move back to Texas) . This cenote was beautiful, more of a pond than a deep hole in the ground, swimming round the lilypads was a new experience for all of us. 

Then on to Progreso a seaside town, where the cruise ships dock (fortunately not that day), that Roxanne has been looking   for a place to rent in. We had a lovely seafood lunch on the beach, all joking about treating each other on Valentine's Day.

After a second lovely day we were dropped off at the hotel door sad to say goodbye to our new friends. We saw and did so much more than we would have done on our own, and had  a good laugh.

Now back on the bus to Cancun, back to the same hotel as sadly there was no free cancellation! Just hope we get a room that doesn't smell of damp this time!

 Ek Balam was at its height in the 8th and 9th centuries, believed to have been abandoned for unknown reasons after about the 12th century
The Oval Palace (it's oval on the other side!)

Structure 17 or The Twins (left is the Oval Palace)
The ball court. Much smaller than the one a Chichen Itza
The huge Acropolis. Excavations only started here in 1998, when it was just a mound
This is the temple of El Trono, halfway up and to the left of the Acropolis. Apparently this was found intact when it was unearthed. It has had a protective layer placed over it to preserve it. You can almost imagine human sacrifices taking place on the altar
This is one of two mounds yet to be excavated. What hides beneath?
One of many Iguanas on the site

Jackie sitting in front of the Convent de San Bernardino de Siena
Inside the convent

The wide Paseo de Montejo closed to traffic on Sunday mornings and full of families cycling and running. A real carnival atmosphere
One of many beautiful buildings along the boulevard
Very large love seats for tourists to pose on
A protest against President Trump and his proposed wall
In the Gran Plaza with the cathederal behind
A photo of me, just because!
Our very nice Hotel Gran Centenario in Merida, very close to the Gran Plaza
This was during the light show, projected onto the cathedral. This was where we met Rozanne and Darrel
With Roxanne and Darrel at the Adivino or Pyramid of the Magician
In the Nunnery Quadrangle
The carvings at this site are astounding. These are four images of the Maya rain god Chaac, mounted one on top of the other. The nose is the darker bit in the centre, which should be curved, except they have broken off, beneath each one is a very wide mouth with teeth, either side of the nose are two staring eyes and the holes in squares further out and a bit lower are the ears
The obligatory Iguana. we've only seen them at Mayan temples and cenotes. Are they the spirits of Mayan warriors?
The Govenors Palace
This is a view from the Govenors Palace. Down there is the ballcourt, beyond is the Nunnery Quadrangle and right is the Pyramid of the Magicians
Beyond the Govenors Palace is another huge Pyramid, only half excavated
Me 'n Er outside the House of Birds, beyond which are huge areas of more buildings yet to be excavated
Jackie and Roxanne at the Codz Poop palace
Although the parts we can see at Kabah are small, the site is extensive, but not yet excavated. The big hump on the left is a large Pyramid, on the right is a smaller temple. What treasures lie within?
The quite extensive site at Mayapan. This is taken from the top of one pyramid
Jackie on top of the large pyramid
Roxanne posing for a photo

Arriving late in the day at the old Hacienda. The railway lines were originally laid by the Spanish land owner for transportation of the crops grown on the land. The tracks are now in a very poor state of repair!

Darrel and Roxanne taking their seats
Off we go!
Occasionally our guide had to get off to push the rail cart round corners with brute force
Their faces show what we were all thinking!
Arriving at the first cenote, just a short walk away in the evening sunshine
And here it is - a hole in the ground!
The wooden ladder went down and down, finally arriving at the water a long way underground
In we went, the water was surprisingly warm - and deep!
Jackie takes a swim in the crystal clear water
Followed by Roxanne. A water droplet on the lens blurred the photo slightly. Good job the camera is waterproof!
And me!
Meeting up with Darrel on the surface, ready to walk to the second cenote
Arriving at cenote No. 2 Another hole in the ground!
Down we go again!
Keep going down!
Finally we arrive at water and Jackie lowers herself in on the rope, followed by Roxanne
And swims out over the deep. What lurks below?
I was last in so I'll be last out! It was completely dark in here apart from his torch and the flash of my camera
Back onto the bumpy railcart to the next one, just as the sun was setting
But I think we were all enjoying ourselves!
And so to the third cenote - another hole in the ground, but a proper metal staircase this time!
Darrel looks in from the top
But then we walk through a tunnel...
Its down here, he says
But this one we didn't swim in as it was getting late and it was a bit small. Except Roxanne walked into the shallow water without realising!
Back onto the railcart, Jackie has time to stroke the horse, but its now quite dark and the horse thought it was time for bed and didn't want to play!
But he managed to coax it along and here we are going down the fourth cenote almost in darkness
I'm in but the others decide against it
Its a real pity we did this one last as the tree you can see is on an island, surrounded by water. In daylight apparently the sun shines directly in
And here we are coming out of the final one. Its dark! The horse had to find his way back in the dark!
This is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, so named as seven roughly made dolls were found within it. This site is believed to have been occupied for over 2500 years and was still in use when the Spanish arrived in mid 16th century. It is only 22km from the sea
The temple is perfectly aligned and, from this position on the equinoxes the sun rises and shines straight through this window. I bet the place is packed on those days!
This is another quite large site with a very good museum that explains a lot of Mayan history. This area is surrounded by large temples with inward facing steps forming a sort of amphitheatre. The building in the centre is a chapel built by the Spanish, presumably to upset the Mayan religious practices.
Alongside is this cenote. Shallow enough to stand up in at this end, but very deep at the far end and, what looks like a huge flooded cave disappearing off into the underground distance
Of course we had to have a swim round the lilies and heres Jackie and Roxanne. The water was quite warm, the day was burning hot!
Here they are hiding behind a lily leaf
Lower than a flowering lily, not a view you get every day, particularly not when also next to a Mayan temple
The lens half above and half below the waterline
Just playing about by the sea
Lunch at a beach restaurant

Here's the view the other way. Its a great location
Happy Valentines Day dear! Boy, this took some organising!
Dipping our feet in the Gulf. Yes, that's a coconut under my foot
Roxanne and Jackie on the beach. Thanks for your company Roxanne and Darrel, and the use of your car. Maybe we'll see you again somewhere, sometime!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, those pool caves are lovely.Don't think I'd swim in the dark though.... that's when the creatures come out! xx