Friday, January 4, 2008

Uxmal / LolTun Caves Day Trip

The Manhattan group also wanted to visited some ruins and rightly decided that Chichen was far too overrun with tourists to be enjoyable; we opted instead for Uxmal followed by a trip a little further along through the Puuc route, to Loltun Caves.

A 7 AM pickup at the hotel, a cooler with water, soda and cookies for snacking and we were off, arriving in Uxmal just before 9 AM to enjoy a couple of hours tramping around the ruins before the morning dew completely evaporated and it became too hot. The tourists, Italians and Spaniards in large groups with matching travel bags milling around the espresso cart at the entrance, were assembling en masse around 11 AM but we had finished by that time.

We then broke for a rather mediocre lunch at the (former?) Club Med Archaeological Villas and then continued along the Puuc Route to LolTun. Where we arrived just in time to wait about 45 minutes for the 1 PM tour to begin. After the hour long underground visit to the cave, we were back on the road towards Merida, with only a stop in Mani to look at the convent where that fine fellow Friar Diego De Landa burned all the Mayan documents he could get his hands on, thereby singlehandedly destroying about 95% of the written history of the original inhabitants of the Yucatan.

We were back in the hotel at 5 PM, making this a full day trip.

Sotuta de Peon Excursion with Storey Uayalceh Add-on

Another tour to Sotuta de Peon; this one due to the fact that the weather suddenly became horrid - chilly, wet, grey and windy - and bobbing about on a choppy sea dressed in black garbage bags around Celestun had definitely lost it's appeal!

Picked up my Manhattan friends at the Fiesta Americana hotel at 9 AM and we arrived at 9:55 AM sharp at the Hacienda. The smaller guests always enjoy the sounds and smells (!) of the sheep so that was the first stop while waiting for the tour to begin.

Robert, the Cuban-American tour guide, has apparently left the employ of the Hacienda and Jorge is now doing a fine job, complete with bullhorn and freshly welcome comments such as "the hacienda owners were catholics, but they were definitely not good people", alluding to their use of Mayans as slaves.

Again the machinery and swimming in the cenote were the highlight of the trip and again, I mentioned to the Hacienda people that they need to get some sort of gift shop happening; everyone was asking about something to buy as a souvenir. Keep your eyes and ears open and you can pick up a handmade key chain from some of the workers for 10 pesos which is less than a dollar at today's exchange rates.

After the Sotuta de Peon experience and at the insistence of my guests, one of whom wanted to see and feel a small town, we drove the additional 5 kms to Uayalceh where to our great surprise we found a fabulous, hacienda that once had been very wealthy - completely in ruins.

Apparently only the main house is occupied, but the rest of the buildings are weed covered and visitable which makes for a superb glimpse at how the haciendas were before they were bought up and restored to 5 star hotels and such.

Then a stop at the local tortilleria where we raised more than a few eyebrows - not too many tourists I suppose. The turkeys out front, the kids, the smell of fresh tortillas - it was a great finish to the day, especially when we started eating the tortillas in the car on the way back. You cannot find this quality of tortilla in Merida (at least it is quite difficult) and we must have eaten a dozen each.

Finally, a stop at a roadside stand to buy and suck on chinas (oranges), a typical Yucatecan highway snack.

We arrived back at the Fiesta Americana about 6 hours later, tired but satisfied; a good time was had by all.