Thursday, March 25, 2010

On Top of the World in Tecoh

A recent drive to the lovely village of Tecoh and a visit to it's restored church resulted in our little group getting access to the roof of the church for a spectacular view of the town and a unique perspective on the church itself.

Photo 1: the carved stone spiral staircase upwards; this apparently was carved inside a Mayan ruin that is in the church (!) or part of the walls

Photo 2: The view of the altar from the loft where the choir hangs out. I know there is a name for this place but I am so lapsed as a former catholic, I can not remember what it is

Photo 3: A hole in the clouds magically opens up to show blue sky, perfectly aligned with the church spires. It's a pre-equinox phenomenon!! (kidding)

Photo 4: View towards the back end of the church (altar is below far end) showing the absolute and uninterrupted flatness of the Yucatan in the background.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sotuta de Peon

the Mayan house amid henequen fields, home to that Oscar winning actor, Don Antonio

The Sotuta de Peon hacienda, which I have visited twice in the last week, has 
  • raised it's entry fee to $300 pesos per person;
  • started charging 1 dollar or 10 pesos for use of a towel at the cenote;
  • trained a new guide, whose name is Raúl and is doing a fantastic job;
  • almost finished their eco-hotel which will open in July;
And is still the best place to visit for a good, non-cheesy overview of Yucatan's history. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Chunkanan Cenotes

The cenotes at Chunkanan, also known as the Cuzamá cenotes, are a fabulous day trip excursion from Merida. Increasingly popular, these three cenotes (there are more but they are still difficult to access) involve a ride on a horse-drawn 'truck', a turn of the century form of henequen or sisal transportation along 9 kilometers of bumpy small rail tracks.

The success of this home-made tourist attraction has drawn the attention of the mayor of nearby Cuzamá, the larger town just before the Chunkanan hacienda. This fine fellow has decided that the cenotes are not benefiting his town and has made it his mission to stop tourists before they can get to Chunkanan, going as far as to use the local police at his disposition (who obviously have nothing better to do) to block the small road to the hacienda and divert tourists to 'his' truck people, thereby providing them with the tourism pesos and choking off the Chunkanan villagers who initially started the tours. Apparently police tell people that the hacienda is now 'closed' and that the tours originate in Cuzamá. Small town politics with small town minds.

I was just in Chunkanan two days ago with a group of nine people and it was a fabulous afternoon. The driver of the little truck said the conflict with the Cuzama people is ongoing - my suggestion is that you politely insist on going on to Chunkanan even if someone suggests that the the cenote route there is 'closed'.

Please note that there is some very slight wasp activity near the mouths of the cenotes for those allergic to wasp stings. This is common as the weather becomes hotter and the insects seek out out the cooler temperatures at the cenotes. We had one such person in our party but he was not stung.

Also, try to visit the cenotes on weekdays, preferably in the early afternoon; you may get the cenotes all to yourself. Avoid long weekends and holidays as the popular swimming holes can become quite crowded.

Word of warning: do NOT make the drive back to Merida from Chunkanan in the dark (we did). The narrow road accommodates only one and a half vehicles, with nasty potholes along the edges making for some interesting steel-nerve moments when approached by a bus or large truck and there is no where to go. Grit your teeth, hit those shoulders and potholes and pray for your drivers side mirror. Topes aka speed bumps, marked and unmarked, are par for this course as well.