Friday, June 11, 2010

After the Puuc

After leaving my New Yorker and on the road back to Merida, I saw the sign for Cacao and the San Antonio Mulix hacienda and remembered reading about some cenotes in that area that I had never visited before. I figured I might as well stop and have a look, for future reference.

After a solid 8 kilometer drive from the highway into the not particularly charming hamlet of Cacao, where there is a ruined hacienda that has been evidently and absolutely raped of anything of value, I continued on to San Antonio Mulix, not without first taking a photo or two of what were probably once some beautiful buildings, now waiting for a merciful death by collapse as they sit dejectedly among weeds and plastic garbage that the indifferent inhabitants of Cacao have tossed in front of their still-dignified facades.

Once you reach San Antonio Mullix, which is another, shorter drive along a narrow one-lane but paved road, you come upon a building set on a hill, which has several signs indicating that this is where one pays or whatever to access the cenotes. Here I met the most unmotivated and lethargic woman, who was the hostess with the mostess for this tourist attraction. Again, I have to wonder at all the millions of pesos spent by government folks who travel to shows and produce expensive campaigns to attract tourism to the Yucatan and then do nothing to train people or provide basic services for those very same attractions the tourists come to visit. I digress.

I ask this obviously-bored-out-of-her-skull woman how one gets into the cenotes and she mumbles, while looking away, that you have to pay and then go down that road over there. She points tiredly to a dirt road and a closed gate.

"Esta bien; cuanto cuesta?" I ask, "How much?"

"10 pesos if you are local and 25 pesos if you are from elsewhere" is her unenthusiastic response. She is really into this, I can tell.

OK. I fish 10 pesos in coins out of my pocket and she pushes a clipboard at me on the table and asks me to fill in my details. I write in name, age and where it says COUNTRY (it's in English) I write Mexico.

She stares at it for a moment or two and then tells me, like I am really, really stupid, "You wrote Mexico"

"Yes", I answer, "I wrote Mexico because it's asking me for the country. Is that not right?"

"Now I'll have to charge you 25 pesos" says my hostess in a dull monotone "because you put Mexico. You should have put Merida"

I considered (and stupidly started) arguing about what the word country means as opposed to city, but then decided that this was going to be a tough one and so I asked "Should I just change it to Merida?" and bent down to scratch out Mexico and write in Merida.

She moved the paper away from me and said, while removing the questionnaire to reveal another sheet underneath, "You wrecked that one. Here, do it again"

So I did and then was free to drive to the nearby entrance and let myself in, unlatching the chain that was holding the gate closed.

To make this long story short, an interminably long, winding drive over a rocky, dusty road led me to two cenotes, one of which was too shallow for a dip and the other was perfect. Both have steep dropoffs at their deeper ends and I suspect, from the signs posted, that this is a spot used by divers to explore the dark waters beneath the rocks.

Is it worth the trip? Maybe. I haven't decided just yet.

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