Friday, August 20, 2010

From Progreso to Mayapan and back again

From the Casa de Cultura in Progreso I took my New Orleans guests on a whirlwind trip into the Yucatan countryside.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

From Progreso to Mayapan and back again!

I had the opportunity to show some lovely people from New Orleans a little of the "back country" in the Yucatan yesterday. They wanted to get away from the herd mentality of the bus as well as seeing some small towns and lesser-known sites and so I decided that heading out towards the 'convent route' and Mayapan ruins would be a good option to visit some places that are usually off the radar of folks coming in on the Ectasy cruise in Progreso.

At 9:00 AM, we packed up the wheelchair and drove off towards Merida, taking the periferico or beltway to the Cancun exit from where we headed off towards the convent route. After driving for about an hour and a bit and discussing everything from fiesta beads at the New Orleans carnaval to Obama's health care package, our first stop was at Acanceh. In the main plaza photos were taken of the pyramid right in town, the local colonial-era buildings and we enjoyed the sights and delicious smells of the market. The church was also on the agenda. Then, on the way back out of town we stopped at a tortilleria, where they were making fresh corn tortillas and the very friendly owner gave us permission to step behind the counter and take photos of the corn grinding process and to see how the fresh tortillas are cut and baked in gas fired ovens. I bought a half-kilo of tortillas, which the owner graciously declined to charge for (but I paid him anyway) and we enjoyed a fresh healthy snack in the car on the way to...

Tecoh. This pretty little town I had visited before and this visit confirmed my suspicions that the towns residents are very proud of their city and as before, streamers over the church and city hall announced that yet another fiesta was in full swing, complete with a bullring made of sticks and string which would make a Canadian safety inspector cringe but which is completely safe and normal. A stop at a rancho that advertised 13 cenotes resulted a bust since the gate was closed and a rather large bull was inside guarding against potential trespassers.

After Tecoh, we stopped at Telchaquillo, which is a rather charmless hamlet with a nondescript and austere church and whose main claim to fame is a cenote right there in the main square. While not the prettiest cenote in the Yucatan, it is easy to descend into which was perfect for my guests today.

Then on to Mayapan, where we saw two busloads of blue-skirted, white-bloused nuns on an excursion, all having a junk-food lunch at the entrance and having a grand old time. A quick look at the ruins and we were back on the road, heading back towards Merida and lunch at the Hacienda Teya, known for their decent Yucatecan food and great service. Lunch was very enjoyable and accompanied by a bottle of refreshing grenache rose wine and then it was time to hoof it to Progreso so as not to arrive late for the cruise ships departure. Had their been a little more time, my guests would have liked to stop at the Aristi liquor store, where local liquor is bottled and sold, but due to time constraints I decided that we needed to get to Progreso first. We arrived at Progreso at 2:30 PM.

I believe a good time was had by all - I know I certainly enjoyed this excursion and the company of some great people from New Orleans. Thank you!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Uxmal Day Trip

The Uxmal excursion is a popular one and there's not much I can write about it that hasn't already been written in previous posts. One of the highlights is stopping, on the way there, at Uman, where the road passes through the market and one can stop and see all the exotic and wonderful things for sale there. One of them is the local fruit nancen, which you won't find in your local Publix, HEB or Safeway.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another Celestun Day Trip!

Another fabulous day trip with some nice folks from Florida yesterday; the itinerary was Celestun.

After leaving Las Marionetas hotel in downtown Merida at 7:00 AM, we quickly found our way onto the highway which of course winds its way through what seems like a gazillion little villages and their obligatory speed bumps aka topes which always makes this trip seem so much longer than it actually is, especially if one is stuck behind a slow moving dump truck or bus that stops every 3 feet to let on or off another victim.

Arriving in Celestun at last, we stopped at the 'official' site just past the bridge and inquired about rates for the one hour tour. About 650 pesos for two people, was the price. I usually tell people to not bother with the so-called petrified forest portion of the tour (which is what is added to make it a two hour tour) as it is just a desert of dead mangrove trees; I don't think that them being dried up constitutes petrification. I may be wrong, but that was my impression when I did it.

We decided to check out the Dzinitun option I had tried with my intrepid birdwatcher from Tacoma some time ago and who absolutely raved about the tour. First though, a stop at the market and a fruit stall where we sampled platano dominicano (small extremely tasty bananas, so much more flavorful than the regular bland Safeway bananas); pitaya or dragon fruit, which the stall owner graciously peeled, quartered and served on a little plate with fresh lemon on top and toothpicks; giant slices of juicy red watermelon and a sample of guayas, a lychee-like fruit grown locally.

Then on to Dzinitun. The poled kayaks there run $200 pesos a person and so off they went. The tour lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes and as they were almost done, the fellow at the main site asked if they would be coming back via bicycle (it's all ecological you see). I quickly deduced that since this was not mentioned at the outset, perhaps my Floridians would be hot enough without the kilometer-long bike ride under a 11:00 AM sun and so drove the LawsonMobile through the mangrove on a a sandy road to the point where they came out and had it nice and cool for them.

Unfortunately, due to the rains and rising water levels, there were no flamingos to be seen and asking the guide, learned that there were some flamingos in the area where the salt flats are. Off we went, driving through the mangrove until we finally came to a spot where the flamingos, about 50 of them, were feeding. Their bright pink plumage was gorgeous!

After all that birding excitement, a bite of seafood in beachfront Celestun. A mixed ceviche for her, a fresh fried boquinete for him and a crab and shrimp cocktail for me, and then we were on the road back to Merida, this time via Uman to avoid all the pueblitos on the way back.

A good time was had by all, I believe and it was great fun to chat about everything from politics to birds to tipping practices by nationality. This was a 7 hour trip.