Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mayapan Pueblo Excursion and Tecoh Caves

I traveled today - the hottest day of the year so far here in the Yucatan; over 110 degrees - with some lovely folks from Seattle to visit the towns of Acanceh, Telchaquillo and Tecoh with a stop at Mayapan.

The Church in Acanceh
The trip itself was fairly uneventful, with the market visit at Acanceh yielding some fresh chinas (sweet oranges) and sampling of a caimito (exotic local fruit) and the Telchaquillo cenote offering some refreshment that was enjoyed with a group of local niños who were obviously and noisily enjoying their 'downtown' public pool. The visit to the shade-challenged Mayan site of Mayapan was scorching, the air hazy with distant brushfires pushing ash into the air and the sun beating down like a hammer on our heads. Even the breeze felt like the opening of a convection oven; the air bone-dry and oppressively hot. This kind of heat makes you want to curl up in some cool cave until it goes away.
Original Painted Stucco at Mayapan

Speaking of caves (nice segue that huh?) the stop in Tecoh yielded no church visit as the place was closed, in spite of it being on the much-touted convent route. Not much of a convent route when you can only visit in the morning and most of the day you will be able only to view these rather austere constructions from the outside, but who am I to comment on the viability of leaving them open during the day to enable visitors to enjoy their peaceful and often beautiful interiors.

Back to the caves.

Tecoh has a new (the coop has had this place in their hands for only months) attraction called the TzabNah Caves. This is located on the outskirts of town, just after driving through the central plaza area on the road that leads back to the highway which will take you to Mayapan and eventually Mani. The sign says Grutas de Tzab Nah (y sus 13 cenotes) which you take to mean that you will see 13 cenotes. Actually they are more like small pools of water which individually might be called a cenote, but in the cave environment, are actually part of a larger cenote that once was.
Inside the Tecoh Caves

The hour/hour and a half tour, which will set you back 70 pesos per person, paid before entering the caves with the added suggestion that you tip your guide, is a fascinating look into a pre-LolTun kind of cave; ie, there are no lights of any kind beyond your flashlight. At one point we turned off the flashlights and were amazed at the absolute, blinding darkness. You could not see up, down or your hand in front of your face. Amazing and more than a little frightening, if you think of what it would mean if you got lost in there!

There are stalagmites, stalagtites, a deep cenote, overhead rock formations encrusted with fossilized shells and small formations optimistically named 'the elephant' and 'the virgin'. It seems that every cave has 'the virgin' in it and if you have a little imagination, you can probably see not only the virgin but also 'the cougar', 'the Hummer' or any number of items that tickle your fancy. Also, there are fabulous rock formations made of calcium and lime and something that makes them sparkle like a Tiffany's chandelier.

At the entrance one is given a yellow hard hat and you think 'why do I need a hard hat?' After the first smashing of your head into a low-hanging rock formation, you are very glad indeed for the inclusion of the hard-hat option.

Fascinating stuff.

The hour long tour only covers a part of the tour; the longer version involves getting your clothes muddy as you must crawl along the ground at one point to reach one of the caverns, in which apparently there is another cenote, this one swimmable.

I was very happy to have gotten to see this place, which was something completely new to me, and am glad my intrepid Seattlers were ready and willing to embark on this adventure.

Highly recommended!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Celestun - A PhotoNuts Photos

The other day, I took a fellow Canadian out to the mangroves of Celestun where I deposited him into a poled canoe to explore the fauna and flora of the area. The ecotouristic project is called Dzinitun and is run by a coop of fishermen who are trying to come up with a sustainable alternative to their traditional (and in the process of dying) source of income; fishing.

Mr. PhotoNut, as we shall call him calls himself an 'amateur photographer' or enthusiast, but the photos below (plus the fact that he carried on his person several thousand dollars worth of equipment) lead me to think that this goes beyond enthusiasm and falls into the hard-core aficionado category. The photos are magnificent, and I thank Mr. PhotoNut for his kind permission to use these shots to drum up interest both in the Yucatan and its wide variety of bird life, as well as the coop of Dzinitun.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Hacienda Ochil, Yucatan

A great place to stop for lunch after tramping around Uxmal, this semi-restored hacienda has some decent Yucatecan food and a very relaxing ambiance. Workshops onsite provide shopping opportunities as well.

Regarding the music; those familiar with life in the Yucatan will recognize the hurricane warning tone used for all official announcements during hurricanes past. This I mixed up in a mellow little groove that kind of grows on you after a while. The Xkau sounds are from an early morning recording made under the trees here in Merida.

And how that sideways photo slipped into this video is beyond me! Oops.

Hacienda Ochil, Yucatan

A great place to stop for lunch after tramping around Uxmal, this semi-restored hacienda has some decent Yucatecan food and a very relaxing ambiance. Workshops onsite provide shopping opportunities as well.

How that sideways photo slipped into this video is beyond me! Oops.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chunkanaan Cenotes Fun (Again)

The misnamed Cuzama cenotes are a popular destination for day trips from Merida. Here are some more photos from this great (and refreshing) option!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Iguana in Action!

A recent marathon Puuc excursion, lasting an exhausting yet exhilarating 12 hours including an hour for a late lunch/early dinner at Valerie Pickles Pickled Onion restaurant in Santa Elena, yielded many a photo (over 1000) for my enthusiastic "amateur" photographer who slogged 3 cameras along and never tired of yet another Mayan ruin.

It also yielded this video, of an iguana in action at Uxmal. Watch how he nods his head in triumph at the end!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Happy Guest Comments!

 "We had an awesome time in Progreso..thanks to our guide from Lawson. I always felt very safe in Progreso. My wife & our 9 year old daughter took the shuttle from the pier/ship to town were we walked to the beach, stopping often to take in the sites & look at the goods of the friendly local one was pushy... all were very humble/nice.  After a short walk we met our guide who was very pleasant.  We traveled all over the jungle/area/Yucatan.  We visited beautiful ancient churches built of millennium old Mayan stones...ate local cuisine YUM YUM, drank very good local beer (supplied by our awesome guide Ralf) swam in indescribable underground pools (Just us), and visited very old plantations (Rope making made Europeans millionaires).  Definitely recommend private guide....not crowds & hundreds of whiny American tourists (ha ha).  By the end of the day we made a few good buys at the local market & the pier market and headed back to the boat for pampering & to look at all the great pictures."

Thursday, April 7, 2011


 If you haven't been to Mayapan, you should go. This important city whose importance was up there with Uxmal and Chichen Itza, is located away from the main tourist routes, except for the so-called Convent route which is mostly closed after 11 AM or so until later in the afternoon. A good way to spend your time in the area after seeing some altars in the morning is to sweat it out at the Mayan ruins of Mayapan, and then hit some convents on the way back to Merida.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chunkanaan Cenotes Fun (Again)

I never get tired of taking folks out to the cenotes at Chunkanaan (also called the Cuzama cenotes) and it is very gratifying to see them marvel at - and revel in - the natural beauty of these 3 swimming holes. On a hot April day, there is nothing better than to jump off the wooden platforms into the refreshing, clear blue water.

 On this occasion, Doña Juanita was there, selling fresh fruit to whomever needed a natural snack to combat the intense, dry April heat.

And who can deny the bone-jarring fun of riding the horsedrawn 'truck' along those narrow gauge railway tracks?


And of course the trip there would not be complete without a stop at the beautiful Gothic church in EkNakan.