Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chunkanaan Cenotes Fun


Yesterday, my 4 intrepid adventurers and I ventured out from the heart of Merida - the beautiful Casa del Panadero rental to be exact - to drive into the heart of the Yucatan and delve into the three magical cenotes of Chunkanaan (also known as the Cuzama cenotes).

For those that haven't been, the cenote tour via horse-drawn "truck" along 9 spine-jarring kilometers of narrow gauge railway originated in the tiny hamlet of Chunkanaan, just past the slightly larger town Cuzama, which in turn is just beyond the even larger Acanceh. The mayor of Cuzama, seeing all the traffic pass through his town on the way to the cenotes, decided to cash in on his location and built his own access point to the cenotes, which are located on land owned by the ejidatarios in the area and made it his mission to flag down every vehicle passing through to convince them that the Cuzama entrance was the 'real' starting point to the tour, going so far as to actually tell people (mostly tourists) that Chunkanaan was 'closed'. Pay no heed, however, to the red flag waved at you as you pass Cuzama and continue until you reach your destination!

Enough with local politics, however and back to the trip at hand.

After a stop along Calle 59 for some rather excellent roast pork sandwiches aka tortas de cochinita, with plenty of pickled onions, which my guests found to be deliciously decadent we embarked on our adventure.

There was the obligatory photo stop at the entrance to Acanceh where a charming restaurant has made it its mission to translate some of the highlights of its menu offerings in a manner that can only be described as unintentionally humourous and the drive down a one way street - the wrong way - in Acanceh itself. The policeman was nice enough to point this out and while I do remember such a rule, I was following the giant tanker truck in front of me who ignored this traffic regulation and forgot all about the one way thing. The policeman explained that the truck didn't have to follow the rule as he could not negotiate the narrow side streets and quickly diverted us (and the car behind us) to a side street to continue our way.

Arriving in Chunkanaan, after noting the red-flag-waving individuals mentioned above, I visited Doña Juanitas house, who had prepared for our little group a bowl of delicious sikil pak dip and a bag of tostadas to enjoy on the ride to the cenotes. Sikil pak, for those who don't know, is a quintessential Yucatecan food item often served in bars along with a beer and is made of roasted and finely crushed or pureed tomatoes, ground pumpkin seeds and cilantro, all mushed together to form a paste-like dip that, while not particularly photogenic, is fantastically delectable and an excellent source of fiber which of course - when eaten in excess - can lead to certain gastro-intestinal situations that are best left to the imagination.

The cenotes, as usual, were spectacular and as it was a Saturday a little crowded as the day progressed.

Afterwards a cold Indio cerveza from the cooler was refreshing as we drove back to Merida, stopping only once in Cuzama to visit the local expendio for another six-pack of frosty Sol and waking up the proprietor, who was fast asleep in his chair behind the refrigerated beer case.

We arrived back at the Casa del Panadero rental around 3 PM after 6 hours of being out and about.