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 niƱos 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!