Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yucatan adventure : Wednesday

After another brill breaky - which was so good that some wasps were trying to steal some of it - we headed across to see the anthropology museum, located in a nouvelle epoque building just a couple of blocks walk from the hotel - since we got in too late yesterday. it was well worth the visit, some fabulous examples of all the Mayan time periods with jade pieces as well as pottery and huge carvings, its was great to learn about the Mayan counting system and calendar, the later being rather complicated and I must admit I didn't get it fully! The exhibit was very informative and we saw some very interesting pieces

Then we headed to Uxmal to see our first maya temple. Today we have a much better map so we got to the right highway directly. We had our first (and hopefully last) encounter with the police. After a bit of conversation with the policeman it was quite clear that he just wanted a bribe, even though he was threatening to put us in jail because we didn't have our passport and we could be illegal Immigrant. Even though this place is very nice we would not become illegal immigrants in mexico thank you very much! We gave him a bottle of water and he let us go.

We found Uxmal without any problems and once parked we headed for our first mayan complex. It was located in a luscious jungle- very Lara Croft according to D.

We started by looking at the pyramid of the Magician. It's a beautiful pyramid with an elliptical shape which makes it very elegant. Unfortunately we can't climb it anymore. We then headed to the Nunnery Quadrangle. It is a huge courtyard bounded on each side by long buildings. We observed our first details of the Mayan architecture and how they decorated their buildings. Unfortunately, limestone is a bit like gruyere and the stones didn't resist the time.

On the way to the Governor's palace, we pass by the ball court. This one is actually fairly small. The biggest one is in chichen itza. The ball court is surrounded by two walls on which people stand to watch the game. They had to put a rubber ball through the small hoop located way above the ground. It's like the quiddich game of Harry Potter but without the broomsticks!

The Governor's palace is quite an important structure. It's built on a platform and has a temple at the top where you have an impressive view of the pyramid of the Magician. It is guarded by a double jaguar throne. The person that discovered it didn't take it because it was to heavy to transport but he didn't look below it where there was a cache full of jade and ceramics! On the platform we saw the temple of the turtles. It is quite small with an open courtyard but was nicely decorated with little turtles.

next stop was the Great pyramid that looks like a typical Mayan pyramid. It's about 30m high and it's one pyramid that we can still climb. It took a bit of effort to get to the top but the view from the top was totally worth it. We were almost the only one there and we could really enjoy the view as long as we wanted.

Our final stop at Uxmal was the Dovecote. It derives its name from the patchwork of niches in the roof comb of the high wall. It was very well made and a bit of a shame that we could not get any closer. We went back to the entrance via the Quadrangle of the birds, located just behind the pyramid of the magician to observe the pyramid once more before heading out. The first site was absolutely incredible.

We made it to Merida fairly quickly and decided to go for a quick caffeine fix at Cafe Chocolate which was about a block from our hotel. D had a treat: cappuccino con nutella. It was super good. After such a hard day, walking around, we went for a quick dip in the swimming pool -quite cold at first- but it felt really good.

Diner was on the main plaza with a local band playing the guitar, very good music - besa me besame much lalalalala!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Yucatan adventure : Tuesday

What a breaky, we chose our table to the side of the pool and supped fresh orange juice, and cafe con leche and enjoyed yogurt and granola with a super croissant and toast, fueling ourselves nicely for the Cenotes day!

Navigating our way out of Merida was quite a challenge, especially with the maps we had, something that became a recurring theme for todays adventure. But after seeing the baseball stadium and finding a useful Pemex gas station we were on the right track, a few more villages and topes major, and now anti-topes, some being anti-topes major which might in another life be confused with cenotes, and we turned down the right road.

We boarded our tiny horse drawn carriage with our swimmers on and masks in the rucksack and set off down the railway track at a leisurely clip. After a few minutes, we got to the first cenote. We went down a flight of wooden stairs and found an amazing pool of clear water. It was absolutely magical. You can understand why the mayas thought they were magical places and they were dedicated them to the god of water. The water depths was 3meters for the shallow part and about 10 meters at the 'deep end'! There was a few people in the water but we had a really nice time swimming in the blue water and looking at the small fishes. After 30 min in the water it was time to get back on our little carriage and go to the next cenote.

The access to this cenote was much steeper than the previous one and getting into the water was quite tricky as you had to go down a very slippery ladder type thing with tilted wrungs, some of which were missing. D went first and helped me out. We took our masks this time so we could see the bottom of the cenote which was much smaller than the previous one but still had quite a bit of light coming through some small holes in its roof. There were also some tree roots hanging down through the ceiling of the cenote. Since it was so difficult to get into the cenote S decided it would be fun to jump into. It was a lot of fun but my swim suit decided to go visit a different part of the cenote ;-)

Now time to move on to our third cenote. This one was very different as it was only accessible via a small hole (literally) and we went down through it descending a vertical ladder. Definitely worth it. The cenote was only lite via a few collapses of its roof, so t was actually quite dark until our eyes got used to it. The access to the water was even more difficult than the previous one so D and i jumped in and it was a lot easier. We saw a few bats flying around in the dark above us. After a few minutes of swimming and snorkeling around the clear water we decided it was time for us to head back, really a fabulous experience. Our little horse brought us back safely to the start of the "rail road". Before hitting the road again we stopped for some lunch, a buretta and a poc cho (yucatan speciality like pork tacos), after which we headed back to Merida. This time we found our way a little bit more easily than on the way in!

Back in town, we dropped all our stuff and went for a bit of a tour of the town and bought some xmas decoration - a little angle and a little santa claus. We also found a shop making chocolate from yucatan, so we bought a few bars to sample and a few to take with for the family at xmas.

After all that swimming and walking, it was time for some dinner. We went to a place recommended in all the guide books called alfredo continental. We had some enchiladas and pollo pibil. Very filling and yummy. Time to go to bed for a good nights sleep to be full of energy for Uxmal tomorrow!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yucatan adventure : Monday

Another fabulous day on the island, we put our swimming trunks on and headed down to the sea sometime near 9. A bit cold as we slowly walked in up to our waists before a short pause and then throwing ourselves into the water, which was of course actually quite warm! The pelicans swooped really close to us as did the cormorants and turns. We did a quick out to the buoy and back and splashed about a bit before deciding it was breakfast time, which we took at the wooden shack we had had lunch at yesterday, delicious fruits set us up for heading back to the mainland, such a shame to be leaving our little paradise behind.

We found our little car shortly after the boat deposited us at the quay side, the boat ride from the island scooting by very quick as we were buried in our books. First stop was to be a 4hr drive to Merida and we weren't exactly topped up!

We cruised through some pretty dense forest and a few villages with lots of dogs strewn about the roads, accompanied by loads of turkey vultures too. Soaz did a magnificent navigating us through some tricky and particularly unmarked roads to get us all the way to Izamal and the golden plaza. But first some lunch. Just opposite the convent we found a local hostelry which did us a super chicken baguette and chicken taco which really hit the spot, it had been a while since breaky it now being 3pm. We walked round the great st Antonio de Padua convent grounds first built in 1562 built on top of an ancient Mayan pyramid, and in the distance we saw a real mayan pyramid, hopefully many more to come over the next few days. The rain was never far and we decided to continue to Merida, only about an hour further.

We finally made it to Merida where the traffic was quite bad with one way streets and trucks parked everywhere. After a couple of turns around the blocks we finally found our hotel, hacienda Merida. Gorgeous hotel located very close to the town center, with a little pool shimmering blue in the dark and only 8 rooms. We cleaned up and decided it was time for an aperitif, Pina colada, and our man even brought us a little nibble to accompany it, very thoughtful. We had a little stroll towards the main square which was all lit up for two hundred years of Merida. We felt it was a very typical spanish colonial town with the central square being a large open plaza with archways all round and a church, lots of street vendors, and traffic chaos! We found a great spot for dinner, S trying the pollo de pibil, half a chicken wrapped in banana leaves marinaded in Mayan sauce, really tasty!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Yucatan adventure : Saturday

We could see muddy lagoons behind white beaches stretching way into the distance, to the left a quiet blue gulf, to the right jungle! We were flying in and out of some big cumulus nearly ready to land.

Hire car pick up was an adventure for sure, negotiating the insurance requirements was a learning experience, so it was nearly 4 by the time we were cruising along the road following signs to Merida, it was going to be a bit of a race against the setting sun to make the one turning up to isla Holbox, and to get the last ferry across to the island. It was slow going getting out of town mainly because of all the pot holes you could loose small armies in! Cancun looked busy but we cruised along with Soaz giving excellent directions and we turned north to Chiquila as the sky turned nice and fiery, the roads had significantly improved and we cruised along making sure to take the "topes" (super high speed bumps) really slow, certainly effective traffic calming tricks!

We found a suitable 'Estacimientos' for parking the car whilst we were to be on the island and got a chap to bike the bags over to the pier where we almost immediately got whisked away by the 7o'clock ferry that left at 6.20, we were pretty happy to have arrived when we did, that was meant to be the last ferry for the day! We bumped along in the dark for about 30mins before disembarking and being greeted by a set of golf cart taxis, what better way to get to our hotel, the Holbox Dream, very pleasant! We were after the owners bed time and found a notice at reception that #2was for us, spot on, so we dumped our bags and headed for dinner.

We walked down to the main square, most likely the Plaza des Armas I'm sure, and spied a super looking fish place. We were very well fed, a huge surf and turf grill platter with excellent prawns, lobster tail, "white fish" and 3cuts of meat, which paled into the background in comparison - a great way to end our first day, tomorrow will be the 21st!