February 29, 2012
To me -this was it. This was the most beautiful and pleasant and impressive cenote of all we saw on the trip. But that doesn’t mean it is the most beautiful, for we all have our preferences. It is on the way from Valladlid to Chichen Itza, only 7 km from V. There are two cenotes at that site – with a large parking lot and “a building” in the middle. They like having those inadequate big buildings, which are always in contrast with the rest of the people living around, and leads to a thought that they are heavily sponsored by the government. At least people get jobs while building them and now sitting and selling tickets. Well, there are actually 3 buildings. The biggest one is for selling tickets! The others are on each side of the road – fro crafts people to sell their goodies. Each cenote costs 54 pesos to enter. but you must be attentive and be prepared which of the two you want to visit this time - they have different ticket sellers sitting side by side. And if you buy a ticket to Dzitnut, it woun’t be valid to Samula and vice verse. Strange. Luckily. though rushiing as always , we somehow managed to get to Dzitnup this time and left Samula for the next. Here how the surrounding area looks:
You wouldn’t have a suspicion that there is something underneath, but this hole is kind of giving a hint:
It is fenced so that there would be no victims of curiosity or absentmindedness:
And those big trees are feeding from the waters of cenote. Here is the entrance:
And here is the “beauty”:
Stalaktites and the roots of those trees are hanging like curtains, the water is transparent and of perfect coolness or warmth, ropes are stretched for the fun or safety of the swimmers and the main point – there was nobody swimming when we came and it was so quiet, the colors lights changing every some minutes:
Light comes also from that hole in the surface among trees, it is seen in the picture from below.
It brings you to a feeling of Bliss! Your body is embraced by the most loving hands of nature and your mind is in a meditative state, what else can you wish for…
But we still traveled more, continue to follow us…
February 22, 2012
I guess hardly anyone heard of such a town, but it is on the way back from Chichen Itza to Valladolid. We noticed a street from the main highway going deeper into some Maya pueblo and decided to drive into it and walk around. Here is the main square:
As all town squares it has a Municipal building and a Church:
It also has a cenote. but a fenced one, without stairs, not developed:
And several fenced streets:
Some houses are very poor and shabby, some are not bad at all, all intermixed , not like in the US divided into very distinguished rich areas and poor areas:
Notice the nice metal works on the windows. In those pueblos two things amazed me most – #1:their passion for colors and diligence in painting their fences, houses, poles, trees, whatever:
Notice here under the palm tree – even the lines between stones in the wall are painted green…
And #2: they are never short of concrete…This will better be illustrated in the following blogs, so continue with me on this amazing trip!
February 18, 2012
The whole Yucatan Peninsula is dotted with Maya archeological sites, most of which have still surviving pyramids. Mayan culture flourished several centuries B.C. and till about 12-13th centuries A.D. They still managed to show a strong resistance when Spaniards came to conquer them in the 17th c. Their architecture, arts, math, astronomical knowledge and the hieroglyphs they left on their structures are outstanding. More about their culture look here.
We got up earlier than usual and rushed to Chichen-Itza, the most advertised, considered the biggest pyramid complex or archeological site as they call it correctly in Yucatan. It was 1 h. drive from Valladolid, with all the villages on our way which means lots of “vibrators” and speed bumps, called “topez” in Spanish, on the road. And that translates to a very slow speed on their roads. Only some highways, of which the one we came to Valladolid, are pleasant and easy to drive. To tell the truth I was very excited to see Chichen-Itza, it sounds in everyone’s mouth when they come from Cancun, it is considered one of the seven wonders of the world, UNESCO World Heritage site, I heard about special feelings or energies over there and the ticket is the most expensive of all the pyramids we visited. So that gave us hope that it will be really impressive. Here it is, the Queen, the main pyramid of the site, the main Energy provider:
So it looks all right. Very well lined South-North-West-East, very nice proportions for the eye, it has exactly the number of steps as there are days in a year and so on. But, as you can see – it is almost the same as looking at it in a picture – you can get close to it , neither you can climb it…needless to say – I was disappointed. By coming at 9 am we escaped the big crowds brought to here by buses from Cancun, that is right, that was good. But we didn’t escape the big crafts market made from the whole site, so eventually I couldn’t see the ruins there any more, for the craftsmen took my attention completely. They lined with their goods all the paths except for one, and stood there like soldiers in sweltering heat. Some were more insisting than the others, but all had so many elaborate and colorful carvings, that I was mesmerized…
So I would try to walk towards some ruins and lift my head, but again it will go down towards the immense variety of forms and things that were lined by the paths:
How could I resist all that. No way. You will see how I ended up. While you could touch any of those beautiful crafts. you couldn’t come even close to any of the ruins there. Only iguanas had a special permit:
Here is the main pyramid from the back, not so well restored as its front side, I completely understand why those big crowds of gringos are no longer permitted top climb it…
And as I saw in books – those pyramids were initially white with usually dark red edges and colorful reliefs, no more…
They were very well decorated, so the craftsmen were using the patterns from their decors in their carved panels, A very good place to try to sell them. I say to try – for except for me, I didn’t see anyone buying them. Lets hope I don’t notice everything that is going on. So this structure on top is a pedestal for funerals.
This very elaborate one – for dead bodies, too. But whether they were sacrificed or enemies or just community members, I forgot. Too much about death in those sites. Only the god decorating the walls in the Rain God Chaak. To us the air seemed humid there. But still water is a problem for it rains only at certain seasons and then in winter there may be no rain for a very long stretch of time. At least they had the special God to pray for it.
This structure above was their Observatory. But, as all the other structures – is forbidden to enter, is fenced. So only from far away…
Those inviting stairs…But no way, fenced.
An old Maya path made of limestone, as all paths, almost white, and no sellers – the only path without them.
Holes opening to one of the two cenotes of the site – this one was fro throwing dead bodies…
And this cenote was Sagrada – sacred. Meaning they were throwing only some little statues and trinkets into it, no bodies, and drinking its water. Those trinkets are exposed in Merida Museum of Antropology.
This is a typical Mayan arch – instead of making roofs they made such arches, peculiar.
The city’s market place, a surprise to see columns.
Reliefs at the Ball Court where they played some game that later developed into real football that Americans are calling Socker.
An altar for sacrifices…a very sad place for I saw in some paintings and read that they were sacrificing virgins and live people in very cruel manners i don’t even want to mention. But now Maya people seem so soft…and are so tiny:
That I couldn’t stop buying from them all those crafts and ended up with 3 big carved boards and 4 masks and a drum…As I said to my parents on Skype – brought a lot of wood from there:
February 13, 2012
First of all I have to say about the geologic specifics of Yucatan peninsula. It has no rivers…Zero. It is made mainly of white limestone and dolostone and some underground rivers are serving as its fresh water supply. In fact the best part is that there are many sink holes, some completely under ground, some with their dome broken and therefore facing the skies, and the ones close to the sea – completely like little lakes – they are all called cenotes and they are all fresh water with the temperature the most comfortable for human body on a hot tropical day.
So there we headed from the car rental place in search for cenotes and Mayan pyramids. One note – if you start driving to Valladolid from Cancun airport, not the city center, be aware that they will direct you on the road that is toll road and has no exits whatsoever till you reach Valladolid 2 hours later. The road is good, no question about it, almost no cars, just occasional Mexicans on their bikes gathering wood. The cost is $20 USA even. In case you have enough time to drive much slower and and stop at many “lying policemen” in their little towns and villages, you have to take the road from Puerto Morelos or from the center of Cancun.
Valladolid is small, you enter it and very soon you are in the center. their streets are narrow, so they are one way and they number their streets in a peculiar way, find out when you go there. THis is our hotel, La Aurora, named after the first manufacture built in Mexico right by the hotel:
As all the inland towns we saw there – the colonial architecture is their feature. Brightly painted walls, not much seen from outside, but you get into the buildings and see inner gardens, or stairs , other structures or even parks there:
As I mentioned earlier, they are masters in making tiles and installing them. If you notice, the decor on the flower pots in the lobby matche the sinks and floors in guest rooms:
WE walked around, saw the space in Candellaria square prepared for evening mass in front of the church:
And went directly to Cenote Zaci, which is right in town:
And, of course, we went to swim. It was incredible! To cool off after being sweaty and tired in the tropical winter of Yucatan, but that wasn’t all. The water was so soft and embracing, that it felt like bliss, or heaven or whatever one believes in. No wonder cenotes were sacred places for Maya people and still are. They all have an altar or a place of worship before immersing. This cenote has it straight above in a little niche.
The tree roots were hanging over our heads and some small stalactites.
Some street views while we walked too look for a restaurant to eat. Not so many choices to tell the truth:
Once of a sudden we found a big gate , entered a big establishment with stairs. with inner gardens, with terraces of tables a souvenir store and even a chapel:
So that evening we ate there, but I don’t remember the name of the restaurant…Just the address – on the corner of 44th and 41 streets:
Not many people eating…just a lot of masks on the walls, it was impressive. Though not very tasty.
Tomorrow – to the first pyramid!
February 12, 2012
This year we spent our winter vacation in the Yucatan peninsula, mostly in the northern part of it. We again betrayed our beloved Thailand…But the flight to Cancun is so much shorter and cheaper, that it made our choice. The trip started at night of the 21 st of January. We left our home in Rockville after 11 pm, did some mosquito net and repellent shopping on the way and reached Las Vegas pretty late in the night. Visited Bellagio, which had the Chinese New Year theme at its greenhouse Atrium. Just plain beautiful, done with taste, dragons and kids made of flowers…Wanted to take a short nap while in the car in the parking lot there, but the security came up and told us to leave…so we did, to the free long term parking place in South Terminal, it was cold, brrrr. but we took off the jackets and ran to the bus which leaves from there to the airport every 40-50 min. if at night, and every 15 min during the day. Also, Andrei registered our car at the office there, so we would be calm about it. Then the airport, the check-ins etc. and we still had to wait for more than an hour till our flight to Phoenix, then to Cancun. In Phoenix they have a strange order of flights… 4 flights were scheduled exactly at the same time from the same cul-de-sac in the terminal, so the crowd waiting for those flights was dense, we could hardly move to our gate through all those packages and people, and could only stand while waiting, not sit. Not much fun. Then, of course, with us inside all those planes were lined up by the air strip for almost an hour, until we took off. Yellow desert underneath was not very spectacular. Then Yucatan showed up as a dense jungle with very few roads, no rivers, nothing else. Landed to very warm and humid air. Took some money from ATM, a mistake, for they charge a steep fee (27 pesos), so it is better to take more at once, or a maximum and not worry about it till closer to an end of the travel. They call their pesos “dollars” in ATM machines, so when they ask how much do you want, have in mind they ask about how much pesos, not dollars you want to change. Bought a ticket to ADO bus to Puerto Morelos right close from the exit, 20 min in a comfortable bus and we were there, in a shabby little town…called Colonia of Puerto Morelos. Or Pueblo. There we found our reserved hotel Kin Sol quite easy:
but the area in which this German woman and a French man built their hotel was not the best, though safe… Poverty screaming with past ambitions…super wide avenues, with a green lane dividing both sides:
The plants are only in front of the hotel, I guess the owners got them planted, therefore this looks better, but still…we were sent to eat breakfast in that “Mary’s Cochina Economica” as seen in front…in a shack, literally. the owner of the hotel said Mary is very clean, thanks God! because while wondering and looking for dinner we were shocked about their way of cooking and taking money and food with the same hands and cutting a tomato on the same uncleaned board where they just cut raw meat and raw fish…So during the first days in Mexico we needed some inside adjustments to make. But still, I would never recommend to anyone to eat at that Mary’s place, to get two plain fried eggs without nothing, in Mexico, which is known for its tasty foods, spices, salsas…Unless you know Spanish and can explain better what you want, but still, the shabbiness of the place is very hard to deal with.
Our neighboring house by hotel was like this:
But the kids going from school were all dressed in sparkling white socks and bigger trees everywhere around were painted white, they just have another way of understanding cleanliness and tidiness, every culture has its secrets:
Based on the freshly and brightly painted houses I realized that maybe the most favorite occupation for Mexicans there is painting walls, frames, trees and stones. Not bad.
As I said, we needed to adjust. My mood at the beginning was foul:
No wonder I didn’t take pictures of the inside gardens and the insides of the rooms at the hotel. The rooms were kind of tree houses, I would call them, with narrow stairs. but very beautiful tile designs in the bathrooms and pretty beautiful rough interiors.
So the Pueblo was very dilapidated and trashed, but 5 km from there directly towards the sea (don’t believe that it takes only 20 min to walk to the sea, who can make 5 km in 20 min?) the resort
part of the town was nice enough:
But the wind was strong, to my amazement – the Caribbean Sea was rough and we didn’t swim the first evening. This is their landmark – the leaning tower:
So we stayed there for 2 nights, spent some time on the beach, I spent walking and looking at the villas:
and fishing or snorkeling boats:
Andrei swam a little and then read. I couldn’t force myself to get into the water, though the water itself was warm and blue, but the wind was very unpleasant. There were no big waves, they broke far away where the coral reef was making a barrier. They write in books that it is a good place for snorkeling, but in such rough waters, I would not enjoy that. But I guess the winds calm down at some point maybe in spring, when it gets really hot, so then maybe it is a good place for snorkeling. But the other problem there is a number of boats coming in and leaving, so it is dangerous to snorkel by yourself, you have to buy a trip where the boatman gives you some floating devices that warn boats about your whereabouts.
The church right by the beach is airy and fresh, supported by a big number of Canadians who escape their cold winters and spend them here:
I liked that they made decorations from shells. A real seashore church!
The town of Puerto Morelos is clean and nice, has a lot of restaurants and fancy villas, hotels, too. I was amazed by the imagination of the villa builders. There was one very much like a Gaudi building, again, didn’t take picture of it…Lots of rounded corners, lots of colorful tiles. Some restaurants even had vegetarian choices, not so easy to find in other places. I mean they had vegetable foods! There were taxis – 20 pesos to Pueblo, or Collectivo buses – 5 pesos to Pueblo. And it cost 64 pesos from the airport to Pueblo on ADO bus/ there are different kinds of buses running in Mexico and some are cheaper, some more expensive. I guess ADO is on the expensive side. It was very comfortable with AC and all. So the next morning we again took the bus and went back to the airport. Their we caught an agent from our car rental place – American-Economy, and took their shuttle to the office. There we got a car and left for adventures!