Saturday, February 25, 2017

Celestun, Flamingos and Ojos de Agua

Our last tour was to Celestun, a small seaside town on the gulf of Mexico which was about a two hour ride from Merida. Celestun is famous for the flamingos that concentrate there from January to March. Surrounding the town is a national park which serves as a wetland preserve for the flamingos and other birds.

Here's a  video of our boat moving through a flock .  It doesn't give  a very good sense of how strikingly pink these birds are. Not like this interesting poster from the outside of a Merida hotel.

After the flamingo fiesta our boat unexpectedly entered a small opening in the mangroves at full speed.  This seemed to be a calculated move to give the tourists a thrill in case they weren't that excited by the cackling pink hordes.  The boat slowed down and glided silently through the mangroves.

We drifted to a narrow docking area and were shown an ojo de agua.  This is a place where fresh, clean water from the underground rivers which course through the Yucatan bubbles to the surface.  These freshwater ojos have a major impact on the ecosystem and also provide a fun place to swim.

Next post - Mexico City!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Cenotes, Haciendas, Dinosaurs and Circle K Health Food

We're back in Tucson after a long 13 hour day of travel yesterday.  Left hotel at 8 AM. Taxista Juan Jose drove us to the airport.  I sat in front seat so I could hear him better and practice my Spanish. We laughed a lot.  He said he spent 26 years in Charlotte NC building houses but still couldn't speak much English because he wasn't very smart.

Leon/Guanajuato airport very sleek and modern like all the other Mexican airports we've traveled through. Trip to Mexico City only took one hour on Interjet.  Interjet still provides free booze and lots of legroom.  Much better than the cramped Volaris flight we took from Merida to Mexico City.

Walk from arrival baggage area to American Airlines check-in was nearly two miles in a straight line over a slippery, highly polished marble floor.  American flight to Phoenix was an easy 3.5 hours. The hardest part was paying $50 to check our bags.  Arrgh!

Greeted in Phoenix Sky Harbor airport ("America's Friendliest Airport") by a purple coated, senior citizen volunteer shouting "CONNECTING FLIGHTS AND MAIN TERMINAL UP THE ESCALATOR".  We were looking for our baggage so we kept on walking straight.  He turned toward us and started yelling again "CONNECTING FLIGHTS AND MAIN TERMINAL UP THE ESCALATOR".  Dorothy tried to tell him we didn't have a connecting flight.  He got frustrated and yelled, "LADY THAT'S WHAT I'M TRYING TO TELL YOU BUT YOU'RE NOT LISTENING!"
Whew,...We went up the escalator.  Welcome back.

Rented a car in Phoenix and made the 2.5 hour, 75 mph, trip south to Tucson cruising on a caffeine buzz from an afternoon coffee.  Picked up some tequila, beer, chips, fried tortillas and a chicken salad sandwich at a Circle K in Marana.   Pulled into our very cool AirBnB fried and hungry. Chugged and chewed our way through the aforementioned Circle K provisions and crashed.

Which brings things to present wherein I'm realizing it's a hell of a lot easier to write about what happened yesterday than it is to try to capture what went on several weeks ago. But fools rush in...

I previously mentioned that while we were in Merida we went on three day long tours,  One was to the Mayan sites of Uxmal and Kabah which I've already written about.  The second tour was to Hacienda Yaxcopoil and to several cenotes.

The website link for the hacienda gives a pretty good overview but fails to mention that this and the other Yucatan haciendas (some 1000) which brought so much wealth to it's owners were made possible by the virtual slave labor of the local Mayan population.

Dorothy and Ferd at entrance to Hacienda Yaxcopoil
The hacienda, like virtually all of the Yucatan relies on cenotes to provide fresh water.

This hacienda is near the heart of the Chicxulub crater,  which was caused by a six mile wide asteroid slamming into the Yucatan 66 million years ago.  It's widely believed that the climate changes resulting from this impact led to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The Wikipedia link on cenotes is very complete and interesting. It was a thrill to be able to swim in one.  The water was cool and clean and it felt magical to glide through an ancient, sacred place that glowed with light coming through a small entrance hole above.

Next post - Flamingos!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


We're currently ensconced in a beautiful hotel in Guanajuato,  Quinta de las Acacias.  This feels way too luxurious for us but we'll try to endure it.  If you click on the link there is an option to view 360 degree pictures of  different parts of the hotel.  It'll give you a pretty good idea of the beauty of this place.

We've now been in Mexico for 21 days and will be flying to Phoenix in two days.  From there we'll visit our daughter in Tucson for four days and then fly back home on February 28.

So far we've spent twelve days in Merida,  six in Mexico City and four in Guanajuato. (Here's a video of Guanajuato street scenes.  Part of the video was taken while riding a funicular.  Last section are scenes from our hotel. Music is by the Nicaraguan duo Guardabarranco. The video link seems to want to start in the middle.  You may have to slide the button to the beginning)

We've done so much since my last post it's hard to know where to begin.  I'll use my photo file as a tool to help me remember key events and reactions.

Merida was hot (mid 90s) during the day but very pleasant mornings and evenings. Once again,  the most memorable thing about this town,  as is seems to always be in Mexico,  is the kindness and friendliness of the Mexican people.

Memorable activities included attending a first class concert at the Teatro Peon Contreras.  Pieces performed included works by Gershwin, Copland and Beethoven. Quality performances in a distinctive, beautiful, historic venue.  It seems every city we visit in Mexico has a very fancy turn-of-the-century teatro.  Here's a couple of pics of the Merida's version.

Much of our time in Merida was spent walking back and forth from the always interesting Plaza Grande in the cool of the  morning or evening.
Walking through the shade in Merida's Plaza Grande
We went on three day-long tours.  The first was to two Mayan archeological sites Uxmal and Kabah

Uxmal was a major Mayan center.  It's one of many complex, interesting sites throughout Mesoamerica.

During this trip I've developed a much better idea of what is meant by "Mesoamerica"  Much of this better understanding comes from our visit to the world class Museo Nacional de Anthropologia in Mexico City.  It helped me understand how the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica evolved and interrelated and gave me a sense of how deeply these indigenous cultures shape the Mexico's national identity.

In the U.S. Native American culture is much less of a factor because, unlike Mexico, most of our population has been generated by immigration.   This line of thinking led me to the conclusion that the main unifying identity in the U.S.,  the fabric that, in large part, gives shape and meaning to our nation, is our immigrant heritage,

Mexico seems to understand the importance of recognizing and honoring its historical roots while today the US finds its immigrant heritage being threatened as never before.  Opportunistic fearmongers  have spread a toxic cloud of fear, divisiveness and uncertainty that is causing many of our fellow citizens to turn their backs on this proud and important heritage.

Next post - flamingos, cenotes, and the big manzana.