Uxmal and Haciendas

We’ve spent the past few weekends visiting sites around Merida. Here’s a taste of what we’ve seen.

Uxmal is 80 km (you figure that one out) south of Merida. This archeological site is second only to Chichen Itza in size and historical significance. Uxmal (OOSH-mal) means thrice-built. It is estimated this city reached it’s peak of power and population between 800-1000 AD and believed that it was pretty much abandoned by 1200 AD.

There are 30+ ruin sites marked on the map of the Yucatan that are actual archeological sites. There are many more sites that have not been excavated. Meaning, you could spend many days looking at Mayan ruins.

According to our guide, it is thought that Uxmal was abandoned and rebuilt three times due to drought. The Mayan people depended on rain. Whole cities moved when the water source dried up. However, when the rains came and the wells filled, the people returned and rebuilt the city on top of the existing structures. Archeologists have dug down and found entire buildings under existing structures.

It’s pretty awe inspiring to see these sites and to imagine people without the technology we have today building structures of this size and detail.

For those of you who are wondering, there is an effort to counter the belief that Mayans offered human sacrifices. The argument is that if this were true, archeologists would have found thousands of human remains. Which hasn’t occurred. Guides now talk about the royal class sacrificing blood by means of tongue piercing as well as piercing of other body parts (parts that would really hurt). There is evidence of this in the art work and other archeological finds.

We first saw Uxmal at night for the light show. With the lights and music, a story was told about the Mayan people in the voices of men, women and children, in Spanish. We could sort of follow along. It was beautiful.

Queen Elizabeth was in attendance at the inauguration of the light show here at Uxmal. It rained, hard, and everyone moved for cover but the queen remained queenly in her chair. I’m sure she had someone holding umbrellas over her head.

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We spent the night in the small town of St Elena. We had a great little pool to cool off after the hot sun at the ruins. The museum in the church boasts mummies from a local ruin site. It was closed when we were there so we can’t verify the claim. As we walked through town one night, a young adult man came after us on his bike to give us a gourd he had painted. It was very sweet.

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On the way to and from Uxmal we stopped at a Chocolate Museum, in the middle of nowhere. It was actually a cacao farm where the owner had set up a very nice outdoor museum. We walked on paths through local vegetation that was marked with names, cacao plants and flowers. In between there were Mayan style huts with displays about how cacao is grown and turned into chocolate in the Mayan days and now. It was quite interesting and very well done.

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As I mentioned in former posts, there are many old haciendas around here. We stopped at Hacienda Ochil, that had been restored, for lunch on the way to Uxmal. On the way home we stopped at another, Yaxcopoil, that had been kept more in the way it would have been in it’s hayday. Except, it hasn’t been kept up as if it were still in use.

First, sites from Hacienda Ochil.

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And, sites from Hacienda Yaxcopoil.

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Last but not least, the good about Merida

Kris is average height or better. Meet Lupita and Jesus our house and yard-keepers.

Kris is average height or better. Meet Lupita and Jesus our house and yard-keepers.

Adios amigos…

Celestun

It’s been almost three weeks since I’ve posted. The last two weeks of Spanish were very challenging with new concepts to study and learn each class. I gave myself a break from extra-curricular activities to focus on studying. Then another week off from everything to relax and play tourist. That’s the luxury of retirement!

Celestun is a small fishing village on the Gulf coast about two hours west of Merida. It’s known for salt flats and flamingoes that live in the river.

We rented a car and took a trip to the beach at Celestun with the plan of spending the night at a Hacienda just short of Celestun.

The beach had a typical, small fishing village vibe with a few tourist sites.

Looking at the beach from the water

Looking at the beach from the water

We had a nice ceviche lunch at the palapa in the middle of the picture; pulpo (octopus), camerons (shrimp), and fish. No pepino (cucumber)!

The men in the palapa at the left were boat captains who rented their pangas to take people to visit the flamingoes.

In the panga, looking left

In the panga, looking left

and looking down the beach to the right.

More boats and restaurants on the beach.

More boats and restaurants on the beach.

It was a beautiful day as we launched with a full boat, all Mexicans and Doug and I. The boat captain didn’t speak English. In the end, he wasn’t a tour guide at all, simply a boat driver who knew where to go.

We did see the flamingoes. Coming into the tributary we first noticed a bright coral- orange color lining the waters edge. As we grew closer we could hear the birds over the boat engine.

As we approached, the birds were spooked and began taking off in large groups.

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I wish you could hear the sound as well as see the sight of half a mile of coral colored, long-legged and long-necked birds lining the shore of the river. It really was amazing!

After the flamingoes we motored to a managed eco area and through a mangrove forest then out of the boat for a short walked on a decrepit (truly) boardwalk through fresh water springs and crystal clear water.

Fishing boats in the river at Celestun

Fishing boats in the river at Celestun

other sites along the way…

Lots and lots of pelicans

Lots and lots of pelicans

the mangrove forest

Boating through the mangroves

Boating through the mangroves

the crystal clear freshwater springs bubbling up…

the springs were such a contrast from the mangrove waters

the springs were such a contrast from the mangrove waters

then back to the beach

The beach in Celestun.

The beach in Celestun.

Yup, you  can get your very own pink flamingo here on the beach to take home. But, since we don’t have a home, we passed.

After Celestun we headed to the San Jose Pachul Hacienda. Back in the days of henequen, there were many, many haciendas in this area. Henequen came from a variety of the agave cactus and was made into ropes used in the shipping industry.  The haciendas had their heyday in the early 1900’s. After synthetic fibers began proving more economical to manufacture and as useful as ropes made with henequen, the haciendas soon went into decline. Now, some haciendas in the area have been purchased and restored. Many have opened as hotels, restaurants and places for special events.

Hacienda San Jose Pachul

Hacienda San Jose Pachul

We were the only guests so had the place to ourselves. It’s small, only two rooms to rent. However, there are often additional guests who come from Merida for dinner.

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It was a lovely day of hanging at the pool and being pampered. Good food, good discussion, lots of relaxation. Then back to Merida and the heat!

We’re doing well and planning our next “move”. We’ll be leaving Merida the end of April. It really is hot now, over 100 most every day. I wonder how we handled this heat growing up in Nebraska. The hottest months are April and May. In June the rains come and provide some relief.

Right now we’re planning a week in Belize on the beach then will hit the road, on the bus, to go cross country.

Love and blessings to you all. We miss you and wish you could share some of our great experiences.