Friday, July 04, 2008

Yucatan summer redux: Westward ho (part 2)

After a week of island relaxation, Dan and I headed inland via bus to Merida, the capital of Yucatan state. We stayed at Luz en Yucatan, which turned out to be one of our favorite spots the entire trip. Lounging in the hammock was a top priority.

Carol relaxing in hammock at Luz en Yucatan
Note the second hammock in the room

Since my hat flew off during a ferry ride, we hit the market in search of a jipijapa, Panama hat. Jipis are made in Becal, in Campeche state...in caves, I was told, where the temperature and humidity are just right for weaving and shaping the palm fronds. Above ground, the hats hold their shape. To demonstrate, the shopkeeper rolled up the hat, which bounced back when unfolded...I was sold.

Carol and jipijapa
Posing with jaunty new hat

Merida is a bustling city, and great for walking...though the heat, humidity and afternoon rain showers of summer did slow us down a bit. We walked along Paseo de Montejo, admiring the grand old mansions and interesting art sculptures that line the parkway. We also visited MACAY, the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Yucatan, and the Anthropology Museum, which houses a large collection of Mayan artifacts. And we went to see the Mayan ruins at Dzibitalchun, north of Merida. During the spring and autumn equinoxes, the sun lines up perfectly in the window of the Temple of the Seven Dolls, incredible! But we were there during the summer equinox...ah well...we did go swimming in Cenote Xlacah, very refreshing!

Temple of the Seven Dolls
Path to Temple of the Seven Dolls

We were lucky to be in the city on a Saturday night, when there are outdoor performances, food vendors, lots of people out strolling...very fun and lively atmosphere. On Sunday morning there were more festivities, and a bicycle ride through the city too. Dan and I enjoyed Merida very much.

Cathedral in Merida at night
Cathedral lit up at night

From Merida we continued further west, to the coastal fishing village of Celestun. Getting the rental car was a bit of nightmare, but finally we were on our way. I did not like the hotel we checked into though, and my crabbiness was increasing. We found a spot for dinner on the beach just as soon as it began to rain...there would be no pretty sunsets for us! Then, thunder and lightning too...lots of it...and we saw a dog sitting in a boat, looking quite nervous.

Dog in boat during thunderstorm
Poor pooch

The storm went on all night, and the electricity flashed on and off constantly...it was rather scary. Finally the electricity was out for good, so no air-conditioning in the room. Phooey. So why did we come to Celestun anyway?

Flamingos in the distance
Pink in the distance

Flamingos, of course! At first, they were like a pink mirage in the distance, but as the boat got closer, I realized we had finally found them. Our boat caption was very good and did not get too close to the flamingos, so as not to disturb them. (Apparently many tour boats get very close to scare the flamingos into flight, for photographs, but it is very detrimental to the flamingos well-being.) But we did get to see one flamingo flap and fly just a bit, from a distance!

Flamingo in flight
Black striped wings

The not-so-hot photos do not show the full degree of their pinkness. And they have such long, long necks and odd curved bills. The waters of the estuary are shallow, and the flamingos feed for most of the day. It was quite wonderful to see them....there were hundreds...Dan thinks maybe even a thousand flamingos.

Long necked flamingo
Super-long neck

We also saw egrets, herons, so many other birds, and fishermen working on the day's catch. We went through a mangrove forest and stopped at an ojo de agua, where the freshwater spring bubbles up and mixes with the salt water of the estuary. Dan and I went for a swim in the cool water.

Ojo de agua in Celestun mangrove forest
Bubbling ojo de agua

The petrified forest was the last stop of the tour. Eerie trunk remains of trees killed by the salty waters of the estuary.

Petrified forest
Tree graveyard

So Celestun wasn't too bad in the end, but I would recommend taking a day trip from Merida. That is what we should have done! Dan and I left town, taking the old hacienda route that passes through villages and hacienda ruins, the remains of old henequen plantations.

Hacienda Santa Rosa
Hacienda Santa Rosa

Next stop, Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc...more adventures in Yucatan to come!

1 comment:

African Kelli said...

Wowie! These travel photos are great! And I love the hat. I've never been to this part of Mexico and you certainly have my interest piqued.