Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sitting in the Plaza Grande eating homemade coconut ice cream...

We are now in the lovely city of Merida, which is on the Northwest side of the Yucatan.  We spent one night at Chichen Itza, which turned out to be far more impressive than I had been led to believe.  Some people are turned off by anything that becomes "too touristy", and with busloads of people heading to Chichen Itza from Cancun, it definitely qualifies as too touristy.  But just because something is popular doesn´t make it any less interesting.  We arrived at 8am, so even though we stayed almost three hours none of the busses had yet arrived.  That meant that the hundreds (and I mean HUNDREDS) of tables of locals selling crappy souveniers weren´t yet up and running either, so we definitely had a better experience than probably many do.  The night before we went to a "sound and light show", which basically was sitting in the dark listening to a Spanish presentation while the temples lit up blue! then green!  then red!  Boring, except for just as it started a huge shooting star shot right over the pyramid, which was amazing.  Living in the city for so long I´d forgotten what the stars look like.  David leaned over and said "I´d forgotten stars came in different colors".

We´ve been in Merida for three days now, and we love it.  A very beautiful city, with narrow streets and even narrower sidewalks, but somehow the claustrophobia is charming and even comforting somehow.  There seems to be quite a community of American expats living here, and I can see why.

Yesterday we hopped on a two hour bus to Celestún.  (Holy crap, I FINALLY figured out how to make the accent mark work! I´m telling you, these keyboards are confusing!)  We were lucky and were able to very quickly get together with other people to make a group big enough to hire a boat for.  The first one they put us in had a little engine trouble, but we made the best of drifting around the harbor by watching the flocks of pelicans and other birds.  It took about a half hour but we finally got to shore and got in another boat.  We then zoomed out into the ocean, which was this bizarre color, sort of a milky green.  We sped along within feet from the shore, until we hit the mouth of a river.  As we crossed through, there was a clear line separating the fresh and the salt water (even though the fresh water still tasted very salty).  From here was a massive mangrove forest, we were able to walk around a bit and saw an area where the salt water seeped into the trees and literally petrified them.  The mangroves somehow stain the water, so unlike the milky green of the sea, here it was a deep brownish red.  You don´t get to see red water very often, very interesting.

The biggest reason people come here though is to see the flamingoes.  They were bright pink clustered in groups all through the area.  We couldn´t get close enough to get very good photos, but it was amazing to see so many.  And this wasn´t even high season, which begins in March.  We also saw lots of egrets and herons and hawks.

Our boat driver was zooming us all over the place, and suddenly he banked hard and headed straight for the shore.  Just when we thought he had gone crazy and was going to kill us all, the trees parted to reveal a small passageway of water.  I´m sure that is the drivers favorite part of the entire tour.  We stopped at a small dock, and they showed us a place where the water is bubbling up from the ground.  David and I were the only gringoes in the group, but there was a girl from Barcelona who spoke decent English, and the other passengers kept ganging up on her to make her translate everything for us.  I felt a little bad for her, but we were grateful for what she told us, and anyway she had a huge personality and I think she enjoyed the attention.  But we think the spring was one of many that feed the river.  (There aren´t any rivers in the entire Yúcatan, at least not above ground. The water all seeps to low underground rivers.)  Here David and I jumped in the water and were able to swim a little.  The spring water wasn´t warm exactly, but it wasn´t as cold as the ocean water anyways, so it was bearable for a few minutes.  Fish were swimming all around us, I guess eating whatever was coming out of the spring.  It was really pretty awesome.

We are taking it easy in Merida today, and tomorrow plan to visit some cenotes, which are areas where the ground has caved in over huge wells of water.  You can climb around in the caves and go swimming and stuff.  The next day we will go to another Mayan ruin at Uxmal.

We´ve changed our route from that point about a dozen times in the last few days, but at this point I think we´ve decided to go down to Palenque, and then head west into Chiapas (to San Cristobal de las Casas), and go down into Guatemala from there. There are ruins we want to see in every direction, and we just can´t see them all, and we are itching to start our language lessons.  We are getting by, but once we can speak a little more of the language it will greatly enrich the experience we are having.  We will save Tikal for later on in the trip, which will also be good to give it some space, I don´t want to be suffering from temple fatigue when we get there (although at this point there is no signs of that happening, I am loving all of these places.)

Oh, and Chrisy, our room has a balcony that looks right over the main square.  We love it!

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you are having such a great time. I knew you would love Merida. I got the same zoom into the mangroves boat ride when I was there. That was awesome! I also was at the place where you swam in the river, but we didn't have time to swim that day. Did you see the roseate spoonbills? I was almost as excited to see them as I was the flamingos. Nice farmer tans! MIss you!