The Western Yucatan Peninsula
We left Cancun after about a month of fun,sun and rest. It was time to pick up Bear and play. I took my camera in for repair and waited with fear. I was so afraid the repair would equal the replacement cost….I was wrong it was less than 50usd. It was so fun to run around Merida taking pictures again. We researched happenings in the area and were pleased to learn of a weekly demonstration of the ancient ball game that resembles soccer except that you strike the ball with your hips only. The game looks hard on the arms,legs and back. The men are basically crab walking the majority of the time. The goal stands about 8 ft off the ground and the object is to shoot the ball through this ring with a hole maybe 2 ft in diameter. Skill is needed to say the least. As part of the game was the blessing by a Shaman(?) of the field and the players. They blew in large conch shells in the four directions, the shaman also cleansed the field with a burning incense of some sort. If you have trouble with allergies you want to be further back in the crowd, than resting against the fence. After the blessing ceremony it was game time. The game was played in front of the Cathedral, which lucky for us, was also having a laser light show shown against the outer walls. The show is about the history of the area and the native(Mayan) people of the Yucatan. We enjoyed both the game and the show immensely. But here I must warn others, don’t forget your mosquito repellent (best to by a repellent with at least 40 percent deet in the States or Canada as you will not find a strong enough repellant in Mexico) As the sun goes down it felt more like a swarm of hummingbirds attacking than mosquito’s, sounded that way also. We arrived in the centro a little early to eat dinner and explore a bit. A couple of blocks away at a smaller church we watched as the young men and women lined up to make their entry to a young womans Quinceanera mass.(excuse me that I can not get the ~over the n, my keyboard or the operator can not figure out how to do this) This is a birthday celebration of a young persons 15th birthday. The young people were dressed in the finest of formal wear. Bright colors and fancy dresses. After the special mass, family and friends with proceed to an event center or restaurant for much food and dancing. Many hours are spent by the “court” learning a choreographed dance to perform for those in attendance.
Merida is home to many museums. We walked in and out of dozens of gallery’s. Enjoying the various genres. We also checked out the newer Museum Mundo de Mayo (world of the Mayans) This was a great place to explore while escaping the high heat and the even higher humidity level that is normal in Merida year round. It is on the outskirts of the city near the “freeway” that encircles the city and the Costco. We were highly impressed with the mixed media presentations of how life was for the Mayan people. We laugh about it now that how at just about every corner someone presented me with a wheelchair to make my experience more comfortable. Guess this day I was looking a little older and more disabled. (The museum offers no discount to the disabled, yet is the most accessible.) Another really world-class museum was the Anthropology and Culture Museum. This museum is in an old mansion in the center of the huge primarily white mansions(Passeo de Montejo). Many have either been restored and re-purposed or are in the process of being restored. Thia particular museum had no elevators and the stairs are many and intimidating. A nice guard was there to help me go up and down. Had I spoken the language I would be able to tell you if there are in fact elevators and they were broken or if they did not exist at all. I enjoyed exploring the rooms filled with old carvings and relics of life once lived. We also went into the art museum (free to the public) Wonderful pieces displayed constructed in metal were hidden through out the museum and in the center court-yard. Rooms filled with all sorts of artwork from paintings to mixed media.For those not capable of walking up and down stairs, many if not most of the museums surrounding Passeo de Montejo are housed in older mansions that do not have elevators. Call ahead or enjoy the first floor and the courtyard while others in your group troop up and down taking pictures for your enjoyment.
From Merida we headed west. Compeche was a quick-lunch stop for the three of us. It is probably the cleanest and is the brightest colored city in Mexico. The downtown area with its’ large shaded square was wonderful. A huge pavilion in the center providing both refreshments and tourist information. The sidewalk both inside the gates of the square and the sidewalk across from the park was lined with statues by “Rafael Colonel” and others. Through out the year several art fairs and other uplifting events are scheduled.
The buildings had a fresh coat of paint in bright yellows, greens, reds,oranges a virtual rainbow city. And no graffiti. It was easy to find our way in and around the town. We missed out on quite a few attractions because we had reservations booked on up the road. We have this town marked for a return visit.
From Compeche we headed south to Palenque. A long the way we noticed more than a few military and federal police vehicles on the road, reminding us that ahead we might encounter trouble. But just like everywhere men and women in convoys love to smile and wave. So we waved back. Oh, absolutely no hotels on this leg of the trip allow dogs, nor are they allowed in federal parques. So we arranged to board Bear. For those who look at a map and say that this is not a bad distance to drive in one day…its tiring. The area starts getting more hilly, the road for the most part is two lanes. Loads of tour busses and covered pickups acting for the local as a bus system. There are many small pockets of civilization with vendors selling anything you can image. Be careful of nail strips thrown on the road or two children holding a string across the roadway. They do this in order for you to stop and buy their goods or bribe you for passage. If it’s the string just shake your head no,smile and continue driving slowly, they usually drop the string. The nail strips don’t open the window but shake your head, unless you want what they are selling. Usually they let you go after a good effort to sell. Most of the gas stations were just houses or out buildings where gas was delivered in canisters instead of pumps. Bathrooms (banos) were non-existent unless you are comfortable behind a tree. So I guess that should be another thing in your must have bag…tp is usually 1 ply and sand-paperish if the stop has any. We always have a roll in the truck. Just in case.
Late afternoon we got to the town of Palenque. It was much bigger than we thought. It has grown up to support the main industry…tourism, and includes a good-sized airport. That first night we ate at out hotel and laughed at the huge frog who came to check us out. It was larger than my open hand, fat,and slimy looking. The wait staff tried in vain to shoo it out the doorway. The night sounds of the surrounding jungle were loud. Lots of monkey noise.
Next up is Palenque the Parque and ruins.