Central America | Mexico | Istmo & Gulf of Mexico – Tulum to Vallidolid to Merida
Dick and I arrived in Cancun over two weeks ago We immediately got out of town and went to the nearest beach/Mayan ruin site which was a little town called Tolum. Talk about location, this was the smallest ruin we visited, but it sits right on the Caribbean. The focal point was a magnificent temple built right on some cliffs overlooking the Caribbean, It made me wonder what the Spaniards thought they were getting into when the sailed up the coast and saw this awesome structure. (As you surely know they did conquer the Mayans and (sort of) convert them to Christianity. (They were call conquistadors werent they?)
We immediately got into the Latin temperament in regards to travel, i.e. if not today, we’ll do it tomorrow (maybe). We were ready to leave in three days, but we missed the bus (it actually came early) so we said ‘manana” and made some awesome connections with fellow travelers. One friend in particular extended an open invitation to come experience Chile and stay with him. I don’t know when, but I will be connecting with Derrick some time.
From Tolum we took a short bus ride to Valladolid, a very pretty colonial town in mid Yucatan. It was Carnival there and the whole town was celebrating. So many friendly people!! A beautiful town square right out the door of the youth hostel we were staying at. (Yes they do allow geezers to stay at youth hostels.)
From Valladolid it was a short bus ride to Chichen Itza, which is (I think) the largest archeological site in Mexico. It was mind-boggling the amount of stonework the Mayans accomplished during their period of prosperity. (Footnote: the Mayan culture is still around in the Yucatan. They are, for the most part, very poor and isolated and they have been ‘christianized’.) At this site you could climb the largest temple, which was a very strenuous hike up. I forget how many steep steps but I got to the top and walked into a chamber that goes around to the other side, walked out and was immediately struck with pretty severe vertigo. You are on top of this massive structure, you look out and see miles of jungle and the ruins of the city below you, but the sides are so steep you can’t see the steps and you feel like you are standing on the edge of a cliff. It took me ten or fifteen minutes to calm my heart and walk to the edge and see that it wasn’t a sheer drop. These people built these structures without the help of machines. To me it would take a lifetime just to carve out a few of the huge blocks used to build them. Many of these blocks had very intricate pictograph drawings on them, actually it’s Mayan story telling if you can read their language. Fascinating!
I think I better speed up and get on with this commentary/journal.
From there, Richard (Ricardo from here on) and I took a bus to Merida, which is a much lager city in the North East Yucatan. I have been interested in experiencing this town because I have been told that it was a very friendly, family oriented town in Mexico. It is, and it’s very beautiful, with town square parks everywhere. People around here still derive joy form just going to the square and hanging out either solo or as whole families. Each park had a church on one side, and depending on what part of town, there would be vendors, restaurants, and business around it. Here’s some Yucatan trivia: Located in Merida is the oldest Cathedral on the mainland Americas (North, South and Central.) There is one older, but it is on an island in the Caribbean off the coast of Central America. (Please don’t ask me dates and distances. Ricardo is in charge of those details.)
This is getting long, and I have a ways to go. I suggest you read it in installments.
OK, where was I?
In Merida, I was online sending a note to Cindy. (I told her before that if we were to connect it would have to be God’s will, because neither of us had any plan about when or where we were going.) We got to chatting and it appeared that we were on the same trail coming from different directions, so the question was ‘Is this Gods will?” We still didn’t know, but we arranged a meeting place in Flores.
Back to the Ricardo~Kendito adventure.
We took an overnight bus to a town in Chiapos State called Palenque. There is another awesome Mayan ruin there that everyone we talked to said was a ‘don’t miss” place. They were right! Here is a Mayan city bigger that Chichen Itza (I think). We’re not in the Yucatan anymore. We’re in a Mexican cowboy state known for its Zapinistas, who are still today fighting against Mexican ways. (And American ways in general.) I talked with one guy in Tolum who was on a tour bus that was stopped by banditos in masks (probably Zapinistas masquerading as bandits.) They were in the process of robbing the bus when someone hollered ‘Police!’ and they ran off into the jungle.
Back to the story.
Palenque is awesome!!!! Green grass, a stream running through it, and even more beautiful Mayan architecture. Way different to anything we have experienced yet. We only spent an afternoon at this site but you could easily spend three days there and not see everything.
At this point we we’re kind of on the ‘fast track.” Finally we looked at a calendar and realized that we had to schedule the rest of the trip to make the most of our time. (Making it back to the coast and having some quality beach time was a priority. Besides, Cindy had decided to go a different direction and meet up with us in Flores so she could have some quality beach time herself in the company of the ‘traveling geezers.’)
Love you’all (that’s my Texas accent) Kendito