Oregon to the Yucatan Peninsula & Back Again 4
Part 4 of 6: A journal of a road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula
We’re still having inclement weather but since we got up late, weren’t moving too fast, and wanted to keep our pace slow, we decided to stay in town. We walked to the zoo. It’s much farther than the Fodor’s guide implies! We thought we might be lost again but a nice woman and her daughter stop to give us directions and even walk with us a block and a half to show us the way to the entrada.
The zoo is government sponsored so it’s free. It’s a park, with a train, playground, a few food booths, and of course the extensive animal displays. I have such mixed feelings about zoos in general. I wanted to experience these amazing exotic creatures up close but I don’t want them in cages. Overall the place is very clean and 90% or more of the animals were healthy. A few looked thin or sickly and a few had that zoo boredom and their personality seemed sketchy or problematic. One tiger had been isolated and clearly had a foot injury. He was also very thin, but we expected they were tending to him. The variety of exotic birds was fantastic! Jakeb had a ball playing on the playground. We had a snack and headed back toward the plaza, which was the way back to the hotel.
We had a rest and swim, visiting with our hotel neighbors again. They are going to be heading to Playa del Carmen in a few nights and I gave them the name of the hotel in which we made reservations. They have a reservation in a different hotel for the same price, but ours has refrigerators and a pool, so they may switch. Very cool.
We dined at the restaurant the front desk clerk recommended the other night, Los Alamendros. Wow! It was great. It is very Yucatecan: a blend of Mexican and Mayan dishes, a subtlety to the spices than the more traditional Mexican dishes for which we are accustomed. D has shrimp y queso; J and I both have pork dishes. It was all very tasty. We even tried desserts. While we did have many delightful meals at the Chichen Itza Dolores Alba and the Casa de la Frida was pretty good, we have decided to rate this as one of our top meals because each of us each had superb meal.
We wanted to go to sleep early tonight because we wanted an early start for Uxmal tomorrow, also in case we want to go somewhere else after we’re finished there.
We were up somewhat early, ate breakfast in our room and packed lunch to go. Now, maneuver out of the city by car. We’re really getting the hang of driving in Mexico. In fact, we’re starting to like it.
On the outskirts of Merida, both coming in and going out, we noticed several reconstructed highways. The roads haven’t been as bad as we thought they might be. It only took an hour and a half to get to Uxmal.
Uxmal is a really expansive complex. There is a lot to see here. As I looked through the map in the Fodor’s guide, I discovered that we missed an entire section of the Chichen Itza complex while we were there. Darn! Oh well, we’ll just have to come back again. J is really in a good mood today and decides he wants to walk himself all over. Most everywhere else D had been carrying him, either on his back or shoulders.
This site is a little different than the others because we can explore more. You can actually walk into and explore the buildings and there aren’t as many zones roped off. The Pyramid of the Magician (the main pyramid) is roped off but nothing else is. It was a spectacular compound.
D and I both took note of some of the construction methods and they seemed improbable. Neither of us could figure out the construction method of these buildings. What would have held the facing stones up while the rip-rap filling dried? Or what would hold the rip-rap filling up to dry while the facing stones went on? Was it done simultaneously? We found a place on the back side of one of the buildings where it was deteriorated enough to view the inside of the walls. The facing stones do not appear to have been strong enough to have been erected first and then “filled” in. Further, there appeared to be no way to have done the arch on the underside.
Viewing the landscape and hearing the history of the agriculture there does not seem to be any way there would have been enough lumber to create form boards. The facing stones were definitely for aesthetics only, there is not enough structural stamina in them. The masonry wasn’t even that great. Some of the seams were not in the random pattern that one would expect. Though the curves on the underside of the archways were impeccable! It really made us wonder how they did it.
It wasn’t just the buildings either. The entire site had extensive retaining walls and it appeared to us that some of the plateaus on which some of the buildings were erected were fully manmade, walled, backfilled, and with drainage installed! The Palacio del Gobernador seemed to have 12 residences. There was a small unnamed building that was constructed with a slant in the foundation. Hm?
We climbed the Gran Piramide. What fun and what a panoramic view! Again, I didn’t feel any residual energy from the people who lived there. In all our wanderings of this vast complex I did not find any little niche like there was at Chichen Itza. It was difficult to get a real feel for these places when we were touring them in the middle of the day. Plus it was hot with lots of other people around. If one could just sit and meditate for a bit, then maybe.
We ate lunch on the grass outside Uxmal and I bargained with a shopkeeper to purchase a few lovely handmade blouses for our friends at the office. The hand-stitching is exquisite. It’s really sort of fun to “bicker” about pricing, all the while getting a better deal as you buy more, 500 pesos for 3, plus I had to tip him for speaking English. What a kick!
We discussed going to several other archaeological sites that are nearby, a cave, or back to the hotel for an early swim. For some reason, we are all tired today. J did all his own walking. We decided to call it a day, since we are planning to go out and party tonight at Central Plaza. We had heard the whole town comes out, there is government sponsored music, and all the restaurants stay open late, et cetera…
I made an observation about the small towns on Carretera 261 north-south from Uxmal to Merida versus the ones along 180 east-west from Cancun: they don’t seem to be as poor. I wondered why. Maybe it’s not as remote – centrally located in the peninsula, more farming perhaps? Maybe it’s because they are closer to Merida, a metropolitan area? Another note: every town is marked by and has throughout it speed bumps, raunchy ones at that! Did I mention the speed signs were only suggestions and there are almost no lines on the road anywhere?
After a rest, we dined at the hotel, a simple meal of hamburgers and such so we can enjoy the “party”. We get up to the plaza and see the restaurants are starting to prepare outside tables, artisans placing out their wares, musicians setting up their bandstands…a night to remember. We were en route to a cigar shop when our fun-filled evening was abruptly halted. I sprained my right ankle (the bad one)! Not just a little twist either, a nice whopping one! OUCH! I was obsessing about J not watching where he was going so I wasn’t watching where I was going. What a shame too! Music and dancing was beginning, laughing, fun, it was all so lovely. J and I enjoyed a little music and people watching while D ran off to find ice for the ankle, which isn’t easy here! J also found a piece of chalk and drew on the sidewalk. It’s amazing how that child will find a way to entertain himself in the most unusual circumstances. It’s admirable.
I was in pain and the ankle was starting to swell and bruise. It would be too risky to stay in the plaza in this condition. Dang! We limped back to the hotel, carefully! D acted as a crutch and supported my right side.
We found Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone on television and I fell asleep quickly. J was very upset over my injury. It took a while to get him to sleep. He’ll be okay; after all, we’re going to the beach tomorrow, one of his favorite places in the world.