The ultimate scam
Trip Start Mar 07, 2011
5Trip End Mar 25, 2011
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Where I stayed
What I did
Catedral de San Ildefonso
There was yet another resident of the place - a dog named Fidel... or a super dog I should say (that's cause Rosalinda used to buy clothes for him and one of them was the superman disguise, which we wore once and looked brilliant)
These were our hosts also who recommended us the trip for the day - Cenotes de Cuzama. We knew that the Yucatan underground lakes were a must see, we were just not so sure, which should we choose. The peninsula is famous for its cenotes and there are hundreds of them around. While most of the visitors would go for the ones closest to the coast resorts of Tulum, or worse... artificial ones in one of the many theme parks around - we wanted to check out something really special and not so crowded.
We drove south looking for the... well.. entrance? Instead, we were stopped by some Mexicans waving their hands and asking us to turn into gravel parking beside the road. I did not feel that safe, but figured that it had to be it. The parking was almost empty, with 2 or 3 cars staying there. Next to it stood a group of Mexicans with a dozen of horses and draisines (seems that Firefox does not know what a draisine is... hope you readers do). The rail tracks were heading south into the jungle and disappearing amongst the trees... We left the car and jumped into the vehicle ready for the big adventure
The driver, a friendly, but not a very talkative person explained that we would stop three times to visit three cenotes and that we would have no more than 15 minutes per each (which was a little stressful, especially when we needed to calculate toilet in...). Then he drove for about hour and a half, without a single word, deeper into the jungle. That really felt like wild west to us... Finally we stopped for the first time and went to explore. Our friend seemed offended when we took our belongings with us to the cenote, but we explained that we needed our photo camera there. What we say was a hole in the ground (like few meters wide) and a lake deep within. Although Aga is not very keen on height, we climbed down and saw one of the most amazing views in our lives. The underground lake was getting the sunlight only from a hole above, the water was warm, cozy and so clean you could see the bottom, although it was a few meters deep for sure. I was the one to jump in first :) Aga did wait for the 2nd cenote to try that.
You have to know that to swim in those cenotes, you actually HAVE to jump in and then be pretty agile to find your way back. Those places are held natural and as little modifications were done as possible. Therefore you've got to be aware not to use any sunscreen before, as it might pollute the water (well, some of the tourists we met, did not care at all...)
Now the 2nd cenote was a different story as the hole in the ground was..
Throughout our trip and the draisine rail ride it was hot and the sun was taking its toll on our cheeks and foreheads. This very moment though - it started raining and the temperature dropped drastically. We did not care much, while in the cenote, but getting our was a drama. It got really cold, the wind was strong and it started raining heavily. We ran back to the draisine and continued the trip... our driver did not have any cover at all... so he soaked to the bone... We did not skip the 3rd cenote though :)
Coming back was the hardest part of the adventure. Wet and frozen we were trembling like leaves in the wind, dreaming of getting back to the car as soon as possible, though we knew the drive would take at least another 2 hours... To add to that... the track was one way only - and there were people starting their trip as well, so going the other direction (happy ones... with jumpers and jackets - we had only our swim suits and wet towels...)
After a long drive we finally made it back to the parking and were able to hide in our Chevy.
Back in Merida, an hour later, we finally learned why the zebra crossings are not needed (remember the Cancun entry?). Apparently there are huge fines for not stopping a car, letting the pedestrian cross the road. You could pay as much as 16 minimal salaries...! We have absolutely no idea what's the minimal salary in Mexico, but still this sounded pretty tough! I, who likes to spice up a drive a bit, had to change my ways... just to be sure.
Merida is quite a big city with lots of things happening in the center and not so many sights to be found outside of it
We left the end of the day to do some shopping as we were told that the best hammocks could be bought in Merida. Then, while having a rest on the Plaza Grande (main square), we were approached by a young man, a student... really keen on practicing his English and telling us a bit about the history of the Maya and the sights to see in Merida. We listened to his stories for half an hour and really got into it. Finally he asked whether we were up to some shopping for the hand made Maya products - as... he knew just the place. He assured us that the money we would spend there would go to the Maya community and not the government (which would often "steal" from the Maya apparently)
He recommended a place called "El Mundo Maya" which was just around the corner. The inside of the store was beautiful and the choice of the products was huge. Everything was stunning and we felt a need to buy some stuff. There was also a hammock - a family one.. so huge.. which Aga tried and almost went to sleep, as it was so comfortable. The clerks were telling us that the hammock was made from henequen (see the next entry in the blog) - a very enduring material and also one able to repel insects (both of the facts were obviously a big load of... well..). Finally, we saw our dear student friend coming out of the store, getting money for some customers who just bought their souvenirs in El Mundo Maya. A nice scam that was ;) Luckily we did not fall for that and found a nice hammock a few streets away (paying 20% of the price we were told above).
So a word of advice - go check out El Mundo Maya, cause stuff is nice there, but do not buy anything - we heavily doubt that the owners have anything to do with the Maya as well as we are pretty sure that it might just be the most expensive store of them all in Merida...
That purchase concluded our day :) Casa Chalia had a nice patio, where we sat down and spent the evening assisted by Fidel... good weather came back and there we no clouds to be seen (it was dark anyway...). That was good news, since we were planning to go north to see the Flamingos the next day...