Wednesday Feb 21: Merida
This morning I joined a free walking tour around the historical town of Merida. Our guide was really informative, going back through history to the Aztecs and the Spanish colonisation. He pointed out some Mayan carvings in the church walls – the Spanish had dismantled Mayan structures to build their buildings here too. In more recent times, there was an uprising of the Mexican people against the elitist European class and this resulted in a lot of damage to the interior of churches and other buildings. The amount of work that the Meridian government is putting into the upkeep of the facades of the buildings in the tourist areas is impressive; and the town derives much of its income these days from tourism which is a change from the days where the Agave plant and it’s fibres made the Yutacan Peninsular a very wealthy place for some.
After the tour, a group of us headed out to try the local icecream which had been recommended to us by the tour guide. It consisted of gelato in a cup of milk and was called Champolo. I had the flavour Mamey which is fruit that is indigenous to Mexico – and one that I hadn’t heard of before. It was citrusy and an interesting mix with the milk.
As it was my last day in the Yutacan state, I was desperate to visit some more Cenotes for a swim. I was able to find the local bus station by the market and got on a collectivo headed for the town of Homun, about 40km south-west of Merida. A local guy organised for me to take a Motorbike taxi – with a weird trolley on the front, to tour a couple of the Cenotes close to town. My guide, whose name was Ricardo, didn’t speak a lot of English, but was very interested in pointing out various local fruits and animals and telling me their names in both Spanish and Mayan. The first Cenote we stopped at was called Yaxbacaltun. We took some rickety steps down to the cool waters edge, where a few locals were already having a swim. It had a rope swing which was fun to launch off into the crisp water. After a swim and an explore, it was back to the motor taxi to visit another Cenote in the area, this one was called Santa Rosa. This Cenote was completely covered and only accessible through a small tunnel through the rocks and a staircase leading into the depths of the earth. We were the only ones visiting this Cenote which was so cool – there was a tunnel and some stalactites to see underwater. After a swim, the sun was setting on the town of Humas, a really rustic town as I waited for the bus. The bar had a set of swinging doors, just like in the old westerns, and on the oval behind us, men on horseback were practising their lassoing skills. It felt like a really authentic Mexican scene.