the market that may be Mayan, speaks to them in Mayan and if they respond, he has a conversation! He is a wonderfully gregarious guy! I love wandering the markets with him.
We took a half day trip to Edzná, a Mayan ruin about 1 hour south of Campeche. It is not a well known site, as it is not easy to get to. We took a tumble down, but serviceable bus there for 20 pesos, seeing the
countryside with orange, papaya and mango orchards, corn fields and other crops, as well as tiny villages. (As a side note, the buses in Mexico are great. I have been taking 1st class buses all over. They are very safe and comfortable. Plus, you get to see the diverse countryside! The trip to Veracruz was 12 hours by overnight bus – a bit grueling, but inexpensive and reasonably comfortable.)
Edzná was a large city in its day, and the site is well excavated. Interestingly, we were the only ones at the site for the first hour or so! It is an amazing feeling being in a large, abandoned and ancient city all by ourselves, the birds and iguanas! It is a very tranquil place. We climbed to the top of the tallest building and looked over the miles of jungle all around. We explored every building on the site, and then headed back to the bus stop in hopes of catching one of the unscheduled buses passing by. We were just headed into shade to wait when a pick up truck stopped and offered us a ride. We even got to ride in the cab! Paco did not have his hat and was feeling the heat of the late morning by then, so the ride in the cab was a treat. The picture of lots of Mexicans riding in the back of a pick up may seem primitive in the States, but here, it is a means of transportation – sometimes the only means! We had the luck of the draw – the driver was a good one and was on his way to Campeche anyway. It was probably something I would not
do on my own, but with Paco, life is always an adventure!
The last week in Campeche was a bit of a whirlwind. I had 5 days of classes to try to plug Spanish into my brain, Paco was intent on showing me things I had not seen in Campeche, and La Familia planned a party for me on Friday evening. In the midst of my funk, I booked a ticket for Saturday morning, instead of waiting until Sunday. Carlos, my landlord and part of La Familia, heard a lot about my eviction… but there was nothing more to do at that point. He had rented my apartment for 4 months and he could not turn that
down. I had a wonderful last day with Adriana, and then the party. It started at 8:30 pm and continued until 2:30 am! It was at Condita’s house, between Paco’s casita and my apartment. 10 people were there, with food, LOTS of beer, tequila, wine, etc. and dancing. This is a family who truly enjoys being together and loves to party. They do it very well. Even Abuela (grandmother) enjoys it all! Someone besides me was taking pictures with my camera, so I have many pictures that capture the joy of the group. I even prepared a little speech for them, which they loved, and gifts were exchanged all around. Martita and Condita both wore their Campechana dresses for the occasion and gave me one too as I am now an adopted Campechana! Very sweet people. They are fully expecting me to come back next year. I am happy to oblige. I do love the Yucatan…. And Mi Familia! Paco mentioned going to Cuba too…. I’m up for it all!
So, Saturday, I was ready to go to the bus station heading to Xpujil and Chicanna. Paco and his lady, Nora came with me to the station, then Luis and Martita arrived bearing yet another gift! This one was as a result of the party – a cd of Nat King Cole singing Mexican songs in Spanish! Luis was having fun with that one…
Xpujil is in the jungle – the middle of the bottom of the peninsula. It is an area with significant ruin sites. Chicanna is also where Paco had his first teaching job here – teaching English to Mayan guides. He connected me to the EcoVillage there, where I stayed for 2 nights. It is a beautiful place nestled in the
jungle with many birds to identify right on site. I had a tour within the first hour of my arrival and saw about 20 different kinds of tropical birds. I had a beautiful stay there, visiting 3 sites and swimming in the pool in the moonlight with no one else around except for geckos and bats!
The following morning, I met up with Noemi, a student of Paco’s and a guide for the ruins. As it turned out, she did not retain any English except for a few bird names. We were heading out to walk to the first site when another guest of the Ecovillage asked if we wanted a ride. He is German, but has lived in Mexico City for 45 years. He also had a year in London, so he spoke English quite well. We became a 3 some for the two nearest sites of Chicanna and Becan. He was a great bridge for both Noemi and me, and we conversed, crossing over between English and Spanish for the morning. Becan is the major site here, with Chicanna a few kilometers away, as a secondary site of the great city of Becan. Within this general area, there are
many sites with various degrees of restoration and excavation. The jungle does take over quickly.
Another side note: one friend asked if he would find me with a bone in my nose. The jungle here is not the Amazon. It is dry most of the year and the trees are not particularly tall, but the undergrowth is very dense. You cannot walk through it without a machete. It is the home to 350 species of birds, many reptiles, monkeys and jaguars. I asked Noemi if she had seen a jaguar. She had, at Calakmul, two times. She said it was a powerful experience to see one. Calakmul is a very large and important site of this region far into the jungle. There you can see monkeys and maybe a jaguar, as well as many birds. It is a full day to get there and back, which I did not have this trip.
I chose a few pictures of Chicanna and Becan, as well as another site, Hormeguero. Paco hadrecommended Calakmul, and further into the jungle, Balam Ku which was discovered in 1990. Noemi suggested Hormeguero. We took a cab (she cleverly negotiated the rate with me inside a building – again, I was one of few tall white people wandering around the town of Xpuhil) the 16 kilometers to the site. It is not a well known site as it is not easy to get to. 8 kilometers is paved, 8 is not. The unpaved road is one car’s width, fully rutted and potholed. The cab driver was very talkative. I could catch about half of what he was saying, but the issue of water is a key here. The rainy season should have started at the beginning of May, but it had not. Apparently, the Mayan cities were abandoned partly due to the lack of water. Without water, there is no food. Without food, there is no life. Currently, the issues are still the same. There is a
reservoir on the way to Hormeguero and many people in various vehicles were there to gather water. There was one truck, but also a horse, and several wheelbarrows to carry jugs of water. A number of men were in the process of building a dock to project over the water for better access. The taxi was an interruption and a curiosity. When we actually reached the site, the driver waited with the one attendant, and Noemi and I
walked to the excavated area. We were the only ones there. Only 2 buildings are visible here, but it is a truly magical, mystical place. This place must have been the religious site. It has a power that I did not feel in any other site. It was like a vortex of energy that just hits you as you enter the sacred ground.
The first building is a large temple with a monster’s mouth forming the central portal to the temple. It is well preserved and very beautiful – and powerful. We climbed all over this site, and then went to the second building, just around the back of the first. It is a smaller temple built on top of a small pyramid. The site is not fully excavated and there are no stairs leading up to the top. We scrambled up the side of it, mountain climbing style. When we got there, however, it was breathtaking. The jungle is alive and full of the
sound of birds, crickets and cicadas. However, when we looked out over the jungle from the temple site, it was totally silent. Not any sound at all. The building is small, probably 6’ by 12’ on the inside with a doorway overlooking the temple. Both of us were silent absorbing the energy of the place. I wanted to stay there for a long time, but was conscious of our driver waiting. After a period of time, we left, scrambling down the side. As we left the upper building, the jungle came alive again. Just above us in the tree were we descended, were hundreds of butterflies! Butterflies were everywhere! I tried to take a picture of them, but they are difficult to make out. I have read about butterfly trees, and wanted to experience it – and here
it was! It was like a bee hive of butterflies! All the way out of the jungle on the unpaved road, butterflies filled the air. Noemi said Hormeguero was her favorite place. It is now mine too. I will go back there.
From Chicanna and Xpujil, I traveled by bus to Chetumal and spent the night at Tulum, on the other side of the peninsula from Campeche – the Caribbean side. Tulum is the site of another Mayan ruin, much later than the ones I had visited. I had not booked a hotel before arriving in the town, and was offered a
beach cabana by a hawker at the station. I accepted. I spent the night in basically a hut with bathroom area and mosquito netting over the bed on the beach. The palm roofed huts are amazingly sound – it rained during the night without me knowing about it! It rained the next morning too. I was planning to go to the ruin site, but the rainy season had begun on the coast. The rain was a downpour…. I had a leisurely
breakfast, and the rains let up enough to allow me to do what I had planned. I had read that Tulum was
not a major site. Its peak was during the decline of the empire, just before the arrival of the Spaniards. It survived for some years after, but then as totally abandoned. The site was a major port for the Maya, with a beach and lookout over the water. The site is very different architecturally, reminding me more of Roman ruins than Mayan. It was interesting to see the differences.
So, this brings me to my current location at Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun. More of that in the next episode.
As always, enjoy the photos, and comments are welcome.
Love to all,