Whirlwind week

Jose: 'Can you see?'
Jose: ‘Can you see?’
Feb. 9 to 16, 2016 – When our friends Jody and Aaron decided to join us in the Yucatan for a week, we deliberated just how many experiences we could pack into a scant seven days (well, five and a half days considering travel time).
Tuesday: After our GPS took us on a not-so-magical mystery tour through the bustling centre of Merida (population 1.1 million) to reach the airport and sent our stress levels through the roof (watch for an entry on crazy driving in Merida coming to this space soon), we met our guests. It was cool and breezy but still infinitely more bearable than the deep freeze back in Ontario.
We headed directly to the town of Progreso (a port city of about 38,000 thirty minutes north of Merida) to take in the Carnaval parade marking the end of the multi-day celebration held in many Mexican centres. Carnaval celebrates the last indulgence of carnal pleasures that Catholics must give up for 40 days of fasting during Lent. We forged our way through the crowds and found a table along the malecon to take in the spectacle, which included loud music, scantily clad young women, a Michael Jackson tribute float, a golden age gringa performing hula hoop tricks, kids in colourful costumes and inexplicably, two guys dressed in diapers. A couple of margaritas and a few nacho plates later, Jody and Aaron were getting into the Mexican vibe, even though there was a fearsome wind whipping off the Gulf of Mexico.
Here’s a rundown of how we amused our guests for the rest of their stay:
Temple of the Seven Dolls LR
Wednesday: Visit to the Dzilbilchaltun Ruins 20 minutes away. While certainly not as large and spectacular as sites such as Chichen Itza or Uxmal, it offers insight into Mayan history and is home to the noteworthy Temple of the Dolls pyramid and a lovely open water cenote where we dipped our feet and got a free fish pedicure, thanks to little black fish nibbling at our toes. Archaeologists figure as many as 200,000 inhabitants lived there and there were 8,400 buildings during its history. Artifacts dating back to 700 – 800 A.D. have been found and some are on display in the small museum on site. A Mayan guide named Julio gave us an hour-long tour for “30 bucks” (USD) and filled us in on the history. We also did the ‘Mayan Stairmaster’ workout, climbing up and down a few pyramids.
Thursday: I had to sit the day out, seeing as I had gum graft surgery the night before so while I spent the day reclining in the outdoor living room reading Girl on the Train, we sent our guests to Progreso to wander the malecon, eat at a wharf-side restaurant, check out the shops and pick up a few provisions.
Minerals cause the water to be red at the Xcambo salt flats
Minerals cause the water to be red at the Xcambo salt flats

Friday: We headed east to the pretty fishing village of Telchac and checked out a few beach houses as we walked the shore. We stopped at the lookout tower at Uaymitun which is supposed to be a good bird watching spot and this is prime time for flamingo sightings (and we’ve had quite a few). But there was nary a bird to be seen today so we continued our trek eastward. We dropped by our friend Gail’s vacation house in San Bruno to show Jody and Aaron how the beachfront set lives, with their stunning views of the Gulf’s aquamarine water. We’re second row folk, which means our house is one sandy block from the shore. The rest of the day’s adventures included a stop at the salt flats near Xcambo (pronounced Sh-Cambo), which had been an ancient Mayan salt and salted fish distribution centre. Big rectangular pools are rich with salt – some of the pools were blood red, others clear, but rocks and sticks in both of them were encrusted with salt that glistened like diamonds. We were wary of the red pools until some locals walked in and were collecting salt and washing their arms with the red water. One explained to us through gestures and Spanish that the red hue was caused by minerals in the water and salt makes for an excellent exfoliant.
Pyramid climbing at Xcambo
Pyramid climbing at Xcambo
Next stop was the Xcambo ruins just down the road –no one was there except for us and the lonely guy who took admission – the pyramids are small but it had some nice scenery and with the help of Aaron’s translate app, we convinced the gate keeper to pull out one of the human bones found on the site for us to inspect.
And great excitement – we saw lots of flamingos!
Coatis at El Chorchita
Coatis at El Chorchita

Saturday: Another adventure close to home – every day we passed a parking lot and a sign that identified El Corchita, an ecological zone. We decided to investigate – for a bargain fee of about $3 each, we were ushered onto a boat and made our way across the inland waterway to a mangrove island. A canal cut through the mangroves ended at a cleared area with seating and picnic tables …. where we were greeted by a group of raccoons and some strange looking reddish coloured critters with long tails and snouts. We learned they were coatis, a type of South American raccoon. All the critters were looking for handouts, though all we’d brought was bottled water. They had better luck when a child dropped a bag of chips. A raccoon grabbed it and he and his friends ran off like the bandits they resemble. El Corchita has more delights that include walking trails through the mangroves where you can see various birds and an abundance of termite nests. The real attraction though is the five cenotes, the fresh water sinkholes. Three are large and deep enough for swimming. Though sunny, it was a might coolish for swimming so we were satisfied dipping our toes in.
Dancers in traditional Mayan garb in Merida
Dancers in traditional Mayan garb in Merida

Sunday: There’s only one place to be on Sunday – that’s the Centro of Merida where part of the streets are closed to traffic so people of all ages can ride their bikes along the grand Paseo de Montejo, an avenue lined with gorgeous historic former mansions. Our destination was Plaza Grande, where hundreds of vendors pack into the central square to sell an astonishing array of goods including Mayan embroidered dresses, belts and purses, t-shirts, jewellery, honey, hammocks and much more. Great souvenir shopping and we took a break to eat delicious ice cream at a café and watch traditional Mayan dancing. For dinner, we classed it up and went to the Hacienda Xcanatan, a beautiful old former hemp plantation that’s now an upscale inn and restaurant. Perfect setting for a Valentine’s Day feast.
Monday: Jody is an animal lover whose Mother Hen instinct kicks into high gear when she senses an animal in need. She was saddened to see how many homeless and skinny beach dogs are wandering about and a few days ago, we had to contain her from leaping from the car to snatch up some feral puppies by the roadside. Earlier that day, my significant other and I had met a Canadian couple with two beautiful Labradoodles and a beach dog on our morning beach stroll. They told us they had rescued the beach dog and nursed her back to health and were looking for a home for her as they were driving back to Canada and didn’t have room for an extra dog. They also told us of a woman in the ‘hood who arranges spay-neuter clinics and tries to find homes locally or in Canada for beach dogs after they have been spayed, neutered, vaccinated, etc. I arranged for a meeting, Jody took her card and wants to help. Anyone looking for a pet from the Mexican Gulf coast at a very reasonable cost? Talk to me and I’ll hook you up.
Want a beach dog? Let me know
Want a beach dog? Let me know


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I'm a professional who writes about real estate, renovation, small business, horses and travel. My horses are my passion and I love to travel and try new adventures.

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