23 February 2015
We have a treat this morning as the hotel has started serving complimentary breakfast with lots of fresh fruit.
Most of us have decided to go on a trip out to a village called Cuzama (with Hugo). We take a minivan (with 4 others) for an hour out to the village with a diversion to see some of Merida’s monuments and buildings, and stop at a fruit stall where we tried Caimito (star apple) fruit – a bit like a purple apple but inside was lychee-like – delicious! We also tried Mamey Apple – it looked a bit like a mango with brownish skin and tasted a bit like a sweet pumpkin.
We passed through little villages with a mix of stone/concrete houses and traditional Mayan houses (made on a round frame of sticks covered with stucco and with a thatched roof. They all had white-washed stone walls out front and nicely tended gardens with flowers, vegetables and fruit trees – with chairs in the shade. Some of the streets of concrete houses were all lined up in a row and painted different colours.
When we reached Cuzama village we transferred onto horse drawn carts. These ran on rails and were pulled by horses on one side. These carts and rails were previously used for transporting a form of agave from the plantations to the processing plant. There is approx. 12km of railway (except for a mysterious patch in the middle where we had to get off and walk about 500m and the carts were pushed).
The railway went out to 3 cenotes: the first was intriguing because we appeared to be in the middle of nowhere and then had to climb down a vertical ladder apparently in the middle of a tree! There was a platform at the bottom and then we had to get in and swim – past all manner of different formations. At one point we climbed out and there was a 3m jump into a narrow chute with a deep pool at the bottom (for those so inclined!).
Then it was back up and onto the next cave just a couple of kilometres away. Or so we thought, but the Eastern European couple that had been on the bus with us had just decided to walk back and lots of time was wasted searching for them. So we trundled to the furthest cave first with a couple of interesting moments when we derailed going around corners or when we met a cart coming the other way. Thankfully the carts are relatively light so we just all hopped out, the cart is pulled off and then put back on the rails.
The second cave we visited was marked by a concrete slab and a ladder sticking up. A steep climb down in a ladder to a platform led to an amazing cave with enough holes in the ‘roof’ to show shafts of brilliant blue water, tree roots hanging down and crystal clear deep water. We had mask & snorkels and could see fish swimming (some quite big).
The third cave was much more open on one side with ordinary steps leading down to a platform and with more light shinning in.
Then we had a long cart ride back with the horses reaching quite a speed in some places.
We were very lucky to be visiting on the village’s Fiesta Day and were invited to join them for a feast with music and singing (some painfully bad). Prime place was given to the ‘Cochinita pibil’ – a traditional Yucatan dish where meat (usually pork) is marinated in citrus and flavoured with achiote (giving it its characteristic colour and sweet peppery flavour), wrapped in banana leaves and roasted in a pit for several hours. It was served with corn tortillas, red pickled onion, refried black beans and habanero chilies (and washed down with Coke).
It was already 5.00pm by the time we got back but Gill and I wanted to explore the Plaza in daylight and visited the Government Palace. Inside there were amazing huge murals/paintings depicting primarily revolutions in their history. They were cleaning up after a formal function in the main hall the previous evening. We also heard a military band processing through the Plaza where people were just enjoying the evening. On the way back we looked at a huge textile collective and were given a bit of a tour by a charming young man, but neither of us were in the mood to buy.
We had a group dinner that evening at a famous restaurant called Chaya Maya (after the leaves of a tree that are cooked like spinach). Everyone was trying the various different local delicacies on offer – I had Sopa de Lima or Yucutan Lime Soup (with shredded chicken and shredded tortilla).
For this and other similar trips see:
Peregrine Adventures Travel Destinations (Comfort and independent tours)
Geckos Adventures Deals for South & Central America (for 18 to 30s)
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