Outskirts of Mérida

Museo de Chocolate

On Monday, July 1, we decided to tour outside of Mérida, but still within the Yucatan region; we hired Javier, the driver who brought us from the airport to the hotel to take us around.  There are many Mayan pyramids throughout the Yucatan province, but Uxmal was the closest; just an hour drive from Mérida.  We didn’t want to travel too far due to the heat.  We were recommended to visit the Choco-Story or the Museo de Chocolate, next to the Uxmal Pyramids.  The museum shows how the Mayans first introduced the cocoa seeds to the Spaniards, and taught them how to make chocolate.  We went inside the huts that showed the fruits where the cocoa seeds were extracted, how they were then processed into chocolate and other products.

Click the image below to see the chocolate story.

The Little Zoo

The path also took us through a small zoo of monkeys, leopards, pythons, and parrots.  The spider monkeys and the parrots were particularly cute.

The Mayan Shamans

Part of the Choco-Story tour involved the Mayan Shaman Ceremony.  We were the only tourists that they performed for this morning.  It was interesting that the shamans I’ve seen in Tibet, Thailand, and China performed similar sounds and animations.

Uxmal Pyramids

Uxmal, I learned later was the pristine pyramid site to visit … whatever that means; perhaps it means that the pyramids had the most restorations done to them.  I’m not sure that’s what I wanted to see; however, it was spectacular nonetheless.  There were lots of different towers with different designs; probably built at different eras.  We didn’t hire a tour guide so we didn’t get the history behind them.  On the other hand, we’ve seen many Hollywood versions of them, particularly human sacrifices at the top of the pyramids or shamans getting tossed down from one of them; a scene that’s totally irresistible for any film director in such settings, I’m sure.

Unfortunately, we were not allowed to walk to the top of some.  I’m not sure I’d want to anyway; the steps were very narrow.  Climbing to the top wouldn’t have been a problem; however, descending would certainly pose a challenge.  The ancient Mayans must have been very small-statured people with very small feet.  Gauging by the size of the steps, Size-7 would have been the largest foot-size for them.  Gauging by the designs of the pyramids, they must have had quite a large-size brain.  Big brain … small feet; well that’s as far as I’d guess.

We covered quite a few pyramids and structures in our walk, but the heat was sweltering.  Poor Kip was getting tired … but more so, bored.  Albert and I enjoyed the sites.  We couldn’t resist doing some Kungfu poses on top of some; our five-minute fame at the pyramids.

Mucuyche Cenote

Our tour guide, Javier, took us to Mucuyche to visit one of 7,000 cenotes in the Yucatan.  Cenote is a sinkhole formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock which exposes underground water.  Apparently, the 7,000 cenotes in Yucatan are all interconnected; they say that they’re three thousand years old.  I must say that seeing and swimming in the cenote was the highlight of our trip, and worth every dollar spent on the whole trip.  There is no experience like being in the depth of nature, and knowing that nothing man-made can ever top the art and creation of nature.  Unfortunately, I did not take my underwater camera for this trip, and missed taking pictures of what I saw under the water.  In one of the caves, which was only discovered 6 years ago, the water went 75 meters deep.  We were given water goggles to see the lit-up rock formations under the water, and it was just so amazingly beautiful.  Kip was first afraid of wearing the goggles, but with just one try, she did not want to surface up anymore.  The experience was also the highlight of her trip; one I’m sure she’ll never forget.

The Mucuyche Cenote was first accessed by Princess Charlotte of Belgium.  The Mayans considered it sacred so had never gone to it.  She had married  Maximilian I, an Austrian, who became the Emperor of Mexico, and she, the Empress of Mexico.  On her insistence, steps were built for her to dip into the cenote; she was thus, the first one ever to swim in the Mucuyche Cenote.

The premises had set schedules for visitors to swim in the cenote.  The guides took groups of 20 and 40 people at a time every 2 hours.  Javier knew the manager, and was able to swing an acception for us to swim in the cenotes by ourselves between the group slots.  Our guide happened to be a young South Indian; we hit off right away, and he took his time guiding us to the different cenotes at the premises.  I gave Javier my camera to take pictures of us, and he did a good job of it.

Click the image below to see our adventure in the Cenote.

Our day was done completely after that … no energy to go out to eat.  Good ol’ Domino’s Pizza did it.  Ordered their Orillia special!

On our last day in Mérida, we just toured the city center.  Kip wanted a horse carriage ride badly; how could a father say, “No.”  I remember being her age and wanting the same, and still remember how thrilled I was when my father took the whole family on one.  I did what my dad did–requested the coachman to let Kip sit beside him at the top.  Kip beamed from one end of her ear to the other.  That just made me feel soooo good.

Click the image below to see the carriage ride.

At 6 am on Sunday, July 4, Javier picked us up to take us to the airport.  At check-in, Albert faced another problem; his new passport didn’t match the record of the booking; also, the connecting flight was at Houston, Texas, which required him to obtain a US visa … even though he was just passing through.  He was therefore detained to sort these things out.  Kip and I boarded the plane and flew out.  He had to wait for his online application for the visa to come  through before he could leave.  However, he got it later, and made it on the next day’s flight.

Today, we begin our road trip to Eastern Canada, to Nova Scotia, in the motorhome.  More adventures and blogs to follow.