Rob’s Mexico Visit

We finally convinced Rob to leave all that pretty snow in Kansas City and visit us in balmy Mexico.  A couple of days before he arrived, we picked up the anchor and pulled into Marina Paraiso.  Our dinghy is in very sad shape and we

Freddy

Freddy at The Soggy Peso

didn’t want to try running 3 people back and forth to the beach in it, and we also planned to take Rob on a road trip to Merida for several days, so the marina seemed like the place to be.  It was good to see Tom, Elizabeth and Chepo again as well.

Rob arrived on Wednesday, February 17.  He was so accustomed to cold weather that he didn’t even need a jacket at night when the temperature would get down to 70 degrees.  In fact, he was so bold as to make disparaging remarks when Nancy and I would get all bundled up in jackets and long pants.  Our first stop after getting him settled aboard was, of course, the Soggy Peso and, as we were sure he would, he loved the place.  He declared their Margaritas excellent.  Freddy makes the Margaritas using freshly squeezed limes, tequila and Controy (more or less the same as triple sec) and that’s it.  No fancy Margarita mix or anything else.  On Thursday we toured downtown Isla Mujeres and ate lunch at one of the little loncherias next to the municipal mercado.  Thursday evening we walked around an area of Isla Mujeres called the Colonia that is away from the touristy downtown area.  This is where all the locals live.  We ate at my favorite restaurant on the island, called Kash Keken Chuc (it’s a Mayan name, so don’t try to pronounce it).  It is a tiny little

Yoyo

Yoyo (Joao) at The Soggy Peso

place on the corner with 3 tables inside and 2 tables on the sidewalk.  They have the best food and the cheapest prices of anywhere on the island.  You can get 2 empanadas, 2 panuchos, 2 flautas, a large piece of the best flan you’ve ever had, and 2 beers (they don’t sell beer, but you can walk across the street and get a few bottles at the tienda) and you’ll have spent about 6 bucks.  As they say in Mexico, “baratisimo.”

Friday we caught the ferry to Cancun, a taxi to the bus station, and a bus to Valladolid, a medium sized town half-way between Cancun and Merida.  Nancy and I had been through Valladolid on our way to Merida, but never stopped and it looked like a place worth exploring.  We got off the bus and walked several blocks to the municipal mercado to find some lunch.  Most towns in Mexico have what is called a mercado, which is usually a large, open building where various merchants set up stalls selling fresh vegetables, meats, and various and sundry other things.  The mercado is where the locals shop and the best places to eat are usually found in close

Cenote at Cuzama

One of the Cenotes at Cuzama

proximity to the mercado.  We found a suitable place and had an excellent lunch and then headed back to the bus station.  We had a little time to kill before the next bus to Merida, so we found a little cantina across the street from the bus station.  In the Yucatan, there is this concept of “botanas,” which means that if you are buying beer, they will give you food to go with it.  This cantina was selling 1.5 liter bottles of Montejo, a pretty good beer, for 35 pesos, which works out to about $2.70, and then they give you food to snack on while you drink it.  Now is that a deal or what?  So much beer and so little time.  We had a bus to catch and could only avail ourselves of 2 bottles between the 3 of us before we had to board the bus for Merida.  Two bottles is 3 liters, and that equates to about 8 and a half regular 12 ounce bottles of beer.  Not a bad way to kill an hour waiting for a bus.  We got to Merida and checked into our hotel, Las Arecas, which is really a colonial-style house that has been converted to have 4 or 5 rooms, each room having a sitting/dining area with a kitchenette, a bedroom and a bathroom.  There is also a large common kitchen and dining room which we were encouraged to make use of, and two central courtyards.  It was very nice and only $35/night.

Cuzama Express

The Cuzama Express Train

After checking in, we walked around El Centro, the central square, and ate at Pancho’s.  Pancho’s is a touristy restaurant and on the expensive side, but the food and atmosphere is very good and should be tried at least once.  Nancy and I had eaten there on two previous occasions and liked it, but this time we got the lousy waiter, so the service left something to be desired.

Saturday we rented a car and drove to the tiny village of Cuzama, where there is a nearby group of 3 cenotes, or underground pools.  These are the same cenotes Nancy and I visited on our second trip to Merida, and again when we returned with Susan and LA.  The cenotes lie along an old narrow-gauge railway that was put in over a hundred years ago when Cuzama was a hacienda.  Horse-drawn rail cars were used to move supplies around the hacienda and now they are used to carry tourists to the cenotes.  The cenotes are quite spectacular.  The Yucatan is basically a limestone shelf sitting in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is very flat and has no surface rivers or streams of any note.  All the water runs underground through tunnels and caves in the limestone.

Cenote at Cuzama

Climbing Down Into The Cenote

Sometimes the roof of one of the underground caves will collapse, allowing access to the water.  Water is such a precious commodity in the Yucatan, that from time imemorial, people settled near the cenotes to have a reliable source of water.  Most of the Mayan ruins have a nearby cenote.  The water that flows through them is incredibly clear, as it has filtered through the limestone.  There are cenotes all over the Yucatan peninsula, and of the ones we have visited, the ones at Cuzama are the most impressive.

After the cenotes, we returned to Merida and had dinner at La Blanca Merida, then walked to the Inicio Paseo de Montejo to watch some traditional Mexican folk dancing.  Saturday and Sunday evenings in Merida they close the streets around El Centro to traffic and the restaurants put tables out in the streets and musicians of various styles perform.  After watching the folk dancing we returned to El Centro and sat outside the La Blanca Merida, sipping xtabentun and beer and listening to a woman singing Cuban Salsa music.  Xtabentun (another Mayan name, don’t try pronouncing it) is a traditional Mayan liquor made from anise and honey and is quite tasty with a beer chaser.  The cuban lady was a very good singer and there were 3 local women sitting at a table near us who were incredible dancers.  The 3 women would get up and dance to almost every song and it was fascinating watching them.  There was a little girl about 9 years old at another table who was also an incredible dancer and we enjoyed watching her, as well.

Sunday we kept the rental car and visited some Mayan ruins along what is called the “Puuc Route” which is south of

Arch at Labnah

Rob and the Arch at Labnah

Merida.  We visited a total of 5 ruins.  Labna, Xlapak, Sayil, Kabah and Uxmal.  Uxmal is a very large ruin, comparable in size and granduer to Chichen Itza.  The other 4 are smaller in total area, but each is very significant architecturally.  I think Rob was very impressed with the scale and sophistication of the ruins.  Another nice thing about these particular ruins is that they are not as heavily visited as Chichen Itza, so you pretty much have them to yourself while you are there, and you don’t trip over all the vendors selling Mayan arts and crafts.  It was a very long day of sight-seeing and they actually had to run us out of Uxmal at closing time.

One of the museums in Merida was having a large exhibit of Salvador Dali paintings and we wanted to see it on Monday.  Unfortunately, the museum is closed on Mondays, so we walked along the Paseo de Montejo.  The Paseo is a wide boulevard lined with large and stately mansions.  The museum of archaeology and natural history is also on the Paseo de Montejo, but again, it was closed on Mondays.  Oh well, at least we got to visit the Wal-Mart, which is also on the Paseo de Montejo and was not closed on Mondays.  We wandered over to another section of Merida called Barrio Santiago and had a nice meal at a little sidewalk cafe.  For desert we had a real treat that I’d never tried before.  It is called a marquesita and is essentially a sweet, crispy crepe rolled up with cheese inside.  Wow, it was good.

Rob had enjoyed the ruins so much that we decided to stop at Chichen Itza on our way back to Isla Mujeres on Tuesday.  Chichen Itza is the most visited of any of the Mayan ruins and the tour buses were rolling in.  As many

Chichen Itza

Rob and El Castillo at Chichen Itza

tourists as there were at Chichen Itza, they were almost outnumbered by the vendors selling arts and crafts.  Chichen Itza is such an impressive sight, it is too bad that you can’t adequately enjoy it because you are constantly having to fend off people trying to sell you stuff “very cheap, almost free, just for you, only today.”  I do have to say that some of the stuff they are selling is very nice, some of it is actually hand-made by the locals themselves, and some of it is incredibly cheap, but you really only need so many hand-carved mayan masks and hand-woven mayan hammocks.

We made it back to Isla Mujeres pretty late and the next day began preparing to get underway.  Our plan was to sail up to an island named Holbox and anchor for a couple of days, then continue on to Key West.  There had been one or two northers blowing through every week for a couple of months, and I felt sure they would be coming to an end by the time we were ready to go.  Unfortunately, they just kept coming.  We waited for a week and then it was too late to stop in Holbox and still get Rob to Key West in time for his flight back to KC, so we now planned to sail directly from Isla

Uxmal

Rob and the Magician's Pyramid at Uxmal

Mujeres to Key West.  Finally, the forecast called for a longer break between northers once the current one blew out, so we cleared out with Mexican immigration and the Port Captain.  Unfortunately, the current norther stalled over Isla Mujeres for two days.  That was our last opportunity to sail to Key West in time for Rob’s flight, so we had to clear back into Mexico with immigration and the Port Captain, and Rob had to buy a plane ticket to Kansas City from Cancun.  Rob did some snorkeling and we continued to enjoy some great Mexican and Yucatecan food, not to mention the beers and margaritas at the Soggy Peso.  On Fridays and Saturdays they make tamales at Kash Keken Chuc and they are about the best tamales I’ve ever had, so that’s where we had dinner on Rob’s last two nights in Isla Mujeres.  He flew out on Sunday, the 7th of March.  Even though we didn’t do any sailing, I think he enjoyed his visit.  I know we enjoyed having him.

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