Friday, January 30, 2009

Diversion Excursion: Cenote San Ignacio, Yucatan, Mexico

The dictionaries tell us that a “cenote” (say-no-tay) is a water-filled sinkhole of the Yucatan, Mexico, typically containing groundwater. Not a very romantic definition by any means. They further explain that the word cenote is derived from the Mayan word "dzonot". Definitely no romance in that historical fact! But trust me when I tell you that the dictionaries fail to capture the charm, romance, and mystique of a cenote in their very bland, flat definitions and descriptions.

At Cenote San Ignacio, just 35 kilometers southwest of Merida in the small pueblo of Chochola, you will find a wonderful little cenote and gruta (cave) just beckoning for you to enjoy. The park-like grounds are small and well kept, and the locals are friendly and accommodating. There is a large palapa (thatched roof shelter) you can sit under and enjoy your favorite beverage as time rambles on. Although we didn’t eat there, the food looked delicious and very inviting! There are several smaller palapas you can use to idle away the hours as you ponder the splendor of this unusual little piece of paradise. An added bonus to my visit was the mascot on premises! A fuzzy white rabbit, very tame and docile, will come right up to you and he will let you hold him or you can just pet him. He enjoys it all!

You must walk down some very steep stairs to gain access to the gruta and the cenote, but the handrails come in very “handy”and the journey down is more than worth the trouble! As you enter the gruta, the first thing you notice is a tremendous change in temperature. The day I was there, it was a bit cool outside, overcast, and a few showers, making for somewhat of a "blah" day. On entering the gruta, the blah day became a distant memory. It seemed like I was walking into a sauna that hadn’t quite heated up all the way just yet! And then - the splendor of it all. The cenote itself. The inviting water was absolutely crystal clear and you could easily see even the smallest pebble on the bottom. The cavern was well lit and the music was typically a bit loud, but “danceable”! I knew that I just had to swim in that beautiful, crystal clear water and I did! I stayed in the water for about an hour and a half taking in the mystical splendor of my underground surroundings. I marveled at the limestone rock formations, the fresh, clean, clear water, and the very impressive ambiance of it all! Mother Nature at her best!

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this little day trip. In fact, I can’t wait to go back for a repeat diversion excursion! (And a swim, an ice cold Mexican beer, and some authentic Yucatecan food!) I'm not sure it gets any better than that, but I'll continue to search.

Inviting surroundings abound. (What a way to pass a day!)

The waiter and the "wabbit"

The steps are steep, the handrails handy! But wow, look what you find at the bottom:

A true work of art. Thanks Mother Nature!

Merida Mikey enjoying Mother Nature's gift. The water was so clear, so clean, and so very, very refreshing. I really didn't want to get out, but when I noticed my hands looked about 100 years older than the rest of my body, all wrinkled and crinkled, I thought it was time!

Time to dry off and head up to the main palapa for a cold one.
Life is good here in Merida, Mexico.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Diversion Excursion: Ticul, Yucatan, Mexico

Ticul (tea-cool), is located approximately
100 kilometers south of Merida and makes for a great day trip and a very enjoyable
“diversion excursion”.

Not to be confused with Tikal (tea-cal), the magnificent Mayan ruin and UNESCO World Heritage Sight in Guatemala, Ticul has no Mayan ruins to offer. What it does have to offer is some very fine Mexican pottery (clay pots and decorative items, carefully reproduced Mayan artifacts), and a bustling cottage industry in the production of shoes! Shoe stores and pottery stores line the main street and you can easily shop ‘till you drop! Prices are reasonable, selection is unsurpassed, and quality is excellent.

The locals are friendly and accustomed to tourists from all over the world and you are welcomed with open arms! You can also find a good selection of restaurants, hotels, and most services you would expect in a larger city. I can’t remember the total number of times I have been to Ticul since moving to Mexico, but this will not be my last trip! If you ever have the chance to go, you owe it to yourself to see first hand how Mexican pottery is made, fired, decorated, and sold in the Yucatan! You are also welcome at the various shoe factories to witness the making of a pair of handmade sandals or dress shoes.

Quality reproductions of Mayan "stelae" are available to the discriminating buyer.

Life size statues of Mayan Gods stand like centurions guarding the streets and parks of this interesting little pueblo.

The clay. The simple potter's wheel. The ancient kiln. The Master Potter. All pots are hand thrown, left to dry in the sun, then fired. When cool, some pots are left in their natural terracotta color while others are artfully and very colorfully decorated in the traditional bright colors so often found in Mexican art forms of all types.

Pots drying/baking in the Yucatecan sun and getting ready to be fired in the wood burning kiln.

This is not "paint by number"! All decorative finishes are applied by hand, left to dry and then sold to the locals and tourists who appreciate the handmade quality of the decorative and utilitarian pottery that can be had in Ticul.

Some examples of both decorative and utilitarian pots. Prices range from the approximate equivalent of #4.00 - $8.00 US and slightly higher for the larger ones.

Wow! An irresistible explosion of color! Nicely decorated with bright, cheerful colors, how can one say no? (Normally, I can't!)

And no pueblo is complete without its main park and charming church. Ticul is no exception.

What a great "diversion excursion"! I'll be back!