Thursday, January 28, 2010


Just 50 kilometers (31 miles) SE of Merida, there is a delightful little pueblo named Cuzama, where, once you enter, you literally slip back into time. A time when henequen was king, the land was tended, and the soil was rich and fertile. Approximately 100+ years ago, the hacienda employed several hundred workers and one can only imagine that life was very simple.

Today, the hacienda is no longer active and mostly in ruin. The land is still there of course and you can still see the occasional henequen plant growing wild and unattended along the roadside and trails. Because the land contained three cenotes (a deep water-filled sinkhole in limestone that is created when the roof of an underground cavern collapses), the old railroad tracks were left in tact, somewhat rerouted, and remain in use today. However, the horse-drawn trucks (small railroad carts) no longer transport the henequen harvest, they transport tourists!

To visit the cenotes, you must hire a truck with two drivers. Each truck can haul 4 adults and the rental fee for truck and drivers for a two hour tour is 200 pesos, or approximately $16 US. You definitely get a big bang for your dollar! Although the trails are narrow and bumpy, the scenery along the way is quite nice and I found the ride to be relaxing. The horses that draw the trucks are all well-cared for and kept clean and well-fed which was a genuine concern of mine. And, they definitely know the route!

The railroad trail is one way, no exceptions! As you are going to a cenote, you have the right of way. On the return trip, if you meet up with another group of tourists “going”, you must disembark, stand off to the side, and your drivers must physically lift the railroad truck off the tracks to let the other truck pass, and lift it back on to continue your return journey! Somewhat of a primitive system, but it works for all.

Although it didn’t seem quite that far, the drivers of the trucks insisted that the first cenote is 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the starting point, and each cenote thereafter is another 3 kilometers, for a total of a 9 kilometer trip each way. You have time to visit/swim at each cenote. The first cenote is accessible. For me, the other two cenotes were not! One is a mere hole in the ground which descends way, way down to the water filled cavern. The other is quite a steep descent and not for the weak of heart! Being claustrophobic, I opted out this trip, but would, and could, swim in the first cenote.

After our trip, it was time for lunch. There is a brand new restaurant on the road where you negotiate for your truck and tour, and we decided to give it a try. The building is exceptionally nice, only 3 months old and they serve only Yucatecan food! Just what the doctor ordered after a great ride through some rugged countryside. I had “poc chuc”, a local favorite which is thin slices of marinated pork, grilled, and served with refried beans, rice, tomato salsa, grilled red onions, and accompanied by fresh, hot tortillas! I don’t usually do restaurant reviews, but this was some of the best local food I have ever had and I can highly recommend you try it if you go.

Even though two cenotes are not readily accessible for swimming, the ride on the old horse drawn henequen trucks is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the water in the cenote that is accessible is crystal clear and ever so inviting. A great day trip if you’re up for it!

1 comment:

  1. Your getting to be quite the tour guide. Good choices. Whenever we return to Mexico, we may have to look into some of the closer destinations. Is that Luis in the cenote? Bg