I decided to explore Merida and take photos of some of the beautiful architecture before all the people filled the streets. You would think 6:30 am would be a good time? Not on parade day. I happened upon the city square many young men in matching shirts were lining the streets holding ropes to cordon them off. A band was setting up and police officers were everywhere. A man was announcing something from the government building and I caught enough to realize they were celebrating something to do with the military. I watched a beautiful raising of the flag ceremony and joined the Mexicans in saluting their flag (arm across the chest). AFter watching the parade for a bit I went back to see if Theresa wanted to get some breakfast. The cafe we chose might not have had the best breakfast but the awesome coffee made up for it.
Theresa went off to explore and I joined Nicole for our tour where we were joined by Alex and Marisa, Mexican architects in town for a conference and enjoying a free day. Marisa explained the holiday. Nov 20 is the anniversary of the revolution where the common people over threw the government and gained their freedom. They celebrate it on the closest Monday and it's a big holiday. Every village we drove through was celebrating.
We stopped at an abandoned hacienda. The guide told us how they used to manufacture rope for export and the "employees" were paid with money created by the owner. They could only "spend" it at his stores. It reminded me of the Tennessee Ernie Ford song "Sixteen tons". The haciendas are abandoned now. Some have been converted to hotels and such by former employees.
Next we met our driver for the day, his cart and his skinny horse. The rail lines used to be used for material transport for the haciendas. Now the carts contain 4 tourists visiting the area cenotes. These are areas where the limestone roof has caved in on underground rivers. There's only one track so when you meet someone going the other way someone has to remove their cart from the track to allow the other to pass. After a few times we figured there have to some "rules" to who moves. Eventually we realized that the direction from which the fewest carts are coming has to move their cart. It's heavy. These Mexican men may be small but they sure are mighty.
The first cenote was beautiful and the water just cool enough to be refreshing. We spent about 1/2 hour swimming about and got back on the cart. The second cenote was too scary for me. You had to go down a ladder through a hole just big enough for a person to get through. The third one was again beautiful and I went down the ladder but was too chicken to jump the 10' or so into the water. The scary part was getting out which involved using a rope to haul yourself up the rocks. I just took photos and watched the brave souls do their thing.
Then it started raining and I realized I had nothing to cover my camera bag so it got the towel. Leaving your rain poncho in your suitcase is not a bright idea. Thankfully the cart had a roof. Getting wet isn't a problem but it does get cold as you're bouncing down a track behind a skinny horse.
We didn't get back till 5 and by then it's too late for lunch so I just ate my last banana and jumped in the shower. Theresa came back and shared her awesome day as well.
Chaya Maya prepares food indigenous to the region and includes chaya in many items. It's a tree leaf that has similar nutritional properties to spinach. They even put it through a blender and make a drink out of it which was very tasty. I thoroughly enjoyed the chicken marinated in orange juice and spices and cooked in banana leaves. We enjoyed sharing fun stories and fixing the world's problems and the walk back to the hotel was good for digestion. Theresa was talking about leaving her purse in Timmies one day and a young couple on the street suddenly stopped, turned around and said "HEY, you MUST be Canadian!" Too funny :)