Saturday, August 28, 2010

Almost Mexico; Real Mexico

First off, here's the new truck.

We had a decent flight to Cancun but I wish I had taken them up on the offer of First Class at a reasonable price when I had the chance. We were like sardines in the aircraft. It doesn't bother me much but poor Ted is really squished. We waited for Tom & Jeanne at a bar and had two of the most expensive margaritas ever ... about $14 each! They certainly weren't that special but you know how airport prices are.

We made our way via the pre-arranged transportation to the Royal Islander, one of several resorts that belong to the Royal group. It was fabulous. This is the view off our balcony and from the front door. Tom & Jeanne had a king sized bedroom, bathroom, dressing area, walk in closet, kitchen, living room and dining room. We had two queen beds, a bathroom, dressing area, walk in closet and kitchen alcove. We were connected by a door. The entire unit is their time share but it can be rented as two different units if they want to use just one or the other.

We got settled in and later went to Captain's Cove for dinner. There is a shuttle that rides you around the Royal Resorts so you can avail yourselves of all the amenities of all the resorts.

Over the next four days we had coffee on the balcony in the morning, spent time at the pool and just took it easy. One day we rode the shuttle to an upscale shopping center and then walked a little further to another shopping center and had lunch at Chili's. There are very pretty amenities here. We didn't buy anything; in fact, I never bought one thing the whole week.

This is an iguana we passed on the street. They roam freely all over the place.

Tom & Jeanne had a massage on Wednesday and Ted and I did laundry for all of us because we were leaving on an overnight trip to Merida at the northwestern edge of the Yucatan Peninsula. We would be gone from the Royal Islander all day Thursday and Friday with an early Saturday morning departure from Cancun airport for all of us.

If you've been over the TX, AZ or CA borders into Mexico or vacationed in Acapulco, Cozumel or Cancun you know the American influence is strong and you are "almost in Mexico." Our 2-day trip took us into Mexico like none of us had done before.

We rode through small villages that were laced with little more than concrete block shacks here and there, some painted pastel colors. When the doors were open, I could see inside and there was little if any furniture. We were told these people sleep in hammocks hung from hooks on the wall. We stopped at Izamal called the City of Hills and located right in the middle of the Yucatán Peninsula. Izamal may be the oldest city in the Yucatán. It was conquered by the Spaniards, and the monks in their eagerness to convert the Indians to Catholicism gave the city its religious distinction. To this day, Izamal's people are very devoted to the Immaculate Virgin and the church here bears that name.

The most important thing to see here is the Franciscan convent that was built over one of the Mayan pyramids. This is also where Pope John Paul visited in 1993. His visit has been one of Izamal's claims to fame ever since, and is commemorated by a statue of the Pope in the church courtyard.

We traveled on with a stop at a fabric factory and observed mostly young men sewing the colorful clothes on sewing machines. What we have computers do running as many as 20 or 30 machines, these people still do by hand and get paid by the piece.

Our lunch stop was at Hacienda San Pedro Ochil. All I can say about the food we ate over these two days is it was not anything like what Mexican restaurants in the U.S. or even along the Americanized Mexican beaches serve. There was not a fajita, quesidilla, burrito, etc. in site. There were chips and pico de gallo (not salsa), corn tortillas (no flour ones) and lots of banana leaf wraps. I had a chicken leg and thigh, wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked in the ground. It was tasty and tender. This is the chapel; one was always in a hacienda. Ted and I in the courtyard and the open air entrance to the hacienda where the restaurant is located now.

Our next stop was the ruins at Oxmal. Just as we arrived it poured down rain and while we waited under an eave, lightning struck the top of the largest pyramid. When the rain let up we were able to tour some of the area. Our guide was very knowledgeable and explained a lot about the Mayan people and how their culture was almost destroyed by the Spaniards much like Europeans almost destroyed the culture of the American Indian.

Founded in the 6th century AD, Uxmal flourished from 700 AD to 1000 AD, when it was abandoned, leaving ruins covering an area roughly one and a half miles by 600 yards, with a few lesser constructions outside these measurements. Long after it was deserted, people still dimly recalled Uxmal as a place of great pomp and splendor, a walled city and capital of a powerful and interconnected regional state.

The Governor’s Palace, built on a huge stepped platform, was probably the residence of the most important members of the ruling class. It gives the extraordinary visual effect of movement with its rain-god masks jutting from the friezes, and the remarkable filigree formed by over 20,000 mosaics on the façade.

One can also visit the Ball Court where a game was played using the body to get an object through the circle. Feet, hands and head were not permitted.

We checked into a very nice hotel in Merida and walked to a local restaurant for another meal that I can only describe as Mexican peasant. I'm not sure what I ate but it had shredded turkey and was very dry. I added pico de gallo but that didn't make it a whole lot better.

After a good night's rest we were off to explore the city of Merida (pronounced Mare-a-duh). We stopped at the home of the founder of the city, built in 1500s and at the cathedral built about the same time. In contrast, we rode down the boulevard where very beautiful homes are mostly businesses today.

I took a picture of Tom and Jeanne at The Monument of the Flag. On the other side of the circle is the symbol of the eagle standing on a cactus with a snake in its beak as it appears on the Mexican Flag.

We had lunch at a dance hall of sorts where a band is always playing and there are singers too. It's what we would encounter on a Friday or Saturday night in a local pub but not in the middle of the day. We were told this was to be a buffet but it was more family style of lots and lots of small dishes of stuff that we didn't recognize. We all put some of it together to fill a tortilla. Just so you know I'm not making this stuff up, dessert was carrot sticks, jicama sticks and orange slices sprinkled with chili powder. Imagine our surprise when we thought it was cinnamon!

After a 3.5 hour ride back to Cancun, we opted to eat a HAMBURGER and FRENCH FRIES at a restaurant in the resort. When we took the elevator back up to the room, a fellow said they were going to release the baby turtles into the ocean at 8:00. All week I had seen turtle tracks where overnight turtles had come out of the ocean, dug holes and deposited eggs but I never saw one.

I went down to watch and was told they dig up the eggs each morning and re-deposit them away from the crowds. They are marked with the date they are laid, the mother's size and how many eggs. There are hundreds of them. When they hatch they release them back into the water. They had almost 300 to release. I was able to hold one and I got a picture but you weren't allowed to use a flash so it is done with artificial light. It was the next best thing to seeing the mother lay the eggs.

We were up before 4:00 am for our ride to the airport for a 7 a.m. flight. This time I paid the upgrade fee and we flew first class. We had a great ride home with no wait at Immigration or Customs and were home a little after 10 a.m.

Next trip - Boerne, TX for the Texas Boomers 10th Anniversary Labor Day Rally. Talk to you then!


Rick and Brenda said...

Sounds like you guys had a great time.
Nice looking truck, Ted

cdm said...

I agree with Rick and Brenda - sounds like you have a fabulous trip! Nice truck, Ted, hope you enjoy it!