Cancun: El Meco and Isla Mujeres

We are enjoying our little apartment in downtown Cancun. The neighbourhood is pleasant, with lots of small casita comidas and a gigantic Soriana grocery store. A few blocks away is the bus stop where we can catch a R-2 or R-15 down to the hotel zone beaches for 8.5 pesos each.

Today, since the morning was pleasant, we decided to visit the second set of ruins here, the El Meco, north of Puerto Juarez, where the boats to Isla Mujeres depart. Rather than taking two buses, we elected to splurge and take a taxi. After negotiating a cost of 90 pesos for the trip, we headed out through the downtown traffic, past Puerto Juarez, to the ruin site, a small area just across the road from the ocean. Just as we pulled up a truck was blasting pesticide into the place to take out any fugitive mosquitoes – blechhh.

El Meco is Cancun’s version of Tulum, the waterfront ruin site down the coast from Playa del Carmen, although it’s not nearly as large and not right on the water. “The city is … believed to have been a major commercial port for the Maya and overlooks the beach and docks from across the road at Punta Sam where nearby claims indicate that there’s the last vestiges of the ancient port hidden along the beach line.

The city’s importance to the Maya is thought to have occurred from its proximity across the coast from Isla Mujeres, its location along the coastal trading routes and the area of calm but deeper water for vessels.” Architectural evidence dating back to the early Classic period (300-600 ce) show that El Meco was a small, self-sufficient fishing village dependent upon the larger capital of Coba.

“At the center of the site is the large El Castillo Pyramid surrounded by a dozen or so smaller structures believed to be used for governmental, religious and commercial trading purposes by the Post Classical period Maya starting in the 10th or 11th century AD.

The site previous to this was believed to be home to a small native village going back to the 6th century AD. … Speculation based on artifact finds and architecture places El Meco at the heart of one of the Chichen Itza periods and further speculates that the city was amongst the then extended realms of the rulers of Chichen Itza.” (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g150807-d1108603/Cancun:Mexico:El.Meco.Ruins.html).

As has happened lots on this trip, we were the only visitors to the site, enjoying walking through the well-treed ruins and throwing bits of apple to the tiny iguanas.

We were surprised to see only very small, skittish lizards here (except the medium-sized guy below), none of whom were willing to come near enough to get the pieces of apple we placed for them.

Ty speculated that the lizards are not well-treated here and as a consequence those that survive are afraid of humans. Can they be eaten for food, I wonder? If so, this would explain why there are no big iguanas here.

After our visit we walked along the very quiet highway, saw a beachfront chapel, and flagged down a collectivo which dropped us at Puerto Juarez.

We took a look at the old dock where the first passenger ferry to travel between Cancun and Isla Mujeres runs – it’s almost deserted now that the new Ultra Mar catamaran plies the water between the newly-built Gran Puerto dock and the island.

Although we hadn’t planned to visit Isla Mujeres today, since we were there anyway, and the boat left in five minutes, we bought our tickets and hopped aboard for the twenty minute run across the incredible clear blue water.

Arriving on the other side, we walked through downtown Isla M, enjoying the bright colours of the buildings, the wares on display, the graffiti, and the laid back island vibe.

Not bad advice …

After having a dockside beer at the Bally-Hoo Inn, we walked five minutes down the road to Playa Norte, where we stationed ourselves beachside for the rest of the afternoon, swimming in the placid water.

Unlike in Cancun, where the high waves have prevented actual swimming (as opposed to frolicking in the waves), here it is possible to swim laps in the roped off area.

Unfortunately for Ty, his burned stomach meant no sun for him, just relaxation under the ol’ sombrillo. Yesterday, both of us had spent quite a bit of time in the high waves of Gaviota Azul beach and the glare from the water and sand must have been too much for the sunscreen to cope with.

See more pics here.

Coba: “Waters stirred by Wind”

Just can’t get enough o’ those Mayan ruins … poor Ty. Yet another visit to yet another big pile of rocks, this time Coba, in central Yucatan south west of Playa del Carmen. The weather is still not that good here – a gigantic cloud seems to be hanging around over top of us here, generating cloudy skies and thunderstorms. We do get some sunny times, mostly in the morning, and then it clouds over mid-afternoon and, often, rains in the early evening. And, while usually the water current in the ocean here flows south along the coast, the past couple of days it seems to have reversed and is now running quickly and strongly north, creating quite big waves. Although it’s not really rainy season here yet, the weather has been strangely wetter than usual – maybe hurricane season is coming early this year. On the satellite map the Gulf of Mexico looks like a gigantic pot of boiling water. Yesterday again the waves were very high, almost like the ones in Puerto Vallarta, and we had a bit of difficulty getting out of the water without being dashed against the shoreline rocks in the middle of Playa’s beach.

Anyway, on Wednesday the day dawned dry with a glimmer of sun shining through the cloud cover so we decided to visit Coba, a large Mayan ruin site located in the jungle. From the Playa bus station two ADO buses a day run to Coba; we took the 9 am, which stopped at Tulum ruins and Tulum pueblo, before heading inland to Coba and arriving after a pleasant two hour airconditioned ride at the archeological site. From the research I’d done I expected a fairly undeveloped situation at Coba but there were still the usual souvenir stalls and small Yucatecan restaurants outside the grounds, none of which was doing much business as far as I could tell.

Entering the site we walked along a tree-lined path leading to the first set of buildings, next to which are bike and bike taxi rentals. Since Coba is big, and would have taken all day to walk around, we decided to go for the bike taxi, basically a trike with a small padded seat for passengers (I stress the “small”; it barely had room for both of us. We saw two big guys being driven on one, each of whom had one cheek hanging off either side of the seat). Our driver headed off down the shady path, passing walkers and other trikes heading back to the ranch.

There are several different groups of structures open for visiting and with the trike, we were able to see all of them in two hours without having to rush. All of the buildings are situated in a treed jungle area (although “jungle” suggests deep, dark, dense bush, the jungle here consists of small birch-like trees and large banyan-like ones, all of which are small enough to allow lots of light to enter. The paths between the building groups likely follow the old Maya sacbe (white roads). At Coba there are about 40 sacbes, some local, some heading deep into the jungle. The longest sacbe is 100 km, connecting Coba with Yaxuna, close to Chichen Itza. “Coba” means “waters stirred by wind”, an homage to the four lakes along which it’s situated. Unlike Tulum, it is not manicured and reconstructed; a number of large stone jungle-covered mounds can been seen, along with those that can be visited.

Coba dates from the Classic Period, 600 to 900 AD, after which it was abandoned for unknown reasons. At its height Coba supported up to 45,000 inhabitants. The city is thought to have been an important trading post and a commercial link between the cities on the coast and those inland. Coba was never found by the Spanish, thus being left covered by jungle until the 1890s, when it was rediscovered. Excavations started in the 1970s and many of the buildings are left pretty much as they were found. This site of 80 square km/50 square miles is in almost pristine condition. Coba is believed to contain up to 6,500 structures, of which only a small fraction have been restored. (http://www.playa.info/playa-del-carmen-info-mayan-ruins-of-coba.html).

We saw the observatory, a four or five level beehive-like structure, many stele with almost impossible-to-decipher carvings and palapa-roofed coverings, quite a few domestic houses, the “paintings complex” (below),

two stone ball courts, and a grand pyramid, the Nohoch Mul, meaning “big mound”. And big it is, the tallest Mayan ruin structure in the Yucatan at 138 feet.

Nohoch Mul is one of the few Mayan pyramids still climbable. When we arrived there a few people were climbing it, some of whom were red-faced from the effort.

It is quite steep, with a “staircase” of large and uneven steps and a thick rope to help with the descent. From the top, we had a view out over seemingly the entire Yucatan forest of trees to the horizon, only interrupted by a few unexcavated structures whose tops could be seen above the trees.

While going up was relatively easy (and not by an order of magnitude anywhere near as difficult as the climb to the mountaintop of Krabi’s Tiger Cave Temple), coming down was more difficult and tiring. The next day my thigh muscles were still tingling from the workout. [See my post on our Tiger Cave Temple expedition here]

On the function of the Mayan ball courts, here is one account: Coba has at least two very pretty ball courts, one of which has been partially excavated only recently. The ball game played an important role in Mayan society and most cities had a ball court, which is basically a corridor of two stoned walls. The game was played between two teams, using only their hips and elbows to get a rubber ball through a hoop. At some sites, like Coba, the sides of the ball court are slanted, which makes it possible to get close to the hoop.

In other places, like Chichen Itza, the hoops are situated high up on almost vertical walls, seemingly making it impossible to score (unless you don’t subscribe to the law of gravity, which would give us the explanation to many other Mayan mysteries…) Inscriptions and other pieces of art show that human sacrifice was a part of the game. There are different theories as to who actually got sacrificed – the captain or the whole team? Did the losing have to pay with their lives or did the winning team willingly and proudly go to live with their gods? You will hear different stories on this one. (http://www.playa.info/playa-del-carmen-info-mayan-ruins-of-coba.html)

After an almost two hour long tricycle ride, we headed back out to the bus which showed up right on time and whisked us back again to Playa. For those of you interested in Mayan ruins, I’d recommend doing this site by bus; there are two ADO departures from Playa every morning at 8 and 9 am and two returns from Coba at 1 and 3 pm. The bus costs 86 pesos per person each way and the entrance fee into Coba is 57 pesos each. We paid 200 pesos for the tricycle tour (170 for the bike and a 30 peso tip) for a total cost of 486 pesos ($35.55), much cheaper than any of the tours we looked at. And Coba, with its jungle canopy covering, is a beautiful and restful experience.

See more pics here.

Playa: Beaches, Ruins, and Beasts

Playa del Carmen is a town divided: one small part, that along the seashore, is a playground for middle-class and wealthy gringos, mostly from the US and Canada but also Europeans; the rest, extending north, south, and west past the Carreterra Federal highway, is Mexican. Never the thwain shall meet.

Coming back from the beach the other day we got on the wrong bus; instead of taking us up Benito Juarez Avenue to 70th, it rolled along parallel to 5th Avenue and then cruised slowly back up past the highway, past the Hospital, and through the newish development of Los Flores, a vast subdivision of small row houses painted in tropical colours, catering to the locals who work in the tourist industry. Some rich dude must have sold his hacienda property to developers who are now erecting thousands of these small structures.

A couple of days ago we jumped aboard another bus, hopped out at the ADO station, walked the length of Fifth Avenue north and from there took a taxi to the Playa Cemetery. Cemetery visits are one of my little idiosyncracies; I enjoy walking through the grave sites and looking at the inscriptions and mementoes.

This cemetery has a lot of young men’s graves – a lot! – and also a section entirely for infants and babies. As I was photographing some of the memorials in the latter, Ty called out to me, saying “It’s time to go”.

Since we’d not been there very long, I was surprised but acquiesced. As we were walking back out, Ty told me that he’d seen a group of about ten young guys drinking around one grave, likely that of a fallen friend, one of whom pulled a pistol out of the back of his shorts. Definitely time to hit the road!

South of the Cozumel ferry terminal are many huge all-inclusive hotels and expensive condo developments. I find this area, known as Playacar, obnoxious. We had gone there to check out the Xaman Ha Mayan ruins and aviary. What remains of the ruins is very small, a few tiny stone house structures and an encircling wall accessed from the beach through the Xaman Ha condominium site that has been erected around them.

Walking past Playacar’s enormous mansions and condo developments to find the aviary was depressing. And when we did come to the small aviary to find that the entrance fee was 300 pesos ($22 American) each, we could not bring ourself to pay it. A total ripoff. In fact, almost any of the “tourist attractions” in this part of the world are ridiculously expensive and completely inauthentic. While all, except the Mummy Museum, of the many really cool museums and haciendas that we saw in Guanajuato were at the most 20 pesos, here it seems that you can’t get in the door anywhere without dropping mega bucks. [Grumble, grumble, grumble .... we interrupt this broadcast for a grumpy old lady grumble].

On the way back to Playa, walking along the Mayan ruin wall, we did see a wild capybara, a gigantic rodent not unlike a huge gerbil. This one was unafraid, munching serenely on grass, and about the size of a small dog.

After our aborted trip to the aviary, we stopped at the upscale shopping centre near the ferry for a coffee at Starbucks (there are no other coffee shops in this area) and had a bit of sushi for lunch, enjoying a break from the humid heat under a large leafy tree. [These two days were cloudy and rainy so the photos are not very good. And, although I've been wearing 50 spf sunscreen the whole time I've been away, I see that I have a tan ...]

At the Casa Ejido there are many small lizards: some are very tiny and black; others are larger, greyish, and have a head frill, looking like miniature dinosaurs. One of the latter (in the picture below) rears up and races on two legs along the edge of the pool almost daily in the morning. I love these guys!

See a few more pics here.

Yucatan Day Trip: Loltun Caves and the Puuc Route

Wanting to see some of the less well-known Mayan ruins in the area, but not wanting to drive ourselves, Ty and I decided to do a day trip with a driver from Yucatan Connect to the Lol Tun Caves and the sites along the Puuc Route, south and south east of Merida. The word “Puuc” means small hill or mound and this is the only area in the Yucatan where the landscape is other than perfectly flat. Ruben picked us up in the van about 8 am and we were off south east to the caves, the farthest point away from Merida.

We understood that there were six tours a day in the caves, beginning at 9:30, and knew that we couldn’t enter without a guide. Luckily, we arrived at the cave site right on time and were escorted into the caves by Pablo, a guide with whom we negotiated a tour price. [The entrance fees and guide prices here are quite high, especially compared with Guanajuato and other places we've visited - apparently, the usual guide price is 500 - 600 pesos (about $40 - 50); because there were ony two of us, we paid half this amount, and 204 pesos to enter].

Like the Karain Cave north of Antalya which Tracey and I had visited together, this cave is also lit with many lurid coloured lights, casting wonderful shadows on the walls. Here, too, is evidence of 15,000 years of human habitation, along with the remains of mammoth, bison, felines and deer. The only wildlife in the caves today are bats and cave swallows. Some of the cavern areas are huge and cathedral-like; others are small and quite claustrophobic. In one of the rooms are two hollow columns which, when struck, ring out deep musical notes.

On the walls are carvings, one of a warrior figure, and one of two flowers, the latter giving the cave its name (Lol=flower; tun=stone). From Yucatan Today: “The tour starts at the entrance of Nahkab, or beehive, where the famous bas-relief known as El Guerrero de Loltún (the Loltún warrior) is located, who seems to be emerging from the caves and is believed to be the God of the underworld. Another attraction of great interest is the cave paintings: on one wall one can see negatives of hands, on another there are more elaborate paintings representing faces, animals and staggered fret patterns.

In the diverse halls, galleries and chambers – almost 60 m deep and extending over more than 700 m – diverse archaeological pieces, ceramics, stone artifacts, marine shells and petroglyphs have been found, corresponding to the Mayan culture in its different stages of development.”

Our guide complained that the caves are not well-visited; they are too far away from Merida and Cancun for most people – that’s too bad because they are really quite cool.

Our next stop was Labná, once a city of some 1,500 to 2,500 people, inhabited between 750 and 1000 AD. Presently, four buildings have been  restored. The large palace houses 70 chultunes (water cisterns), used for collecting rainwater, a supply that allowed the Maya to survive the hot dry season; at least six months of the year here there is no water.

Passing the palace we also saw a large private home, and the el Mirador, a watch tower, as well as the arch that is thought to have been the center of the city and the entrance to the sacbé (white road or Mayan highway) that went to Uxmal.

While I was walking around, I slipped on the red mud and, putting my hand down on a rock wall to steady myself, was stung by something that raised a welt and really hurt (still hurts now!).

Interestingly, as in Cambodia’s ruins, here, too, you can see that the architects did not have the hang of the rounded arch; all the arches here are pointed with flat stones at the apex.

Leaving Labna and continuing down the winding road we came to X-Lapak, a name which means “unglued walls”, a site of some 14 mounds and three somewhat restored pyramids. This site and neighbouring Sayil have not been restored and manicured, so we were able to see what the sites looked like when they were discovered.

While Labna’s buildings exist in a park-like setting, reminding both of us of Cambodia’s Angkor Thom, X-Lapak is situated in a beautiful forest of deciduous trees, including one tree that looks very much like a eucalyptus and another that looks like a giant banyan.

Five km from X-Lapak is Sayil, whose name means “The Place of the Ants.”

At the entrance is a small outdoor museum under a thatched roof. This site is home to a beautiful palace that included 90 bedrooms for some 350 people; unfortunately, visitors are no longer allowed to climb the staircase here. Workmen are putting parts of it back together so perhaps in the future …

From there we travelled to Kabah, famous for its incredibly ornate “Palace of Chaac Masks” (Chaac is the Mayan rain god). “Kabah” means strong hand, and it was the second most important city after Uxmal and the largest site in the Puuc Region.

As in the other sites, here, too, rain water collection cisterns were built.

A turkey vulture was happily sitting atop one of the palaces here; I wondered whether it was waiting for one of us to expire from the heat. Although it had been overcast and somewhat cloudy earlier in the morning, here it was hot as the sun broke through the clouds. Ty and I were starting to wilt so our next stop was the Pickled Onion Restaurant for some very tasty chicken fajitas.

These four ancient cities were all built between 500 and 1000 ad. At all of them, we were the only visitors and we shared the landscape with enormous clouds of yellow, blue, and black butterflies and hundreds of iguanas, large and small. However, when we rolled up to the Mayan piece-de-resistance of Uxmal (meaning “three times built”), all this changed. Uxmal is big business, with a large parking lot for buses, a restaurant, and a gift shop complex. Unlike the smaller sites, whose entrance fees are either 42 pesos or free, Uxmal costs 177 pesos to enter. However, luckily, the city is big enough that it still seemed relatively uncrowded during our visit.

Uxmal’s architecture, some of the most majestic of the Yucatán archaeological sites, is characterized by low horizontal palaces set around courtyards, decorated with rich sculptural elements and details. Uxmal was the greatest metropolitan and religious center in the Puuc hills in the late classical period and thrived between the 7th and 10th centuries ad. Its numerous architectural styles reflect a number of building phases.

The most impressive structure and the tallest at 100 feet is the House of the Magician which we found just beyond the entrance. According to ancient legend, this pyramid was built by Itzamna in one night. It actually appears to have been built in five phases, and it was situated so that its western stairway faces the setting sun at summer solstice. Unfortunately, visitors can no longer climb the great staircase leading to the temple’s peak. The Nunnery, another large building on the site, was so named by the Spaniards because it reminded them of a European nunnery. It was probably used as a school for training healers, astrologers, shamans, and priests.

The Governor’s Palace is an excellent example of stone mosaic work probably created by hundreds of masons and sculptors. It occupies five acres and contains many beautiful sculptures of the rain god Chaac, serpents, and astrological symbols. Uxmal also has a large ball court, enclosing a playing field that is 110 feet long and 32 feet wide.

(Information from the Yucatan Today website). We were able to climb the Great Pyramid and from its top, we had a fantastic view out over the entire site, as well as the Yucatan beyond.

“The UNESCO World Heritage citation for Uxmal recognizes also “its three related towns of Kabáh, Labná, and Sayil”. Their histories have been closely intertwined. At the collapse of Uxmal in the early 10th century A.D., Kabah, Sayil, and Labná seem to have been part of a confederation or regional state under the authority of Uxmal. However, a century before, Kabah may have been as large as Uxmal and its political equal.

Only about 30 kilometers (19 miles) separate the 2 farthest of the 4 cities. A causeway (sacbe) runs 18 kilometers (11 miles) from Uxmal to Kabah, and the general lack of fortifications indicates some form of evolving alliance. Although the 4 cities may originally have been settled at different times, most of their monumental architecture was constructed between the end of the 8th and the middle of the 10th centuries and share similarities in urban design, architectural style, and modes of construction.

To understand the Puuc region, we must recognize not only the ways in which it shares the remarkably widespread Maya culture, but also the aspects of Puuc society that differ from those of other areas. At its peak the Puuc region achieved the highest density of cities of any Maya area, with more than two hundred cities and smaller settlements. In some areas the residential areas seem to have been almost continuous from one city to another. This, along with the lack of fortifications at the major centers, suggests more sharing of power, a more federated society than in other Maya areas. It seems reasonable to suggest that this might be connected with the most esthetically refined, most carefully crafted, least militaristic architecture created by the Maya.” (http://academic.reed.edu/uxmal/cities.html)

For more information on the Maya culture, click here.

See more pics here.

Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruin Site

Monday dawned cloudy but very warm so Ty and I decided to visit the nearby Mayan ruin site of Dzibilchaltun, about 15 kilometers north of Merida. On our last visit to Merida seven years ago, we had ridden bikes to this place; unfortunately, on that occasion Ty’s bike had crapped out, leaving him with only one working pedal to get back home, not a very happy scene. So, this time we decided to take public transport. One website we read recommended taking a hired combi (minibus taxi) from San Juan park south of the main plaza, so we jumped aboard a city bus, walked a few blocks to the park, and negotiated a (ridicuously large) fare with a sleepy driver to take us out to the site. We knew that we’d agreed to pay way too much when the driver jumped up from his prone position on one of the back seats and made the sign of the cross while gazing heavenward in thanks before hopping into the driver’s seat and heading down the road.

We were amazed at how much farther north the city had expanded in seven years; what before had been large tracts of undeveloped land was now miles and miles of new shopping malls, big box stores, and auto malls along a ten lane highway. After turning off the main Merida-Progreso highway, our driver pulled over to pick up a couple of local people who were also heading towards Dzibilchaltun. I watched steaming in the back seat as the driver took money from them (and in Spanish told them how much we were paying as they all laughed) for what was supposed to be the private ride for which we’d negotiated a huge sum of money. If he’d asked us, we would have let them ride with us for free; but when he took money from them, that was too much. When we reached the site, I mustered my Spanish to tell the driver off; demanding to know how much the others had paid him for our ride, I deducted that amount from what we paid him.

The last time that we’d visited this place, we had been the only ones on the site. Today, though, there were several tour groups, likely from one of the cruise ships that comes into nearby Progreso on Mondays and Wednesdays. Once again, I was surprised to hear so many American accents all in one place (the last time this happened was in St Lucia on cruise ship day). It is still possible to climb the structures here and from the top of one small pyramid, we caught a beautiful breeze and could see far in all directions.

Down at ground level it was very hot and humid. After walking around the open chapel and through the main plaza, we headed towards the large cenote (fresh water sinkhole) in which many of the visitors were swimming, watching them from a nearby structure.

Although these waters seem clean, since there are fresh water organisms in Mexico which can give serious disease, neither of us swam.

As we climbed the stones, Ty’s flip-flop broke – damn! However, ingeniously, he was able to repair it using one of my string bracelets and a small piece of wood – huzzah! – enabling him to continue our walking tour.

Many small, almost invisible, lizards zoomed out of our way as we walked. Larger ones, almost the same colour as the ground, sunned themselves on the warm rocks.

We climbed the most important structure on the site, the Temple of the Seven Dolls, whose four entrances face east and west, and from there we had a great view across the most important structures of the area.

Since the site’s Museum wasn’t open on Mondays, we headed back out to the parking lot, trying to figure out how to get back to the city. After having paid a fair bit of coin to get there, and a fair bit to get into the site, we were not inclined to pay for a taxi back. One of the drivers told us that a local bus would be coming from the village in fifteen minutes so we made our way out to the main road and, amazingly, only waited for a couple of minutes before the big old bus approached, for which we paid a twentieth of what it had cost to get there.

From Yucatan Today: “Dzibilchaltún” means the “place where there is writing on the stones,” referring to the many memorial stones found at the site. There were settlements here from 500 BC until the Spanish conquest, around 1540 AD. It covers an area of about 19 square kilometers, with somewhere around 8400 structures in the round enclave. It is believed there may have been a population of as many as 40,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities of Mesoamerica. [...]

The Temple of the Seven Dolls is also known as the Temple of the Sun, a square structure which was the focal point of the city. This second name may come from the phenomenon which takes place twice yearly, at the spring and fall equinoxes, when the rising sun is visible through one window and out the other, a tribute to the incredible mathematical knowledge of the Mayas. The temple is connected to the rest of the site by a sacbé, or “white road,” so called because they were originally coated with white limestone, built over stone and rubble fill.

The more well known name, Temple of the Seven Dolls, comes from the seven small coarsely made effigy dolls found in the interior of the temple. The one-story square building has a central chamber surrounded by a corridor. There are four entrances with windows alongside each one, facing east and west. It may have been used as an astronomical observatory. The roof was like a tower, which projected upwards from a vaulted ceiling. There are steps on all four sides of the building, which was built on a pyramid-shaped pedestal. There are eight stucco masks on the frieze of the temple, as well as serpents and glyphs, and beads, sea animals, and feathers, all made in carved stucco. It wasn’t until the 1950s that archaeologists discovered the temple buried under another building: for some reason around 800 AD, the temple was filled with rocks and then covered by another larger building. The remains of this second structure still partially cover it.”

Once back in Merida, we stopped for lunch at a newly-opened German restaurant downtown, a nice change from tacos …

Ty’s improvised shoe repair lasted until a couple of blocks from home, whereupon he had to replace the disintegrating stick with a fresh one he’d had the presence of mind to put in his pocket.

Such are the small joys of life on the road …

The large cactus near our casita is blooming; huge white flowers open in the night and, as soon as the sun hits them in the morning, close and die. While the blooms are still open, clouds of large and small bees enjoy them.

See more pics here.