Viaje en el Yucatan

November 11, 2011 - January 4, 2012

January 4 - 28, 2012 Tucson, AZ

Home Sweet Home

 

 

 

Pachuca  - El Tajin - Veracruz
Lake Catemanco
- Villahermosa - Isla Aguda
Campeche
- Edzna - Uxmal  - Merida
Celestun
- Chichen Itza - Ek Balam
Valladolid
- Mayan Riviera - Chetumal
Hwy 186 m/p 52
- Palenque - Agua Azul
San Cristobal 
- Canyon Sumidero -
Tuxtla
Tehuantepec
- Oaxaca - El Tule
Acapulco
- Zihuatanejo - Tecoman
Guadalajara
- Mazatlán - Guaymas
Nogales

 

Our fellow travelers

Jean and Carl Albert


The Relaxed Traveler- No Worries!

       Statistics
 

4,640 miles

2,883 liters of fuel @ $28,059 mx pesos

120 cans of Diet Coke

17 Btls of wine

63 cans of beer

$9,450.03 mxp at the food store

(2,040 miles in USA)

    Credits:
            Photography - Bobby and Carl
            Navigation - Jean and Michael
            Narrative - Bobby
            Drivers - Carl and Michael

 

 
The Drive - Driving on Mexican roads is an experience in itself. Our first day of travel found us 'diverted', due to construction into the Old District of Pachuca. In some cases the street was so narrow  I needed to swerve a couple of inches to get my mirror around the power poles!  All secondary roads that go through the local villages have topés (speed bumps) to slow traffic down, some are marked but most are not. Some are pretty standard in size and shape so you know what to expect. Some are 'home made' and can be extreme in height or direction. This has a devastating effect on the interior domestic contents of an RV. On Hwy 199, mentioned below, just as you shifted into 3rd gear you needed to come to a stop to go over the topé. This also was the case whenever there was a resident or a business or a food stand on the side of the road. I didn't count them but by the end of our journey it felt like there had to have been 7,803,201.

Another road hazard was the pot holes,  and in some areas there were lots of these. To avoid them needs skill and luck combined.

There was tremendous variations in the condition of the roads. In one state the road could be great and it was possible maintain 58 mph,  but the next state could be a mess with the highways needing major repairs. Fortunately nothing in our RV broke but it was a constant anxiety. We had no breakdowns and not even a sign of any trouble.

The grade up to San Cristobal was 12° in many places.  Finally had to un-couple the car, and we drove separately as the weight kept on dragging me down to 1st gear.

For the most part, the our rigs were to big for the campsites and the streets too narrow. By the time we got back to San Miguel, with a sigh of relief, I was ready to park the motor home until next December.

 

     

 

 

Mesoamerica covers the Southwest U.S., Central Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and the Western part of El Salvador and Honduras.
The ancient civilizations of the Aztec, Maya, Olmec, Teotihuacan, Toltec and Zapotec.

 
 
 

      Pachuca - November 11 - 12 (First night camp)

Hacienda Venta de Guadalupe - A beautifully restored eighteenth century  Hacienda, 20 kms from Pachuca.
It has beautiful grounds and a restful atmosphere.




 









One very attractive feature of all historic haciendas is thethe age and enormous size if the trees.






 

 


 

     
     
     

 

   

 

      El Tajin / November 13






                                       



 


                                       We met this set of Mexican triplets- a photo opportunity.
                                It makes a great picture. Mum and Dad said
                                life had to be very disciplined!

                                               
                                

El Tajin means thunder lightening or hurricane in Totonac. The site was first occupied in AD 100 and reached the height of  its development in AD 600-900. It was abandoned in AD 1000. No one knows why.  Of special interest are the buildings with niches in the sides. It is thought there were once 365 niches and the calendar may have something to do with the design. There are also 17 ball courts, more than at any other site.

 

Los Valadores:

   
The pole is 30 meters high. The team of four fling themselves backwards from the platform and slowly circle the pole 13 times until they reach the ground. This makes 52 circles, the same number as weeks in the year.

One of the Voladores remains on the platform at the top of the pole, playing the chrimia, a traditional instrument. When he stops playing this is the signal for the other four to fling themselves backwards off the platform and begin their slow spiraling descent to the ground.

           
 



   

Not for the faint hearted!

     
     
     

      Veracruz / November 13

   

 

 

Our first steps into the Gulf of Mexico


A local resident in Veracruz warned us not to go into el Centro  because it has recently become  dangerous to do so.


     
     
     
     

      Lake Catemaco / November 14 - 15 - 16 - 17

The whole area is a great place for bird watching. There are more than 1000 species to be found in Mexico. 769 breed her and about 275 spend their winters here. 475 species alone occur in the Yukatan peninsular.

   

Lake Catemaco is 16 kms long and oval shaped. There are several islands including one where

Olmec sculptures have been discovered.

The fish meals in small family owned restaurants were fabulous! Isla de los Mones is inhabited by 60 red cheeked monkeys from Thailand. They belong to the University of Vera Cruz and are the subject of a scientific investigation.
     
     
     
     
      Villahermosa / November 18 - 19
 

 

 

The Parque Museo Venta in Villahermosa is not to be missed. When excavation for petroleum threatened the destruction of an ancient Olmec site, on the island of La Venta, archaeologist rescued the amazing giant carved heads and statuary and transported them to Villahermosa. There they form an outside museum as you walk through the woods. Adjacent is a zoo of indigenous animals many of which are now threatened with extinction.

La Venta Museum

A giant Olmec head. Four were found on La Venta.

The ancient belief was that the Afterlife was underground and the entrance was to be found in caves that led there. This is the depiction of one of the gods guarding that entrance.
 



Opossums have become a nuisance wherever tourists sit down for a break. The food quickly attracts a crowd of them.





     
     
     
     

      Isla Aguada / November 20 - 21 - 22

   

 


We felt like animals in the zoo, being viewed by the local population from behind wire netting!

 

            

This was a perfect place for camping. It was quiet and restful except on public holidays and weekends when it is traditional for
Mexican families to spend their time on the beach. A hammock is  great for an afternoon nap.

 

     
     
     
     
      Campeche / November 23 - 24
 
It wasn't until 1540  that the Conquistadors gained enough control over the region to establish a settlement in Campeche. Until that date fierce resistance from the Mayans prevented them.  It quickly became the major port of the Yukatan peninsular. Locally grown timber was exported and gold and silver mined in other regions was brought here for export. Pirates began to take note and terrorized the local people. In 1663 they combined their efforts and massacred many of the citizens. In 1668 the Spanish Crown began fortifications and built ramparts.

An extended section serve  as a fortress which ships had to sail past to gain entrance to the port. It is strange to read that Sir Francis Drake was regarded as one of these ruthless of these pirates when he is regarded as  a national hero in the UK! 


Pirate Museum at Fuerte de San Jose

   





 

 



 

 

     
     
     
     

Campeche - the city:

Campeche is a World Heritage Site and its buildings and churches have been perfectly restored. Many houses are painted in pastel colours and are very attractive. The old fortress walls still exist in places and the two surviving fortresses house museums of the pirate days and  the Fuerte de San Miguel is an archaeological museum of the earlier Mayan times. It contains some stunning jade burial masks from Calakmul.


The Federales, a common sight in many areas of Mexico. They are used by the government in the fight against the drug trade.








Restoration work still in progress.




A tourist bus, the easiest way to see the sights of Campeche.





The Cathedral






Michael had a fellow feeling for
the earlier inhabitants.





     
     
     
     

      Edzna / November 25

Edzna grew into a large city with a large network of canals , 14 miles in all, for irrigating the land. Archaeologists have also found 70 underground reservoirs, to collect and store water.
 

   

The 31 metre high Temple of Five Stories. it was probably used as living quarters for priests and on the top was an altar and a shrine for worship.

 


           

A series of masks decorated the main Temple.
 

     
     
     

      Uxmal / November 26

   


                                          
An ornate frieze was part of the style of architecture.
 




Uxmal is one of the most memorable Mayan sites. It was a great city  and contains some of the best examples of Puuc architecture. It is believed to have been the centre of a populated district of 100 square miles. it also exhibits an impressive series of canals and reservoirs. It was abruptly abandoned in the mid tenth century perhaps because of prolonged drought.

The building above was named the nunnery because it reminded the Spaniards of the small cell like rooms to be found in nunneries in Spain.

     
     
     
     

      Merida / November 27 - 28 - 29

   





 



The Cathedral was build with stones taken from Mayan structures. It reflects Moorish and Renaissance styles found in Spain in 1598 when it was built.

Governors' Palace

El Palacio de Gobierno which contains impressive abstract murals of Fernando Castro Pacheco.
 

Murals found inside the Governor's Palace.



 



A wonderful city full of historic architecture, museums, monuments churches mansions and government buildings.



     
     
     
     

      Celestun / November 29

Celestun is a small fishing village. Its shallow salty waters are an ideal breeding and feeding ground for the largest  and pinkest flamingo species.  Unfortunately it was not the breeding season when we were there. There were a few flamingos but nothing exciting.




The local women make their traditional garments to tempt the tourists.



 






 





A local taxi





     
     
     

 

 

 

      Chichen Itza / November 30

Chichen Itza is a monumental site. It is a World Heritage site and has been named one of the seven wonders of the Modern World.

The ruins include palaces, temples, and altars and the largest known ball court in the Mayan world. The playing field is 443' by 213ft, The scoring rings are impossibly high for the players who had to hit a 12lb rubber ball through the rings, using only their elbows, wrists and hips. After the game the Captain of the team was sacrificed. No one is sure whether it was the winning or losing side which was thus rewarded but there are sculpted panels illustrating the sacrifice.

Its architecture shows three major influences, Maya, Toltec and Itza. Unfortunately it is the most visited archaeological site in the region and is within easy reach of cruise ships coming into Cancun.  We counted 18 tour bus loads crammed into the car park. Every path and roadway  has stalls on either side selling  every possible souvenir. These make it difficult to appreciate the scale and magnificence of the site and even hinders access to some buildings.

There is a cenote of about 197 ft in diameter and 98ft down to the surface of the water. It was a place of sacrifice to the god of rain, Chaac and divers have found the remains of many victims in its depths, including children, plus jade and stone artifacts.


El Castillo, the tallest building and built on nine levels. It is fascinating for its astronomical references. There are 91 steps on each side, which together with the top platform make up the 365 days of the year. On the Spring and Autumn equinoxes the effect of sunlight creates a bright zig zag down the steps and is thought to give the appearance of a serpent, widely believed to be the vehicles for rebirth and transformation.






This group of  columns probably held up a grand roof structure.


 

 
     
     
     
     

      Ek Balam  / Valladolid - December 1 - 2

                   Ek Balam

   

Visitors are greeted by a Mayan warrior in ceremonial garb.




The Acropolis is 105ft high. It is bigger than Chichen Itza's main pyramid. There were many tourists from Europe, particularly French, German an Dutch. The USA government thinks Mexico is too dangerous for its citizens to travel in.





 





Ek Balam, Mayan Village of today. It would have been much the same when it was first built.

     
     
     

            Valladolid

   




We admired the cenote but no one felt like taking a swim-a favourite pastime of many tourists.



One of hundreds of Cenote's to be found throughout the region.


                   

     
     
     
     

      Mayan Riviera / December  3 - 6
 

The Mayan Riviera is a good place for
R & R. You might not be  Mexico in the 'all inclusive', purpose built, resorts that line the beaches and the 4 lane highway. They were built specifically for the tourist trade. the traditional fishing villages which previously lined the coast were removed.

Camped near Playa Del Carmen we enjoyed the laid back atmosphere at Xpu-Ha.

 

 

 
     
     
     
     

      Hwy 186 East / Mile Post 52 (Escarcega)
                           December 7

Another great place to relax, enjoy the scenery and the peacocks and eat a good meal or two.  


Jean


Carl

     
     
     
     

      Palenque / December 9 - 10
 
Palenque has the most beautiful jungle setting and their are still many buildings, hidden by  jungle overgrowth waiting to be excavated . It  flourished from around 630 to 740 and reached the height of development during the reign of King Pakal
born in AD 615, who ascended the throne at the age of 12, and ,quite remarkably for that time, lived to the age of 81.
 


The royal palace


One of the many exhibits in the excellent
museum on the site.


 

                                       





 

The Tomb of Pakal
603 - 684 A.D.

This is a replica. The actual tomb  is deep in the building and thought to be too dangerous to visit. The sarcophagus was sealed with a slab of stone 3.8metres times 2.2 metres, weighing five tons. An effective way of preventing tomb robbers from gaining access. Pakal's journey from life to death is depicted in elaborate relief carving in stone around the sarcophagos.  Pakal had a club foot, possibly the result of his parents being brother and sister. His own son, had six fingers and six toes.

     
     
     
     

      Agua Azul - December 10

A breathtaking series of waterfalls separating turquoise pools and surrounded by verdant jungle. The River Tulija is very powerful here because it is joined by the Shumulja. It falls over several kilometres of limestone forming hundreds of waterfalls of all sizes. Some of the currents are dangerously strong and swimming is limited to the few safe areas.


 

    There are vendors lining the paths but they are not obtrusive.
     
     
     

      Hwy 199 from Palenque to San Cristobal / December 11 Guadalupe Holiday Week-end. (3 hrs to go 100 Km)

This was a fascinating, if slow, drive because of the many devout pilgrims, dressed in white, making their offering the the Virgin of Guadeloupe. They travel in groups and each vehicle had a one person running ahead, often barefoot. Some of these runners were young children and there were  women too.

     
     
     
     

      San Cristobal de las Casas / December 12 - 13

Is a delightful colonial city with cobbled streets and markets. In spite of it history of Zapatista problems and the 'Belt of Misery' , slums, which surrounds the city, it has a laid back atmosphere and is popular with visitors. The local hotel which at one time welcomed RVing visitors had been sold and had moved 'up market'.  We were lucky to find a hospital Pemex manager who made us welcome for three days!


More celebrations for the feast of the Virgin of Guadaloupe




Hammocks are a specialty in the region and come in all shapes, sizes and colours.

 





An altar piece in the Cathedral.


An altar piece in the Cathedral.


San Cristobal is at the centre of one of the most indigenous areas of Mexico and the traditional costume from the surrounding areas is often seen.
 





A typical street market. Many women wore the thick furry felt skirt which must make a warm garment for the chilly mountain nights.

     
     
     
     

      Canyon Sumindero / December 13

This Canyon is spectacular and towers 800metres above you as you take the trip along its length to the Chicoasen hydro electric dam, which supplies electricity to Mexico City. It is a two hour trip marred only by the unsightly collection of rubbish, the usual plastic bottles etc which collects in one part. There are boats dedicated to removing it but it is clearly a never ending task.
 



There are plenty of crocodiles along the banks.
 



A shrine to the Virgin




The Chicoasen hydro electric dam is Mexico's largest producer of electricity.

     
     
     
     

      Oaxaca / December 16 - 17 - 18

The State's capital and a beautiful city which is a centre for Mexico's art world. The Zocolo and the Alameda are traffic free which makes them wonderful to visit. The Palace de Gobierno has murals by Arturo Garcia Bustos which depict Oaxacan history. The Cathedral begun in 1553 and finished in the eighteenth century is magnificent. The museums and art galleries, mostly free,  are spectacular. Benito Juarez, President of Mexico 1861 was born in a village near Oaxaca. At the age of three he was orphaned and at 12 he walked to the city and found employment with a bookbinder. He rose in local politics to the national scene. One of his lasting achievements as President was to make primary education both free and compulsory.





     
     
     
     

      El Arbol del Tule / December 18

El Arbol is claimed to be the biggest single biomass in the world and it certainly takes one's breath away, it is so huge.
Photographs do not do it justice.


The local seventeenth Century  church of El Tule.
El Arbol stands in its grounds.



The world's largest tree



El Arbol is 58 metres round and 42 metres high. It is thought to be between 2000 and 3000 years old.

 


                                       

This magnificent tree is now under threat because of new industries and housing developments which are taking its water supply.

     
     
     
     

      Huatulco - Tangolunda / December 20 - 23

Another resort area but more sensitively developed than most. It was once an area of fishing villages, but now there are the standard four lane highways and expensive housing areas. We stayed in a camp ground in Tangolunda, right next to a golf course.





overlooking the 14th fairway

     
     
     

 

   

      Acapulco / December 24 - 29

   

Our camp site, North of Acapulco, was luxurious and right next to the pounding waves of the ocean. It had  its own plunge pool!

A typical family gathering on the beach.

Impressive (but dangerous) surf.



The famous Cliff Drivers, clavadistas,  of Acapulco.

The dive is from heights of 25 to 35 metres. the Divers pray at a small shrine before diving. Boats of sightseers line up near the cliff to watch,  applaud and contribute a donation.




 




The Cathedral is quite unlike any other. It resembles more than anything a discarded Disney film set. A huge disappointment after the magnificent cathedrals we had visited on our journey.


 

The town itself is crowded, noisy and apart from the 'up market' area for big hotels and  tourists, very dirty.  The lack of signposting is spectacular and you can find yourself going round in circles quite easily!
 



Benita is the perfect travelling companion. She is cautious when going out of the RV, only roams for a very short distance and is quick to return - particularly when she hears the engine starting!

The rest of our journey was just making our way North to get to the USA and eventually back to San Miguel de Allende. We have seen economic conditions vary from state to state, and the huge differences in life style from  villagers who do not have running water and do their washing in streams and rivers and the extremely wealthy developments in the newly built seaside resorts. We met extremely friendly and helpful Mexicans throughout our journey. It was quite an experience!

That's all folk's.