S/V Stolen Child Sailing Log

Logbook for the sailing vessel Stolen Child and her crew, Patrick and Nancy.

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Name: Patrick

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cenotes and Ruins

Kevin and Renee were supposed to come for a visit after Lori and the boys, but work got in the way and Nancy and I found ourselves with some free time. I'm sure we could have found plenty of work to do on the boat that would have occupied our time, but we are retired and have to be very careful not to work too much. We decided we would see a little more of the Yucatan. LA and Susan Wyatt are a couple on another boat here at the marina, who also happen to be from Mississippi. Their boat is a Shannon 38 named Genesis and their web site is www.wyattsailing.com (you can check out Susan's version of this adventure on the Travel Log page). We had told them about the cenotes at Cuzama and they were interested in seeing them so Saturday, June 21, all four of us got on a bus to Merida. Naturally, we checked into the Luz en Yucatan hotel (we are now their favorite customers).

We kicked around town a little that night and the next morning after breakfast we began the trek to Cuzama. When Nancy and I had gone before, it was with the Spanish language school and one of the instructors drove us there in his van. This time we were on our own, so we had to find the correct bus station. There are several bus stations in Merida and where you are going and what kind of style you want to travel in determines which bus station you need. This particular bus station was not too hard to find, and we also found the open market on the way, which I had wanted to see. The open market is where the locals buy fresh produce, as well as many other things. Anyway, we made it to the bus station and got our tickets for the trip to Cuzama. We had a little time to kill, so we got some ice cream and watched a group of boy scouts and girl scouts play a game that looked kind of like a cross between basketball and soccer, except it is played with a flexible hoop about the size of a steering wheel. You can toss the hoop to your team members, but you can't move your feet while the hoop is in your hands. The object is to toss the hoop to your "goalie" at one end of the field of play and if the goalie can catch it by putting his or her arm through the hoop, without moving their feet, your team scores a point.

The bus took us into Cuzama proper, not to the railhead for the carts to the cenotes. We had to hire bicycle taxis pedaled by young boys to pedal us the couple of miles to the railhead. If you remember from my post on our previous trip to the cenotes, you get to the cenotes by way of a horse-drawn cart that rides on a very narrow-gage railroad, left over from the hacienda days.

Even though I knew what to expect, this being my second time to the cenotes, I have to say that I was just as impressed as I was the first time we went. I think LA and Susan had a good time as well. Note to self: next time you go to the cenotes, take a cooler of beer to drink on the buggy ride.

We had originally planned to leave the next day for whatever our next destination turned out to be, and Susan and LA were going to go back to Isla Mujeres. We were having such a good time in Merida, though, we all decided to stay another day. LA and I wanted to visit a cigar bar we had heard of and Nancy and Susan wanted to shop for some shirts. LA and I hailed a cab and found our way to Mercer Cigars (www.mercercigars.com). Drew, the owner, led us into the walk-in humidor and he and LA began discussing the finer points of cigars. I like the occasional good cigar, but am not knowledgeable enough to join in a discussion that goes beyond "what does it cost?" My ears perked up though, when I heard Drew mention something about taking a couple of cigars to the bar and having some "imported beers." I asked if "imported beers" would include Guinness Stout and he assured me that it did. I was quite excited by now and told LA "we might be here a while." Not only did they have Guinness, they also had a nice selection of single-malt scotches, and yes, Glenlivet was among the selection, as well as Balvenie (my two favorites). Three cigars, six Guinness, and two single-malts later (much later) we decided to call it a day and try to scrounge up some food. Somewhere about the third Guinness and the second cigar, we had the wisdom to call the ladies up and ask them to join us. They were finished shopping and though Nancy doesn't care for cigars, she likes Guinness as much as I do.

Drew suggested we go to a restaurant called Casa Catherwood (Frederick Catherwood was an English artist whose drawings of ancient Mayan ruins in the 1840's introduced the western world to the Mayan civilization). When we arrived at the restaurant we were met at the door by Luca, the chef and owner, who is from Italy. We had not had good Italian food for months, so this was quite a treat. To say that it was good is a dismal understatement, it was fantastic. Check out the menu at http://www.casa-catherwood.com/bistro.html. I had the Lasagna alla Bolognese and it was the best I've ever tasted. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The next day, Susan and LA went back to Isla Mujeres and Nancy and I boarded a bus to check out more Mayan ruins. There are a string of ruins south of Merida on what is called the Puuc Route. "Puuc" is a word derived from the Mayan word for "hills" and is applied to an area of the Yucatan which is rather hilly, in contrast to most of the Yucatan which is quite flat. Anyway, you can catch a bus that travels the Puuc Route and stops in Xlapak (pronounced ish-la-pak), Labna, Sayil, Kabah and Uxmal (pronounced oosh-mal), and then returns to Merida. It is kind of a whirlwind tour of the ruins, but a very easy and cheap way to see lots of ruins. All of the ruins are quite impressive and except for Uxmal they can be briefly toured in about 30 minutes. The ruins at Uxmal are more extensive and spread over a larger area and you need at least a couple of hours to see them. The bus stops for 30 minutes at each of the sites except for Uxmal, where it stops for 3 hours, so there was just barely enough time to see most everything. The countryside along this route is very pretty as well.

The next day Nancy and I decided to go to Campeche, which is a coastal city on the Gulf side of the Yucatan peninsula, in the state of Campeche. The city of Campeche was founded in 1540 by the Spanish and was built on top of an existing Mayan city (as were many of the cities founded by the Spaniards). Campeche is a very beautiful city and has quite an interesting history. It was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the beauty and quality of its architecture. It seems the city was under frequent attack from pirates, including Francis Drake, John Hawkins, Jean Lafitte, Henry Morgan, and various others. In 1686 the government decided to fortify the city by building a wall around the city with eight defensive bastions on the corners. Most of the wall is gone now, as the city expanded beyond its limits, but some sections remain and most of the bastions are still standing and now house museums. The hotel we stayed at cost $23 per night. It was not swanky, but it was clean, the rooms were well-lit and it was in the middle of downtown.

After a day touring Campeche, Nancy and I were kind of tired of sight-seeing, so the next day we caught a bus back to Cancun and returned to the boat to rest up before Claire, Ben and the girls' visit.


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