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CUZAMA CENOTES

From Merida Mexico

Day 15 - Saturday, February 17, 2018. Another morning and another excellent breakfast, then out the door for Cuzama. All the Yucatan travel blogs and tourist articles cite the Cenotes de Cuzama tour as a “must-do.” The write-ups talk about riding a donkey-driven cart on rails to three different cenotes.

Public Transportation

From Merida to Cuzama Cenotes

Cuzama is a small town about 25 miles from Merida. The Cuzama cenotes are out in the sticks a couple of miles outside of Cuzama. The best way to get there is, you guessed it, colectivo. So, after breakfast, we hopped on whatever bus listed Centro on its windshield, and off we go to find the Cuzama colectivo in the maze of colectivo stands. We had heard that the Cuzama colectivo is near the Noreste bus terminal, so we go there first. In our quest, a guy promoting a different set of cenotes he claimed were better than the Cuzama cenotes approached us. His photos looked nice, but we didn’t fully understand his Spanglish. I did catch enough to indicate that I’d research it and maybe come back on Monday or Tuesday for his cenote package.

We located the Cuzama colectivo just behind the colectivo that the promoter was working. The colectivo was $23 peso each, and it quickly filled up. It took about 55 minutes, with half of the time just getting through Merida. I just don’t understand how these colectivos make any money. The Cuzama colectivo makes about $20 US for each run to Cuzama. By the time they wait to fill up and then figure in the drive time it takes at least 1½ hours to gross the $20 US. Each run probably burns up 2 gallons of gas. Gas in Mexico is not cheap - $1 US per liter or approximately $4 US per gallon. That leaves $12 US gross profit per run. But you have payments on the van, insurance (maybe?), maintenance, and repairs. They might make 5 runs on a good day, which will gross $60 US minus expenses. Is $40 net per day a reasonable estimate?
 

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On the way to Cuzama, the colectivo went through the town of Achena. I had read that Achena was a cute little town boasting a thriving market and a Mayan pyramid right downtown. Sure enough, the colectivo drove right by the market and the pyramid. What struck me, however, were the hundred or so tuk-tuks scurrying about town with their passengers.

The colectivo dropped us off at a desolate spot way out in “no-where-ville.” I wasn’t sure we were in the right spot, but three other people, a sweet Mexican mother, and her teenage daughter, and a pretty young medical intern from Campeche doing her residency at Merida got out with us. The intern spoke enough English to reassure us that it was the right place. Just over a little hill, we came across the railhead for the tour. For being so heavily advertised I was surprised to see that the five of us were the only patrons there.

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There were about a dozen narrow gauge railroad carts lined up in the dirt next to the start of a set of tiny rails that had to have been laid down by the drunkest rail crew ever to lay down a track. A couple of young guys lifted one of the carts onto the tracks while a squat friendly old guy led a small horse, not a donkey as advertised, over to the front of the cart. The cart holds up the 6 people and costs $450 pesos divided up by the 5 of us ($90 pesos each - $5 US). We jumped in, and soon we were on our way.

The cart wildly swayed, bumped, jumped, and screeched as the horse galloped along. I don’t know how the cart stayed on the tracks, but the ride was better than any carnival ride I was ever on. The five of us quickly bonded with laughter and “yahoos” on our way to the first cenote, which was a good kilometer away. The entire circuit was easily 3 kilometers long and well worth the $90 pesos each.

I had read that there were originally three cenotes on this tour, but one had been shut down. To my delight, we were taken to four cenotes, although one was pretty difficult to swim in. The access was so poor that we just climbed down into the cave and marveled at the colorful stalactites and stalagmites plunging into the clear blue water. All the cenotes were of the underground variety with all but one sporting steep stairways or ladders reaching down 30 or 40 feet through tiny holes in the ground.

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Standing at the tops of these tall, steep ladders and squinting through the darkness to see where these steps were leading you to, gives one pause at first. The mother took a few moments to gather her courage, but by the end of the tour, she was a pro. Wanda and I, being cenote pros already, went right down.

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X'TOJIL CENOTE

From Merida Mexico

The first cenote, X’tojil, was a 50-foot in diameter circle of water with an island in the middle set deep in a cave. The water was the typical crystal clear blue. Along the outside circumference were numerous deep caves going off to who-knows-where. It was a fairly plain cenote with few rock formations – sweet but not spectacular. The swim was refreshing and the underworld azure water through snorkel masks was still incredible.

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AYUSO CENOTE

From Merida Mexico

The second cenote, Ayuso, just blew us away. It was deep, underground, and on the smallish side but it was gorgeous with beautiful formations and the darkest blue water I have ever seen. To top it off, there was a swing rope that was a blast.

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SAN FELIPE CENOTE

From Merida Mexico

The third cenote, Sak Paka, had the poor access where we just climbed down to gawk.

 

The fourth cenote, San Felipe, had the coolest entrance and was the most beautiful of the bunch. The entrance opening was very large, so a sturdy staircase was provided. Once in the cave, you followed a long shaft, including a long wooden bridge, through stunningly colorful formations to reach the small and serenely beautiful cenote. The whole tour took about 4 hours. The total cost, including round-trip bus ride, colectivo ride, and horse cart was $304 peso for both of us. That works out to less than $17 US for another terrific day.

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On our way back to the Airbnb we stopped off at our favorite tamale cart next to Wal-Mart and discovered there are three different varieties of tamales, so we got two of each. There was a bakery nearby that I had read good things about so we gave Mexico one more shot at trying pastries. Lastly, we stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some hot sauces and plastic utensils and napkins for the tamales. We took everything back to the Airbnb and pigged out. The tamales were terrific, especially with the hot sauces. The empanada we got from the bakery was tasty. The other pastries were decent but still not up to the Spanish standard that we enjoyed in Spain.