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DZIBILCHALTUN

A Mayan archaeological site 10 miles north of Mérida Mexico

Day 13 - Thursday, February 15, 2018. (Cha-bil-chal-tune)The daily hand-delivered breakfasts are a real treat and today's was unbelievably amazing: fluffy scrambled eggs with avocado slices and sesame seed bread pockets, a  fruit plate of papaya, cantaloupe, and watermelon, cafe au lait and a homemade green energy juice (cucumber, orange, spinach), which sounds crazy but was delicious. Add toast, butter, jam, yogurt, and oatmeal and what a way to start the day.

Public Transportation From Merida to Dzbilchaltun Ruins

After breakfast, we flagged down the San Lucia bus to Centro (center of the city)  for $8 Pesos each ($.42 USD) to get to the colectivo that will take us ten miles north to the small town of Chablekal for another $8 Pesos each ($.42 USD). Chablekal is about 2 miles from the Dzbilchaltun Ruins, our destination for the day. With daypacks stuffed with snorkeling gear, were eagerly ready to snorkel the on-site Cenote Xlakah after a long hot walk around the Dzbilchaltun Ruins.

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Chalbekal Motorbike Taxis

We took a motorbike taxi from Chablekal to get to the Dzbilchaltun Ruins for $12 Pesos ($.63 USD). These motorbike taxis are not exactly comfy but they are a blast and very inexpensive plus they are the only public transportation in many of the little towns and villages around Merida.

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Dzibilchaltun Ruins and The Mayan People's Museum

Dzibilchaltun features a fantastic museum, with several artifacts still in good shape. There was also the requisite pyramid that was climbable and boasted a building with the broadest set of stairs, a 100 yards wide in the Yucatan. https://mayanpeninsula.com/dzibilchaltun-museum/

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Snorkeling Xlakah Cenote at Dzbilchaltun

For us, the highlight of the day was snorkeling the Cenote Xlakah at the ruins. Xlakah cenote was completely open, and the water was nearly at the surface. There were lily pads in the middle of the pond with deep dark caves around the outside circumference. One cave was a cylinder 10 feet in diameter plunging nearly straight down practically to China. The sun caught some blue rocks part way down the cylinder, and they just shimmered like a drug-induced hallucination. The whole experience was topped off with schools of gorgeous colorful fish.

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Cafe Pop Restaurant in Merida Mexico

Then it was another motorbike taxi ride back to Chablekal, and a colectivo ride back to Merida just in time for supper. We tried Café Pop, a small diner recommended in some blog I had read. We stuffed ourselves with quesadilla bee,f taco fixings with of a pile of tender beef chunks, guacamole, and 10 white corn tortillas, a side order of Mexican rice with a fried egg on top (different but awesome), another side order of black beans with tortilla chips, flavorful salsa, coffee, and a bottle of water. It was way too much food, but it was terrific. The whole meal set us back about $17 USD including drinks and tip.

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Serenata Yucateca with Music and Dance at Merida Mexico

We had heard that Thursday nights are free concert nights at Parque Santa Lucia, a park on Calle 60 with several exclusive outdoor restaurants. These concerts are very popular and packed with people. Fortunately, we found a nice bleacher seat with a direct view of the stage. http://yucatantoday.com/santa-luc-2/?lang=en

 

The first band was a Mexican swing jazz band. While the band played, a professional Yucatan dance troupe performed the traditional Jarana folk dance with the men dressed in traditional whites and women in traditional hipil dresses with lots of added color accents. After the jazz band show, a storyteller came up and told three or four amusing stories.  That is, the crowd was laughing but being in Spanish, we didn’t have a clue what he was talking about. Next up was an unbelievable trio playing traditional Mexican music. One guitar player strummed intricate rhythms on a nylon string guitar. Another player wowed us with insanely fast and accurate solos, also on a nylon string guitar. The third musician laid down smooth bass lines, and chord fills on an electric 6 string bass. All the while they sang perfect 3-part harmonies with the oddest but tightest harmony chords imaginable. They were definitely great musicians, and the lead guitar player was world class.  Jarana Dancers: http://yucatantoday.com/yucatecan-traditions-vaquer-and-jarana/?lang=en.
Yucatecan “trova" Musicians: http://yucatantoday.com/yucatecan-trova-los-juglares/?lang=en.

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Parque Zoológico del Centenario

Merida Zoo in Merida Mexico

Day 14 - Friday, February 16, 2018. Today I practiced my guitar until 1 pm. It was the first time I played since the St. Croix Casino band gig. I have a folding electric travel guitar that when placed in its travel bag looks a lot like a gun. It has raised a few eyebrows in security lines, but it always gets through in the end. I also have a tiny Vox practice amp that isn’t much bigger than a guitar jack. In fact, the whole tiny unit plugs into the guitar jack and just sits there taking up hardly any room. The amp has effects and a small earphone jack (it’s way too small for a speaker). There is also an input jack where I plug in my iPod with the tracks of the songs I have to practice. What’s nice about these tracks is that all the guitars have been removed while the rest of the vocals and instruments remain.

At 1 pm we walked to the Park of the Americas. This is a four-square-block park built in 1945 with replicas of Mayan sculptures of gods and artworks. Reaching the park involved a four-mile walk through middle-to-upper class neighborhoods. Even here, however, we noticed several abandoned houses, including many former mansions. It is odd that in Mexico, or at least in the Yucatan, there are so many houses and buildings just abandoned to rot away. Doesn’t anyone take them over, or repossess them for resale before they completely deteriorate? Apparently not.

After visiting the Park of the Americas, we headed south to the zoo. We had heard that it had been recently renovated, so we were expecting something cute. The zoo was located on a sizeable well-shaded plot of land that had lots of kiddy playground equipment. There were also many vendors, typical of every Mexican commercial area. After miles of walking in the 90-degree sun, we were ready for some paletas. First, we tried a mamey paleta. Mamey is a pinkish-orange colored tropical fruit the size of a small coconut. It was good, but I liked the flavor of the nance fruit better. Then we tried a chocolate covered coconut paleta. Both were wonderfully cold and satisfying on such a hot day.

The zoo itself took up about 1/3 of the park. It is not the San Diego zoo that has become our ultimate favorite zoo of all time. However, the Merida Zoo was OK. There were excellent monkey displays, lots of cats, a bunch of colorful tropical birds with their enormous beaks, and so much more. Best of all, it was free. https://www.zoochat.com/community/media/categories/parque-zoologico-del-centenario.2486/?page=7

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RUTA PUUC RUINS

Pick up free bus tickets for Sunday and check transportation schedule

Delighted with our zoo visit, we headed back toward downtown. We bought a whole mango on a stick that was cut in a way that resembled a flower. It was a perfect way to eat a perfectly ripe mango.

Next, we walked to the TAME Bus Terminal to buy our Ruta Puuc Ruins bus tour tickets. The bus ticket is less than $10 USD each. There are entry fees at most of the sites which totals up to approximately $20 USD each person. So, for $30 USD each, you get a grand all-day-tour bus that takes you to 5 Mayan ruins.

Ruta Puuc has five separate sites of ruins ranging from the tiny Xlapak Ruins to the spectacular Uxmal Ruins. The sites are spread out over a 25-mile area, so a car is usually needed. However, the Oriente bus line has a Sunday-only Ruta Puuc free bus tour of all 5 sites. It isn’t exactly a tour in the traditional sense with a tour guide. Instead, Oriente takes you to each site and gives you time to roam each area. You get 35 minutes at the small sites like Labna, Xlapak, and Sayil, 50 minutes are allotted to the larger Kabah Ruins and 2 hours are given for the ultimate Uxmal Ruins, which is just about all you really need at each site. (Go to tab at top or bottom of webpage > click on Destinations/Mexico > Mexico Ruta Puuc for full-day trip experience. )

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El Trapiche in Merida Mexico

With our tickets purchased and ready for Sunday, we ate at El Trapiche, another blog-recommended downtown diner. We had beef tacos with piles of beef chunks, guacamole, black beans, and a zillion white corn tortillas; two tamales with a tomato sauce, a salsa, and a green chili sauce; washed down with horchata (the delicious cinnamon rice drink)  and an iced Jamaica, a pleasant hibiscus flower drink. https://www.facebook.com/RestauranteElTrapicheMerida/

We walked over 10 miles today, and my Rockport walking shoes were starting to hurt. I hiked all over southern Spain last November with them without a problem. I think they are getting worn out.