Central America Snapshot

Monteverde Travel Blog

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Campeche. With Maricela and Gerardo Caceras

I experienced an unprecedented level of happiness during my last couple of days in Campeche. It was something like being in a place where I belong. Verbalizing or rationalizing it is too limiting but I will try. First, its great location on Caribbean coast and its breathtaking sunsets make it one of my top choices for settling down. I have recently realized that I want to live beside large bodies of water (that’s why I was so happy to stay in Chicago for over seven years). Second, Campeche people, being very humble and relaxed and at the same time well educated and highly appreciative of arts, are a great company for one’s daily life. Last but not least, Campeche’s relatively small size and very comfortable provincial ambiance are very inviting for wanderers like me. The peak of my week-long Campeche stay was meeting and making friends with Gerardo and Maricela Caceras.

Merida Symphony
Gerardo owns Campeche’s best dance school along with several other businesses. The school performance during Cervantino festival filled up the whole audience of Campeche’s most prominent theater • I couldn’t find a seat there and enjoyed excellent dancing while standing all the time J


Arriving in Merida, the cultural and political center of the whole Yucatan peninsular ended up nearly finishing my life journey. Making my way to the hostel and crossing one of my first Merida’s streets I marginally escaped being hit by a car. Merida feels like a different country and Yucatecos would never say that they are Mexicans.

Victor Salas - the creator of Yucatan state Ballet Company
Its grandeur, its bustling pace, its somewhat rough attitude reminded me of Moscow or New York. Chicago despite its vastness preserved that provincial flavor similar to Campeche. Yucatan has recently been making major efforts to rejuvenate its unique cultural heritage. The core repertoire of Merida’s symphony orchestra is based on contemporary and traditional Yucatecan music richly syncopated and rhythmically diverse. Symphony’s annual budget is nearly two million US dollars allowing them to attract world class talent from Britain, Russia, Australia and both Americas and making the orchestra one of the finest in Mexico. Sometime in early spring of 2008 Yucatan will finally have its full scale dance company financed by the state government.
Kabah. Templo de Mascarones
I was very fortunate to meet and make good friends with Victor Salas who directed and produced several classical ballet performances including Giselle and Swan Lake. Victor being incredibly talented and charismatic is also a true enthusiast of fine arts. He used his own assets to finance all of his productions and he is the one who has been promoting and orchestrating the creation of the state dance company. Best of luck to you and your new great project, Victor !


The twenty days in Yucatan were also a final cord in my Mesoamerican studies. I visited over fifteen Mayan ruins in Yucatan while learning the distinct features of Puuc, Cheyen, Rio Bec and Peten architectural styles. Chetumal museum of Mayan history totally blew my mind. Its outstanding and highly educational exposition gave me a chance to refine my knowledge of such crucial things as Mayan count, calendars, and basics of glyph writings.

Southern Belize. Sunrise in Placencia
It was a perfect recap of my 4.5-month-long Mesoamerican adventure.


Coming back to Belize was particularly pleasant as I suddenly felt very positive about that country. The shock of my first visit was completely gone and even the deteriorating Belize City looked quite nice in the light of morning sun. Toledo department in the very south of Belize is a real hidden jewel of that nation. Incredible mix of races and cultures with a strong presence of Maya makes Toledo’s atmosphere quite different from that of Northern and Central Belize. My goal was to find my way to Doyle’s Delight, the country’s tallest mountain. I was not particularly lucky in accomplishing it but I met several great people because of that. They really helped me to work out a realistic approach. Now I’m looking forward to come back in early December and launch a week-long expedition to the heart of Belize jungle where the “roof of Belize” still only sees a couple of dozens visitors every year.

Montana de Celaque. The rooftop of Honduras


And then I took off to jet through Honduras, Nicaragua and half of Costa Rica to meet Dmitrii, my true buddy from Chicago. I managed to get a glimpse of Honduras, which was another big surprise and broke my Soviet-era stereotypes about that country (base of Nicaraguan contras, banana republic, marionette government • you name it). And these are the highlights of my short Honduran stay: meeting Lenca, extremely nice and really beautiful indigenous people; climbing Montana de Celaque, Honduran tallest peak, and setting my personal record of 2,000+m of one-day elevation gain; falling in love with Tegucigalpa, country’s capital sitting in a very picturesque mountainous valley.


I only spent a night in Nicaragua in between buses and the only thing I can say about the country so far is that they charged me $45 just for transiting it ($35 • visa, $10 • border crossing charges).

That is nasty, what else can I say…


And finally I made it to San Jose, an interesting mix of contemporary restaurants, cafes and supermarkets crowded with nicely dressed people creating quite modern vibe, and extremely dirty and quite dangerous city center that looks far worse than any other Latin American capital I’ve ever seen.


Last three days were packed with my Chicago memories brought to life with Dmitrii’s arrival. Dmitrii is my great friend, my true buddy and these days it really feels like I’m back to my Chicago life. We exchange news, enjoy sunrises, climb crazy rocks and bathe in waterfalls, drink good wine and share a joint of poor ganja.


Today we went for an outstanding canopy tour • a totally new experience for me as I’ve never done anything like that…




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Campeche. With Maricela and Gerard…
Campeche. With Maricela and Gerar…
Merida Symphony
Merida Symphony
Victor Salas - the creator of Yuca…
Victor Salas - the creator of Yuc…
Kabah. Templo de Mascarones
Kabah. Templo de Mascarones
Southern Belize. Sunrise in Placen…
Southern Belize. Sunrise in Place…
Montana de Celaque. The rooftop of…
Montana de Celaque. The rooftop o…
Dmitrii and I are getting ready fo…
Dmitrii and I are getting ready f…
Chetumal Museum of Maya History. T…
Chetumal Museum of Maya History. …
Monteverde. Cloud forest
Monteverde. Cloud forest
photo by: smhirsch