Day one is forgotten; I have a new life goal
Merida Travel Blog› entry 4 of 10 › view all entries
I can´t imagine a more perfect day. Did yesterday even happen?
We met Dr. Vick and Anna at the restaurant for breakfast. My new favorite fruit juice is watermelon. They just put it in a blender and pour it from a jug, no water or sugar added. It´s a subtle flavor, not too sweet, and I can only describe it as liquid refreshment. I was ready to start the day.
Jen wasn´t feeling well after yesterday, so she and Vin stayed at the hotel while the rest of us headed out to Hacienda Yuncu. The hacienda is the center of a small village populated by the ex-worker´s of the hacienda. It is actually owned by Dr. Vick´s friend, but he lets her stay there whenever she likes. The people of the village think she is the owner, since she is there so often.
The hacienda is amazing! Driving through the gate, the brightly painted main house stands on a small hill overlooking the henequen drying fields (no longer in use. The whole hacienda is no longer a working henequen farm after the government abolished the hacienda system of land ownership.) We got a tour of the house. It is basically a long, wide, tall hallway divided into rooms. The bedrooms are at the far end. Dr. Vick´s room is the master bedroom, which used to be the office where the workers would line up to be paid.
After the tour, we went out to the pool for a swim. The pool was being filled with water pumped from the cenote underneath the pool.
We jumped in the pool for a while, enjoying the water. Dr. Vick hadn´t joined us yet, and was busy taking care of some business with the groundskeeper. When she came to get us, she suggested that we see the cenote before the sun was too far past its high point. That way, the most light would be coming in through the well.
The entrance to the cenote was a small hole in the rock under the pool. We had to crouch down and climb down a rusty ladder to a platform in the cave, about 30 feet above the water.
The cenote is beautiful. The water is perfectly clear. The shaft of light coming down from the well illuminated the water at its deepest point. Dr. Vick told us that no one, not even professional cave divers, had ever found the bottom of the Yuncu cenote. Obviously, a jump from the platform into the water below was in order. I psyched myself up, took a deep breath and plunged! I landed right in the shaft of light, a side of which struck an underwater rock outcropping before continuing down into the abyss. After dropping as deep as I dared, I surfaced and let out a whoop.
Justin followed with a jump of his own, while the girls climbed down another ladder into the water. We swum around for a while and walked up the shallow end of the cenote as far back into the cave as we dared. Aside from the dwindling light coming from the well-hole in the ceiling, it was completely dark. Dr. Vick told us some history and lore about the cenote, as well as some amusing anecdotes about how the local people feel about it.
It was time for one more jump before we had to leave. I wanted to do a double jump with Justin, and then a triple jump when I realized Tara was going as well. The metal platform didn´t feel stable enough, so we nixed that idea. Tara found a safe place for her glasses, then leapt. I was so proud of her.
Before I jumped, I asked Dr. Vick what a good Mayan war cry would be. I can´t remember the Mayan words, but the translation was "Petrifying War Serpent!" With my battle cry announced, I jumped again from the platform, determined to see how deep I could go. My head started pounding before I even got close to the rock outcropping where the light was hitting. It was probably another 30 or 40 feet to there, and I was already pretty deep. I surfaced, waited for Justin to jump, and then we climbed out.
There was a small adventure climbing out, as Tara´s glasses fogged up and I had to guide her up the ladder with my voice. At one point, Justin shouted out as 30 bats flew down from the ceiling and dive-bombed us. We all got out in one piece, and jumped back into the hacienda pool to wash off.
After dressing, I took a walk around the aqueducts along the tops of the hacienda walls. The walls sectioned off the old henequen growing fields. Tara, Justin and Sabrina started to follow me, but turned back. I was fascinated by the walls, so I kept going. For some reason, they reminded me of the computer game "Myst." Old walls, overgrown with vines and trees, no other people around, and silence except for the buzzing of insects. Every now and then the wall would divide, and I would follow a path to a deadend. Then I would turn around, walk back to the fork and take the other path. I eventually looped back towards the hacienda, and past the decrepit henequen processing mill. Now it really felt like "Myst"; a run down building, filled with rusty machinery, pipes going out in all directions, and a huge smokestack.
Back at the hacienda, we loaded up the van with Dr. Vick´s luggage for the week, took one last look around, and headed back towards Merida. On the way back, I find out that there are still haciendas for sale, and they aren´t that much more expensive than buying a home in the USA. My new goal in life (one of many unattainables): hacienda owner. Apparently the killer expense is the upkeep. I still think it would be worth it.
Back in Merida, we met up with Jen and Vin for dinner. Dr. Vick and Anna left for their friend´s house; we will meet tomorrow for breakfast. The rest of us went out to eat. Afterwards, we continued onto the Plaza Grande, to see the Cathedral and the Governor's Palace.
The Governor's Palace is filled with the powerful and haunting works of Fernando Castro Pacheco. Over 20 huge murals adorn the wall, depicting Mayan mythology, scenes and famous figures from Yucatecan history. My favorites are Hombres des maiz (Men of the Corn) which shows the creation myth of the Mayan people being born from corn, and Las manos de henequen (The Sisal Cutter's Hands). A simple mural of 2 giant hands, cut, bloody and calloused seemed to encapsulate the whole history of oppression the Mayan people have gone through, while the strength in the hands symbolizes their enduring spirit. Many of the murals moved me greatly. They cast the hacienda I had been swimming at earlier in a much different light.
After the palace, we shopped for a while, then took a carriage ride around Merida, the "Hollywood" of Mexico.
Back to the hotel, shower, then sleep. We have an early day tomorrow. The hotel has moved us to a different room, the "Shaman." Tara and I got the private bedroom in the back while Justin and Sabrina shared the front room with the futon and hammock.
Driving tomorrow, the big 9 hour push to Palenque.