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Elaine and Peter’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 29 Feb 2020

Location: Merida, Central America

MapWe had a much more favourable opinion of the Gulf of Mexico this morning. The air was clear and the bright blue of the sky reflected in the water as we drove a little way along the coast road.

We soon turned inland to discover some out of the way places in the Yucatan peninsula.
Today has turned out to be another fabulous day. The road took us through small villages full of rural Mexican life.
There were few cars on the road, with many villager riding mopeds or bikes, or just walking. You have never seen a beginning and end of the school day like these have with the school gate surrounded by mopeds or three wheeled bikes......several adults, children and babies piled onto single mopeds looked a bit precarious but the only way probable to manoeuvre the narrow streets.

Our first destination was a gem, the Mayan site at Kabah. It was a very small well preserved and maintained site Codz Poop named as the main building. It is a semi restored place. There are more than 250 masks representing Chac the rain God withnhis distinctive crooked nose. Iguanas ran about amidst the huge array of sculptures. At the entrance were large cisterns for collecting watery as there are few opportunities here for other water supply.

The temperature had reached thirty degree by the time we arrived at our next port of call, a traditional Mayan village called Santa Ellen's, so it was very hot in the Mayan house. In these villages the main language is the local Mayan dialect. We visited the house of an elderly couple who welcomed us and showed us round his plot of people land complete with his own well. Here there were a series of thatched rooted single roomed dwellings, examples of how many Indian popiulations use local materials to build their houses in styles particular to their region. Rooves are steep and thatched with palms or grass whilst overhanging eaves protect the walls of poles and wattle and daub. Many houses in the Yucatan here have walls of rubble and masonry.
This was a fascinating insight and a privilege to be in their house. He showed us round with pride before demonstrating the tradional Mayan method of rope making, sisal, from the agave leaf whilst his wife made us tortillas on a stone in a smoked filled hut.Nothing was wasted and everything is for a purpose:-the gourds grown to use as eating vessels, the silk cotton plant, the monkey nut trees, a shrine to remember deceased family members and worship...all in a small plot of land crowded with everything the family would need. Amazing.

Last stop was the most amazing of all. The most magnificent archaeological site of Uxmal. Once in their lifetime, women were supposed to visit the oracle to aid fertility. Did it work, who knows?
The city's history is uncertain but most buildings have been dated back to 7-10th century. The scarcity of water in the area is evident here with the discovery of the same water cisternas as at Kabah and again richly elaborate and detailed has relief and carvings devoted to Chac, the God of rain.
The most striking monument is called the Magicians Pyramid. It stands at 35 metres high and its sides are incredibly steep. Legend has it that it was built in one night by a dwarf with supernatural powers, i.e. The magician. In actual,fact the building shows that this could not possibly be true as there are five clear stages of construction. The biggest cravings of Chac are at the temple at the top with the mouth being the entrance to the temple....symbolically once the priest entered here, he was leaving the earthly world and moving into the supernatural.

The masterpiece of the architectural site was held to be that of the nunnery given its name because the Spaniards believed that the seventy four small rooms surrounding the courtyard were monastic cells.
So much rich symmetrical low relief work with images of Chac on every corner, his Hooked nose pointing up when asking for rain and pointing down wards to deliver the water to the earth.

Everything here is extremely well preserved including the ball court and the governors palace. The climb up here was well worth it as there was a stunning view of the whole site.

Another fine example of the most clever engineering and skill.

From here we went onto the city of Merida, a very different world entirely.
Nicknamed the white city it has many fine colonial buildings in the centre. Our bus did an orientation tour before dropping us at our hotel in the centre, as it is too big a place to walk round. It was Avery important city in colonial times and many huge mansions line the main boulevards. It is said to have more millionaires per head of the population than any where else in the world, which is why it has so many parks and statues and squares and wide boulevards.
It s wealth came from the industrial development of making sisal, which it exported worldwide. A world away from the ancient traditions.

Again we are reminded of the diversity of this country,.....