Saturday 31 January 2015

Mexico: Mérida & cenotes at Cuzamá

Day 3

So I woke up to a new facial feature – a mosquito bite, right on my cheek! Such a good look! But it was to be the start of many many bites for me this holiday – the Mexican mosquitoes love my blood! Even copious amounts of tequila didn’t put them off.

To start the day we hunted down breakfast in the sleepy town...

...ending up by breakfasting in Oxxo (the Mexican 'store24') which became very familiar to us on the road...I was delighted to find a skinny vanilla cappuccino though - not quite Starbucks but my caffeine addiction was appeased.

This morning we headed off to Cuzamá to see the town’s impressive cenotes.

What is a cenote I hear you ask!? Well it’s a water sink hole - essentially a subterranean swimming pool.  Cuzamá is particularly a good area to visit cenotes as it is home to three different styles which we were eager to explore.

But first, we had to get a horse-drawn railcart there – this ‘carriage’ is mounted onto old train tracks and your horse pulls you through the forest to the cenotes.

Occasionally it derails (if you take a corner too fast!) or where the track runs out but it’s basically like a tame rollercoaster – just adding to the day’s adventure.

Tip though – if you’re longlegged, don’t sit up front like I did because your feet will likely drag on the floor as the ground gets much higher in sections.

We approached our first cenote – where we thought they were joking when they walked us to a tree and said “we’re here”! 

It quickly became apparent that they weren’t and we stripped off to our swimmers and clambered down a steep wooden ladder…

…which took us, much to our surprise, into a roomy cave, filled with stalactites and stalagmites. There were (of course!) no lights so we fumbled around using phones and a couple of torches between us.

We went for a dip in the underground river and wandered through the cave, exploring our first cenote.

We climbed back up the ladder into the sunshine and reboarded our horse carriages to our next venue.

Here we headed into a large underground cave, lit by some ‘natural skylights’, showing off the gorgeous bright blue and clear water inside. The water wasn’t as cold as I feared, but definitely ‘refreshing’.

We jumped, swam and splashed around for a while!

Then it was time to head to cenote number three with our horses once more.

After this third stop we headed back to the ‘horse station’ where there were now queues of people waiting for horses – we hadn’t realized how many people visited as we had left early and fortunately beaten the crowds once more!

We headed back to our hotel for a sneaky sunshine session next to our rooftop pool – just check out this view…

After a little R&R a couple of us headed out to explore the city a little more...

...ending up at “Mercado Municipal Lucas de Gálvez – Merida’s large market and neighbouring streets filled with shops and stalls.

Around Calle 65, everywhere was full of chilies, spices, shoes and clothing…

New Year's Eve decorations - piñatas 

After stocking up on some snacks, we headed out for dinner at “La Chaya Maya”. This Lonely Planet recommended is restaurant is great – so much so that there’s queues to get in, so make sure you book! It’s a gorgeous colonial building serving tasty classic yucateco food.

I started with a chaya frozen margarita. Chaya is also known as 'tree spinach', from which the restaurant takes its name.

For dinner I ate “Tamal Colado” – marinated turkey in masa (a polenta style cornmeal dough), wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.

Outside the rain started up again as we ran through the streets once more back to the hotel - definitely not the weather I was expecting from Central America!


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