Page 5: Ticul, the Puuc Route, and
Uxmal, January 31 - February 2.
Of course the first 40 minutes
of the ride to Ticul involved finding our way out of Merida into
the countryside. We started out just as we had a couple of days
before on our short loop ride. We passed through several small
villages. The photo below left is in Uayalceh. Many of the homes
in villages like this are in the traditional Mayan style. Below
right, bicycle cart in Sacalum.
The problem with the ride to Ticul
was sun and heat. In the very beginning we were headed generally
southeast, and then due south, so the sun was in our faces the
entire time, and there were no clouds for relief. Also, there
was a mild headwind, nothing terrible, but enough to slow us down
and make the ride that much longer. We stopped in the shade at
various villages, but by the time we reached Ticul, we were both
fried, and Barbara was nearly as red as a cooked lobster!
We first found our way to the hotel
that's supposedly the best in town, and it was perfectly fine,
but it was right in the center of things, and this is a busy,
noisy place. Barbara hoped for something quieter and greener,
so despite my grousing, we searched out Posada el Jardin, and
were we glad that we did! The grounds of this posada are shady
and the room we got was basic but clean, with a separate kitchen
area and two good beds. Better yet, there was a pool just outside
with surprisingly cool water. Just what we needed!
Our room, at left, was
tucked behind a fig tree, just a few yards from the pool.
As far as we could tell, there was no one else at Posada
Jardin, and we promised the friendly owner we'd put something
on Trip Advisor about how much we liked it.
On Tuesday we pushed on to Santa
Elena, via Oxkutzcab and the Puuc Route, about 75 kilometers or
47 miles. Don't ever let anyone tell you that the Yucatan is all
flat! When we headed south from Oxkutzcab and climbed into the
Puuc hills, there were a few short stretches that must have been
12 degrees at least.
About 7 kilometers south of Oxkutzcab,
we stopped at the Grutas de Loltun, the largest caverns in the
Yucatan. You can't go in without a guide; we were joined by two
Hungarian couples and went on our one-hour walk underground. The
caves were quite impressive, but of course it was difficult to
get photos without lights or a tripod. These are the best I could
The Caverns of Loltun are the biggest
in the Yucatan. They were carved by a river through the
limestone. Both Maya and pre-Mayan people used them as
a source of water and clay. At one point the Mayans fortified
part of the cavern as a defensive position in a war agains
the Spanish. Below right: Paintings of hands were done
on a cave wall; we saw similar hand painting later, at
For the next 20 miles or so, we
rolled through the Puuc hills, passing three archaeological sites
along the way. We stopped and rested at one of them, Labna, but
decided not to go in because we're spending too much on entry
road was well paved, extremely quiet, and gently rolling. The
only problem was that even the gentlest of hills can be a miserable
experience in direct, 90 degree sun! But all things considered,
this was quite a pleasant ride green, little or no litter,
curves and occasional hills more like cycling in Vermont
than anyplace else in the Yucatan!
We arrived in Santa Elena in mid
afternoon and headed for Bungalows Sacbe, where we had a basic
but clean room with a terribly hot shower, and a cold-water pool
down the jungly path. The grounds are green and attractive, and
we both fell asleep in the hammocks.
We stayed at Bungalows Sacbe for
two nights so that we could spend time Wednesday at Uxmal. It
was wonderful, literally, full of wonders. The buildings were
more graceful and beautifully decorated than those at Chichen
The Magician's Palace is the most imposing
structure at Uxmal. The stairway is lined on either side
with faces of Chac, the Rain God. Unfortunately climbing
the steps is now forbidden.
Below: Visitors are still allowed to
climb the Great Pyramid, but it is steep going.
We made it to the top and back
down in one piece. (That shouldn't be taken for
granted. Rules against climbing most of the pyramids at
ancient ruins in Yucatan were implemented just after another
American geezer tumbled to her death at Chichen Itza a
few years ago.) The Palace of the Magician, the Nunnery,
and other structures are visible behind us.
Below: A view of the Magician's Palace
from the pyramid.
This is another structure at Uxmal,
not yet restored, called The Dovecote. We thought it was
one of the most beautiful. There were many more.
Remember the hands on the walls
of the Caverns of Loltun? Below left are hands on the underside
of an arch at Uxmal. These hands are "positives," that
is, the hands are painted against a light background. The hands
in the cave were "negatives," blank silhouettes outlined
by a darker color. Apparently this had to do with the contrast
between the underworld and the world above ground.
Below right: There were more iguanas
running around Uxmal than there were tourists and there
were many tourists.
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