Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cenotes and Pueblas in the Yucatan

Today was a day for some exploring, Aaron and Wayne had decided to hire a taxi and visit some more Mayan ruins while Steve and I joined a tour that would take us to visit a couple of small rural villages and then ride on small horse drawn train carriages to visit and swim in three different Cenotes.  Cenotes (or sinkholes) are large underground caverns with the most amazing clear water, despite some very sore and stiff muscles from yesterday's fall I was looking forward to this adventure.

Our first stop was a small village, where the main form of transport were little home made trolley's attached to motorbikes.  Everything around the town was transported by these little trolleys.  They filled the roll of buses, taxis, furniture removalists, water delivery etc.   In the main square next to the church all the drivers gathered waiting for their next job.  We had time to wander around the town, check out the church and Mayan temple which was beside the church.

Interesting point!  Churches were build by the spanish conquerors and catholic church next to the temples in order to have the most impact of drawing the Mayans away from their "heathen ways".  Luckily for the Mayans they managed to continue to keep their traditional beliefs, adapting them to fit in with the introduced rules of the Catholic church.          From the village we continued through the rural country side passing an old hacienda that dated back to the days when the area was famous for the production of henequen or sisal.  This is the fibre from agave plant which is used to make rope, from string that is used to make hammocks to the thick ropes that are used to moor the worlds largest ships.  The production and plantations play an important part in the history of the Yucatan and its people.                
We finally arrived at the small village where we were going to catch our ride to the cenotes.  The transport was arranged by the ingenious idea of one of the village elders.  For over ten years a small colectivo of the local men of the village worked together to provide transport to the cenotes, grandfathers passing on the tradition to their sons and grandsons.  We boarded small open 4 seater carriages and horsed where harnessed to the front. They pulled us along a narrow train track through the bush, to the three different cenotes that were open to the public.
  At each cenote, we climbed down narrow ladders into the gloomy caverns lit by rays of sunlight pouring through the small holes in the ceiling.  At the bottom of the ladders were a couple of platforms that we could jump into the water from.  The heights depending on your level of daring.  Steve was able to practise a couple of dive bombs into the crystal clear water from a platform that was about 15 metres above the water.

  After climbing out of each cenote we jumped back into our little carriage and headed off to the next one.  Every now and again we would have to stop and our drivers (a young man and his little brother) would pull our trolley off the rails to let another group coming back the other way pass through.  They would then put the trolley back on the rails, we would jump on and be on our way.  

When we finally returned (a little drippy and dusty) we were able to change at the local restaurant and then were provided with a delicious lunch before we made our way back to Merida. 

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