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Dave and Jan's travels, day 246:

20th January
Now, so far all you've heard about in the Yucatan is a vast series of Mayan ruins and a side trip to Cuba. This article is here to fill you in on the other attractions of the Yucatan, which, whilst they do pale into insignificance beside those ruins, are still worthy of recording. I'll start with a quick recap of the itinerary. Arrived in Valladolid from Tulum on the 11th Jan, one night there and onto Merida for two nights, a night ruin hunting in Uxmal, two more nights in Merida, three in Havana and back to Merida for yet one more night.

Not much to say about Valladolid. It's a nice friendly town, like so many in Mexico, with a central Plaza which comes alive in the evenings for people of all ages to stroll, chat and just hang out. It has a pretty church, as shown at the right, and a cenote. The latter is a giant natural water hole, about twenty meters across and apparently as many deep. These were critical dry-season resources for the Mayans, but today they're just pretty to look at and, for the odd brave soul, to swim in.

The next couple of photos at the side come from the caves at Loltun. These are my kind of caves: giant ampitheatres as much as forty metres wide and high. None of that grubby scrabbling around in little holes. They are quite magnificent, and have been populated by people on and off for more than 4,000 years. The oldest inhabitants have left little other than a few primitive paintings, but the Mayans that followed around 1,500 years ago left all manner of oddments. Given that a Mayan architect's idea of a wide room is 3 metres, the caves must have seemed quite stunning. Moving on, we find that the caves were occupied as late as the nineteenth century during the "War of the castes", when the Mayans came within a hairsbreadth of booting out the colonial powers. Unfortunately, just as they were paused to sack the colonial capital, the rains came early, so obviously they all went home to plant corn (?) By the time they'd done that, the colonials had regrouped and the rest is history.

Merida is a large industrial city. Its centre is pretty nice and compact though, and boast a healthy floating population of gringo tourists. There are several nice churches to look at. It does boast a fine anthropology museum with, as you might expect, a good Mayan collection. It also has a splendid coffee shop which we visited about five times, although that's about as far as good dining goes in this place. And, the Plaza features a couple of buskers of the kind that pick people out of the crowd to humiliate. You'll all be pleased to hear that one chap selected David, who was then required to adopt various macho postures, which as you might imagine, he carried out with only partial success.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Loltun caves

Loltun caves

Church, Valladolid