A real glimpse of the Yucatan jungle

Pensive Green Heron.  I think this is my favorite ever shot

Angel, my driver in Merida, was intuitive about what I was enjoying.  I got very animated about nature ‘naturalis’ and he suggested that we go to Celestun the day after visiting Mayapan and Dzibiltchaltun archeological sites.  Celestun is famous for its large flocks of pink flamingos that live on what is now a nature reserve.  It is a small beach town situated on an isthmus in the Gulf of Mexico, right around the corner from the Caribbean.  The night before I excitedly googled the area and was concerned about the small boats that take you out to see the flamingos (fear of water in small boats).  Additionally, some of the articles mentioned that the influx of tourists was affecting where the flamingos nested.  They keep moving further away from humans.  I knew the beach would be magnificent but noted that there was a small Nature Park, Jaltun Parque Recreativo, just before the town.

This was a common black hawk. Common for the Yucutan… There was a nest close by.

Angel looked at me quizzically, as he had never gone there before, but followed his GPS and we arrived at a scrubby bit of jungle.  I looked at it uncertainly not knowing that this was going to be the cherry on the cake in Mexico.  No one spoke English but the gentleman who guided me had his wildlife book in both Spanish and English.  We excitedly chatted and I discovered that he was an Ortega – my cousin!  It takes me a while to get my eye in, when hunting for critters, but my guide was an expert.  He could identify every bird song, every tree and all the critters. It’s amazing how you don’t really need a common language when you are in tune with nature.  I perfectly understood that he was telling me about the wonders of nature – one tree, very close to another, was very toxic but the other provided the antidote.  Most of the animals were in the jungle but there were a few in small caged areas.

This is an African tree, planted by birds!

One of them was the Yucatan spiny tailed iguana.  I asked Senor Ortega if I could hold it and he explained,with concern, that they were very fast and I would have to hold it firmly behind the neck.  As an expert lizard catcher, I eagerly held out my hands.  It was a chilly winter morning in Celestun and the poor wee thing was cold.  I snuggled it into my sweater for warmth, delighting in the opportunity to be up close to an indigenous critter.

Carpenter Woodpecker Stop tapping so I can get a decent shot!!!

My guide was delighted at my derring-do and we walked into the jungle where he heard a carpenter woodpecker.  We tracked it down and he was more excited than me!  I knew my camera wasn’t up to a good shot because the woodpecker wouldn’t stop tapping but patiently waited for my guide to get just the right shot!  He was terribly impressed by my ability to track quietly and see birds.  Ah, that native DNA comes in handy at times…

Morelet’s Crocadillo

This is a shot of a Morelet Crocadillo  just gently basking in the stream.  I have seen many alligators and crocodiles but that might have been my only opportunity to see this particular crocodile that is found only in Central America.  Just call me Crocodile Kerry…

A special treat was to pop my head inside the boa’s enclosure and take a shot while they were both hissing at me.  When I got back to the car, tired and happy, Angel looked horrified at my shots of serpientes and shuddered!  Off we drove, along the road into Celestun.  It struck me afterwards that I had been cuddling all sorts of critters and it didn’t even cross my mind to wash my hands.  This might be why I got a parasite in Egypt.

More shots to follow of the Yucatan jungle


Dzibilchaltún and the Temple of the Dolls

Temple of the Dolls

Try saying that when you have had a couple of glasses of Mexican Rosé…  Dzibilchaltún, (Dzeebeelchaltoon is the pronunciation and it translates as ‘the place with writing on the walls) is a Maya archeological site close to the city of Mérida in Yucatan, Mexico.  Seven small clay or stone figurines were found at the Temple of the Dolls which led to the name and it is built under the ruins of a previous pyramid.  The city has been continuously occupied for 3000 years.  It was exciting walking towards the Temple along the ‘sacbe’ or white road wondering what type of religious processions took place there.

The white road

The cenôte is likely the reason why the city was situated in that location and it is one of the largest, deepest in the Yucatan.  Dzibilchaltún was a wealthy port, close to the Caribbean and local salt production.  Archeologists have studied just a portion of the site and have found up to 8000 structures – it must have been a buzzing city with a peak population of about 20,000 to 40,000 people, even larger than Mayapan.  Dzibilchaltún was not as remote or quiet as Mayapan but still relatively quiet with many local visitors, some expats and non-tourists just like me!  Throughout the ages Dzibilchaltún has changed from a city to a town to its current status as a village.  It began to decline in popularity after the rise of Chichen Itza.

Dzibiltchaltun Cenote

water hyacinths at cenote

When the Conquistadores arrived they used the local stone from previous structures to build a 16th century chapel which is now also a ruin.

remains of 16th century chapel

Eight stucco masks of the Rain God Chaac were found in the Temple of the Dolls.  The Yucatan has no natural lakes or rivers so rain is still much needed to fill the cenotes and water crops.  My upbringing in Scotland has given me enough rain to last a lifetime…  At the equinoxes the sun shines right through the entrance to the Temple of the Dolls creating a fantastic effect.

Remains of a pyramid at Dzibiltchaltun

Tunnel into Pyramid

Little flash of red in jungle

On a final side note, my Mexican Rose wine was quite delicious and went well with the food in Yucatan, which is hearty.  The Spanish brought wine-making to Mexico and most of it comes from Baja, just below California.

Racists come in every color…

Me with my mum and dad.  Is my Dad dark enough for you?

I recently wrote a tongue in cheek post entitled Hueheucoyotl is mischief making. Sometimes I take for granted that many of my followers know all about my ancestry and DNA. New readers must look at my profile picture and envision someone Scandinavian or Irish – both are correct. My name Kerry is a giant clue.

I very rarely receive unpleasant comments (if ever?) – the spam is just that. The comment below, on the above post, incensed me.

Typical white woman think she can just claim our culture. Also just necause you want to interpret things as the work of Huehuecoyotl it does not even remotely mean you have facilitated contact. What a joke, if only my teacher could hear this hahaha. I am Mexican and Navajo descent as well, Coyote is my spirit brotjer/reflection so you’re literally getting it from the horses mouth :p (sic)

Perhaps I should have just deleted it but this is my response –

I will shortly delete both of these comments but how dare you! I have both North American and Central American Native DNA with a long line of Mexican ancestors that I can trace back to the 1700s. My grandfather was born on the Chickasaw Nation reservation in Purcell, OK. Why don’t you go take some lessons on DNA, recessive genetics that produce blue eyed blondes, and more importantly on etiquette? You would make President Trump proud with your racist views. I can choose whichever spirit reflection I want. It’s unlikely I received your opinion from the horse’s mouth but from his ass.

The more I ruminated on it, the more I thought that I would write this post.  It sounded like a young person with a chip on his shoulder.  Try living in a Scottish public housing estate with the name de Ortega.  My only advantage was that I was not discriminated against in the work field as I might have been if I had stayed in California, my birth state.  Most people of Mexican origin are happy to accept me as a half cousin but sometimes I know that I am not quite Mexican enough.  In truth, nobody from Mexico is indigenous because the native tribes both north and south came across the ice passage from Siberia and Asia.

This is my Grandma Juanita and my great aunt. I don’t think there is any doubt about their Mexican heritage. Which one is my grandma?

Mestizo means mixed and can be used as a mongrel insult.  We should all be proud that most of us are mixed.  It should give us less reason to hate each other but even Hitler had some Jewish blood. Not all my family were happy about a Catholic marrying a Protestant, both of whom no longer believed in our faiths. I have embraced my Catholic upbringing with a sense of nostalgia and happily pray in churches all over the world. None of that means that I believe in institutionalized religion but I enjoy elements from most beliefs and faiths.

There was no vision about Huehuecoyotl being my spirit guide, just a happy quirkiness in embracing one of my many roots, with no offence intended. I like Freya, leprechauns and a wide variety of saints. My unwelcome commentator has not responded to my rather snarky reply. After a few days of working with an impossible millennial, I feel a little sympathy but not much.

Is this Mexican enough?

Or is this white enough?

Mayapán Ruinas – sshhh!

Temple of Kukulcan

Although I have been to the Yucatan area of Mexico a few times, I have never visited the famous pyramids. I have visited Tulum, the youngest Maya site, as you can read in an older blog. As much as Chechen Itza fascinates me, my almost phobic fear of too many tourists, has made me avoid it. Before this rapidly organized trip to Merida, I researched travel blogs to see how easy it would be to hire a driver to reach some of the more remote archeological sites. Apparently it was as easy as negotiating with a taxi driver, especially since I only wanted to go for 4 hours at a time.


After I arrived at my newly renovated hotel, I asked the receptionist about a driver. She told me that a driver had just handed in some cards. I said that websites had indicated that 800 pesos was reasonable for 4 hours. When she called him, he counter offered 1,100 pesos which is about $60. That seemed fair and he arrived very promptly in a very clean new red car. He was a charming young man, perhaps in his late 30s, rejoicing in the name Angel Ku. Ku is a native name meaning frypan. He had a little English and I had bad Spanish but we communicated perfectly well. I explained that I didn’t like crowds, so off we went to the Mayapán Zona Arqueológica, not to be confused with the town of Mayapán.

Carving detail

The archeological ruins were in excellent condition, it cost just a few pesos and there were about 20 other visitors in what was once a city of 17,000 people. Between the 1200s and 1400s it was the capital of the Maya, situated about 30 miles south east of Merida and 70 miles west of Chichen Itza. Mayapán had about 4000 structures within the city walls and many more outside, presumably for workers and farmers. One of the most attractive temples is the Temple of Kukulcan – it is the light version as the temple at Chichen Itza is more intricate and structurally sound. The limestone used at Mayapán is an inferior grade, perhaps all that was available in that location? It is believed that the founder of Mayapán was King Kukulcan (aka Quezalcoactl) after the fall of Chichen Itza.
There are some unique elements to the site with so many rounded buildings and no ball courts. This is the Temple Redondo –

Temple Redondo

View from Redondo to Pyramid

There were 26 cenotes (sinkholes providing water) around the city which perhaps explains the high population or vice versa. It has a central plaza which was surrounded by government buildings and houses of nobles. Other houses within the walled area encircled patios. Mayapán has a rather bloody history with shafts filled with sacrificial victims but at some point it was an important center of trade all across Central America. A wide range of foods were eaten and grown; there is some evidence of slaves which suggests wealth of the nobility. There is some evidence that there was a death cult. I mused if a large population and perhaps a catastrophic weather change might have contributed to the fighting with other tribes and the ultimate demise of Mayapán but that is pure supposition on my part. All great empires fall eventually, take note USA.

Inside the round tower

It was utterly magical to be in a pyramid city, almost alone with endless acreage of jungle right beside the site. If I had walked into the jungle, I might never have been found again. The photograph below shows how steep the pyramid climb was but it was so worth it! You really had to go up on hands and feet. On the way down I sat on my bottom and climbed down that way. If I had stood up, the steepness would have terrified me. It amused me that the teenagers just copied what I did (and they were a tad slower).


It was blissfully quiet with no signs of any current habitations. If you visit, there are no facilities at the sight – no restrooms and you can only travel by car, bus or local bus. Please don’t tell too many people… La belleza estaba en la tranquilidad – the beauty was in the tranquility. There are no vendors, just some staff and it is still being excavated by archaeologists.

panorama of Mayapan

Kerry musing

Huehuecoyotl is my new best friend…

My gorgeous four poster bed in Merida…note the mosquito net

Doesn’t it look gorgeous?  The tiles are original from the 17th century mansion.  The French owners have recently created this boutique hotel and coordinated everything with the tiles.  The back wall is the palest dove gray as is the new futon beside the bed.  The lamps were made of local limestone and I am taking the photograph from the stairs (yes two levels) in my suite leading to the brand new bathroom.  It was exquisitely designed with local stone in the huge shower.

So far, so good, eh?  The bed was rather hard but the bedding was lovely.  The mosquito net was not for decoration and the fumigator turned up on the second day (it smells of roses, Senorita…).  I look like I have had measles.  Eventually I caught one of the little f***ers and my blood oozed out of it.  The exquisite shower had only cold water.  On one fortuitous occasion I had a tepid shower – yay!  I was offered three other rooms which barely had a trickle of still cold water and realized I had the best room.  My French fellow guests had a trickle of cold water for their whole stay. Dirty froggies…🐸.  I know that is terribly un PC but it’s one of my resolutions.

The menu was translated by French people into English and they need not have bothered.  There is a local Maya language spoken and I have no idea what the menu said.  I ate dessert and breakfast with unidentifiable fruit.  I rarely spoke English to anyone.  Everyone at the hotel spoke French including the staff.  My driver’s English was as good as my Spanish and yet we talked for hours each day.  Google Translate helped with certain words until we were out of cell phone range.

THIS WAS THE BEST VACATION EVER!!!  I don’t know why but I loved every second of it, even my Eco toilet which means no paper down the drain (there was a little lidded bucket for the poo smeared paper).  It felt like glamping or glhostelling.  The day before I left I had received bad news about four friends with health and other problems.  I was so upset that I momentarily considered not going.  The saddest news was the death of our fellow blogger Pan otherwise known as Linda, beautifully memorialized by John Ray and Osyth. If you click on John and Osyth’s names you will see their posts about Linda. My head still has an image of her dog guarding her dead body for two days.

My mental health must be stronger than I imagined and I decided that life really was too short.  I compartmentalized all my bad news, got on the plane and prayed at every church that I saw in Merida.  I got lost twice in the pitch black but kept finding churches so perhaps Huehuecoyotl had an auspicious plan.  The beauty of nature and the kind, warm people of the Yucatan soothed my soul and provided much needed balm.  I have many stories to tell but I have a busy week helping friends and doing paid work so it may be a week or so before I share more.

I climbed a pyramid!

This is a shot from Mayapan, a huge Maya city that has NO tourists! My various DNA tests did not show that I am part mountain goat…all those years hill-climbing with my school friends, Katharine and AnneMarie have left me with a core strength. There was a small group of local school teenagers who struggled to keep up with me…

Most importantly, may Linda rest in peace. She was a loyal, funny and delightful blogger friend that I will miss.

Train Spotting

Santa Fe Depot, San Diego

Underneath my superficially normal appearance lurks a train geek. I thought I loved trains in the UK but trains in America are way cooler! I just need to hear a train whistle to get excited; I must be one of very few of the millions of people who live in the Houston area that gets stuck waiting for a concrete train to pass for 20 minutes and doesn’t mind.

Bright Red Trolley

As I walked towards the water from the Gaslamp area in San Diego my heart skipped a beat when I saw this fabulous old Santa Fe depot.  It was built in Spanish colonial revival style in 1915. The hub combines access to Amtrak trains and the San Diego trolley system, buses and the San Diego Coaster, a commuter service. Although we are surrounded by trains in Houston and all over Texas, very few are accessible to people. Most ship goods from our frenetically busy port of Houston to all over North America.

Only 2000 plus miles to New York

There is a silly Subaru advert on TV about living an alternative lifestyle that is clearly better than everyone else’s but I do like the one where the girl with the turned-up nose looks longingly at an open train that drifters might ride on. Here is a link to what we call a SMUGAROO
advert – just casting a little shade…😈 Teddy and I argued endlessly about it the girl. I thought her nose looked like mine but Teddy was adamant that my nose was much nicer. We still keep arguing about it!

The coolest ticket station!

It is my dream to travel on the Amtrak train from Houston to California but the price is not right. Train travel is a luxury these days. Still I can dream.

I really admired the way San Diego had managed to blend the old with the new in a vibrant city.

Old and new architecture

Gaslamp Architecture, San Diego

The pink hotel viewed from the Hotel Andaz

This area of San Diego was once known as the new town and most of the buildings are Victorian with some Art Deco.  In the 1980s and 1990s many of the buildings were listed as historic buildings.  It is now a lively center for business and nightlife.  This is a link to the Wikipedia page about the Gaslamp Quarter

I wasn’t able to identify all the buildings in this post but they all caught my eye.

Florent restaurant

Four buildings

SDSU Gallery

Sunset from Gaslamp

I loved the detail on the side of the this building.  The new architecture looked really good against the older buildings.

Water feature in front of buildings

Totem pole at the mall

The Tipsy Crow