Colonial Arch in Merida, Mexico at sunset.
…and he snores too. Teddy and I rarely travel together because of our elderly cat but made a special effort to go to a new place for his 60th birthday. When we married he was 24 years old and I can’t figure out how all this time has passed. Teddy went ahead of me and I arrived at Mobile Regional Airport on his birthday. He picked me up in a rental car and we went straight across the fabulous Mobile Bay causeway . Sometimes water that close to a roadway scares me but this was just sublime. We started looking for brown historical sites signs and starting learning the fascinating history of Mobile.
This whole city, named Blakely, was abandoned after an epidemic of yellow fever in the 1800s and everyone moved to the new settlement of Mobile on the other side of the vast bay. Five rivers create a delta into the bay. From our busy metropolis, this was absolute bliss – very few people and polite drivers. We went to lunch at an Oyster place with a great view across the delta. After two glasses of wine I decided ‘we’ would drive to just over the border of Alabama into Florida. It was wonderful. Teddy and Bunny decided that there was no reason to change the habits of a lifetime and had a spat about which direction we should be going in… There was no cell phone service deep in the country and the GPS stopped working. By the time we had dinner in the rooftop restaurant of our hotel, all was bliss in Teddy and Bunny land. 🐻 🐰
Many more posts of a place less traveled and some funny stories.
This is the inside Princesa – Toffee. It is hard to get a good shot of her because she is a darkly colored Tabby (mixed with Egyptian Mau). In reality, her markings and fur are exquisite. She has the typical saggy beige fluffy tummy of a Mau and little fluffy Hobbit feet to protect her from the desert heat. We rescued her as a kitten in Cairo but at age 15, I still can’t pick her up. For years she hardly spoke but since the other two Egyptian cats died she has not shut up… She talks about everything with precise vocalizations. “Thank you” for lunch sounds very different from “Clean up my poo stat!” Although she and Katniss have never met face to face, Toffee chats to her through the open window. In some Disney world they would be sleeping together but they are both little ferals, happy in their own worlds. She hunts sunbeams around the house even though I keep the temperature at 76 degrees or above. I move Nana’s orange and brown rug about so that her old bones are comfortable in the sunbeam.
This is the outside Princesa – Katniss. I rudely call her Fatniss because she is a voracious but slow eater. She is probably about 3 or 4, maybe neutered by the local cat people and I think she belongs to me now? At the moment I was writing this, I ‘knew’ that she was outside, so I interrupted this post to feed her with newly clean dishes. The raccoons have been playing with the dishes again and I had to hunt for them around the garden. From time to time, Katniss rolls in the garden and I get to see her lovely white tummy with a black belt (in Karate?) She has a lovely mixture of black and pink toes, usually immaculate despite living outside. She also talks – do they get it from me?? Katniss has a tiny little voice and chats while I feed her. Sometimes the tone is terse when it is cold or wet. She also hisses when she is happy – I think she is just trying all her vocalizations.
They make me happy. ❤
It is not very easy to be vegetarian in our traditional part of Texas. Not only do we rear cattle but the original settlers were mostly German. I laughed out loud when I saw this Stop sign a few hundred yards from my house. Graffiti usually annoys me but this was clever and funny! Although more flexi than veggie, I rarely cook meat and many of the local restaurants balk at me asking for the steak flatbread, for example, with no steak. My weakness is real ham…. Every Saturday I have a ham and cheese Arepa at our local brunch place – they smoke their own ham.
The Germans have been joined by a very diverse group of immigrants including many from Latin America thus the Arepa – maize based flatbread. We live in a very tight series of cul-de-sacs with traffic circles. To stop trucks and school buses churning up the corner, our HOA has put cobbles and more large boulders to deter them. Do you think the vegetarian created this zen stacked rock cairn?
Doesn’t this look like paradise? Where are the people? Celestún is famous for the breeding grounds of flamingos and the area is a bio preserve. This means that Celestún hasn’t developed as much as other places in Yucatan such as Cancun. It was warm but very breezy as you can see from the waves.
After I walked along the beach, I investigated some of the streets close by. First I saw a group of elderly ladies in various stages of ill health that had been to the local clinic. I doubt their medical care was as extensive as mine but they were happily chattering as they walked home. They had probably known each other from childhood and I looked at them in quiet envy.
There were a few restaurants and one was right on the beach. I really needed a clean restroom but ordered a local beer and admired the view. The restrooms were like most in the area – spotlessly clean, smelling of bleach with that fantastic foot pedal to flush the toilet. There was also a clean wastebasket to put your toilet paper in. The pipes are too narrow and the paper pollutes the pristine environment. I thanked my hosts kindly and walked out.
As I rounded the corner, reality struck me in the face. An old sick dog was seizing in the road. Her eyes were sunken and she was just hours or days from death. I immediately went into triage mode. How could I euthanize this dog, likely a stray? I had left my tranquillizers at the hotel which I could have crushed into some tuna. As I stopped and stared, I knew I could do nothing. My rabies vaccinations are long since out of date. The dog was not mine and it might not be culturally acceptable for me to be the angel of death. In Cairo most people disapproved of animal euthanasia as it was God’s decision when we die.
I walked on with the knowledge that as much as I would like to, I couldn’t live in a poor rural country. In Belize I snuck food out of the hotel to feed the starving dogs because there were no shops. When I got back to the car, Angel, my driver, asked me what I thought of the village. I told him truthfully that it was exquisite and charming. Then I told him about the dog in halting Spanish – to my astonishment he seemed to truly understand my dilemma. Ah, the yin and yang of life.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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
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 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.
When the Conquistadores arrived they used the local stone from previous structures to build a 16th century chapel which is now also a ruin.
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.
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.