Saturday, February 25, 2012

#9 - Mexico trip

Warning: this will be a photo intensive post!

My only previous visit to Mexico was an afternoon trip over the Arizona border when I was about 5 years old ... somehow it didn't seem right to count Mexico as a country that I had visited with only that much experience.  My friend, Nina, was very happy to act as travel companion and visit someplace that was warm during the cold Minnesota winter season (ironically, the weather has been milder than normal since we made the decision to go), so off we went.

Part of a dwelling in
 the Coba ruins

fire ant highway -
 we were very careful to step over it

A glyph illustrating the 5 points of
 the ancient Mayan compass - one for
each cardinal direction - north/white, east/red,
south/yellow, west/black, and center/blue-green

Mayan glyph on ball court
representing a decapitated jaguar
 holding its own head.

The bottom of the pyramid at Coba

Looking down from near the top of the Coba pyramid -
as you can see, it was very steep!
My favorite experience from the trip was climbing the pyramid at the ruins in Coba.  We had a great day as part of a small tour (only 7 people including the 2 of us) from a company called YukaTreks.  The guide was full of information - I wished that I would have had a recorder to store all the facts and Mayan words that he told us.

The roof of the cenote with an airhole that
 also let in some light.

The water was exceptionally clear and was
from 12-40 feet deep.

Nina shows no concern about swimming
under the stalactite.

fossils in the limestone walls of the cenote.

Our trip also included one of Nina's top experiences of the trip - swimming in a cenote (a giant "bubble" in the limestone underground that has partially filled with water).  The Multun-Ha cenote is located about 100 feet underground and has a small wooden platform built over some of the water so that visitors can swim in the water. 

Can you eat out in Mexico without getting a Margarita at least once?

Appetizer plate at Yaxche with regional specialties

Kinich chicken at Yaxche

Chicken in achiote marinade at Frida's

Chicken mole at Frida's
Another fabulous part of the trip - authentic Mexican food!  I bought a cookbook of regional specialties and plan to use  some in my work on goal #22.

One of the many lizards at Tulum sunning itself

Temple of the Winds at Tulum

Bas-relief of the descending god

Another daytrip that we took was to the ruins at Tulum.  This site is unusual for it's location on the seacoast.  We didn't have a guide this time to point out all the details, but it was fun finding things for ourselves and watching all of the lizards that now call this area home.  They were on paths, masquerading as architectural details, and occasionally fighting for the best patch of sunlight!

Scarlet macaws were everywhere at Xcaret

Butterflies feeding at Xcaret

Jaguar at Xcaret

Jaguar siesta

A chicle tree - the marks in the bark are to extract resin for chewing gum.

Nina makes friends with the dolphins

Sea turtle at Xcaret

The other benches were mostly taken - can't imagine why no one was sitting on this one :)
The third day trip that we took was to the eco-cultural park Xcaret.  This day had lots of everything - many animals, sea creatures, historical and cultural presentations, and a spectacular evening show that was divided between historical aspects of the Mayan culture (the demonstration of how the ball game was played using only hips to hit the ball was very interesting) and dances from different areas of Mexico.

These parade costumes made my old high school marching band uniform look cool (in the temperature sense) in comparison!

Dance performance

Talented fire performer

Carnaval ride for kids

Everyone shook their stuff!

Carnaval dancer

Dancers in the parade

The dancers were always happy to stop and catch their breath

This group of dancers were dressed as angels and willing to pose
A glorious surprise of the trip was the fact that we had a front row seat (more or less by accident) for the Carnaval parades 3 out of 4 nights.  Playa's celebrations were amazingly inclusive ... there were the hot chicks shimmying down the street, but there were also children and grandmas strutting their stuff.  The main purpose just seemed to be to have fun and show off the glorious costumes; it was great to watch!

Playa before the crowds appear!

Lifeguard station at dawn

Beach chairs waiting for sunbathers!
Playa del Carmen is at its heart a beach town.  While I'm not a big sand/surf girl, Nina loved it.  I did get up early one morning to walk in the surf and take photos though!

I saw this cat one morning sitting in the sidewalk seating of an upscale wine bar ... doesn't he look like he's waiting for the waiter to show up with the menu?

Yes, those are hookahs on the table.  Yes, they were in use in the evenings.  No, I didn't ask what they were smoking.

Many of the Mayan restaurants had costumed men outside.  Nina is pictured here with the one from Frida's, a restaurant where we ate several times.
Of course, there are always a few moments of every trip that don't really fit into a category.  So here's three last photos that show some fun moments I caught ...