November 29, 2013

"Live" blog of Yucatan/Cuba trip, day 3: Yucatan high & low

November 8, 2013
Day three was mucho mas bueno. We left semi-early and hit the cenote at Ik Kil, which was amazing. When we first looked down into that seemingly bottomless sinkhole, we almost didn't know what it was. We were the first ones there, and we got to see it pristine, vines and roots trailing down into the water, dark but for a few sunbeams. My first thought was, "I don't want to swim in that."



My second thought, which came about two seconds later, was, "I want to swim in that!" So we rented a locker and a life vest for Bunny and narrowly missed being the first ones down there. That would have been incredible, but even so it was pretty ridiculously cool. The water is cold, and full of friendly black fish who may or may not have eyes. When I first stepped down the ladder, I wasn't sure I could bear to immerse myself in that water, but soon the effort of swimming warmed me up enough that it was okay. Swimming is hard! And there was no shallow end--a cenote is basically a hole straight down into the earth. The sides are sheer cliff, but it's rough enough that we eventually found handholds and even a ledge. On one side, plants grow at the water's edge, and hanging vines and the roots of trees above trace the earth-side edges of the hole. Water trickles down in small waterfalls. Heavenly. I will admit that on my first swim across I had a moment of panic. It's rare that I swim in water over my head, and being away from the walls--in fact, not knowing if any of the walls offered purchase--was a bit like being thrown down a well. 


Ek Balam

After lunch at the cenote's buffet, we went to Ek Balam. I wanted to go to these caves full of Mayan treasure, but Ek Balam was very cool. You can still go on the ruins there, unlike at Chichen Itza. The biggest "pyramid" is much larger, but not really a classical pyramid. It's just a gigantic, humongous thing. We climbed it and from the top you can see everything. The Yucatan is very flat.

The view from the top.

Driving along the libre road was among the highlights of the day. In towns--and at the ruins--there are tons of stray dogs, skinny ones. Vendors throw down tires across the road to make people slow. Bunny really took to driving, and scared us a couple of times by passing a slow vehicle only to have to slow dramatically for "topes," speed bumps with the signs that look like boobies. The difference in domiciles really struck me. Some are classic poverty-style shacks, made of scavenged lumber. Some look like husks, unfinished cinder block squares. Some are honest-to-god thatched roof cottages. Some look like they could be here in Seattle. But the thing most have in common is a big front "room" that's not enclosed in any way. Laundry was hanging everywhere, and people were idly standing by the road, or sitting on curbs just watching the road. I really wonder what it is that people in these villages do. 

See? Boobies.

We drank better booze that night, and had a picnic of lunch meat and such that we bought at a supermarket--another highlight of the day. We ate and drank much more cheaply that night, and it was fun to bumble around the store not quite understanding what anything was. We spent the evening on Bunny & Crow's porch, drinking strange Mexican drinks and listening to jungle sounds.



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