TECOH TO TEKIT AND TICUL; BIKING THE TRANQUIL QUIET MAYAN BACK ROADS OF THE “GRUTA RUTA” by John M. Grimrud
Jane and I took a 7:20 AM departure from Mérida’s downtown 2nd class bus terminal at the corner of 50 and 67 with our Dahon folding bicycles stowed aboard. This was the beginning of our two day off the beaten path bicycle excursion, first by bus arriving at Tecoh at 9 AM.
Yucatan has a one-of-a-kind topography. This is where 65,000,000 years ago an event happened that drastically and forevermore altered life on this planet.
The meteoroid that impacted the earth struck the Yucatan with such an impact it brought about an ice age so abruptly that the dinosaurs were totally demised.
Read the following; T. Rex and the Crater of Doom by Walter Alvarez, (a good read)
National Geographic Magazine had several articles over the past 20 years
This impact formed the Chicxulub Crater whose epicenter was thirty kilometers north of Mérida and the after-splash of molten rock sent projectiles as far away as Belize and the Mexican state of Veracruz.
With that meteoroid impact the Yucatan peninsula became a geographical rarity with no rivers, only aguadas, cenotes and grutas…these are essentially the same thing but with different exposure to the earths surface.
Aguadas are open ponds near the surface.
Cenotes are sunken open ponds or sink-holes in the limestone rock.
Grutas are subterranean caves containing ponds.
Well, Jane and I will bike the zone of grutas and cenotes that I call the “Gruta Ruta”.
The following short story is told with captioned photos;
At Tecoh the new director of the grutas is Baldo Kugeh, above in his no-frills office. Last spring when Jane and I first discovered that the Tecoh director of tourism, Javier Francisco Acosta was busy developing an off-road bicycle route to 13 different area grutas we couldn’t wait to return to check it all out. Well, we discovered at the municipal building that our friend Javier was gone because the new governor makes it her practice to fire all employees and install her own group of cronies with their own agenda.
This is the quiet and tranquil “Gruta Ruta” with its conspicuous lack of motor vehicles.
Along the “Gruta Ruta” in the small town of Sabacché, this is one of the typical Mayan homes along the picturesque main street.
This is main street Sabacché where goats range peacefully free on the “Gruta Ruta”.
José Pech Ramirez, a resident of Sabacché struck up a conversation with us and soon we are all off to visit one of the recently improved grutas by bike traveling across an ancient “sacbe” Mayan road with local knowledge because there are no road signs.
As José Pech was speaking to us in his limited English his friends gathered across the road to observe the activities. Sabacché is more than just quiet, there is virtually no motor vehicle activity and the only business in town consisted of a molino to grind corn that had no tortillas and a small convenience store located in a Mayan thatched roof palapa. The people were more than just friendly, when I went to the Molino to try and buy a few tortillas for a snack I discovered that they only ground the corn to make masa. I spoke to them in Maya, and the lady asked me if I was hungry, I said yes. Even though they had no tortillas in a few minutes a little girl arrived in the park with tortillas and a big smile. We have always found that these wonderful people would freely share whatever they had.
As we ate our tortillas, free ranging turkeys came to visit pleading for a morsel.
This is the new stair leading down into the gruta/cenote and above is a palm thatched pavilion. This dense jungle setting has a mystical aura of fresh scented flowering foliage and only the exuberant sounds of wild birds singing. We arrived by way of an ancient Mayan sacbe road, (sacbe in Maya means white road and they were straight as a die, leveled and plastered smooth). Still in use and perhaps thousands of years old the sacbe road gave us an eerie and haunting sensation as we passed the way of countless generations through the pristine jungle way. This gruta is was part of the adjacent area settlement that includes the Mayan ruins of Mayapan which had more than 4,000 stone structures.
Here José ponders the gruta as he gives us a factual tour rich in area history. His grandmother is a Mayan medicinal woman or “curadura” knowledgeable in the local traditional herbs and other native plants. She is eager to share her years of knowledge with everyone. José invited us to his home for dinner, but we graciously declined because we still had more than 30 kilometers of biking ahead of us and once we eat heavy our bicycles just about refuse to move and our hammocks beckon us to repose.
On the main street of Sabacché this welding project is being carried out with a bare minimum of tools and equipment. Soon this spiral stairway will be installed in one of the nearby cenotes as this tourist project grinds along through political turmoil.
Along the “Gruta Ruta” road to Tekit this humblest of roadside chapels religiously keeps a candle burning.
This “Gruta Ruta” roadside chapel has a distinctive Mayan significance and is closely tied to the Caste War cult that worshiped the “Talking Cross” and symbolizes the three green crosses in their secret ceremonies. This cult religion sprang up back in the 1850s at Chan Santa Cruz know known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto and inspired the Maya to persist.
On the “Gruta Ruta” the distinct lack of motor vehicles is a real plus to us bikers who prefer the sound of the breeze in the trees and free birds singing.
This is Tekit our day’s destination after a bus ride to Tecoh and 47 kilometers by bicycle.
Tekit’s finest accommodations and only rooms for rent are at the no frills Posada Can Sacbe which in Maya means (camino de culebras) road of snakes.
After a long and lovely day of bicycle excursion we are delighted and richly rewarded with this ample Mayan style eating extravaganza of roast pork and black beans done to perfection and garnished with traditional sauces.
Lupita the owner, operator and culinary artist who prepared our delightful traditional Mayan style lunch with her ninety year old mother who still radiates her special beauty.
We silently rolled out of quiet little out-of-the-way Tekit early as the first patrons began opening the market and the last stars still glimmered overhead. On this next 30 kilometer leg of our bicycle excursion we left the small rolling hills of the “Gruta Ruta” and entered the area of the grander Puuc hills that extend across the southern part of the state of Yucatan. With only the two very small towns of Mama and Chapab along our way we enjoyed the open country of fresh air and wildflowers with dazzling iridescent morning glories decorating a perfect morning ride. (The ancient Maya, masters of herbal medicine used seeds of the morning glory to take psychedelic trips akin to LSD).
This is one of many Mayan Gods that are represented in statuary adorning the streets of Ticul at the foot of the Puuc hills where we boardrd a bus for home in Mérida and arrived in time for lunch ending a spectacular two day bike/bus out-back Yucatan get-a-way…stay tuned for more! For more adventures check out: http://bicycleyucatan.wordpress.com