Sunday, March 8, 2009


The smiling faces of Tekax: Griselda and Juana

Jane and I made the pleasant two hour Mayab bus ride from the Mérida TAME terminal at calle 69 and 70 to Tekax with our folding bicycles snugly stowed aboard.
We have been visiting one of our favorite colonial Yucatan towns, Tekax, since the days of the old narrow gauge railway train nearly a quarter century ago and have been eating at the same marvelous restaurant all these years. El Huinic de la Ermita restaurant, owned by our very good longtime friend Carlos Carrillo Góngora, is located at the foot of the 16th century Ermita chapel that is prominently and conspicuously perched above the city.
A very pleasant and especially romantic thing to do is to climb the native stone stairs meandering up to the Ermita chapel in early evening to watch the city lights pop on as the stars above begin to fill the tropical twilight sky.
In the hotel lobby is hung this interesting oil painting depicting the restaurant El Huinic de la Ermita with the adjacent Hotel Posada del Carmen and the 16th century Ermita chapel perched above on the overlooking hill.
Here is an actual photo of the Ermita chapel above and Carlos’s restaurant below.
What is El Huinic? Well, in this oil painting that hangs in Carlos’s restaurant is this depiction of “El Huinic”. He is a typical Mayan field worker who has tended the farmlands of Yucatan for countless centuries attired as you see above. A day’s ration of water is carried in the gourd at his waist and the bag contains the “pozol”, cooked corn meal, he will mix with water and some chili peppers for his sustenance.

It is worth the trip to Tekax just for this traditional Poc-Chuc eating extravaganza. Thinly sliced and delicately spiced pork is done over charcoal and served with a variety of savory sauces ranging from mild tomato to bean and comatose level hot Habanero…you apply your own quantity…as they jokingly say; “kill yourself”. The meal is garnished with sour orange and pickled onion, tomato, cucumber and cabbage salad on the side. To make the meal most memorable hand made tortillas are furnished in unlimited quantities.
I get hungry just looking at this scrumptious mouth watering Poc Chuc dinner.
This is breakfast at Carlos’s restaurant beginning at 7AM of huevos a la Mexicana, enough to sustain an active bicycler until noon.
You may think that we only came to Tekax to eat; well it is definitely one of the main attractions.
We butter the hand made tortillas with the bean sauce and then fill them with the huevos a la Mexicana and topping it with a measured amount of habanero sauce, fold them into a taco and savor a breakfast meant for a Mayan king.

This Tekax church was dedicated in 1609 and recently painted to coordinate it with the new city color scheme.
It is an amazing 200 feet from the entry door to the alter retablo of the Tekax church.
The birds make the church into a fly-way with the many meter tall doors open all day.
In this side altar you can still see the centuries old wooden vigas ceiling supports.
In Tekax city center across from the church is the neatly painted and meticulously kept municipal building. Little would you know that just a few years ago an intense hurricane brought down a large portion of this structure.
This is the downtown bustling with bicycle traffic and so few traffic lights you can count them on one hand. The tallest structure in Tekax is three stories tall and is nearly two hundred years old. The city abounds in quaint authentic colonial buildings…bring your camera.
Afternoon coffee and snacks in the city center park bring the friendly conversation of two young girls in Tekax attending the technical university and studying business economics.
Day two of our Tekax excursion finds us after breakfast boarding the colectivo taxi at the city center park, Zocolo, with our bicycles stowed on top. We are headed up into the Puuc hills to the tiny town of Kankab. This is where we will begin our bicycle excursion to one of our all-time favorite Mayan ruins, Chacmultún. We plan to bike back down the hill to Tekax. (See numerous photos and a story of Chacmultún on our web-site at the end of the Kiuic narrative.)
Jane and I have watched in astonishment the degradation of nature and man in the past twenty-five years since we first began visiting the Mayan ruins of Chacmultún.
Considering that nearly five hundred years had passed since the Spanish conquistadors plundered the Mayan people since we first visited here in the 1980’s, the pace of dilapidation has exponentially accelerated. Two recent major hurricanes toppled many temples that were invaded by gigantic trees roots and squatters building cooking fires inside the temples have destroyed some of the most ornate Mayan wall paintings. At least this place did not meet the fate of numerous other Mayan temples in Yucatan of just being used as a source of building materials for churches and land fill.
Gliding down the hill from the Mayan ruins of Chacmultún we enter the small town of rural Kankab. The only two things that Jane and I had ever appreciated about little Kankab were the clean fresh air of the Puuc hills and its quiet tranquility. This time as we entered our ears were accosted by the blaring ear-piercing cacophony of noise that was potent enough to dissolve kidney stones. The source of this obnoxious head-ache producing racket was a roof-top megaphone blaring our local commercials in Maya interspersed with a few Spanish words and laced with tinny grotesque mind maddening music that could only be classed as loathsome insufferable noise. Just to make this scenario complete, the air was insufferably filled with acrid smudge-pot smoldering fires distinctively emitting the putrid breath robbing stench of burning plastic. Civilization has arrived!
Day three we say our good by to our friend Carlos in Tekax as we leave his hotel before the sun has peeped over the horizon to take advantage of the early morning coolness
Our first stop this lovely Friday morning before 7 AM is at the poor isolated little town of Tixcuytún. From the photo you are unaware of the blaring megaphone rattling the countryside with public service announcements advising first in Maya and next in Spanish of unpaid water and electric bills of individuals who can expect that their service will be cut this day unless full payment is made. As I rode my bicycle around the corner behind the church to partially escape the blaring megaphone and snap some photos I was amazed to be accosted by a van with screaming ear-splitting megaphones atop blocking me off. (A Spanish “dicho” or saying goes like this; “pueblo chico, infierno grande” or small town, big hell.)
As a biking route the narrow and quiet seldom traveled road to Tixcuytún is wonderful.
On our fact finding tour across the back-country of Yucatan staying on small roads like the one you see here we find that the reason why there is little traffic and hardly any public bus transport is because the people here have no money to spend.
This is poor little Tixcuytún’s central park where we make our first stop of the day for oranges, bananas and a drink of water.
This typical Mayan palapa home is of the same style as those built here for thousands of years. Thirty years ago over half of the private homes in Yucatan were of this type. The only significant difference today is that now these palapa homes have electric service.

Our next stop is at poor but quiet little Tixméhuac. Jane is feeling ill and the decision is made to find motorized transport. The one bus a day to Mérida left at 9 AM and the next bus in the opposite direction, southeast is to Peto and leaves at 11:30.
The enterprising locals see an opportunity and negotiate a deal to carry us and our bicycles to the supposedly larger town of Cantamayec, 30 kilometers away where we are assured that there are hotel accommodations and frequent bus and taxi service. Looking over at our map to confirm the destination and distances the driver, Poncho agrees to take immediate departure.
By the time we arrive at Cantamayec the sun has climbed sufficiently in the sky to make a place in the shade a treasured commodity. Surprise! No hotels or any public transport of any kind is available. It is only 16 more kilometers to the next town of Sotuta where we know for a fact that there is a restaurant and bus service to Mérida. Our options are nearly none, so we bike on. Jane is feeling peaked but is doing what has to be done.
For an story on an earlier trip to Sotuta, check out:
Here is a map with the place-names in bold that we visited this trip.

Jane felt too bad to eat lunch so she reposed in the shade of a kind old tree as we waited for the next bus out to Mérida as 2:30 PM, arriving in Mérida at 4:30. On the bike ride home Jane felt sufficiently recovered after a snooze on the bus to stop at a bakery where we drank our afternoon coffee and partook of some sweet rolls…just what Jane wanted next to the cool shower that awaited us at home.

For food and accommodations in Tekax:
John M. Grimsrud ©2009

1 comment:

norm said...

Your blog is great. I love the photos of the back country. Ruins off the beaten path are my quest when I am in Yucatan. I keep my map by my side when I read your blog just to keep it all straight.