Friday, January 21, 2011

Yaxcabá, Libre Unión and Tabi, Yucatán

We packed a week’s worth of activities into just one day.
A twenty minute, seven kilometer bike ride from our home to the Noreste bus terminal in downtown Mérida is a joy with no traffic and a 21ºC salubrious temperature.
At five AM the city streets were nearly deserted and quiet. Under a crystal clear high-pressure sky filled with stars we ventured out onto the famous Paseo de Montejo. As we headed south in the pre-dawn, cacophonous birds were chirping to a crescendo from their rookery trees that lined the median…a perfect start to a tropical January morning.
We were able to sizzle along with no stops and did not see traffic until we passed the main market that was already bustling with busy early morning business.
Our little 20 inch, seven speed Dahon folding bicycles make this type of trip possible and a real pleasure because the bikes roll fast and fold for stowage in just twelve seconds. They will then load into a bus, taxi or airplane.
Our second class bus took us on a very sinuous scenic small village route, off the main road.
At eight-thirty we were off-loading at Libre Unión which is little more than a wide place in the road some ninety kilometers east of Mérida.
Several taxi drivers were there competing for our business. Jane and I had already planned to use whatever type of transport we could to make the next leg of our trip.
This was going to be a long action packed day even with the boost of a taxi ride to Yaxcabá.
We were lucky and got a flamboyant taxi driver who was bubbling over with local knowledge information and tourist guide details.
We were on the quiet colonial streets of Yaxcabá before nine AM. As you can see we travel light. Having our ground transportation with us in these interesting out or the way places opens up exploration possibilities you would never get if you travel by automobile or are on foot.
Jane and I not only received a convenient ride from Libre Unión to Yaxcabá but were informed and entertained all the way by our driver, Mario Briceño Dzul. The straight as a die highway we traveled was built by the Maya thousands of years before and known as a sacbe road. Cerros or over grown mounds lined our way and were unexplored Mayan temples. One of the reasons that this area was so popular with the ancient Maya was that it was a zone of cenotes or sink holes where water was available year-round.
To top off his entertaining and amusing ride, Mario treated us to a lovely ballad as he strummed his guitar with fervent and sentimental passion. Click here to open the film clip of Mario or see blog below..

We had our packed along energy breakfast and ate it in the park while quietly watching the city doings.
This campesino or country man lugs in a load of leña [firewood] to cook his day’s meals. The high price of cooking gas has forced many here in Yucatán to go to the woods for cooking fuel. The result has been an aggressive amount of deforestation.
Quiet streets lined with picturesque colonial buildings and a lack of traffic make this out-of–the tourist loop city well worth a visit for bicyclers.
Yaxcabá is a municipal governmental center and thus a crossroads. Because this area has been settled for countless centuries first by the Maya who built a tremendous infrastructure of straight roads between their temple towns, it was only natural that when the Spanish arrived they continued the use of these road right-of ways.
Stacked stone construction abounds here. Recycling of the Mayan temples materials made for a convenient source of building materials.
I will not attempt to explain all of the interesting area history or describe the countless splendors of the church you see here because it is done so well in the book, Mayan Missions by Richard and Rosalind Perry. This book is an absolute must for anybody who wants to explore any part of the Yucatán Peninsula and get to know this magical place better. Link:
Inside the recently restored church, its splendor speaks out to you from over the centuries.
Nothing was spared in the restoration of this 1750’s original retablo that now glistens with glittering gold leaf and meticulously painted figures.
This close-up of the intricate detail that was so meticulously and painstakingly restored, perhaps to better than original condition makes this treasure an artistic gem worth the trip just to admire.
There are six of these exquisitely restored original side retablos in the church and you will definitely want to take the time to witness these historical works of art that have survived trial and tribulation plus a protracted war that Yaxcabá was the center of.
Note the original wall frescos to the right of the retablo that have survived nearly three centuries.
On the church grounds the vestiges of days gone by are contrasted with some of the unrestored structures visibly and outwardly displaying the cut stone of the Mayan temples that their materials were salvaged from.
Part of the church complex restoration project is this patio which tells much of the story of centuries old splendor. The mamposteria construction with wooden roof beams, the wooden hammock hangers embedded in the cement wall just as they were originally placed, the flat floor stones formerly were facings of a Mayan temple and the Moorish arches copied from the Spanish colonial period are all in a perfect state of restoration.
Yaxcabá in January is a clean, neat and magnificently maintained town out of the tourist loop.
Our next leg of the bicycle trip took us on this quiet rural road through milpa [cornfields] country. This is a bird watchers paradise and bikers dream come true.
Little Tabi is quiet and quaint in the extreme. Our map did not ever show a paved road though now it is. Tabi is half way between Yaxcabá and Sotuta, both seldom visited places with no hotel accommodations and scarcely any eating establishments.
Tabi has two cenotes and behind this weathered little stone chapel in the city center is one of those cenotes. This cenote has a fanciful legend surrounding it. In the early 1600’s supposedly a statue of the Virgin rose up from it and the rest of that incredible story can be found in the book Mayan Missions.
Our Mérida neighbors have family connections here in Tabi. In this photo is our neighbor’s mother, Doña Chula, with her grand children and their friends. These are friendly, trusting good natured people who do not lock their homes and trust their children to roam the streets unescorted…something not done in the big city.
While we rested in the shade of the church and re-hydrated we were entertained by the local children who inquisitively had to know all about our little bicycles and how we happened to come to Tabi. Shortly this group swelled to many curious kids. Click here to see more photos of the Tabi Kids.
From Tabi we biked on this very peaceful country road with gentle rolling hills and a significant lack of traffic. Behind Jane is one of the many little Mayan chapels of three crosses from one of the religious cults that formed during the protracted Caste War as a rebellion against the Spanish conquistadors and the Catholic Church.
On the back streets as we entered Sotuta this little chapel, a relic of the past, caught our eye. This part of the country abounds in such strange unnamed and forlornly neglected curiosities that make for photo-ops.
Nachi Cocom and Sotuta are synonymous. The Cocom family of Sotuta was one part of the warring Mayan faction that fought against the Xiu family of nearby Mani for centuries after the collapse of their northern empire following a two hundred fifty year draught.
The Spanish conquistadors after being totally driven out of the Yucatán peninsula in 1535 returned around 1540 with a new game plan and that was to exploit the deep division between the two warring Mayan tribes. This was enough of a tactic to allow the Spanish to get a foot-hold and by 1542 they put down roots in T’ho now known as Mérida. For the rest of that fascinating story read the book Mayan Missions.
In the center of Sotuta this fortress looking building is known as; “The Palace of Nachi Cocom”. In actuality this building built upon a Mayan temple dates from the 18th century and was a military barracks.
As you can see this is a quiet place.
Visit our website and blog for more Sotuta stories.Click here.
At the only eating establishment in Sotuta Jane and I are lovingly greeted by this old Mayan woman who craves companionship.
Across from the municipal building is located Los Arcos where we have had lunch each time we revisit the area while waiting for the return bus to Mérida and visit with the owner Doña Margarita.
We returned to Mérida just as the sun slipped beneath the western horizon on this lovely action packed day.


Margo said...

Each of your adventures creates a physical longing to do the same... a couple of years ago, my sister & I motored through the Yucatan, off the tourist track, then last year I and 3 friends, newbies, did a 12 day Yucatan & Q Room roam. What an experience, what a beautiful atmosphere, place & people. I hope to cycle there one day with my husband, thanks to you, if I do, the experience will be so much richer. Muchas gracias, Maja

Gracietk said...

Yucatan mexico is so beautiful!! i have been there before and have seen some of the same children!!!I went to visit twice, and over a course of 1 year they really grew up.... the people there are so caring and friendly :D

sergiocanchesantiago said...

wowww genial que visiten etos lugres me encanta tabi sotuta en facebook lo pueden encontrar como Tabi,sotuta