Merida, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Sunday, December 30, 2012

Slippery underfoot, it was a case of grappling myself into the rockface, to avoid sliding back into the jagged bed of rocks that lay behind me. Through a couple of crevices, slime on all sides I reached a ledge on the cenote, mucky from the bat “deposits”, looking down on the crystal water below. There was only one thing for it…

This was the second of the three cenotes that I visited that day, on an unconventional trip from the city of Merida. As mentioned in 7.1, cenotes are essentially sinkholes that were formed due to the geological makeup of the Yucatan Peninsula.

The underground river network surfaces in these cave-like structures where the still water remains clear, and immense rock patterns have formed over millions of years. These places were/ are held sacred by the Mayan people, but these days others have been allowed access to visit them.

The whole day was spent in various new ways of transporting myself from A to B. To give some structure, I will describe the day based around these modes.

By foot
Thought I’d break you in gently…

Myself and the Canadian couple who came too, walked about 7 blocks to the public bus station

By public bus 
This was largely uneventful. We bought our ticket to Cuzama, the driver guessed: “Cenotes?” and we were instructed when to disembark

By moto-tuktuk
Hadn’t seen this before. A motorbike drives forward the two people sat in the wood-framed cart. The wheels are from a bicycle I think, and the tarpaulin on top makes it look like a motorised old-fashioned ice cream van. ‘But there were three of you’, I hear you say. Well, I got cosy to the driver. No need to hold on tight; top speed was about 7mph to the 3 Cenotes “base camp”

By horse-drawn cart on railroad
This one was rogue.

Some history first: when logging was prevalent in the forest, a small railroad was built to transport the timber back to the main road. 9km of the network is now used to carry passengers.

The three of us found two more, waited for our drivers to lift the cariage onto the tracks, then clambered on ourselves. The horse then gathers speed and carried the party along.

There is only one track, and up to 20 carts on it at any one time, so there were regularly a game of chicken as to who would get out of the way. Whoever had most behind him won, and those in the opposire direction would disembark, lift up the carriage to the side of the road, and allow the others past. This was the way we travelled between the 3 cenotes.

By wooden ladder 
These cenotes were not custom built for human use, so ladders and platforms have made them accessible. No accidents on the day we were there, so I guess everything is in good shape..

By colectivo
With no bus station in Cuzama, it was a colectivo (or shared taxi van) back to the city

So that was we got around for the day. Guess I should get around to what we got up to..

Between our journeys, we were given thereabouts thirty minutes to spend in each of the cenotes. For my part, the majority of this was in the water; having a swim, jumping off rocks, and taking in the beauty of the interior.

Each was different, but my camera isn’t sophisticated enough to distinguish between them, I don’t think. Either way, there was always a hole at ‘ground level’ that allowed a few rays of sunlight in, and the roots of trees above hanging down like tangled spaghetti.

The turqouisey coloured water was on the whole clear, and made good for having an inspection of the rocks. There was some experimentation with the waterproof camera, but not much came out well.

Snack stops were at each hole. I’d heard Mexicans like chilli sauce with all their food, but was still surprised when the lady dolloped some over my satsuma slices.

These cenotes were something I had read about on a Google forum from a few years ago, so was pleased it actually paid off and resulted in a successful day.

Got back to Merida and parted with Delphine & Deni who were heading to their next destination later in the evening.

Though they contributed to the everlasting endeavour of Finding Myself, the darkness of the cenotes meant that any hope of Finding a Decent Profile Pic were extinguished from the outset. I guess I’ll have to find another sacred, ancient, intricate, impressive, otherworldly natural wonder to fully complete my trip.

Though one with more favourable light conditions.

Cenote #1

On horse cart

Cenote #2

Horse crossover

Cenote #3

Moto-tuktuk

Underwater attempt

Diving platform

Looking down the hole

Ladder down