This afternoon we would be touring cenotes (sinkholes filled with fresh water) with Julia, but we had purposely kept Sunday morning free. Merida en Domingo (Merida on Sunday) is just as festive as Merida on Saturday night. The zocalo comes alive with artisans selling their wares, and there are various music and dance performances around the city. Calle 60 is closed to traffic. Our friends at the baseball game had said that Merida en Domingo doesn't really get started until around 10 am, so, given our busy previous day, we didn't see a need to wake up at the crack of dawn. We slept until 8:30, and then had a liesurely morning. We turned on the TV hoping to see some good Mexican commercials. We wound up watching a Spanish-language version of E!'s "Wild On" for a few minutes while we finished getting ready. We finally peeled ourselves away from the "Slim and Lift" commercial and we headed out to get some breakfast. Madeline had suggested Cafe Club across the street, but it didn't look open. Right next to it was Chez Stephanie. With a name like that, it had to be good, right? We weren't sure it was open either, but as we looked through the window someone came running out to show us a menu. It seemed like they had a good breakfast menu, so we decided to eat here. We started off with coffee and orange juice. The waiter made sure to point out they they do have an "American breakfast". That's what we wanted to stay as far away from as possible. We wanted something more Yucatecan. We perused the menu, which was grouped into categories: "fruit", "bread", "from the end"... From the end? What did that mean? We looked at the items contained in that category and realized they were all eggs. So, as in "from the end" of the chicken. We laughed. The BeeGees, the Grease soundtrack, and Phil Collins were playing on the CD player. We would have preferred some Mexican music to go with our nice breakfast, but what can you do. Craig got molletes Maya (nachos covered with refried beans, grated cheese, ham, and bacon). I got chilaquiles. They were basically four pieces of bread served as an open-faced sandwich, covered with cheese, red and green sauce, ham, and bacon. It was very good.
When we finished, we headed out to enjoy Merida en Domingo. We met a young Maya man who brought us to the "Warehouse", aka Casa Artesenal Yucatan, a Maya co-op. We realized that this was the place that Gianluca had been recommending to us on our first night here. We met Eliana, a nice young woman who showed us her wares. After introducing us, the man who had brought us here left to find more potential customers.This co-op was much more low-pressure than the one we had been to on our first night in town. She showed us some photographs of henequen Panama hats being made inside caves. The pictures were very similar to the ones we had been shown at the other co-op. Everything in this store was marked with prices, and the prices were much more reasonable (380 pesos for a Panama hat, 400 pesos for henequen shirts, etc). Eliana was eager to show us merchandise, but she didn't pressure us at all about buying it. She told us the benefits of buying from the Maya directly rather than shopping at "boutiques", but she didn't speak of "Arabian" shop owners and money going directly to terrorism, as our acquaintances on the first night had done.
All in all, it was a much nicer experience. As a result, we felt very comfortable and wound up buying several things. We bought a Panama hat (she included two woven ribbons and showed us how to attach them around the brim). We each got a lightweight off-white henequen "guayabera" shirt (mine had embroidered flowers on the front), and bought some ceramic aluxes (cave spirits) for our nephews. Eliana ended up giving us a 10% discount. When we handed her the money, she crossed herself with it. We headed back outside, Craig wearing his new Panama hat. We saw the young man who had brought us into the shop. When he saw Craig in the Panama hat he gave us a big smile and a wave.
We changed some money into pesos. Then we walked around the zocalo. There were balloon sellers with huge bouquets of balloons, and people had set up little carts where they were selling their wares. It was very low-pressure, and we walked around looking from cart to cart. As we were walking we met Alfonso, a history teacher. We chatted with him and showed him our purchases. He was very friendly. He asked where we were from. When we said "Boston" he repeated "Boston. Massachusetts. The Red Sox. The green wall." This was a reference to the so-called "green monster", the left field wall at Fenway Park. We were impressed. He told us that carpets are a good item to purchase in Merida, and they are much cheaper here than in Cancun. He told us about a workshop where you can see artisans making carpets on a loom and offered to take us there. They had gorgeous rugs and there were two looms currently in use. We met Julio, who showed us the carpets, the looms, and the various natural materials used to dye the fibers. He showed us some rugs in a tree of life pattern, the design of which is exclusive to the master craftsman at this particular workshop. The master craftsman then came in and demonstrated using the loom. It was amazing. He was using wool fibers and the results were just incredible. We looked around some more and decided on a geometric design that we liked (we loved the tree of life motif, but it was too expensive). We settled on a price and paid cash for it. They then tried to get us to buy a tree of life as well, but quickly backed down when we said that we couln't afford it. It was coming up on noon and we needed to meet Julia at the hotel at 12:30. So we said our goodbyes and Alfonso walked us back to the zocalo.
We walked back to the hotel to change clothes for a day of swimming at cenotes. We asked about getting some towels for swimming and were told to use the ones from our room. We thought that maybe our room had already been made up, but it hadn't, so we took our current towels, damp from the morning's showers. We were about 5 minutes late meeting Julia. We met up with Manuel and he drove us through Acanceh. This is the "city of the deer" that has an abundance of topiaries. There is a pyramid in town where some Mayan carvings were found. A thatched roof was installed over the carvings and the residents of town had a celebration. An errant firecracker set the roof on fire and damaged the carvings. Julia told us that if we had enough time, we would stop on the way back to view the pyramid and what is left of the carvings.
We had known that Julia had planned to go to the baseball game tonight, and we asked if we might be so bold as to invite ourselves along. She was thrilled. She had said that Lorna Gail had asked if she was going, and she said she would wait and see how things went with us, whether we wanted to go out to dinner, etc. to celebrate our last night together. So she was quite pleased that we had enough fun at the game and wanted to go back.
Manuel drove us to Chunkanan. He had his usual knack for finding a shady parking space. There was an abandoned henequen processing factory in the distance, which was being used up until a hurricane damaged it within the past ten years. There are very narrow rail tracks which were used for transporting the henequen. These rail tracks are now used as a means of transportation to get locals and tourists to the nearby cenotes. A horse will pull a small cart on railroad wheels. As today was a particularly busy summer day at the cenotes, there was a backlog of people waiting for the horse carts. Julia said she had never seen a wait like this before All of a sudden a couple of horse carts returned. Craig and I had an incredible sense of deja vu, and felt that we had seen this on TV. We couldn't exactly place it, but we thought it might have been on Globe Trekker. The driver of one of the carts unhooked his horse, turned the cart around, and reattached the horse. He sat at the front of the cart with a young boy to his left. Craig and I sat in the middle and Julia sat on the back. We set off for a 15 minute ride through henequen fields. There was only one set of tracks, so when we encountered a cart going in the opposite direction, our driver stopped the horse, pushed the cart off the tracks, and let them through. He then pushed the cart back onto the tracks and we set off again. The alternative to taking the carts was to walk along the tracks. The cart was definitely the right choice. Walking had the additional annoyances of the heat, sunshine, and horseflies, plus the fact that the clearing for the rails was very narrow. We saw people walking along, and when a cart passed them they practically had to jump into a ditch to get out of the way. When we reached the cenote, there were several carts pointed in the opposite direction. We said we would walk the last hundred feet or so, and got off of the cart. The carts were coming fast and furious in the opposite direction and Craig needed to push me out of the way and into a ditch to avoid being hit.
We got to Cenote Chelentun, where there was a sinkhole and a long steep straight staircase that led down to the water. The staircase reminded me of the bridge at Khazad Dhum in "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". There was a rickety handrail made of pipe. We walked down the staircase and found ourselves in a cave with a big skylight. We put our things down and I took some pictures. It was hard to get any decent pictures because of the light, but the cenote was amazing. It was a sweltering day and the waters of the cenote were clear and cool. There were families swimming, babies on floaties, etc. There were lots of swallows flying around in the cave, and their droppings tended to float on the top of the water, so you had to watch your hair. After a thoroughly refreshing swim, we got back onto our cart (the driver and kid were waiting). You could continue on to other cenotes in this same area, but they became increasingly harder to access, and we had other stops to make. It became obvious on the cart ride back that the return trip always has the right of way, and we rather quickly got back to the car.
We met up with Manuel, and he drove us to Homun. We stopped at Cenote Tza-Ujun-Kat. We walked down a staircase while holding on to a rope, and we descended into an underground chamber. As you climbed down you could hear the sounds of children playing. The sounds were echoing as if you were entering a school gymnasium. There were lots of stalactities and stalagmites, and again, lots of families swimming. There was one particular formation of a stalactite touching a stalagmite that reminded Craig of God touching Adam's finger in Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam." The rock heading into the water was very slick, and I slipped, but didn't hurt myself. We swam for a while.
After we left, we stopped at a nearby restaurant and paid 5 pesos to use the facilities, a bargain at any cost. As we drove through Acanceh it was just about 5 o'clock, at which point the pyramid closed to tourists. That was ok, we were looking forward to going back to Merida to see Los Leones play. Manuel dropped us off at Julia's car. Julia drove us to Trudy and Lorna Gail's house, which wasn't too far from our hotel. We changed out of our wet bathing suits into our shorts and henequen shirts. We then got a quick tour of the house and courtyard.
Trudy was unable to go tonight, so Julia drove us and Lorna Gail to the game. We arrived at the game at around 6:20. We had some pesos tonight so we would be able to buy some food, etc. We bought our tickets and each got a hot dog. When we got to Julia's regular section, Greg and Charlotte were already there. I bought a Fanta for 10 pesos and Craig got a Pacifico beer for 11 pesos. Julia bought us "piedras" ("stones") which were little fried nuggets with beans inside that are eaten with cole slaw. We also bought some fries with hot sauce for 8 pesos. Julia bought everyone little packets of peanuts. She went to the concession stand and came back with a baseball hat and a shirt. The hat was only 50 pesos (approximately $5). I couldn't resist. As the hat had a Coca-Cola logo on it, I also got a free bottle of Coke with my purchase. What a deal. I put on the hat and sat down to watch the rest of the game. There were only two ball girls in attendance tonight. Leoncio, the Leones mascot, took off his lion head at times and replaced it with a creepy mask shaped like a baseball. At other times he put on a Yoda mask and hands and brandished a lightsaber. Then he put the lion head back on and did a Superman impression.
There was a phenomenal sunset tonight. The sky was streaked with orange, yellow, and red. It made a perfect backdrop for the game. Once again, at the 7th inning stretch they played a recording of "Take Me out to the Ballgame" in English and all of us gringos sang along. The Leones were making a comeback but they ended up losing in the last inning 5-4. We stopped at the fruit stand on our way out of the parking lot to feed Lorna Gail's mango habit. Julia gave us a couple fresh mangos, which looked delicious. Julia drove us back to our hotel. As we got our stuff out of the car, Lorna Gail looked into the window of Chez Stephanie. As she did so, a little man ran over and flipped the closed sign to "open", thinking we wanted to go in. We said goodbye to Julia and Lorna Gail and thanked them for the great time. We were back in our room by 10 o'clock.
We got changed and then headed out on the town. Calle 60 was still closed for a few blocks. We went to Cafe Peon Contreras. There were tables outside and they had a guitarist and a flute player (of course one of the first songs they did was "El Condor Pasa"). Craig got cochinitas pibil, which was basically a Mayan-style pulled pork. I got enchiladas suizas. They had lots of cheese and were very rich. After finishing our enjoyable meal, we walked down the block to La Parranda. La Noche, the band from last night, was playing again. We watched them and the people dancing for a while and then went back to Luz. Craig drank a Sol beer and I wrote in the journal. We went to bed at 1:15.