Friday, November 30, 2012

Grand Total for Tolls from Reynosa, MX to Chetumal, MX

Drum roll please.......................

        $ 2,177pesos      =       $ 172.06usd

Day 7: Becan and Xpujil to Chetumal, MX

Day 7
Becan 3 hours
Xpujil to Chetumal 2 ½ hours

We checked out of the EcoVillage and proceeded to get our next pyramid fix at Becan—2 miles away.

Made a left off 186, wove back on the road a couple of blocks—arrive!
Small parking lot, $46pesos ($3.64usd) entry fee pp, no fee to park the car. Restrooms and bodega immediately inside.

Temple Area
Circular Altar

Becan is a small self-enclosed site—chock full of all things Maya: temples, altars, ball court, plazas, korbled roofs, unexcavated temples,
Moat today
Site Map--see the moat?

WOW and a MOAT!!! This group of Mayans must have needed to protect something very important to have built such defensive structures! The moat completely surrounds the site with 7 entryways around the circle.

Ball Court

Artwork on Bench Seating Area
Rounded Edges of Temple Structure

We saw things here that we have not seen in any other Mayan site---curved corners, concave and convex walls (leading down a staircase), a moat, 2 single circular stand-alone altars—within a plaza, intricate carvings on bench seating adjacent to the temple—maybe reserved seating for the ceremonies?, circular columns, multi-story habitats.

We highly recommend this site for anyone wanting a lot of Maya in a small space. Easily accessible, easy walk, and lots to see and climb!

Back on the road again!
It’s only 130km to Chetumal from here…..with a couple more checkpoints along the way.

Odometer mileage/kilometer

Left onto 186 east.

Military Security Post – the guard asked (in Spanish) where we were from and where we were going…he smiled a lot and wished us a “Buen Viaje”

Fitosanitario inspection – not sure what this was all about—waived thru

Military checkpoint – traffic stopped heading west---no guards on our side—drove thru

Arrived Chetumal
Reservations at Hotel Real Azteca – Calle Belice (next to the Maya Cultural Museum)

Ok, so I wanted to be near the central marketplace and museum---for $399pesos/night ($31.54usd ), we get no frills--perfect for our needs today. We do get location, a/c, fan, cable tv, king bed, off-street parking. We’ll stay here 2 nights to give us time to explore Chetumal tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Day 6: Calakmul

Day 6
Calakmul -7 hour day

We left the Ecovillage at 8:30a.m. and drove 30km west on 186, to the Calakmul intersection.

Immediately there was a closed entrance gate and we paid $28peso fee pp ($2.21usd) and $46pesos ($3.64usd) for the car. We were told it was a 60km drive to the site. We proceeded to drive 20 km on a 1 land, paved road and were able to average 60km/h.

20km into the “Biosphera” , the road “Y’s”—to the left is a museum/snack shop and to the right another 40km to the site. Last stop for food/beverage! To enter the museum is $54peso fee ($4.27usd)—we paid but did not enter—decided to get to the site first and then do the museum before they close at 3.

The Road

We then made the right and drove another 40km to the site. It took us a good hour from the intersection entry to the site entry….At the site, there was (yet another) $46 entry fee pp ($3.64usd). No paper site map available. No vendors. No food/beverages. Yes, restrooms!

We then entered a beautiful world! The paths were actually swept by employees and well marked. There were 3 different “routes” you could take to explore the ruins, we chose the “Ruta Corta” (short route).

The Swept Path

This site had been excavated during the 1990’s, many of the soft limestone stelae (history/story monoliths) had deteriorated so that the history was difficult to translate. But, like most Mayan sites, they believed the population began to scatter about 1000-1200AD.

We were greeted by: a variety of birds, 2 Toucans, several butterflies, 2 foxes, a peacock-who followed us around the plaza, and 3 different families of Howler Monkeys in the trees above our heads.

We spent 4 hours, just in awe of this site. We were not the only people on tour, there were a couple of high school groups, families and couples meandering around the ruins with us…it was as though we had it all to ourselves at times, as we all had our own agendas!

On the way out, we did stop in the museum—it explained the pre-history of the Yucatan Peninsula. Showed: pre-historic shark jaw with teeth found in cenotes around the region, small tusked elephant skeleton, and huge pre-historic armadillo skeleton along with fish fossils. There was an area for current animals found in the area and the sounds they make. In the Maya sections they displayed some vessels and clay figurines along with some jade and obsidian.

Back in the car for the next 20km—returned to the Ecovillage.

Day 5: Villahermosa to Near Xpujil, MX and the EcoVillage

Day 5 Villahermosa to near Xpujil, MX
5 hours

Today’s goal is to reach the Chicanna Ecovillage Resort about 8km east of Xpujil so we can tour a couple more Maya ruins…Calakmul and Becan.

This entire day was replete with “tope” (speedbump) vendors---I mean each and every little village had a series of at least 4 “topes”, some single, some double, that slowed down traffic enough to allow street vendors to stand on the topes and sell their wares. They were not aggressive, just opportunists…Obviously someone purchased their wares, or that marketing approach would not exist! You’ll notice the signs when you are approaching a village that read, “Poblado proximo”—may as well slow down and enjoy the adventure!

And the road construction continues...

There were a couple of Policia Federal as well as Military checkpoints along the way today…the Federales just waved us through, the Military actually had us stop and peeked in the driver’s window—again we were just waved through!

I should have told you earlier-- that the receipt you get at the casera de cobro must be retained for your time on the toll roads. This is evidently an insurance policy for that specific section of the toll road—in case of an accident. However, if you are determined to be speeding and involved in an accident, the insurance is void.

Odometer Mileage/Kilometers

Due to the permanent Jersey barriers in front of the Hilton, you must make a strange turnaround, thru the airport…Head out the Hilton driveway, make a right onto 186, follow the Aeropuerto/Yumka sign—drive into the airport and do the loop, follow the signs back to 186—this is about a 3 mile circle to return you to in front of  the Hilton—but headed in the right directions—east…

Caseta de Cobro, $20pesos, ($1.58usd)

Federales checkpoint—waved through
186 changes here to a 2 lane, with open shoulders…the slower traffic will pull onto the right shoulder (sticking about ½ way onto the lane) and allow you to pass (with your left turn signal on.) The drivers along this route are very courteous and will move over when it is safe for you to pass. Likewise, you should do the same for them.

Military checkpoint – “Must stop if asked” –waived through

Intersection with road to Palenque (Mayan Ruins)

Chable town, Caseta de Cobro, $20 ($1.58usd) LAST TOLL!!

“Corridor Quarantine Station” no stop, keep moving, looking for fruits/veggies

Military security stop – peeked in, waved through


Federales checkpoint – peeked in, waved through

Calakmul intersection (Mayan Ruins)

Chicanna Ecovillage Resort on left – signage above road

The Chicanna Ecovillage was a soothing find! We did an internet search, looking for a place close to both Becan and Calakmul Mayan Ruins—voila’ Ecovillage! $1416pesos/night ($111.94usd)for a double occupancy room. The village was more than expected, there were 4 rooms per 2-story building—stucco sided, thatched roofs, fan (no a/c—but didn’t need it), wifi (both nights it stopped working around 9pm…) pool, restaurant serving from 7am-10pm, far enough away from the road that there were no road noises-only nature—birds, tree frogs, squealing Royal rats….we thought that the only downside was very firm beds. The employees were friendly and helpful—some spoke a little English. We found most of the other guests were European (we were the only N. Americans) it was very interesting to hear: German, Italian, a Nordic language, Russian all in the dining room at the same time!

Chicanna EcoVillage

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Day 4: Puebla, MX to Villahermosa, MX

Day 4 - 9 hours
Today's goal: Villahermosa, MX and stay at the Hilton near the airport.

After a good night's sleep and buffet-style breakfast, we left Puebla, MX. Today's journey took us through the mountain country--what looked like a volcano, and quaint mountain villages, and a huge agricultural area (colder regions to warmer regions) where strawberries, pineapple, sugar cane, oranges, and bananas abound!
Pineapple fields

Roadside pineapple vendor

Sweeping mountain road

Mountain tunnel

Smokey mountain village

These teeth-chattering, bad roads were continually under repair or resurfacing--obviously a perpetual problem for travelers. I think that if you were lucky enough to get a gig with the road department, you'd have a job for life!

We followed a truck load of Policia Federal for about 30km and had to pass them--because they did not maintain their speed at 110km/h---I was "nodded" to by one of the guys in the back of the truck, so I problema. You know, they do look menacing carrying the machine guns and with balaclavas on--but think about it, they are in an open vehicle, traveling 70mph down the road with bugs galore!! I think I'd want to look like a bandito too!!!
Today's encounter with the Military was at an agricultural inspection station, where the guard just waved us through and said, "See you, bye, bye." No problema.

Odometer mileage/kilometers
Left Fiesta Inn, follow frontage road to enter Route 150D

Caseta de Cobro, $150 pesos ($11.86USD)

Caseta de Cobro, $55 pesos ($4.35USD), snow-capped mountain to the north

Caseta de Cobro, $110 pesos ($8.70USD)

Caseta de Cobro, $24 pesos ($1.90USD), sugar cane fields, very bad road

Caseta de Cobro, $145 pesos ($11.46USD)

Caseta de Cobro, $170 pesos ($13.44USD), pineapple fields, very bad road

Caseta de Cobro, $155 pesos ($12.25USD), better road

Caseta de Cobro, $17 pesos ($1.34USD)

Exit onto Route 180 toward Villahermosa, very bad road

Agricultural checkpoint, Mexican military, flagged through

Caseta de Cobro, $60 pesos ($4.64)

Exit onto Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (Wal-Mart on left) toward airport

Hilton on left at KM 12.8, proceed to KM 15 for u-turn at Retorno. Because there are permanent Jersey barriers in the median.

The Hilton proved to be a good place to hang our hats for the night--2 restaurants, bar service, nice infinity pool--didn't really explore, too road weary....I doubt this is Paris' favorite place to stay..

Day 3 a.m.: "They are not Maya, nor Aztec, but Teotihuacanos"

Teotihuacan has been on my "to-do" list for quite a while. Rumor has it that this pyramid complex is laid out much like Giza, Egypt--with similar pyramid dimensions, direction and laid out along the same star cluster : Orion's Belt. --all this I learned from the History channel--- So with all this "knowledge" we proceeded to visit the ruins.

"They are not Maya, nor Aztec, but Teotihuacanos"

We toured using the guidebook, "Teotihuacan History, Art and Monuments" from Mexico's Institute of Archaeology and History. The original name of this site is "place of the gods", it was continually inhabited from 100 BCE to near 1000 AD. Beginning as concentrated villages, this area grew with the population and became a communal ceremonial center, with the first 2 pyramids (Moon and Sun) built and completed by 150 AD. The third pyramid, Temple of Quetzalacoatl, was completed between 1 and 200 AD. Massive building and remodeling projects, a flourishing economy,  political and religious practices continued through about 900 AD, when internal conflicts and external attacks began to play havoc with the culture. Teotihuacan was completely abandoned by 1000 AD.

Teotihuacan has been noted for its ability to utilize underground water and collecting rain, drains (still visible), artisan workshops, dwelling complexes markets, streets, temples (an understatement!), palaces, large ceremonial center and districts where "other" Mesoamericans lived who had moved in to the area.

The gods associated with Teotihuacan were: Tlaloc (god of rain), Chalchiutlicue (goddess of water) and Quetzalcoatl (the feathered serpent).

The site is 2km long, stretching along The Avenue Of The Dead, encompassing the 3 large pyramid structures: the Temple of Quetzalcoatl in the south, Temple of the Sun a little over midway and the Temple Of The Moon on the north end. The currently excavated area is a small fraction of what lies in the surrounding area.

We arrived at 8:30 a.m. on a misty morning, to a bevy of hot air balloons over the ruins. A beautiful sight! Watching them silently float over the pyramids---
Balloons Over Pyramid Of The Moon
We entered Puerta 1. We paid $57pesos ($4.52usd) each and $45pesos ($3.57usd) to park the car in an unmarked parking lot--(where, much to our dismay, we later found ourselves blocked in! We had the entrance guard call the Police - who never did show up. However, in about 15 minutes, one of the owners returned, girlfriend and popsicle in tow, and without a "Fine, Howdy-Do?" pulled out!! Hint: park along the periphery of the lot, against the fence, as close to the entrance as possible, leave no room for others to block you in!!)

Passing through the visitor center and one of the museums, we were immediately accosted by vendors--obsidian this-and obsidian-that, jaguar whistles, bows and arrows, jewelry, trinkets, blankets----pretty much "whatever" touristy thing you can imagine. These vendors were littered all around the site--so, if you had a craving for a trinket, it was never too far away.

After weaving through the maze of vendors, we climbed the stairs straight ahead to the Citadel and Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Up a leg numbing 29 stairs to view the Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl sculptures.
Temple of Quetzalcoatl



Then down the quadricep cramping staircase and onto the Avenue of the Dead. This road is 2km long dead ending at the Pyramid of the Moon. It is lined with temple after temple of various sizes and the elevation changes a few times. The Pyramid of the Sun (the largest one) is on the right about 3/4 of the way down.
Avenue Of The Dead
1/2 way down Avenue Of The Dead

Almost there....

We made it all the way to the Moon and back! Next to the Moon were 2 temple areas that still had some original artwork.
Temple Of The Moon

Palace of Quetzal-Papalotl

Palace Of The Jaguars

Temple Of The Feathered Conches

You may still climb the Pyramid of the Sun--we overheard some other Americans talking about a 1 hour wait, single file line..I'm sure it's an amazing view.....
Pyramid Of The Sun (from the Moon's point of view)

Temple Of The Sun

the Pyramid of the Moon seemed to have no restrictions--but, alas, we did not climb up there either...

Funny aside---we think we saw Jerry Garcia!! No kidding, dressed as a Guru......

Day 3 p.m.: Teotihuacan, MX to Puebla, MX and Fiesta Inn

After spending 5 hours in Teotihuacan, we were spent and did not want to stay in the area, so we drove a short 2 hours to Puebla, MX. The route was pretty stressful at first - while driving out of Teotihuacan/Mexico City area, but soon we found ourselves in beautiful mountain country and our blood pressure dropped significantly!

Mexico City traffic :

Odometer mileage/kilometers
Caseta de Cobro, $22 pesos ($1.74USD), to Texcoco, thru Los Reyes (heavy traffic, roadside vendors, confusing left onto 150D)

Caseta de Cobro, $150 pesos ($11.85USD) Puebla couta Route 150D (construction)


Caseta de Cobro, $100 pesos ($7.91USD)

Caseta de Cobro, $30 pesos ($2.37USD)

Arrive Puebla, MX - Fiesta Inn, near last tollbooth on right (Holiday next door, same exit)

The route we are following, for the most part, recommended The Fiesta Inn, Puebla, MX. We walked in and had no problem getting a king bed room, $1500pesos ($119usd), for the night. WORTH EVERY PENNY! They do have wifi, business center, fitness center....not that we used anything but the wifi!!!

We had a good, filling meal and retired early. On to Villahermosa tomorrow!