Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Animals of Mahahual

The small village of mahaual was home to an interesting array of beasties.

First there was a fishing dog. She belonged to the guy that ran a coffee cafe.  She delighted in jumping through the surf like one of Santa's reindeer.  After getting her Yayas out she would sit at the waters edge and stare intently into the water, concentrating so hard she would shake. Then a minute later she would pounce at some unsuspecting fish and try and snap it up. As the fish were spear faced trumpet fish almost translucent white, it would make catching them even more difficult for dogs who see in black and white.

I concluded that the fishing dog was sighting the fish by the shadows they cast against the white sand in the bright sun.

There was also the cute local puppy contingent consisting of the town favourite, Bruno, and his partner in crime, a puppy slightly older than Bruno.  They loved chasing each other up and down the beach and stalking seabirds who laughed off the hunt and simply rose up like helicopters into the ocean breeze when the dogs appeared.

Brunos buddy appeared to be of golden retriever stock and thus reminded us of our own perpetual puppy, Alice.  We therefore dubbed her Alice junior.

Just like our Alice she loves everyone and is extremely curious.  Catherine left the beach the other day to step into the hotel only to find that Alice junior had followed her from the water and up into the hotel. Said puppy had no bones about letting herself in and  wandering around  the hotel checking the stairs, kitchen and any open rooms out.

The staff paid no notice to Alice junior, the only one upset was Pacho the resident hotel cat who was rather big for her britches and ruled over the place like a Contessa.

The diva Pacha held lifes brass ring... except for two things.

Number one was Sandy. Sandy was the cat who lived in the corner dive shop. She took great relish in leaving her beachfront home and wandering into pacha s turf.

The one thing Sandy enjoyed even more than torturing Pacho i think, was torturing Misha, the cat who lived at the hotel across and down aways from ours.

Which brings us to the second torment to Pacho.  It was of course Misha who took great joy in leaving her hotel turf to go and drive Pacho to distraction.

I think only thing Pacho and Misha had in common was their mutual loathing of Sandy the surf cat and oh, all the village dogs.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

magic bus

No. The bus was not magic. I just like the WHO song title and thought it was fitting.

From Pacifica mahahuL we took the direct bus which got you from the south to the north in the best time with, apparently, little hassle.

Having been in 3rd world buses many, many times we are  prepared for either something that moves the speed of an ox cart or a maniac who has delusions of being Steve mcqueen.

I had no problem with the crazed driver who was inspired to get the passengers 350 km in just over 2 hours.

I applaud that kind of get up and go attitude. Though I spend each moment pretty 7much saying prayers to saints I know nothing of or don't believe in.

However when mister bus drivers mistress, tagging along, got the small seat behind him and decided to start some grand seduction, whispering in his ear, massaging his shoulders over and over, then stroking his hair while he was doing 135 km on  single lane highway, in dusk, I had had enough.

even he was a tad irritated pushing her hand away while he put on prescription glasses.

Would that bloody @34567 woman stop pawing him I finally said loudly.  Luckily drive boy was too enraptured with the heated breath in his ear to pay me any notice as he, gunned the small bus either faster to get to his reward or as a demonstration of his masculinity.

He also held her agog with his prose as he spent over an hour, while I watched for oncoming traffic, telling her all sorts of things motioning often with one or more hands.

I personally didn't know what tales a short run  ADO bus driver would have possibly had that  could keep a woman so focused, but hell, he may be a great poet.

Catherine told me not to cause  scene after my outburst and  kept suggesting that I focus on the spanish dubbed film about a dancing blue parrot.

 we finally got near tumul and the girlfriend finally sat down.

I think maybe the driver has a wife in tumul. He acted like he didn't know her.

when I got back on the bus she was assigned a seat now away.  A woman and child in her old seat. She had a bunch of bad movie and gossip magazines on her lap, all run through.

I didn't feel mad at her anymore.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mahahual Reefs Puppies and Aquamarine Water

We are in Mahahual a small town along the great maya coral reef. It is the largest reef in the northern hemisphere. I actually haven't really experienced anything like a pristine sugar sand beach with warm seas, sun, waves and cervesa bar chock a block. This because catherine and I don't do beach resorts. But I have to say this is fantastic.  We are in a small boutique hotel next to the water.  There isn't a gringo in town and about 10 tourists other than us who are all European.

The secret to the towns success is that a cruise ship will come in every morning at 5 am and leave by about 1 pm. Therefore we miss all the tourists as they apparently disembark after their dawn arrival to get blasted before breakfast, buy stuff and then leave around lunch.

As we had breakfast late this morning a cabal of Americans from south carolina did appear. The size of giants they sported brush cuts, bad patriotic tattoos and proceeded to order 7 Marguerites followed by multiple tequila shots. They were still there long into the late afternoon, still with the shots, the beers, crude jokes and their women now absent. Not  that we found the women, out of a jerry springer episode, any better company.

I wondered if they actually could come from the same country that voted in Obama, twice.

They scare me.

The sea is lovely, the water crystal, the pelicans and weird birds that look like flying dinosaurs put you in another world. I love the trumpet fish that swim right at the shore.

It's nice to just swim, have a beer, then swing on swings in the beach bars, get  a massage and watch the sun go down.

Sweet beach dogs, fresh seafood, the locals and just us.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Long Drive

We have arrived in Mahahual on the Caribbean coast after a long bus drive.  We were told it was an hour and a half trip. Some Danes we met were told it takes an hour. Two hours later and a remarkable number of9 stops for gas which I suspect were a poor cover for lengthy cigarette breaks, we made it the 100 km.  Not that I am doubting the bus company but does large transport bus really need to stop at each gas station to fill up on diesel?

Another day at the cenote Azul which was slightly marred by a cloudy day and chilly 22 degrees.  This meant the cenote at 28 degrees was warmer than the air.

The meXi cans and some Brazilians thought we were plain nuts for swimming today, particularly catherine as she swam straight for an hour.

We did however manage to convince the Brazilian women to put their foot in at which point one put on snorkel gear and dove in.

Travelling by bus and walking the small villages you get to see how most maya live. Most homes are a small one room cinder block, concrete or even wood framed affair, the roofs constructed out of salvaged corrugated tin sheets or traditional dried palm leaves. Most people have a small yard where chickens and sundry animals peck.  Cooking like washing is done outside in the yard beside the house. Most people still sleep in Hammocks which hang from the walls.  The front step or yard is your living room where family and neighbour's will congegrate, or a local Pollo shack with a grill and some plastic chairs where people eat chicken and tortillas.

Many of the maya run small fruit stands on the edges of the villages.  Today going I to limone the specialty was pineapples. More than I've seen in my life for prices ranging from 4 to 2 pineapples for 50 pesos.

I think the people are members of a pineapple cooperative as best as I could make out from a large sign by the road.

One of the things I've found most touching about yucatan so far is the relationship between parents, children and siblings.  Because no one could ever dream 9 affording a stroller, not that you could even get one through the tiny uneven sidewalks, everyone mothers, father's and sing carry the babies and toddlers everywhere holding them at their hip. Once little ones are able to walk they pass all holding  parents hand.  I have also noticed that Mayan men are just as responsible for walking with the kids as the women.

Yucatan is lovely.  A gentle people who tolerate our mangling of spanish even if it's not their first language.

Maybe they enjoy someone else mangling a stupid language which was never their own.

The Rooster Crowed at midnight then again at 1am, 2am, 5am, 6 am and finally stopped when we got up at 11am

By the time we were packed up and ready to go, said rooster, now Catherine's sworn enemy finally lay down to sleep.  So then I woke him up taking pictures of him.

Random thoughts about mexico. Why do they have so many zapaterias? Do people really buy all that many shoes? They are everywhere.  I also puzzle on the number of auto parts shops. While there are tons of old Volkswagen beetles everywhere most of the cars are new. Therefore why all the parts shops.

I am also puzzled by the number of small shops selling just one thing that I wouldn't imagine was in high demand.   For example a store right on the main plaza in Campeche that sold only ribbons. Or the nail polish store.

My guess is that rents aren't that high and they use sales to supplement a very modest income.

Off to mahahual today on the Caribbean Sea

A gorgeous few days in bacalar enjoying the crystal laguna and now cenote azul, a large open air cenote which truly blue with 28 degree water and a nice bar restaurant on the shore.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fiesta Flirtation

We were in the small colonial town of campeche for carnival and caught a fantastic parade of a few thousand men and women in traditional costume dancing down the main street.

I will upload photos once I get home as I can't get the software onto the tablet.

Apart from the gorgeous dancers, I had a rather odd but pleasing surprise. Catherine and I were standing on the  the parade route when a young Mayan woman in a beautiful dress broke from the parade and sought me out to give me the shirt she was using as a handkerchief which dancers spin around their head while they dance..

Having read the Lacuna however I knew what THAT meant leaving me rather puzzled.

Catherine however put it down to a lovely gesture of welcome and friendship to a foreigner.

My take is that it means Im easy on  the eyes to  ladies of many nations. ;^)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Beautiful Laguana Bacalar

We arrived last night quite late in chetumal hoping a hotel with no working phone or any email address would keep our room until 11 pm or more.  Bacalar is 30 km from chetumal  and our bus was as slow getting  into the main town as the proverbial molasses in January.

After the worst toilet in the world ...chetumal depot...I scurried out only to resemble Carrie.

People, who in this region don't see a lot of gringos, looked at me in terror. I return to catherine who is consulting a god send of a tourist desk man who is telling catherine  how we can taxi to the town of bacalar.

The hotel guy actually looked at me and let out a small scream..

I looked at my hand and I was covered in blood. My face, my hands, my arms covered with dripping blood.

Then I figured out that  in my haste to flee the worst toilet ever, I cut my finger on the strange water dispenser they have in bathrooms here. Now i am  convinced I have some horrid blood born infection from the filthy water thingy.

I think they should have paid ME to use the toilets.

then to bacalar

When writers said you have never seen such a brilliant shade of blue, now blue green now aquamarine, they were right.

a crystalline lake of delicate but sticky white sand that is an absolutely purida.

we swam all day in the Azul waters watching maya and their kids playing and teaching them from infancy how to swim or at least get used to the water.  I find that most Yucatan people love water but don't know how to swim.

All day swimming in resplendent waters, reading spanish. Sipping on cervazas.

watching one or two Norte mexicans trying black flipping off the dock.

an American fulbright, fluent in spanish and over beers talking about our mutual travels in Guatemala.

of all the times catherine and I love, it is at deep sunset in Latin America.  The sun goes down so early but the beautiful fugue between the  blazing daylight warmth and the slow pink coolness.

dogs wake up, the insects begin to chant and for a while I always feel like it's Christmas and time stands while everyone greats each other and there is a sunset the colour of the pink of a conch shell.

then dark, fire,  the town dagger dogs, insectivos.

Slight lights and futbol. Hammocks and then to bed.

Lou Reed. You talked about a perfect day.

Sunday, February 15, 2015


We have arrived in campeche. It is a small colonial town about 200 km south of merida on the carribean. The most notable thing about campeche so far is that we appear to be the sole turistas.

People generally look at us, perhaps more so me, as if we had just come from the moon.

It is carnival currently and many people walk the streets in bits of costume.  In Walmart today a young gay man had his face painted like a jaguar.

Walmart you ask? Yes we asked too. Turns out the Centro historic is completely dry in terms of alcohol sales. No beer, wine or liquor sold anywhere in the near radius.  And wine prices here in restaurants are equal to Canada if not more. Thus to keep us from busting our budget we get wine at the supermarket.

the little supermarkets have all disappeared from the Centro. The only reminder the Mayan women who still peel fruits and sell them on the street corners.
So who is responsible?  What has colonized mexico like an evil fungus?

 Walmart.  The small collective buses now even paint it as a destination in itself on the front window.

And horror of horrors we attended at not just a Walmart, BUT a Mexican walmart. My father used to joke about American drugstores selling everything but pharmaceutical items but this walmart took it to a new level.

I could actually purchase all manner of vehicles right there and then including motorcycles, four by fours and any tire you could imagine. All on convenient payment plans of course.

C took a photo of me with our cache of wine standing in front of an enormous wall of toilet seats for sale.

Thank you Sam Wal for coming to Mexico where you can pay people even less than in Canada or the states.

Cue me growling like jaguar.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

jaguar magic cenote cenote cenote

So c has become addicted to cenotes. We have been to 5 in two days and like people, each have  a personality. Some are open to the sky others a dark cave with only a small lamp and a frightening rickety ladder to get you down the 2 or more stories to the water. One we were at was the sight of religious and domestic ceremonies from neolithic times as evidenced by the hand prints in one section high on the walls.

No gringos in sight. Just laughing playing mexicans and maya.

Today we ran the collective, a shared van, to a village near to our newest cenote. An interesting try although c had to sit next to elderly typhoid Mary who kept coughing into clothe like she was losing a lung only to then repeatedly hoark,  out the window and barf sputum.  The rather weird thing is that she had a cell phone that went off about 5 times during the 30  minute ride which she had to answer and discuss.  The image of a sick and elderly maya woman hoarking, out a window while fielding multiple calls just left me confused. But this is the land of cenotes, gateways to another world.

The world of strange chatting old women, moto taxis basically a homemade  platform with a bench strapped to the front of a motorbike. I am not sure how describe how dangerous it is.  First the crate on two wheels with then a small sofa. The driver on the back straps on some sad head safety gear, a broken bicycle helmet or an old football hat.

You at the front, on your sofa bench, are then the first in line by gravity  should the taxi crash, stop suddenly or hit a pero.

And , and the nicest people we have ever met.

the day previous we hired a taxi to take us all day to remote cenotes. Maya, who have very little income wait  roadside to tell drivers and taxis that they must guide to the cenotes  at an exorbitant price.

I can hear the driver angry with the Mayan kid who  in spanish  tells the driver he has not had work in weeks. Give him a propina, a tip, the kid is a heart break story.  Taxi driver angry as the kid forced himself into the cab by guilt.

but he was great and sweet, a wonderful diver and I think quite a thinker profundo.  A Shaman to be perhaps.^

the next day we were told that getting to the next cenote by collective would be a piece  of cake. Not so. We wandered lining up only to be told no this is NOT the collective although everyone had different ideas of what collective to take

A punk 50 woman with huge slash scars on her arm and a tattoo in English block letters all over them read FROM  A LIFE I HATE  took control. Perfect English she talked to a the drivers and got us on the right collectives a d told us how to moto to the cenote.

the cenote an aquamarine world of fishes, lily pads and crystal water.

we swam with some Frenchman that had relocated to merida and we're filming the cenotes depth with waterproof cameras.

we swam with a group of gay men from Winnipeg

At the end of the day, the sun going down and alone in nowhere a Mexican maya woman offered us a lift to the town with the collective.  We declined thanking her profusely  as we hoped a moto would come back.  It never did and when she came back and beeped Ola I asked her if we could take her up on her previous offer.

She hesitated said yes and drove us to the stand apologizing that gringos had to see street dogs and would think badly of Mexico.

How can you think badly of a much needed lift and mutual pity for street dogs.

Then we got the bad collective draw , worried as it was past 5 pm and the sun  was setting  we took the first vehicle we saw, the worst dirty broken down chicken bus ever.

but as the bus toiled on its slow stop every corner route, 10 20 s 30 of maya, poor, laborers got on stop after stop until the bus was bursting out its seams. All to be dropped at Centro merida.  Newest tourist destination on the places to be.

watch them trundle
 off to work and look at the many sapado, shops. One pair of sandals  for 25 pesos.

cenotes are magical, actually quite profound to quote jack Hawkins from  Ben hur.

Sometimes things are best kept secret, not shared.

Monday, February 09, 2015

you have to know Latin America to get this

On cnn international yesterday FARC the rather ruthless revolutionary group which has been fighting a civil war for some against the corrupt Columbian government announced it wants to enlist the assistance of miss universe in upcoming peace talks.

Angela merkel and Hollande? Do you think miss universe might help bridge the gap between Petroshenko, and putin?


Cenotes are weird natural limestone sinkholes that cover the Yucatan. To understand what I am talking about imagine a small hole on the surface of the earth which, after millennia of dripping water, both underground and above, produces an enormous bowl like cave roofed over with surface rock.  The roof above you features a small hole in which sunlight is let in.

In the cave itself is a large pristine pool of filtered crystal water pure blue in colour and home to many fish some large others small.

You must descend down steep and crude steps which are slick with water and arrive below to see a cathedral high ceiling where bats flap about up the many stories to the sunlit forest floor.

Dive into the ice blue water and swim under stalagmites while little fish nibble at your feet.

It was a bit like the scene from the old movie journey to the Centre of the earth where they gaze at a world where the rocks are luminescent and there is a giant mushroom forest.

C rates today and two different  cenotes visits as the second best time so far in her life.

She now plans that we will spend the next three weeks going cenotes to cenote.

I can see why the maya understood them to be a gateway to the other world.

chichen itza

Billed as one of the new 7 world wonders this ancient Mayan city is truly impressive. Rediscovered in the early nineteen Hundreds after being lost to the jungle for all out a thousand years you can thank chewing gum for what we see today. It and other Mayan cities were found when the jungle was  cut down in part to access chickle.  The sap that made gum thus chiclets.

A fascinating site featuring an amazing pyramid calendar setting out the Mayan calendars.
My favorite was the royal ball court. Mayan royalty would play some sort of game with a rubber ball as a semi religious political event. Either using only feet etc as in soccer or in some eras a bat, to win you had to get the ball through a stone ring perched a few stories up the side of the arena. It's a lot harder then it sounds and I would imagine would have to be spiderman to succeed.

at the end of the game either the loser or the winners were sacrificed. Archeologists are not sure which.

the maya museum noted that the a erase life expectancy of a Mayan peasant was 35. However this didn't mean it was all roses for the royalty. The museum pointed out that if you were royal you also had a limited life expectancy. In their cases it due to death in battle,kidnapping and best of all sacrifice. Wonder if prince William would have gone in for. Harry  yes but not so sure about William and kate.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

cancun and crocodiles

Cancun is an entirely new city. Before the 1970 s this was only a tiny fishing village until authorities got the idea of making the thin strip of beach into Nuevo Acapulco. After pouring  in money to bring in water sewage and other infrastructure they set about building a Vegas like strip covering a long spit of beach. It is truly colossal in terms of gross excess, vain glory and conspicuous consumption. Huge hotels playboy the sands and Melia tower above the two lane highway that traverses the hotel zone. As you follow the road into the zone signs in spanish warn pedestrians about the crocodiles that may come up from the adjacent lagoon and eat you. Once you get into the tourist area proper the signs change to English and warn people not to feed touch yell or swim with the crocodiles. I can only imagine that that should a hungry reptile come looking for a bite the only recourse for the tourists would be to flee into the cavernous Cartier or Harley Davidson department stores. Sadly the tourists have no interest in the rich and fascinating Mayan culture which abounds here. A brand new museum featuring incredible Mayan art artifacts and history has been built in the tourist zone. On the day we went I perused the required guest book which all have to sing. All of the visitor s were Mexican or Latin america. There was c and I and lone Canadian as the sole gringos who attended that day.  The tourists don't come here for culture but for endless drinking and jet skiis.  I had to laugh at the myriad billboards advertising speed and terrifying adrenalin rushes in boats for which the tourists pay big money.  We could have told them to pay 80 cents and take the local bus from downtown to the tourist zone.  Speeds of 120 and a moving stop where you have to jump off the semi moving bus. Enough adrenaline for the bravest man.

We were staying in the city where the mexicans, most quite low income e, reside. At the end of the day we took the local bus back to downtown and watched as scores of maya waited to get the bus home e after their work as waiters maids and ground keepers at the luxuriant  hotels. Many of the young maya are leaving the countryside and moving g to cancun for work.

Something else to see so clearly the class and race divide as dark maya filter out of the hotels restricted to the white and by Mexican standards the rich.