Day 21: Uxmal II - Grampies Yucatan Return: Winter 2023 - CycleBlaze

January 20, 2023

Day 21: Uxmal II

Our feeling of being quite isolated here at Uxmal was confirmed as we looked at the satellite view of where we are. The hacienda and the archeology site are at the south end of a group of agricultural clearings (the hacienda's lands) and beyond that it is solid jungle.

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We zoomed in to see where it was we could walk to, and where any old hacienda buildings or processing might be. We could not quite see this, but the orderly rows of orchard and gardens were evident.

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We eagerly waited for morning, staring out our window into the dark. When it was light enough to see, we set out, walking north, as you see in the track below. Bird song of many types was everywhere, but we could scarcely see any individuals.  This was because of low light at first, but generally the crafty birds hang out in leafy trees, largely hidden from sight.

 No matter, as former farmers we much enjoyed looking at the orchards and row crops that extended from the hacienda and toward the jungle. The citrus trees were of course obviously citrus, and yes we could identify grapefruit, lime, and bitter orange, but for other types, like varieties of orange, it was a mystery.

We also spotted a variety of row crops, like tomato under cover, beans, eggplant, and cilantro. Surprising was to see brassicas, normally associated with cool climates - maybe a type of broccoli, and savoy cabbage.

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When the light came we ventured out of our protected porch to explore the lands between here and the jungle.
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We found well tended gardens and orchards. This area south of Merida is known as the garden of Yucatan.
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Here was the remains of an aqueduct. At the hacienda at Yaxcopoil they also had an aqueduct system, similarly abandoned. But there with the termination of irrigation, fruit trees were no longer raised. Here, we saw drip irrigation.
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Some workers were already out. They are tending to yellow peppers, but we could not be sure what they were doing. Two drivers were also going around on medium sized John Deere tractors with rear mowers, trimming the already trim road and pathways. Interestingly, both tractor and mowers were identical, indicating that someone plunked down about $60,000 at once to buy a twin pack of tractors. There must be money in peppers!
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There were lots of orange trees.
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This must surely be a sour orange, good for marinating poc chuc!
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Bill ShaneyfeltIn college at AZ State U, my friends and I squeezed juice from these (very seedy and very sour) fruits. We called it "go juice" because on a long trip, if we got a bit drowsy, a sip and we were ready to go!
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1 week ago
Tomatoes were carefully protected under cloth.
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Here are the cells that surely the tomatoes were transplanted from.
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Here is a weird one. The cactus like fronds (dragon fruit?) were strapped to the other trees.
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Bill ShaneyfeltI read somewhere that dragon fruit get attached to trees for support. They usually grow in the canopy of trees. My brother in HI has one way too high to harvest growing in his huge mango tree.
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1 week ago
Bill Shaneyfelthttps://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10220855785760553&set=a.10220811564975061
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1 week ago
Possibley a Social Flycatcher, but maybe a Great Kiskadee, looks on.
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Bill ShaneyfeltYup, it is a Great Kiskadee! Good call!
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1 week ago
Ah, the Ziricote - we saw this yesterday at the ruins.
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Bill ShaneyfeltPrettier than yesterday's!
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1 week ago
Nice looking eggplant
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Bill ShaneyfeltAnd beans and a nice little skipper butterfly... (Seems there are hundreds of species of them).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skipper_(butterfly)
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1 week ago
Unusual to see here? savoy cabbage.
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We think this could be achiote?
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Bill ShaneyfeltFruits look like chestnuts, but leaves are way too big and smooth.
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1 week ago
Social Fycatcher? A Kiskadee would have yellow on top of his head?
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Scott AndersonI’ve never heard of the social flycatcher, which we don’t have further north - but it looks like it’s a challenge distinguishing them from kiskadees, even for experienced birders. Their color patterns are very similar. The key differences are apparently size (kiskadees are larger), and especially bill size - social flycatchers have fairly short bills. You can’t really tell from this photo, but it looks like a pretty stubby bill to me. Try to get a profile shot next time.
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1 week ago
White winged dove
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Marvin PaxmanWonderful picture!
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Marvin PaxmanThanks Marvin!
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Yesterday the people at the restaurant right at the ruins entrance told me that their hours  were 9-6. To make sure, the cashier there wrote it down for me. So after our very early morning sortie and three hour walk, we were eager to go to the restaurant for a nice breakfast. We showed up at 9:15, really hungry. But although the staff was there, sweeping the floor mainly,  they said they would not prepare any food for 20 minutes.  It is possible that for some reason the chef had not shown up, but the language barrier prevented any detailed discussion. Instead we flounced off, muttering about "Mexican time".

The "Choco Story" trek
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Hungry or not, we just moved on to our next thing, which was the Choco Story. We had seen Choco Story in other cities, even in France, and had assumed it to be some kind of lame tourist trap. But at least in this case, we turned out to be so wrong.  A typical chocolate museum, and we have seen a few, such as at Hershey Pennsylvania, and at Valrona in Valence. France, not mention Ritter Sport in Waldshut, Germany,  will go through how cocoa beans are grown and processed, and how chocolate is produced, tempered, and cooked with. But this one had some fabulous added dimensions.  First off, it is set in a very large (2 hectare) tropical garden/forest and the display rooms are accessed along a winding path through that. All along, the lush tropical plants are named and their uses described. In the display rooms, while there certainly is the coverage of cocoa growing and processing, the main focus is on the interaction of that with the Mayan culture. They describe how the Mayans used cocoa, and how it figured in religion. The display rooms are typical Mayan buildings, and in one local people demonstrate preparing hot chocolate, starting from the beans.

The reason this was all so great, to us, was that the museum was in fact conceived as an "ecopark" and museum. Frankly we would have been happy to pay the admission if only to walk the jungle trails and look at the plants. But there was more. They held a typical Mayan ceremony of prayer to Chaac, god of rain. Once again, we have seen this kind of tourist thing - such as in Hawaii with torch dancers and such, but this felt quite earnest, small scale, and genuine to us. Have a look!

The ecopark part of the theme also extended to a bit of an animal rescue operation. There were spider monkeys, deer, and most spectacular, two formerly injured jaguars. Jaguars are bigger than we thought!

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Somebody defanged and declawed this poor guy. He would now find a deer, like the one below, too tough.
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Follow us now around the park for a bit:

Those twisty cactus again
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Heliconia
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Mayan statue - lady with cocoa
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There were several authentic looking stellae, like this one, which depicts cocoa in some way.
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There are cocoa trees growing here. One specific variety likes the Yucatan environment
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Such weird fish! What are they?
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The pond was stuffed with them!
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Typical appearance of the walking trails.
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Display rooms looked like this
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The main varieties of cocoa
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This tree was common on the property. The vicious spikes are only on the lower bit of the trunk
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Bill ShaneyfeltCieba tree.

https://www.maya-archaeology.org/pre-Columbian_Mesoamerican_Mayan_ethnobotany_Mayan_iconography_archaeology_anthropology_research/sacred_ceiba_tree_flowers_kapok_spines_yaxche_incense_burners.php
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Bill ShaneyfeltAh, the sacred tree in the Green Cross story!
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Spider monkeys are way more agile than I had imagined/
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Beehives for the stingless Melipona bees.
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The bees were going in and out of small holes in the sides of the hollow logs - the ends being sealed off.
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The hot chocolate we got was amazingly good. We had the choice of adding sugar, cinnamon, chile, and other stuff that we now forget.
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Grinding the fermented and dried beans.
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Ok, so this parrot was in an aviary!
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Bill ShaneyfeltYellow headed parrot

https://ebird.org/species/yehpar
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1 week ago
In dealing with chocolate coming to Europe, tempering and moulding, customs and dishes for drinking, etc. the displays were surprisingly sophisticated. I think this was the Choco Story chain drawing on its Belgian roots.
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The museum had a gift shop, naturally, and here we found some top quality chocolate products. We bought two chocolate bars, the more exciting of the two being dark chocolate with chile and spices, after an Aztec recipe.

We have found that chocolate in bar form is quite rare here, probably because it would melt in the heat. When found, in cool convenience stores, the bars are amazingly small, and expensive. These quality and not so small bars are imported from Belgium.
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Cocoa nibs and cocoa powder,
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There was one crocodile in the park, but he swam away before I could snap his photo, Fortunately these other guys held still!
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At the entrance of the Choco Story there was also a Green Cross. The green cross is a weird and confusing thing in Yucatan. The Spanish missionaries arrived to find the Maya already into crosses, but to them it symbolized the Ceiba tree. The Spanish were reluctant to confuse the locals with their cross cruxifiction stuff, and apparently there is not much of cruxified Christs in the churches. The Maya were into human sacrifice anyway, and putting a guy up on a Ceiba tree would be no big deal. However if the Spanish seemed to like these crosses, then the Maya could go along with it, but privately viewed the crosses as Ceiba trees. When the Maya revolted, in the Caste Wars, the green cross became a symbol of rebellion.

The green cross is a "thing" in Yucatan. We have no idea what the various symbols on this one are about.
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We returned  to the restaurant and were able to sit down for a nice meal, of fruit and Chicken Yucateca. We also got a pile of takeout, to use in the evening and tomorrow. But we determined that I would come back later to collect juice in some of our thermos bottles. We would get "Chaya" from the restaurant and mango/maracuya (passionfruit) from a nearby cart vendor. To save on the longish walk, I would come by bike. 

But when later I showed up on the bike, an attendant would not let me even walk it near the restaurant or the cart. Bikes were vehicles to him, and had to go in the parking lot. I cycled all the way back, to get my lock and returned. Then I took the opportunity to bawl out the attendant. First off, since I spoke nary a word of Spanish when arriving here three weeks ago, it's a tribute to language immersion, that I now would engage in a quasi legal debate  in Spanish about bike parking. Anyway, I told him that if he was going to be a jerk about it, then I expected him to provide the extra security of keeping an eye on the parked bike. "Not my job to provide security" was his clear reply.

Something I have noticed about the local people. They are very placid and calm. And when confronted by someone who is hot under the collar, even a (relatively) large, loud, white, gringo, they are unmoved. They simply fall back on their concept of bureaucratic correctness, and steadfastly, calmly, stick to it.

Bureaucratic parking attendants aside, we have tremendously enjoyed our stay at the Uxmal Hacienda, and we are curious about its history. We have found that it is one of the oldest in Yucatan, having originated in 1673 when the governor ceded the lands here to the original owner. Over centuries then, corn, tobacco, sugarcane, citrus and other fruit, and cotton were raised here. In the first half of the 19th century, a lot of explorers and celebrities came to stay here. It seems like the present hotel oriented incarnation dates from about the early 20th century, though we have no information about renovations or when the actual room we are staying in was built. All we know - it was elegant, and great.

Tomorrow we head off into the unknown for us, passing many cenotes, and the many ruins sites of the "Puuc Route". The Puuc route designation refers to the style of the ruins hereabouts, but the region is also called the "Convent Route" for the many churches, and presumably convents. We are not actively targeting any specific ruins, cenotes, or convents to stop at, but will just as usual blast though, mainly trying to make it to our next air conditioned oasis!

Puuc sites near us
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