Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Merida to Cancun

We were becoming very comfortable in Merida but finally got away yesterday morning at about 11:00 am. Our propane was low so we started looking for a propane station as soon as we hit the periferico. Not finding one, we turned onto Mex 180D towards Cancun. Our plan was to drive to Chichen Itza where we had found a great little pottery shop two years ago. We had no real plans for the night but thought we might find a safe, friendly Pemex near there. We had no plans to visit the pyramids again as we have seen them twice and the weather was threatening rain. Been there, done that and have the t-shirt. We turned off the cuota road into Piste, the small Mayan town where the ruins are located and started looking for our pottery shop.

The town is obviously suffering greatly from the lack of tourists. Of the street full of vendors and shops that was there last visit, only one shop remains. It was run by a very friendly Mayan woman who proudly showed off her wares but she did not have the one piece that Norma was hoping to find. It was a multi-segmented serving dish that she had given away last summer that we thought would be easy to replace down here. Maybe in Chetumal. We did buy one serving bowl that we negotiated down from the asking price of $200 pesos to $160. This negotiating is common and expected and from the smile on her face when we left we could see she still did OK.

As we drove through Piste, we saw a propane truck delivering gas to a local business. I turned on my flashers and walked across the street to ask if he could fill the motorhome. He could and told us to park at one of the local hotel parking lots and he would find us. We parked at a hotel, waited for him for about a half hour and finally went in for lunch, asking the parking lot guy to come and get us if the truck showed up. The restaurant was a buffet affair with ‘entertainment’ consisting of four Mayans dancing while balancing beer bottles on their heads. I am almost sure this is not a traditional Mayan dance. It was over-priced and the food was not all that good. It was obviously aimed at gringo tourists who come on a bus from Cancun to visit the ruins.

When we walked out of the restaurant, the parking lot guy rode his motorcycle to find the propane truck and brought him back to the hotel. We got our 25 litres of butane at $6.2 pesos (about fifty cents) per litre, a fraction of the cost NOB. Tips all around and we were on our way. It was good we waited for the truck as we did not find a roadside propane station all day.

As we got back onto the highway, the downpour started. We slowed down to about 40 KPH with the windshield wipers on full speed. The rain soon backed off and we came to a Pemex station complex with parking, grocery and restaurants. We filled up the tank and found a nice parking spot. Norma made a very nice pasta dish in the rig. It was actually very quiet last night even though we were between the two pieces of divided highway. There was not much traffic. When we hit the next toll booth, we found out why. It cost us $640 pesos or about fifty dollars!


A big hawk was circling to keep critters away from us. He was successful, no critters!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Misc. Ramblings

Our satellite dish weighted down with concrete blocks and a water bottle. Wind, do your best! I will try to design a better mount this summer.


My friend Contessa’s Blog was hijacked the other day. This is what I saw when I opened it. Her expert back in Canada fixed it for her.


A wedding dress for sale  for $6,990 pesos ($542 CA) in a window in Merida. Tons of them on sale for three to ten thousand pesos. It does not cost an arm and a leg to get married down here (at least for the dress).


The repaired dolly fender that shook apart on the rough toll road the other day. If it makes it home I will cut out something to reinforce it and glue it all together. It still needs a weld inside as well.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Here Today…

Gone Tomorrow. We are pulling out in the morning heading towards Cancun where the weather has settled down a little. We may drive all the way or we might stop in Chichen Itza where there is a pottery salesman we like.


We have so far managed to avoid caravans. This one we knew was coming because I have been following the Blog of one of the members. I have dubbed it the “Bad Luck Caravan” because they have had a couple of problems. First they were held up by banditos soon after crossing into Mexico from Texas. The leader had to pay $2000 pesos or lose his car. The rest got through. Second, one of their rigs was rear ended along the way, possibly because of the extremely slow speeds they travel at.

The most recent problem was when Carol Ann, the wife of the Blog writer above was involved in a collision at a glorieta near the RV park here. It was a short drive yesterday and they had decided that she would follow rather than hook the car up to their motorhome. She was involved in a collision when a Mexican driver enforced his right of way. Their car is no longer towable and has to be repaired here in Merida. It will be ready in a week and Robert will get a ride back from Paa Mul or Chetumal to retrieve it.

They arrived after noon and soon a sightseeing bus arrived to take them on a “tour of Merida”. They got home and soon a car pool was being arranged to take everyone to a local restaurant for dinner. We got to have a chat with Robert and Carol Ann from Texas and another couple from Canada, the only Canadians on the caravan. They all went to bed early as they were up and getting ready to leave at about 7:00 this morning. I have said this before but this kind of travel is not for us! It is way too expensive and way too hurried.

Robert was not all that impressed with Mexico. He spent his work life as a pharmacist and was used to everything being exact, precise and planned with no surprises. There was little room for “winging it” in his world and he was going through the attitude adjustment required to adapt to life in Mexico. I advised them to return when they could visit on their own schedule and spend a week or two in every location to stop and smell the bougainvilleas. I hope they do, their nice new 40’ diesel pusher and tow car have a few battle scars so another trip through Mexico will not hurt it any more.

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The Green Angel escort.  I had a quick chat with these guys as they were leaving. I wished them luck with their charges and congratulated them on their patience. They told me this was a dream assignment for them. They got wages and expenses paid to tour Mexico, something they would never be able to do on their own. One of them spoke excellent English.



We took a drive out to the nearby seaside (Gulf of Mexico) town of Progreso for an early dinner. It is 25 KM each way on a nice road that goes right past our RV park. It was a nice diversion. They have done a lot of improvements to the malecon since we were there last. They have narrowed the road, removing parking and widened the sidewalk. A few new restaurants have opened. We had a nice dinner of pescado Veracruzana (me) and breaded fried fish (Norma), with a plate of guacamole to share. It was nice. We sat inside as it was a little cool on the water.

The malecon. You can see the 6.5 KM (4 mile) long pier where cruise ships dock. The pier is closed to sightseers. Only commercial vehicles, taxis and buses allowed.


As has become my normal practice, I snap a photo of the street signs where I park the car. That way, no matter where we wander, we can always find the car. In a pinch, I can show the photo to a taxi driver and be returned. One more anxiety gone! Even numbered streets run one way and odd numbered run the other. A great system.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Earth in High Definition

NASA has released a super-high resolution image of the Earth.

Circus Act

There was a circus in town last weekend and on Monday a new neighbor moved in. It was a young couple in a  newish pickup pulling an oldish 5th wheel trailer. It had Mexico plates and on the door of the truck was the emblem from the Portugal Circus.

Yesterday morning they were outside struggling with the awning which had been left down during the rain and windstorm. They were both quite short in stature and obviously having trouble so we went over to help. They spoke no English except "thank you" but it was obvious what they needed. We finally got the awning rolled up (the spring was very weak) and stowed. They were happy!

He is a trapeze artist with the circus and they looked to be doing pretty well. Norma says he has the body of a figure skater so she had pretty much guessed what he did. Their truck was almost new and the 5th wheel is older but neat and nicely furnished. They had a Mexican satellite system and a flat screen TV. They are from Sonora and their next stop is Playa del Carmen next weekend. A very nice couple.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


The clouds were forming off to the west and soon they took on a menacing look. I checked the weather on the internet and saw there was a 60% chance of thunderstorms. We gathered up everything that could get wet outside and closed the windows. Very soon it really hit us! The rain started and then got really heavy. Thunder and lightening was happening right over us. We lost the satellite signal because of the heavy rain and then the wind hit with a vengeance!

The motorhome rocked and rolled and I looked out the window to see the Starchoice dish had blown off the cement pad it was on and was upside down about six feet from where it had started. Thankfully it did not appear to be broken!

When things settled down we set the dish back up and pointed it in the general direction Mimi had set it when she helped me set it up. There was no signal but that was not unexpected. I swung it around a little and saw the bar gauge on the TV jump. This was a good thing and I soon had a bit of a signal. I raised the back of the mount and there it was! I jammed a stick under the back of the mount and we had an excellent signal. I did not even have to call Mimi for help this time, although I know she would have come. Just in case of more wind I found some construction blocks and put them on the mount, something I should have done before.

We decided to spend a couple more days here as the weather is going to be very wet in Cancun but much better here. We will take a drive out to the beach at Progresso tomorrow for lunch and a look-see. Life is Good. We are in Mexico!

Baluarte Bridge

As the long awaited highway between Mazatlan and Durango nears completion, here are some great photos of the Baluarte Bridge along that route. At 1,321 feet high and 1,706 feet long, it is the world's highest suspension bridge.

Click here to go to site (with more photos)

More Cenote Photos

Here are some more of Whit’s cenote photos. I was really impressed with these cenotes and will try to seek out more on the Yucatan.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gianni Fish & Chips

I was reading Paul’s Hammockman Blog and noticed he had tried out Gianni’s, a new fish and chip place in Merida. It is only a few blocks away so we decided to give it a try for a late lunch / early dinner yesterday.

What a treat! A very generous portion of fish and chips served in a paper cone accompanied by several salsas and including a pop or bottled water.  He also had malt vinegar! A real treat in Mexico.

The owner, Giancarlo, is a young, energetic man who speaks excellent English and is very proud of his business. He took the time to describe all his homemade salsas and described everything on the menu.

We ordered two orders of fish & chips, bottled water and an order of calamari to share. It was very good, we left full and the total cost was about $140 pesos ($10.75) for the two of us! Thanks for the recommendation Paul, It was a great meal!

Photos from Gianni’s Facebook Page.

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This photo of Giancarlo is from Paul’s Blog.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Football Night

Jan is a football fan and has been TV deprived since they left home in California. Sunday was the big playoff day for the NFL and we watched the first game at Jonna and Mimi’s house. When we got back to the RV park we all crowded into our place for a potluck dinner and the second game. The wrong teams won but it was a fun evening anyway.

Whit, Sue, Tobey and Jan:



Jan and Whit had to do a major grocery shopping trip before they headed out so I offered to drive them. I used the time to (unsuccessfully)  look for a place to get a haircut. On the way home Jan said, “If you just want a cut like Whit’s with no styling, I have my clippers”. Well, now Whit and I could pass for twins and I no longer have to look for my comb in the morning!


Norma And Mimi

The only holdout smokers of our group so they usually stick together for mutual support ;)

norma and mimi

Merida Market

Random shots

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Starchoice Improvement

I had been unable to get the Starchoice working here in Merida. We struggled for a couple of hours without success and finally gave up.

The night before last Jonna and Mimi were over for happy hour and Mimi happens to be a local expert on Starchoice. She moved the dish and fine tuned the angles and very soon we had a great signal! It is great to have smart friends!

I was correct in my thinking that the skew angles I had been given by the Dishpointer site were wrong and this was preventing me from getting the HD channels as well as a couple of the SD channels. With the skew reset at 134 degrees all channels are booming in.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Yesterday morning Whit, Jan and I were discussing what might be fun to do. Whit asked if I had ever swam in a cenote and I said, “No, but I have wanted to for years”! Well, that is what we will do! We checked the map and found an interesting cenote about 40 KM away. Norma wanted to walk to the mall to buy a bathing suit and is not into caves anyway so the three brave adventures set off in the Mazda.
We set the GPS for the small town of Cuzama, where the cenote was. We ran into a small problem as the GPS did not know about a new road that was just put in and we were led in and out of several small towns along the way but that was all part of the adventure and after about an hour and a half, we were in Cuzama. There was a sign that indicated we should continue along the road and a few minutes later we arrived in the small Mayan town of Homun “Ho moon”. On the main road just past the center of town was the “Restaurante Cenote”.  This looked promising!
We pulled into the parking lot where we were greeted by Victor, a young Mayan who explained that there was one cenote right there that we could visit but if we wanted the full experience, we should hire him as our guide and he would take us to  five cenotes! The cost would be ten pesos (seventy five cents) per person to visit and swim in each cenote and that money goes to the landowner or caretaker of each cenote. Jan, who speaks Spanish, asked him how much he would charge for his services and he gave the standard Mayan answer of, “After we are done, you pay me whatever you think my services were worth”. After a quick conference we had a guide, which as it turned out, was very smart. He took us to places we could never have found on our own! We first had a quick look at the first cenote beside the restaurant. It was spectacular and inviting but we decided to save our swim for the next one.
Victor piled all three of us into and onto his tiny motorcycle tricycle and off we went. Well, for a couple of blocks  anyway when we all realized it was not going to carry the combined weight of  all four of us! He stopped at a friends where he borrowed a larger motorcycle and we tried again until it ran out of gas and developed clutch problems. He stopped a friend and asked him to take us to the next cenote and to wait there for him. He arrived right behind us on his own small motorcycle. They decided that I would ride on one while Whit and Jan would ride on the second. We now had a guide and a driver!
The photos are all courtesy of Whit.
Broken down!
Happy Croft in his own tricycle! You can see why he was having clutch problems with three of us in it!
It’s a long way down and that ladder is steeper than it looks!
This cenote was great for swimming. The water was crystal clear and up to 15 meters deep. It was a great experience! Jan, Croft and Victor, our guide.
One of the cenotes was a series of caves. To get into the last one, we had to swim/float through a tiny opening in the wall. I am a little larger than the average person and at least twice the size of our guide so I had a very good look at the opening before I decided to try it. Victor went first, followed by Whit. He made it with no problem so Jan was next. She did the “face down” transit with her nose forced pretty close to the water! It was now my turn and I did the “face up / float through on back” method. I got through!
Whit was first:
Then Jan:
Finally Croft! (With Whit saying, “If you get stuck and plug the hole, I will kill you”!)
It was worth the squeeze! The water looks shallow because it is so clear but it is actually over four meters deep!
Our day was over far too soon and It was time to head home. We had a quick conference and decided to pay Victor $400 pesos. This is a generous amount but out of that he had to pay his friend for driving us. He told us we should eat in the “Restaurante Cenote” and that they had really good Mayan food. We explained that Norma was waiting for us in Merida and she would be worried as it was getting dark. We shook hands and Victor asked us to tell our friends about the cenotes in Homun as they are trying to attract more tourists. His pride in and knowledge of his area was very obvious throughout our visit. We then (mostly) followed the GPS back to Merida where Norma had dinner ready for us. It was one of the best days I have had in Mexico! I have stories to tell! Thanks Whit and Jan!

Map picture
From Wikipedia:
A cenote (English: /sɨˈnt/ or /sɛˈnt/; Spanish: [seˈnote] or [θeˈnote]; plural: cenotes; from Yucatec Maya dzonot or ts'onot,[1] "well"[2]) is a deep natural pit, or sinkhole, characteristic of Mexico and Central America, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwaterunderneath. Especially associated with the Yucatán Peninsula, and some nearby Caribbean islands, cenotes were sometimes used by the ancientMaya for sacrificial offerings. The term derives from a word used by the low-land Yucatec Maya, to mean any location with accessible groundwater.