Lorna Gail and I took off at about noon and drove up to Progreso and turned west before we hit town. That way we could go over that incredible new bridge with the magnificent views. It’s got to be the highest spot in northern Yucatan. After driving around this flat countryside, it is a great experience to cross this bridge. You feel like you’re in an airplane. LG bravely snapped a few pictures out the window because I was sure that if I tried to do it, I’d lose control and go soaring into the sky.
We drove through Chelem, Chuburna and other little towns, stopping in Chuburna to get coconuts. The guy took a machete and sliced off the top and then made a hole in it. He cut part of the husk off of the bottom and the sides so the coconut formed a workable drinking vessel. We each contentedly sipped cold coconut milk through a straw.
About ten minutes after the last town, we came to the place where one of the hurricanes destroyed the road and took away a chunk of land, forming a new channel in to the mangrove swamps. You’re driving along an excellent road at about 50 mph and suddenly, after a little dip (so you can’t see it), the road ends. If you kept going, you’d be in the lovely turqoise Gulf of Mexico. No sign of course.
We backtracked to the southbound road not far away. On the way down, there were lots of nopal cactus. We picked some of the fruit, locally called “tuna,” (or prickly pear) and LG skinned it. After LG smeared some of the purple juice on her mouth to enhance her already glamorous look, we each ate slices of the fruit.
It was pretty good except the tuna had thousands of tiny needle-like spines that embedded themselves in our mouths and tongues. I guess it’s worth it, because nopal is supposed to cure everything from diabetes to stomach aches.
The drive south is interesting – much nicer than using the highway between Merida and Progreso. The part of the road near the coast is surrounded by a lot of water. On previous trips, I’ve seen thousands of birds there. This time we saw a few shorebirds and a small number of flying flamingos.
We drove through a few villages with restored haciendas that I think are available for rental – large parties, weddings, etc. I went to a wedding at a hacienda a few years ago and it was lovely. Such beautiful buildings. There were several neat, small towns, with fruit trees and stone walls painted white. My favorite place name in this area is Chichi Suarez (a town). I don’t really want to know what it means – I just like the way it sounds.We ended up in Dzitya, not far from Merida. In this town, they cut stone and make elegant tubs, sinks, pillars and other items for your home. The handworked products are gorgeous and not cheap. Dzitya was having its annual much-heralded crafts fair, which was as disappointing as ever. Dozens and dozens of booths selling manufactured items (some from China!). There were a few nice displays – wooden bowls and kitchen stuff, good looking honey and honey products, lined henequen bags, nice needlework, but nothing you don’t see in Merida.
I am always surprised at the lack of imagination in the crafts that are for sale in Yucatan. It isn’t that there aren’t artists, it’s just that the wholesalers, or whomever is responsible for getting trinkets to market, have presented us with the same stuff year after year. There’s a woman in town named Joan Farrell who has put together an ambitious group of people who go into villages looking for real artists. They’ve found some incredible things and twice a year they have a sale in some large Merida venue. The artists are all there and a lot of them will make things to order
That was pretty much the end of our jaunt. It was terribly hot, but we trudged past every single booth at the fair, leaving just as the ear-splitting amps were being prepped for a concert.