¡Adios Muchachos!

See You All in February!

In the wee hours of tomorrow morning, my flight leaves for Guadalajara, where I will putter around for three hours, and then take another Volaris flight to Mérida. I will drive to the airport with Martine, and Martine will drive back by herself. (She’s not coming with me because she is allergic to anti-malaria medications.)

During my absence, I will not blog. Instead I will go into experiential mode to get something to write about when I return in February.

Incidentally, today is my 75th birthday, which is a milestone for me. My father died at the age of 74, so I had always wondered whether I would outlive his span of years. It appears that I already have, so that is one less morbid imagining. To spend the time after my birthday in a place I love (Yucatán) can only lengthen my life, no?

 

Autobuses de Oriente (ADO)

The Service Area of ADO First Class Buses

There have been many changes since I last visited Southeast Mexico. Among other things, Autobuses de Oriente (ADO) has merged with Ómnibus Cristóbal Colón (OCC) to pretty much monopolize first class bus service in Yucatán. I remember the days when I had to ride the rackety old Unión de Camionéros de Yucatán (UCY) second class buses with their broken seats and cracked windows. There are still a number of second class carriers, but UCY is no more.

Before going any further, allow me to clarify what first class and second class mean. First class buses directly connect larger cities and do not allow passengers to board or alight from a bus between its origin and its destination, unless the city is of a certain size. A bus from Mérida to Mexico City would typically be first class, stopping only in larger cities en route such as Campeche, Ciudad del Carmen, or Coatzacoalcos.

Second class buses connect small towns with larger cities, or with other small towns. When I go from Mérida to Izamal or Uxmal to Campeche, I will have to take a second class bus. The fare will be less per mile, the passengers poorer, and the bus less deluxe. Most importantly, the trip will take longer because passangers can board or exit anywhere they want.

There is also another class of bus usually referred to as combis. These are multi-row vans connecting even smaller cities. Typically, they do not leave until they are full.

ADO Bus at Station Platform

Instead of renting a car, I will travel around Yucatán and Campeche states almost entirely by bus. In some cases, I may join a tour organized by a local travel agency, but only to visit some ruins that are harder to get to via public transportation. When I return from Mexico, I will hopefully have some stories about bus travel in the Sureste region, as well as scads of my own photos.

 

 

Haibun: At the Ruins of Dzibilchaltún

The Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltún

A Haibun is a uniquely Japanese medium in which prose and haiku poetry are interspersed. I will attempt to memorialize some of my travel experiences using the Haibun genre from time to time. My intent is to follow the style of Matsuo Bashō:

First look at the ruins
My eyes glued to the chess board
Losing to my guide.

On my first trip to Yucatán in November 1975, I ordered guide services from a company called Turistica Yucateca. The lady who ran the company couldn’t speak a word of English, but we managed to communicate by nouns more or less common to English and Spanish. As my first destination, I chose Dzibilchaltún, about 20  miles north of Mérida. My guide, who had his own vehicle, was Manuel Quiñones Moreno who spoke good English and was well educated. I spent a few minutes looking at the ruins, which were mostly fairly ramshackle; but then he brought out a chess set, and we played several games. I lost all of them.

I have always loved chess, but not with any degree of proficiency.

In any case, I didn’t hold it against Manuel. I hired him the next day to show me the ruins of Acanceh and Mayapán. I kind of wish that Turistica Yucateca were still around, but that was almost half a century ago.

Things change.

 

 

Haibun: The Norte

A Norte Storm Lashes the Gulf Coast of Yucatán

A Haibun is a uniquely Japanese medium in which prose and haiku poetry are interspersed. I will attempt to memorialize some of my travel experiences using the Haibun genre from time to time. My intent is to follow the style of Matsuo Bashō:

November norte
White-clad Maya point and laugh
Paper boats bobbing in the street.

It was November 1992. I was in Yucatán with Martine and three friends from work: George Hoole and Jin and Christine Han. On the last day but one of our trip, the peninsula suffered a storm called a norte, because it originated in the United States and gathered strength as it crossed the Gulf of Mexico. The streets of Mérida were flooded: There was no walking without wet stains halfway up the leg. We were staying at the Posada Toledo, an old mansion turned hotel, near the center, worried whether our return flight the next day would be able to take off. Jin Han lightened the mood by carefully folding paper boats and setting them adrift in the street. They aroused considerable hilarity among the passersby.

 

Traveling with Bashō

Matsuo Bashō (1644-1694) in a Print by Hokusai

I cannot help but see myself in this haiku by the great Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō:

Another year is gone—
A travel hat on my head,
Straw sandals on my feet.

Two weeks from today, I will be in Mérida, Yucatán, reacquainting myself with the world of the Maya. In many ways, Matsuo Bashō is the poet of travel. His book, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, is the ultimate vade mecum for a traveler. The record of a 1,500-mile journey through the main Japanese island of Honshu, it captures with great beauty and subtlety the joys and sorrows of a life on the road.

The sound of a water jar
Cracking on this icy night
As I lie awake.

The extreme conciseness of the haiku form can lead to poetry that is brilliant—or banal. One has to somehow put two ideas together (as the ice and the sleepless traveler) with an absolute minimum of embellishment. Ah, but when it succeeds!

On the withered grass
Shimmering heat waves rise
One or two inches high.

I will, as usual, travel with a blank notebook. I would love to compose haiku relating to my upcoming journey to Mexico. It’s possible, but, alas, not likely. Even though I don’t usually go out evenings (except in Mérida), I will probably find myself too busy reading from my Amazon Kindle, which is fully loaded with hundreds of works of literature and history.

 

 

Foreign Lucre

Painter Diego Rivera on Mexico 500 Peso Bank Note

Before visiting any foreign country, I always like to get a supply of banknotes in that country’s currency for the first few days of my trip. So today I headed to Bretton Woods Currency in Brentwood to pick up a couple hundred dollars worth of pesos. The act of handling another country’s currency is always a magical moment for me: I suddenly feel the reality of my impending vacation—in this case, exactly two weeks from today. I got three denominations: 500 Pesos, 200 Pesos, and 100 Pesos.

My favorite is the 500 Peso note, which shows painter Diego Rivera on the front and his wife, the painter Frida Kahlo, on the reverse.

 

Mexican Patriots Miguel Hidalgo and José Maria Morelos on the 200 Peso Note

 

Nezahualcoyotl, Pre-Columbian Poety and Ruler of Texcoco

Above are the 200 and 100 Peso bank notes. I was intrigued by the figure shown on the 100 Peso note of Nezahualcoyotl, “Coyote Who Fasts,” who died some fifty years before Hernan Cortés landed at Vera Cruz with a party of conquistadores.

In the article on him in Wikipedia, I read the following interesting description:

Unlike other high-profile Mexican figures from the century preceding Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire,  Nezahualcoyotl was not Mexica;  his people were the Acolhua, another Nahuan people settled in the eastern part of the Valley of Mexico, settling on the eastern side of Lake Texcoco.

He is best remembered for his poetry, but according to accounts by his descendants and biographers,  Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxóchitl and Juan Bautita Pomar,  he had an experience of an “Unknown, Unknowable Lord of Everywhere” to whom he built an entirely empty temple in which no blood sacrifices of any kind were allowed — not even those of animals. However, he allowed human sacrifices to continue in his other temples.

Reservations

Archway at Entrance to Santa Elena, Yucatán

I am frantically trying to get reservations to hotels in Yucatán—much later than I usually would. It is all due to the problem with my left knee. I wanted some assurance that it was not the beginning of a condition that might rapidly get worse. As a result, I am making reservations a month or so later than I usually would. Unfortunately, a lot of the places I wanted to stay have already been booked, even for such a small town as Santa Elena, which is midway between the ruins of Uxmal and Kabah. I may have to spend big money to stay at the Hacienda Uxmal at the ruins, where I stayed twice before in 1975 and 1992—that is, if I can.

No doubt I will find something. It’s just a little more work than usual.

The Luxurious Hacienda Uxmal Across the Street from the Ruins