Wednesday, November 21, 2012



Yup, we’re in Cancun, state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, traveling from Chitchen Itza yesterday. Apparently the state of Yucatan, where Merida, Progreso, and Chitchen Itza are located, is well funded. The infrastructure (roads) are excellent by U.S. standards. Also, the number of yachts, some of them very large, at the marinas in Progreso suggest that some of the population is very well off. Yucatan is known for its lack of criminal violence as there seem to be no ties to the drug trade. I’ll try to catch up after being lax in my blogging, but there has been so much going on.

Going back to Progreso, we took a ride to the Malycon in Progreso which is a walkway along the waterfront. Robb and Percilla were with us and we saw a lot of “tourist trap” businesses that thrive at the base of the pier where the cruise ships dock. Did I mention that the pier is now about 5 miles long?  I drove by the area the day before and I could see the Carnival cruise ship WAY out there.


Unfortunately, as we walked we were inundated with peddlers wanting to sell just about anything. We went into one of the restaurants and several peddlers accosted us at our table. More of them could see us inside and tried to sell something from the street. We bought nothing and soon returned to the campground.


The weather was very comfortable and the four of us gathered outside the campers in the late afternoon for a soft drink and snacks. They headed out to Chitchen Itza the next morning.


Another day, Helen and I went to the Mayan ruins of Dzibilchatun. You can pronounce it any way you want, but I found that double chin worked for me.


This structure is the “Temple of the Dolls”, called that because archeologists found 5 figures that looked somewhat human, but I saw the picture and I think the archeologists were at sea too long, like the old sailors who saw manatees and thought they were mermaids.

I came away from this site with more of an understanding of the Mayan culture and the Spanish culture that came after it. There was not a lot of restoration here as much of the stones used in the temple were used to make Spanish Missions and churches. The ruins in Merida, a few miles away are almost completely gone as so many churches and cathedrals were constructed by tearing down Mayan temples. Mayan writing can still be seen in the rocks used to construct such buildings. One of the greatest travesties here and at other sites is that the conquerors destroyed the written history of the Mayans. In all the world, there are only three books from the Mayan people and they are spread around museums in Europe.

Next on our travel list is the city of Pisté and the Mayan site of Chitchen Itza, perhaps one of the most famous Mayan cultural centers.


Helen and I in front of the northeast corner of the Great Pyramid. This Mayan city once covered several square miles and housed thousands of people. Interestingly, the upper classes lived in stone buildings while the “peons” lived in wood and thatch buildings. I found this particularly interesting because the same is true today. There are some very fine houses with new Audi or BMW cars out front. However, away from the main street you can find many buildings such as below.


As I was walking around the back streets of Pisté, a young boy of three or so was hanging out the door of one of these thatch and stick homes. He spied me and exclaimed to someone inside “Es Gringo!!” I’m glad I made his day.

In any case, Helen and I had excellent guides for our tours of both ruins. The guide here went into great depth on the scientific and mathematical genius of the ancient Mayans. The Great Pyramid is built with great precision to the seasons and the position of the sun, moon, and stars. They predicted a solar eclipse years in advance and missed by only four minutes. There is so much to tell and so many pictures that it is impossible to capture in a blog. Please, read the book “1491, New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann. It will give you a whole new insight on how Europeans took over the New World.

Then it was on to Cancun, and I will cover it next.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our first days in Progreso


At Isla Aguada, we were camped beside Robb and Percilla for the week. On Sunday, they left earlier and made two stops before getting to Uxmal were we met up again Sunday evening. Monday morning, Helen and I took our tour of the Uxmal pyramids and temples and then Robb abd Percilla followed us to Progreso. I believe that the campground is actually in Chelem, but it doesn’t matter as we’re only a short drive to Progreso.

The entrance to the campground is from a very narrow street and in order to get into the campground I had to brush up against the beautiful bougainvillea bushes. I didn’t realize that under the pretty blooms were several lines of barbed wire fencing. The side of the RV got scratched pretty bad and I’m not sure I can buff them all out. Given my choices, I would rather go where I want than worry too much about the cosmetics of the camper.

The first order of the day was to make a permanent repair to the air line. I looked at the hole and it was not in a position where it was abraded or subject to heat. It just blew. Using my sometimes trusty GPS, I went to Home Depot to get fittings to fix the break. They had some small PVC unions that you just insert the ends and you’re done. I didn’t think it would fare well at 130 psi. I wanted a brass connection where there are ferrules. You slide the cap over the hose and then put on the ferrule. When you tighten the cap, the ferrule is drawn into a tapered section that crimps the ferrule and seals the connection. All they had at Home Depot were flanged fittings. Surprisingly, all their copper pipe and tubing are in inches. Tubing was 1/4, and 3/8, and pipe was 1/2, 5/8/ and 3/4. Also, there was a LOT of copper pipe, much more than I’ve seen in a Home Depot closer to home.

The best I could do was come away with a short section of plastic tubing with a working strength of 130 psi and a bursting pressure of 500 psi. The air tube in the RV fits into the tube VERY tightly and I had to put some effort into inserting my green tube into the repair section far enough to feel comfortable. Then I added small hose clamps to hold it all together. I honestly feel that it will hold, but I will convert to the brass union when I get the chance.

One great thing about this campground is that there is a cell tower about 100 yards away. The signal to my Telcel stick is so strong that I was finally able to upload blogs and use my Phone Power system to call home. I wondered how I would know when my time would run out and I found out the hard way. I was chatting with my son for a while when the line suddenly went dead. I clicked on Google and there was a message from Telcel that I’m sure said that I had to add minutes to my system. I drove out of the campground heading for Progreso and as I entered the main street I could see lights in the other direction. I drove down and was able to “recharge” my internet stick at the Farmacia. Driving back to the campground, I wondered how long it would take for the credit to go through. I tried to call my son again and it went right through. I’ve got to admit that the system for adding minutes to your cell phone or internet stick is great down here. Shortly after we started the new conversation the line died again. I went back on Google expecting to see something from Telcel. Instead there was a message from Phone Power saying that their internet phone system was down. I wrote a quick note to my son and realized that it HAD to be time for bed.



From Isla Aguada, Campeche to Uxmal, Yucatán


On Sunday we were to leave the lovely campground of FREEDOM SHORES and the delightful hostess, Thelma. Of course, not everything goes as planned. We were all set to move, but the air system that powers the brakes and suspension was not getting to its normal pressure. The rear air pressure gauge has been reading zero for a few days and I felt that since the system, as a whole, was functioning properly that it had to be a problem with the signal to the gauge. However, this time even the front pressure was low, so I shut the engine down and I could hear air rushing out of someplace.

I donned my FPC blue coveralls and prepared to get in place under the motorhome. I ran the engine again and shut it down and dashed under the coach. The air leak was not coming from the area I suspected, but high above the engine. Oh, no!!! Not under the bed again!!! Yes, under the bed again. Fearing the worst, I opened up the access panel to the engine and had Helen run the engine for just a moment. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the leak was just under the access panel  only a few inches from the sensor that feeds the gauge. With little to work with, I ran electrical tape around and around until it was built up enough to use a hose clamp. After starting the engine I found a small leak and another hose clam took care of that. Satisfied for the time being, we started our 200 mile trip to Uxmal, (pronounced oos-mal).  After some miles, the rear pressure gauge showed a decrease in pressure, hovering around 60 psi, so the red warning light would go on and off, but never dropped too much. I felt comfortable continuing to Uxmal. It was a good choice as there were no problems.

Uxmal is a Mayan ruins where several pyramids have been discovered and to some extent, restored. We were in time for the light show Sunday evening, but to be honest, I didn’t get much out of it. It was all in Spanish and the story was not understood at all by me, though the light show was interesting.


The next day we went to actually tour the area and we were not disappointed. We were among the very first to enter the grounds and we had the sense to hire a guide.


This was a very wise decision as he was extremely knowledgeable on the Mayan culture and the history of this area. Uxmal means three times, for this area was settled and deserted three times over thousands of years. It thrived during periods of much rain as the only water source was rainwater stored in a vast number of cisterns. During periods of prolonged drought, the Mayan people would venture back into the jungle to places where water was available. Later, a new group would move back during rainy conditions and build new temples on top of older ones.


This is the Dwarf Pyramid, supposedly built for the gods in one night by a dwarf working with a large number of elves. It has the distinction of having a round or oval base and structure instead of the rectangular construction found elsewhere in the Americas or the world. Also, standing where the photographer stood, clapping your hands gets an echo that sounds like a bird and is supposed to be the call of the Quetzal bird.


Viewing this building, we were told that the ground we were standing on was actually on the roof of other buildings below. The the guide led us to the side and showed us two more levels below. On the lowest level was a round hole that archeologists drilled to see how far down the ruins go. They determined another 29 feet or so.


This is the main pyramid and the only one we were permitted to climb. Helen and I passed on the climbing part. In fact, we opted to take the graded path around the pyramids to avoid some of the long steps we took on the way in. The above picture is the only restored face of this pyramid.


This picture is taken of the same pyramid as above, but in the original state. The truth is that many of the hills in this area are actually temples or pyramids that have yet to be restored. The Yucatan people of today have no idea of just how much of a Mayan civilization is covered by the hills and vegetation of the state.

There is so much to see that this short discourse cannot do it justice. Our friend Sue recommended the book “1491'’ which is a comprehensive study of the Americas before the coming of Columbus. It makes the case that the Americas were more advanced in many ways at that time than Europe. To see the unbelievable extent of Mayan temples, built by hand, using hard rock for tools…….well…it’s mind boggling.

Since the air pressure was no problem on the way to Uxmal, I decided to wait until Progreso to do a more permanent fix.We are in Progreso now I have fixed the air line. In another blog I will talk about Progreso and Mérida.



Monday, November 12, 2012

Isla Aguada


We are spending a week at the beautiful Freedom Shores of Isla Aguada. This is just off route 180, the main road between Mexico City and Campeche or Merida. From the campground we can see truck after truck heading further east along the Yucatan peninsula.


This is the beach through the windshield. It is really beautiful, but if I hear one word about a hurricane we’re out of here! There may be a tide, but I can’t discern a high or low tide, though I can see the current passing by. Each night around sunset dozens of hungry birds gather a hundred yards out to feast on the small fish. We find that the odd looking pelicans display an amazing dexterity in the air and are very efficient at catching fish. How that can glide, inches above the water for such log distances is awesome.


Sunset from our “patio” looking over the bridge from the west.IMG_9108

Our accommodations as seen from the beach. When we arrived here on Sunday afternoon, the place was jumping. There were several campers and there were people in the motel behind us, which is part of the compound. In addition, a lot of local people walk down the lane beside the compound to use the beach. Monday morning there was a couple from Winnipeg and us, and that’s the way it has been ever since.  They are a quiet couple, so all the noise around here is cause by our dogs, Coco in particular.

The worst thing is that the internet wifi advertised is not in service. My Telcel works on and off at random moments. Though the political ads drove me nuts when we were in the states, I WOULD like to know who gets elected in Florida and the Nation.

OK, this part is being written at the end of the week, Saturday evening and we’ll be leaving for points north east in the morning. It has been a mosdt enjoyable stay. This camp is immaculate with the help sweeping constantly. The staff is very polite and anything we ask is quickly granted. Thelma, the owner, is something special! This petite woman is in charge of the whole place and she does so like the captain of a ship. Everything is under her ever watchful eyes and nothing escapes her. Her restaurant, “La Gringa” is excellent. I looked at the menu tonight, but I just couldn’t pass up the shrimp one more time. EXCELLENT.

In the morning we will head for the ruins at Uxmal (pronounced ooos-mal). Bob and Pricilla, the folks camped beside ue will meet us there. There is another site of ruins on the way, but the books say to see the lesser one first, because you will never return after seeing Uxmal. I think Bob and Pricilla will try to stop if they have time. Helen and I choose to bypass and go to the better ruins. Does that make sense? It sounds funny talking about the “better ruins”. In the AM, I will take care of the de-camping ritual outside the camper while Helen battens everything down inside.

That said, it is now Saturday 11/10/2012, a little after 7:00 PM CST, but I have no idea when I can actually post this due to the terrible Wifi/Telcel stick coverage. Even when I borrowed a Moviestar stick from the management, I still couldn’t post a blog.


Trying to post again, 11/12/12

Friday, November 2, 2012

Notes from Helen

Hola to all my friends!

Paul and I crossed the border into Mexico on October 25th. We spent our first night in the city of Saltillo then traveled on, heading south to the City of  Queretaro. In Saltillo we we able to obtain our Mexican cell phones as ours were rendered useless the minute that we crossed the border. In Queretaro, we bought a membership to Sam's Club. This was recommended to us by frequent travelers to Mexico as Sam's Club carries so many of the items that are familiar to us in the States, and are otherwise hard to find in Mexico.

We arrived in the city of Puebla on the 28th, which just so happened to be our 45th wedding anniversary. Paul surprised me with 2 dozen roses that he had purchased from a street vendor. Had to do a little adlibbing to come up with a vessel for the beautiful roses and this was the best that I could do..................a "camper vase"!


Our campsite is actually in Cholula which is just on the outskirts of Puebla. The park consists of 3 grassy courtyards all contained behind a gated wall. One of the courtyards is totally empty so we are able to let the dogs off leash and have them chase the ball till they are tired out. Since there is so much to see and do in this area, we decided to stay here a while. 


Puebla is Mexico's 4th largest city and is surrounded by mountains including the Popocatepetl Volcano. It is a very sophisticated city with a lot of history and is known throughout the country for it's food. The country's national dish, Mole Poblano, comes from here. The historic central area is elegant with a distinctive colonial flavor.



We spent a day walking around the city and taking pictures of the ornate centuries old cathedrals, the parks with their prolific trees all bearing exotic flowers and fruits, and the colorful colonial buildings with their outside cafes. At one of these, we enjoyed tasting some of the local traditional soups.


We were also privy to seeing local  groups perform their traditional dances and theatrical performances in the city's plazas.




The area is full of festivals and celebrations. The ambiance is every where.............even to the Sweet Shops which display the carefully sculpted skulls made of sugar. A fun and lively place to be this time of year despite the moniker.................Day of the Dead.



This is the time of year that the people Mexico celebrate their deceased loved ones in a holiday known as  "Dia de Muertos" of the dead. This is celebrated by the building of altars to honor their departed. These altars are usually built in households but can also be found street side and even in local plazas. The altar, dotted with candles, contains the photo or the portrait of the deceased.Offerings are placed on the altar by friends and loved ones in the form of flowers, fruits, sweets, and breads.................usually those favored by the deceased. Marigolds are the traditional flower used on the altars and fields of them can be seen growing in the surrounding area.




We were honored to be invited by the owner of our campground to visit the altar his family had made for his father. Having nothing else to offer, we left a half dozen of our anniversary roses to honor his memory.


We found that Cholula is home to the largest pyramid in the world. It is not as tall as Egypt's tallest, but it outranks it in volume. We entered into one of the underground tunnels................there are over 5 miles them.


All, of course, are not accessible. Most of the ruins remain under ground, but scattered throughout the hillside we could view sacrificial altars and plazas that had been is a work in progress.




When the Spanish came, 60,000 to 70,000 of the indigenous people were slaughtered in the tunnels of the pyramid. This was their most sacred ground, their religious focal point, and to add insult to injury, the Spanish conquerors built their Catholic church atop their holy ground. There is currently a movement to educate the local people that they are NOT Hispanic Not Latino, but are the surviving descendants of this once proud and prospering populace. 

Hope you are all doing well...............will keep in touch................hope you all do too!