Billboards of Mexican cenotes (fresh water sink holes) had temped me for months in Los Angeles as I drove down Cahuenga Blvd every day. And each day I passed, I stared at the possibilities and fantasized about swimming in one someday.
That someday came recently when I was invited to visit Mérida to experience some of the wonders of the Mayan world – at Mundo Maya.
I started to feel a little primitive once our bus rolled into Mérida, after passing through dense Yucatán jungle for hours.
After all, where I live, you don’t see ancient ruins, cenotes or think jungle everyday; it’s more like traffic, exhaust and stressed out people.
I suddenly had a refreshing change of scenery from my everyday norm, and it was very exciting to go back in history.
However, seeing a cenote on a billboard (though colorful and alluring) is nothing like experiencing one in person. It’s a whole other level or sensory overload.
The morning of our visit to the Cuzama cenotes from the city of Mérida, we made a quick pit stop at the request of one of the passengers. The unexpected stop led us to a remote little village called Acanceh, an ancient Maya city.
Acanceh is 21 kilometers from Mérida, and translates to “groan of the deer” in the Yucatec Maya language.
The town was colorful and small, the roads were dirt and smooth and the indigenous people were dressed in native garb. Bike taxis were everywhere.
In the middle of town sat an ancient pyramid, which was next to a church, which was next to an outdoor market. The completely unexpected and pleasant surprise visit to the town was a bonus to the already culturally rich experience. Life just seemed good here. Tranquil, happy townspeople going on about their business.
Once we arrived to the main entrance, we changed into our swim suits and were directed to individual, wobbly carts resting on slim rail tracks led by hard-working horses who tugged us miles through thick brush of the henequin plantation.
When we arrived about 30 minutes later (from the entrance to the actual cenote site), I felt like I had just completed my daily dose of cardio from the bumpy ride. My legs wobbled as I stepped off the cart. No, I didn’t look like a tourist at all. So I grabbed my backpack, camera and sunglasses and headed over to it. I gasped in excitement when I saw with my own eyes, the ‘entrance to the underworld’.
I carefully stepped down the narrow pathway, (about 60 steps or more) to the first cenote. In the mild, damp and echoing surroundings rested a sanctuary of glowing fresh water.
We visited two other cenotes on that visit, different, but equally impressive. But I’ll never forget the first impression of seeing and experiencing the first one.
Mexico is a photographer’s dream as I always say – a country full of history, adventure and discovery, with natural wonders and stunning world heritage sites. A gracious thanks to all involved and the hospitality shown by Yucatan Travel during this trip.
I highly recommend a visit to Mérida, Yucatan and surrounding areas!
Related other articles from the Mundo Maya trip (from The MEXICO Report):