Category Archives: Mexico

Xcambo- Scaling a Pyramid

xcamboWe had visited the Mayan ruins at Tulum and Chichen Itza on trips to Mexico in previous years so we decided to check out a much smaller ruin site called Xcambo not far from the nearby town of Progreso. ruins at xcamboThis community was probably inhabited from about the year 250-900.  It was an important trading port at one time and known for the salt it exported from nearby lagoons. But as new trade deals and political alliances formed Xcambo was eventually abandoned. climbing up the pyramidThe main pyramid is about 11 meters tall and my friend Rudy and I climbed it to the top while Dave stayed down below to take photos. Every Mayan community had a pyramid. Religious ceremonies were held on its top and it served as navigation landmark because it was so tall.  pyramid at xcambo

up on the pyramid at xcambo

rudy and marylou top of pyramid

church at xcamboA chapel has been constructed on top of the ruin of what was possibly once the civic administration building of the site. in a tunnel at xcambo I’m standing in the entry to that older building rudy chasing an iguanaMost of the other buildings are thought to have been residential.  As I watched my friend Rudy chase an iguana around in the main square of the site I wondered if  thirteen hundred or so years ago a Mayan child had done the same thing. 

Other posts………

Ten Things About Tulum

Mayan Human Sacrifice- Just a Myth?

What is a Salt Flat and Oranges With Chili

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Why Is That Lake Pink And Have You Tried Oranges With Chili?

I’d heard about the pink salt flats in the Yucatan and wanted to visit them.  So that’s just what we did!  

An illustration on a board near the salt flats shows ancient Mayans harvesting salt 

Apparently these lakes were a source of salt for the Mayans more than 2500 years ago.   From what I can figure out the Mayans created these lagoons and they were flooded with salty ocean water that eventually evaporated in the sun leaving natural sea salt behind.

pink lakes of progresso

Our friend Rudy takes a photo of the pink salt lake

The pigment of microbes in the water gave the salt lakes their beautiful pink tone. At the little food stand beside the salt flats they were selling bags of salt but also another treat…. oranges with chili.  You bought fresh oranges that were peeled and cut in half for you.There was a bag of hot chili to sprinkle on your orange with a spoon.  Both Dave and I tried it and found the sweet taste of the orange with the spicy taste of the chili a nice contrast. Visiting the pink salt flats was an interesting experience both visually and tastefully.  

Other posts………

You Wouldn’t Believe What You Can See On A Golf Course in Mexico

Finding Flamingos

Friend For A Moment

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Filed under Food, History, Mexico

Finding Flamingos

flamingoI’d heard that one of the sights not to be missed on the Yucatan Peninsula, was the tens of thousands of flamingos that live here year round.  There is a special biosphere reserve in Celestun that the flamingos favour but it is a good ninety minute drive away from where we are staying so we opted to look for flamingos near the ocean side city of Progreso which is much closer.

We hired a driver named Daniel and the hunt was on.  We drove through the salt flats near Progresso looking for flamingos.  Daniel spotted some and we hurried out of the car but the flamingos were so far away even my husband Dave the Nature Photographer couldn’t get a good close up shot.

Daniel our driver was an expert flamingo spotter

Besides the dry mud- caked marshy ground we were walking on was starting to sink deeper and deeper beneath our feet for every step we took closer to the flamingos.

posing like flamingos with rudy

Pretending to be flamingos with our friend Rudy

So we opted for posing like flamingos ourselves before heading off to look for more. dave photographs flamingosAfter we’d made yet another stop where the flamingos were far and few between……….. we finally got lucky!

When they want to rest flamingos stand on one leg.

Daniel spotted a whole flock right near the road. Dave the Nature Photographer got to work immediately and took some darn good shots!

flamingos merida

Flamingos live in large groups called colonies that can number up to a million. 

flamingos salt flats

Flamingos spend nearly half their day cleaning their feathers. Oil produced in a special gland is spread over their feathers with the help of their beak.

a flamingo pair in mexico

Flamingos are monogamous and produce one egg each year. Both mother and father keep the egg warm and feed their chick with a milk-like substance.

Flamingos get their pink color from the organisms they eat

Flamingos are not pink when they are born. The pinkest flamingos are also the strongest in the colony since they find the most food.

I think we can safely say we have seen the flamingos of the Yucatan in the wild. It’s the first thing I can check off my list of things I really want to be sure to do on this holiday. 

Other posts………..

Finding the Elusive Quetzal in Costa Rica

The Storks of Portugal

Dave Driedger- Bird Detective

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Filed under Mexico, Nature

We Didn’t Hit The Jackpot With Our Tour Guide But I Found Cool Stuff Anyway

Merida is the capital of the Yucatan province in Mexico. We are staying in a small community nearby and on Wednesday we decided to go into Merida to explore the city a bit with our friend Rudy.   We had signed up for a walking tour with a fellow who was friendly enough but up till now has been working as a tour guide in Minsk Russia. He just started giving tours in Merida two weeks ago.  You could tell. I’ve been on excellent walking tours in dozens of places but honestly this one was a bit of a snooze.  Still……. I saw lots of interesting stuff while we strode the streets of Merida like……….This Mexican Mennonite couple I spotted in a park. I knew there were Mennonite settlements in Chihuahua but that is nearly 3000 kilometers away from Merida. What were Mexican Mennonites doing in Merida?  My husband Dave and our friend Rudy joked about going over and trying to chat with them in Low German.  I checked online when we got home and sure enough there are Mennonite settlements in a half a dozen other places in Mexico besides Chihuahua. The Yucatan’s neighboring provinces of Campeche and Quintana Roa each have communities. So the people I saw in the park probably didn’t live that far away.I was fascinated by so many trees I saw with their roots growing above ground. I found a scientific article that explained it’s because the upper limestone layer of the earth in the Yucatan is extremely restrictive to root growth. I loved this statue called Maternidad in Spanish or Motherhood in English. It had me searching online for other sculptures called Motherhood and I found interesting ones by a whole variety of artists in cities all over the world.All the pigeons in the Grand Plaza were a little scary.  They covered the branches of the trees in the square and came swooping right close to your head in huge flocks. Reminded me a bit of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The BirdsCheck out this creepy statue I saw on the front of the home of one of Merida’s first Spanish residents. I did a little research and found out it depicts a Spanish soldier standing on the heads of a couple of local Mayans who have refused to convert to Christianity. They’ve got horns to show what heathens and devil worshippers they are.  The Mayan standing to the left is one who has listened to reason and converted from his evil ways but he still doesn’t nearly measure up in stature to the powerful Spaniard. A horrific but probably accurate description of colonialism in the Yucatan.As usual I enjoyed the variety of people on our tour. They came from Germany, Scotland, Italy, France and England and were all much younger than we were. I chatted with one couple who were from Italy and France originally but had been working in Toronto for one year and were now headed back to Europe.  We had an interesting time comparing notes about all the things we love to do in Toronto. I found architecture in Merida to be a nice mixture of old and new. I took this photo of historic and modern apartment blocks side by side. 

Our guide may not have been that exciting but I will give him credit for two things.  He gave us each a local candy to eat.  Made from guava it was delicious and reminded our friend Rudy of the guava jam his wife Sue liked to make. Our guide also told us the restaurants in the St. Lucia Park Square were excellent and he was right. We enjoyed a shared lunch of pork tacos, mushroom brushetta and freshly made guacamole there and it was great!

Despite a guide who wasn’t top-notch my first impression of Merida was of a lively and interesting place and I know I will enjoy visiting it again. 

Other posts……..

Mothers at the Met

The Doctrine of Discovery

You and Me Chairs


Filed under Mexico

A Chair For You and Me

you and me chairYou will see these unique chairs in parks all over Merida, the capital of the Yucatan province in Mexico.  The chairs are sometimes called You and Me chairs because they are connected together and provide seats for two. dave and marylou in st lucia plaza meridaThey are also called  Chairs for Those in Love. There is a local legend behind that name.  A man had a daughter who was the light of his life but he was a little worried because she was being courted by a young man. The father asked the couple to stay in a park near his home when they spent time with each other. They agreed but then the father realized just how physically close they could get to each other on a traditional park bench. So he decided to design a binary chair which would allow them to speak to each other and look in each other’s eyes but still keep a proper distance apart.

confidante chair

Dave sits in a giant binary chair in a Merida Park.

The chairs are also sometimes called Confidante Chairs because they provide a good place to have a private, confidential talk.

binary chair

Posing with our friend Rudy beside the giant binary chair.

Despite the legend the historical facts are that the first chairs were placed in the Grand Plaza of Merida in 1915 and were inspired by armchairs designed during the French Renaissance.

Other posts about chairs……….

Sitting in the Speakers Chair

The Obama Chair

Dave’s New Chair


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Ten Abandonded Places

My friend Michelle, who lives in Hong Kong often posts photos of abandoned places she comes upon in the city. Another Facebook friend Jim from Pennyslvania, takes photos of abandoned buildings. Jim and Michelle inspired me to look back through my photos searching for abandoned places  I have photographed.

I was visiting Herschel Saskatachewan doing research for a novel when I photographed this abandoned barn

I was visiting Herschel Saskatachewan doing research for a novel in the fall of 2012 when I photographed this abandoned barn

This is only one of hundreds of unfinished and abandoned homes we saw in Jamaica

This is only one of many unfinished and abandoned homes I photographed in Jamaica in January of 2014

We were on a trip to Savannah Georgia when I photographed this abandoned house

On a trip to Savannah Georgia in 2006 I photographed this abandoned house

I chaperoned a student trip to Cambodia in 2011 and photographed this abandoned temple in Angkor Wat

I chaperoned a student trip to Cambodia in 2011 and photographed this abandoned temple in Angkor Wat

Of course the buildings in Pompei Italy were abandoned for good reason as I discovered on a 2010 trip to Italy

Of course the buildings in Pompei Italy were abandoned for good reason as I discovered on a 2010 trip to Italy

While biking in Yangshou China in 2005 I photographed this abandoned house

While biking in Yangshou China in 2005 I photographed this abandoned house

We drove by this abandoned windmill in 2011 in Ukraine. It was built by Mennonites.

We drove by this abandoned windmill in 2011 in Ukraine. It was built by Mennonites.

In 2013 we visited the abandoned cliff dwellings of the Salado people built in the 1300s in the Tonto Forest in Arizona

In 2013 we visited the abandoned cliff dwellings of the Salado people built in the 1300s in the Tonto Forest area of Arizona

In November of 2010 when we visited Bangkok I photographed this abandoned graveyard overgrown with weeds

In November of 2010 we visited Bangkok and I photographed this abandoned graveyard overgrown with weeds


Other 10 Posts

Ten Things I’ll Remember About the Ballet Going Home Star

Ten Favorite Things About Arizona So Far

Ten Remembrance Day Images

Ten Things About Tulum

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Filed under Arizona, Herschel, Italy, Mexico, Nature, Reflections, Thailand, Ukraine

Ten Things About The Tulum Ruins in Mexico

1. The Tulum ruins are located along the Caribbean Sea.

2.  Tulum was occupied by a little over a thousand people from 1200-to the mid 1500’s. 

3. Tulum was protected on the seaside by tall cliffs and on the land side by a 5 meter high wall.  

4. Tulum was a trading seaport- a hub for the obsidian trade. Salt and textiles were imported and feathers and copper exported. 

5. Three main temples dominate the site- The Temple of the Frescoes, Temple of the Descending God and God of the Winds Temple.

6. Tulum was one of the last cities built and inhabited by the Mayans.

7. The architecture of the buildings in Tulum resembles what can be found in other Mayan cities like Chichen Itza.

8.Tulum was conquered by the Spanish and the citizens died from diseases the Europeans introduced. 

9. Two British explorers John Stephens and Frederick Catherwood first wrote about Tulum in 1843 in their book Incidents of Travel in Yucatan. dave at tulum

10. Tulum is one of the most visited tourist spots in Mexico. 

Other posts about Mexico……..

Mayan Human Sacrifice-Just a Myth?

Swimming in a Cenote

You Wouldn’t Believe What You Can See on a Golf Course in Mexico

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Filed under History, Mexico, Travel