Travels

Driving from Merida – on a hammock hunt – to Ek Balam

July 30, 2017

We were told in Merida by a few sellers that (all ) the Mexican hammocks are produced in a small town of Tixkokob. They would even proudly show their ID with place of birth Tixkokob but they were trying to persuade us from going there. In Merida and other touristy places like Cozumel or Playa del Carmen they up to 300USD for a finely detailed one. However, the desire to get a local made and not overpriced hammock for us was stronger. Tixkokob we will fiiiiind youuu!

You don’t have to be in Mexico long to understand the importance of a hammock. Every open door you walk past, there are hammocks hanging used as a sofa and bed as well. The moment we stepped foot in Tixkokob, it was obvious what we came for. We walked around for a bit, checking the church, vibrant local market  with loud music blasting. It wasn’t long until a knowing old man called Juan approached with a straightforward greeting: ‘Hamacas?‘ ( hammocks?). In his suuuuper slow bicycle ‘taxi’ we went to a ‘family friend’ who produced hammocks. He had a modest home with an abundance of hammocks and ironic as it sounds, a bunch of puppy chihuahuas. Our host, also named Juan, organised an impromptu showroom of the cotton and nylon varieties. Without even bargaining we got two hammock for a third of the price than in MeridaWith our hammocks in hand we were ready to continue the drive.

 

The hustle and bustle of Tixkokob, Yucatan

The hustle and bustle of Tixkokob, Yucatan

On a hammock hunt in Tixkokob

On a hammock hunt in Tixkokob

It’s important to note that the following route happened because we went to Tixkokob and all the places we saw along were a pleasant discovery. This meant that we avoided the highways and stuck to the local backroads winding through authentic Yucatan towns and villages. If you have time to spend, don’t always take the fastest route – you will miss a lot of surprises. The most spectacular of these small towns was Izamal. Painted completely in yellow, its colonial architecture and festive atmosphere stood out. Here we drove down the main square in the opposite direction and straight pass the policeman who waved us over. With my semi-Spanish I explained the confusion and he was very understanding. In fact so understanding that we got a police escort ( and somewhat of a town tour ) towards the next town.

Police escort through the yellow city of Izamal, Yucatan

Police escort through the yellow city of Izamal, Yucatan

The monastery of Izamal

The monastery of Izamal

The most of the villages we drove through were very colourful with typical thatched roofed Mayan houses. There is always a big church in the centre of the village. You can really feel Mayan culture still existing in the ‘new age’ of the colonial Spanish influence. Our ultimate destination on this trip was El Cuyo on the northern coast, but it gave us a chance to stop and visit Ek Balam ruins.

A typical Mayan thatched roof house

A typical Mayan thatched roof house

In a sleepy town of Espita, Yucatan

In a sleepy town of Espita, Yucatan

Ek Balam is maybe not so famous among tourists but it’s quite special for Mayas. The name means ”the Black Jaguar”. It is considered to be built in pre classic area ( around 300BC ) and it might have been still inhabited when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. Hence different building styles in the building – some have round edges on the bottom and the rectangular on the top. The most impressive building is the El Torre pyramid which stands about 30 meters high and has veeeery steep steps. Apart from being tall it is decorated with symbolic and artistic sculptures and carvings. 

30 metres high El Torre in Ek Balam

30 metres high El Torre in Ek Balam

Overlooking the Ek Balam ruins from 30 metres high El Torre

Overlooking the Ek Balam ruins

As we drove from the Ek Balam ruins, we passed by the last big town Tizimín to get some cash and food. From there the road only passed through small Mayan villages and only later did we realise there were no more churches around.We were told in Merida by the tour guide that villages around Ek Balam still practice Mayan religion. It is actually remarkable to see and meet Mayan people and to know that they are passing on the language and traditions to younger generations. In a world so fast and globalised like today it is even more important to preserve these traditions. 

Must repeat again, we drove extensively through Yucatan and had no problems what so ever on the roads. Police were present and always super polite. Everywhere seemed safe and things were much cheaper when off the touristy routes. When asking for directions everyone was helpful and kind. It did help to speak Spanish.

In the pitch dark we drove literally to the end of the road and arrived to our last stop in Mexico – El Cuyo.

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