Thursday, April 8, 2010

Visa Vacation: Mexico

Because we are in Costa Rica on a tourist visa, we have to leave the country at least once every 90 days. When we re-enter the country after at least 72 hours we get a new tourist visa. This means we take one "visa vacation" a season. It's a good thing because we enjoy it so much here we might never explore other places otherwise. Past vacations have been to Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, and Peru. Twist my arm, I need to take a visa vacation! This year we went to Mexico for the very first time. We took an Exploritas trip -- the organization was formerly Elderhostel. Now we like to call it Exploritis because if traveling is a bug we definitely have it.
The theme of the trip was birding the Mayan ruins of the Yucatán and we had a marvelous
time. We saw almost 200 species of birds but we liked it that our fellow travelers weren't fanatical. Most of the species we had seen before but we did pick up a few new ones that are endemics to that area. Now if one of us would just organize our various birds seen over the years into a life list....
Mr. Rududu managed to get lots of terrific bird photos even though he had to
keep up with the group. My favorite photo is this one of painted buntings.

Of course, we also really enjoyed seeing lots of Mayan ruins and learning about them from our excellent archeology guide. (We also had a birding guide and driver to take care of 14 people in the group.) There is incredible variety from one site to another. There was a lot of ornamentation on some of the buildings like these at Chichén Itzá or the facade of a huge building at Kabah.

Another real surprise were the colorful murals at Bonampak. Exactly how they made beautiful and durable blues and turquoises is not understood as far as I know but it did involve using vegetable dyes like a kind of indigo.

It was quite hot most of the time and one day it got up to 41C / 105 F. That's really hot for visiting archeological sites. Thank goodness for our air-conditioned van. Mr. Rududu bought a very nicely made Panama hat. It's called a jipi-japa. (Sounds like hippy-happa in English.) It stays on well even in a fairly stiff breeze. I

bought the first hat with a brim that I found, which isn't nearly as elegant but served very well its purpose of keeping me from keeling over in
the heat.
Of course, I pursued my interest in food. My favorite food experience of the trip was buying a roll from this vendor with his wares on a bicycle. the variety struck me as typical of a certain exuberance. On the right are a some chicken specialties of the area, which are wrapped in banana leaves and baked in a hole in the ground. Our group had that for lunch one day, except me because I don't eat chicken. I got a very good fuss-budget's special.

Our trip was well organized and very educational as well as fun. Our traveling companions were easy to get along with. In honor of what I saw I am naming my latest knitting project Mayan Dream. The stitch pattern, although I created it before our trip, reminds of the ornamentation on the buildings we saw and the turquoise reminds me of the Bonompak murals. I'm knitting with 2 colorways of Kauni yarn.

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