Run the equator: Pilgrimage of the sinner

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Pilgrimage of the sinner

The church in Mani
Click on picture to see slide-show

Posting again from Campeche. Internet access at the hostel is cheap - they seem to ask for 5 pesos no matter how long I use the computer.

The road unfolds in front of us mile by mile, flat and straight across the Yucatan plain. Village after village, town after town, you slow down and drive through the narrow streets, sometimes following signs but mostly just driving ahead, until you reach the place that every road which enters the village leads to - the town square and the church. Then Angela gets out of the car takes a few shots with the camera and then we move on. Sometimes, if the place looks more interesting, or if we´re hungry or we must go to the bathroom, we stay for a few more minutes.

All Mexican villages and towns in this area follow the same urban plan - it´s a street grid, where parallel streets with odd numbers cross the streets with even numbers. Like in the united states, it's pretty easy to find your way around. The center is always a square bordered on one side by a catholic church, usually a very large one. If the village is rich, the square is a park with trees and benches. If it's poorer (but that´s just my conjecture) the square is a very unappealing elevated concrete surface, which looks very bleak but probably comes alive during fiestas and dance nights...

Angela saw this thing in her Yucatan book called "The Convent Route" and put it on the travel itinerary - you follow a road through ten or so villages and look at their churches, which, for most part, are pretty impressive, although not very adorned inside with the exception of the altars. No matter how poor, the Mexicans like their churches big. You can't do this trip by bus; although these towns are linked by bus routes, they are impractical because it would take just to long. As expected, we did not see many other tourists on the road, except at the Mayapan archaeological site, which is near one of the villages we visited (if I could only remember which one...)

In the town Acanceh we ran into a couple of political rallies (Mexican elections are about to take place in May) and since we had already heard small but vocal protesters on the streets of Merida clamoring against Bush and calling him an assassin, we decided that if asked, we would say we are Canadians from Vancouver. Sure enough, we got into a conversation with an older guy who helped us find the bathrooms, and it turned out that he knew quite a few things about Canada and he's been to Germany and knew a few words of German. We concocted our lie quite well, but I had to make sure I stayed vague enough so I don't embarrass myself. Luckily, he didn't ask who the prime minister of Canada was; the last one I remember was Paul Martin, but I think his party lost the elections since... Next time we´re Romanians!

Angela was taking many pictures and soon we realized that since all villages looked alike, we wouldn't be able to tell the difference (in case it ever matters to us later), so she started writing down a few words about the pictures taken in each place, just to remember where each shot was from. That lead her to an idea for the next day, when we would be visiting four or five archaeological sites: to tell the ruins apart, we would take a picture of the entrance plaque bearing the name of the ruin before any other pictures at that site. Brilliant!

We spent the night in the town of Tikul in a room with air conditioning and TV, for 290 pesos ($27). After four nights in the sweltering room in the Merida hostel, it was about time we give ourselves a little treat...


Laural B said...

Neat, I always like to look at churches in other countries.

Big Fat Rat said...

More to come soon!

Not with a bang but a whimper said...

This is a perfect summary of Central America travel. Except we didn't have as good of luck finding our way through towns; Katie would always get stressed approaching a town because there were enough times we couldn't figure out how to get out - or, once we were out, whether or not we were on the right road or some unmarked farming road.

Of course, that's when the real adventures happen (when you're lost and off the beaten path).