Overwintering in Southern Mexico

It should be noted that -I grew up in Georgia. Winter has not yet lost its magic for me, even after nine years living “up north”. While it can be hard to find motivation in the cold, to go out with the ice, tiring to be cold, I still appreciate every year. Except this one.
It has been weird to skip winter. I keep thinking about winter projects  (something one does when there is less inclination to be outside and less work to do) and then remembering that I am planning for next winter. My sense of what dates have already  passed is also quite out of whack.

While I have overheated and find the sun alarmingly high in the sky, I have also been in some chilly places. Even within a state, as one may expect, terrain and climate can vary drastically. There have been some cold nights and chilly days even. I have been asked, is the United States cold? Even colder than here? Yes friends, parts* of Mexico are quite chilly, and some, but not all, of the US can be much colder. 

* For some examples: the morning out of Toluca I quite missed my gloves, and in San Cristobal and surely many other mountain towns one will definitely want a jacket after dark (if not also before). 

On a totally different note, my Spanish is improving and it feels easier to talk to people, but I also feel less inclined to prove that I can when people address me that I don’t care to converse with. It is a sappy, romantic place, Mexico. A bit over dramatic, if you ask me-which I do not have to enjoy, just acknowledge- sometimes listening to music or witnessing the ever present open display of affection or clingyness is a bit gross to me. There are many things I like there but the dominant manner of displaying affection is not one of them. 

Around the beginning of the year I decided to stop talking to men. This is not totally possible, but I avoid them. I am tired of being asked about my boyfriend-and being largely uninterested in lying about having one, then being asked, oh, so you are looking for a boyfriend! If this came up more rarely perhaps I could stand hearing about how much safer I would be with a man, or happier or who will take care of me when I am old?, or for explaining that I am actually pretty happy as a single woman, that I have not, in fact, just been waiting for a man to show some interest in me. And so I am finally trying to take more responsibility for the way I interact with people. Which mostly just comes down to not engaging with people that I don’t have interest in engaging with, because chatting is apparently an invitation for more, and while it isn’t totally unreasonable-I guess that is how this works, I can’t fault people for their directness-if it isn’t what I’m looking for I can’t assume that others won’t be. If I don’t want to explain my disinterest over and over, then I should avoid having to. I have met some pleasant men, don’t get me wrong, but most of them I have met through women. A good way to recognize a man worth talking to is that he is friends (not a euphemism, if you don’t have female friends, do not talk to me) with women that I want to be friends with. That said, I think I am becoming a more thoughtful feminist than I have been in the past, and I have met some really rad women. 

Just some helpful reminders stenciled onto a corner in San Cristobal

In San Cristobal de las Casas, Lorena had no problem asking me to make lunch, run errands with or for her, paint signs for the shop or even at times man it while everyone else went to get supplies or whatever. This was great. I felt useful and enjoyed the time I had with folks there. I had expected something similar in Merida, but in fact often just felt in the way. This is, perhaps, a lesson in expectations management.  

Yucatan felt to me a bit like Florida, very flat and warm, low buildings, coconut palms and other tropical flora…


I took a bus into Merida and have wandered a lot. There is an impressive system of combis that go to many surrounding towns.


These guys were pretty busy but found some time to hang out with me.


I liked this artful pedestrian passageway.

Most parts of the country that I have visited use many of the same names or dates to identify streets, and are often marked only on placards at the corners, high on the walls of buildings, variably legible. In Merida most streets are numbered. It isn’t a perfect grid, but in the center of town at least, evens go north or south, odds east or west, and mostly alternating direction. And there are street signs! Not just on the major streets, most of the intersections are labeled! This should make getting lost a lot harder, though I semi regularly rotated or flipped myself around.

There isn’t a lot of graffiti, more popular here are stickers, often artfully made, traded, and then rovingly applied all over town. sometimes political.

The photo isn’t great, but these are parrots, you can trust that they are green, if you like.

With my friends relatively unavailable, I took myself on a short ride out to Sisal.

I am not actually much into water, wind, and sand, and sometimes forget what is appealing about beaches. I will refrain from posting all of my seashell photos.

Sisal is a quiet port town, beside a nature reserve

I had no intention of stealing the fish or nothing, but the bird left anyway.

I think this was my first time camping on the beach. Is that possible? I know I have camped very close to many in the past. Perhaps part of the romance is the difficulty of setting up a tent in the wind and trying to keep (most of) the sand out.


Chichen Itza is a mess. It is an impressively huge, well maintained (rebuilt) Mayan city full of tourists. It is about four times the cost to enter as most other archeological sites I have visited.


I, being a single person, generally don’t hire a guide, though I understand they are helpful- in Chichen Itza this is easy to reconcile, as there are many groups walking around with guides, stopping regularly to explain, tell stories, etc. I kept an ear open as I stopped at each area for any speaking English or Spanish. After the first tour groups I wandered past speaking French or German, I was a bit more successful.


All the pathways are lined with vendors, selling a narrow selection of craft things, calling to passers by in a Spanglish declaration of their good prices, one dollar for this… Wait, dollars? Yes, in fact, in this part of the country, one can get by on US currency. This of course means vendors can ask whatever exchange rate they want, which I think is fair, to take a bit extra for the favor of doing the exchange work for you.


The numbers on blocks here, obviously Arabic numerals, not Mayan, were used by the archeologists replacing fallen pieces


One can find many iguanas sunning themselves, though often they blend in quite well

 I will tell you briefly what I know about Yucatan peninsula. It is a relatively young area of land, having been coral reef until the last ice age when water levels dropped. This means there is a layer of limestone. Cenotes are pools of fresh water formed by underground waterways which worked away at the limestone. Some are nearly perfectly round, open ones may be deep straight walled where robes have collapsed, though there are many which are deep caves with only small entrances. They are lovely. 

I think every time I mentioned to someone elsewhere in the country that I was headed (to Merida) I was told that it is very hot, but there are cenotes.


Valladolid is a lovely town.

The Peninsula was relatively separate from the rest of the country, and has a differing history with regards to the Spanish dominance of
indigenous people-and at points they were kicked out almost entirely. There are some cathedrals and such in Valladolid and I’m sure elsewhere, only that someone pointed it out to me there- built from the stones of the dismantled pyramids. At one point war was declared on Mexico and won- and though I believe the peninsula didn’t end up seceding, the defeat was used to leverage more independence in governance. There are still many people who speak Maya and many Mayan words in general use, and
display an obvious pride in keeping their culture alive.The peninsula was for a long time not well connected to the rest of the country. They did have more ports, though, and were well connected to the other parts of the world by sea.


I’ve seen them before, but always get a kick out of the gigantic flags


A crocodile in Lake Coba


leggy water bird. I can’t tell you how many photos I have of this guy, each almost the same. This is a bad habit of digital, which is awfully annoying in the aftermath (when trying to figure out which is slightly better than the others)


After Chichen Itza, I was a little nervous to visit another archeological site, but between being less popular and going right when they open public access for the day, Coba was quiet and lovely.


You can still climb the pyramid there, which at 43 meters is, I hear though cannot promise the truth of, the highest place on the peninsula. I found myself at the top with these folks from Pittsburgh


From the top you can see some smaller pyramids, some mounds which perhaps are unearthed ruins as well, and just how generally flat the area is.


Pelicans are quite funny. I hung out a while watching these guys hassling fishermen for fish, getting hassled by tourists pretending to offer fish to get good photos, and of course lifting off to dive at the water in their awkward way that always looks like a crash landing.

I went early to the beachfront Tulum ruins. Like Coba, I saw crowds coming in as I was leaving.


This coati wandered right through a tour group as I was leaving. Their guide told them not to touch or get too close-cute as they are they can hurt you- but there was a young kid who couldn’t parse that and followed it. He was eaten. (I kid, the coati sniffed at him and then went back to foraging)


Maybe this is good enough? It is a lot of plastic, I don’t like that of course, but it did make flying easy; I rode to the airport and let someone wrap my bike in plastic and called it good. I bought a cheap duffle bag in the morning, which I packed at the airport as well, which could fit most of my bags and their contents.


A short flight dropped me in Florida where I  have spent a few days with my grandparents, and thinking about reasons to be excited about spring apart from as a break from the winter weather I did not experience this year.

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1 Response to Overwintering in Southern Mexico

  1. Lucia says:

    Pittsburgh still has some winter left!!! 🙂


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