I woke this morning with a dodgy stomach and was not feeling 100%. This can be a bit of a bummer on a motorcycle, no pun intended! I wanted to get on the road before the heat cranked up, because high temperatures just makes things worse when you are feeling crook. We decided to head directly onto Merida, instead of our intended route to Celestun. It was a clincher of a ride along the Couta and we arrived Merida in 2 1/2 hours later. There were many Federal stops along the way. Many, meaning 4. We were flagged through 3, but pulled over at one and checking for drugs. The armed Federal official eyed Kev with his long hair and repeated his questions, he even pulled Kev's hands off the handle bars and looked at his finger tips! This has been the most intrusive stop to date! We pulled up in the historical district of Merida looking for a place to stay when we were approached by another adventure rider, Phil, who recommended his hotel. I was a little green, now overheated and really did not care where we stayed. We hopped back on the bikes and found the hotel, checked in and I rested while Kev unloaded and secured the bikes. Later that evening I was doing much better so we hooked up with Phil for a couple of drinks and shared riding stories. It is always great to hear about other travelers stories! Phil is also on his way to Argentina.
Kev and I decided to "cage it" for a day and booked a tour van to drive us out to Celestun's Biosphere Reserve. Kev and I had a wonderful day experiencing the flamingos, and other birdlife, living in this coastal wetland wildlife refuge. We also enjoyed chatting and visiting with Tim & Julie the entire trip aboard the van. Raoul, our van driver explained that Celestun was a very important trading port for the Mayans. Celestun is Maya, meaning colored or painted stone. The Mayans had a bustling trade, rich in prestige items that could be used in rituals, as status, or to decorate and adorn their bodies. Celestun became an important trading port that brought Mayans down the rivers from inland Mexico as well as from from Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Jade, obsidian, gold, copper, pyrite, bronze and marble were traded here.
Merida is a very interesting town rich in Maya history, with 60% being of Maya ethnicity. Merida was actually built on the site of the Maya city named Tho. The stones from the temples and pyramids of Tho were dismantled and used to build the Spanish colonial buildings still standing today. On some buildings, and the inside of the main cathedral, you can see the original temple and pyramid stones that were used from Tho. At the turn of the 20th century Merida was said to have housed more millionaires than any other city in the world! Kev and I took a horse and carriage through the streets of Merida and were amazed by some of the elaborate homes that lined the streets. It must have been an amazing town in it's heyday. Now much of the historical centro area is crumbling in disrepair, although, it is now slowly renovating and regenerating. Historians believe that Merida is actually the oldest continually occupied city in the Americas.