By Ron Burdine
We got a late start from Tulum for our getaway weekend to Uxmal. The estimated drive time was about 4.5 hours and we were making good time as we passed through Valladolid. As we started out of Valladolid, the sun had just set on an unseasonably cool day at the end of April on the Yucatan Peninsula. We had the windows rolled down, and could hear the sounds of Howler monkeys calling out to their friends among the jungle canopy. What an adventure this was already!
We traveled along for another few hours, had a few near-miss turns, and what began as an exciting adventure at dusk turned into a dark night of two-lane roads and unfamiliar places. We were close to our destination, but the map I wished I hadn’t forgotten had worked its way up the priority ladder to “critical loss.”
At this point, it was almost midnight, and we decided to give up on finding the hotel near Uxmal where we had reservations. We had driven through the town of Ticul on the way, and recalled seeing some places to stay there. So, we drove back, found a place with a pool and free breakfast, and pulled into the driveway. Imagine our shock in finding out that this was, in fact, the very accomodations we had reserved!!
Valerie, the owner/manager, was standing outside to greet us at “The Pickled Onion,” and we all had a good laugh about the “perdido” (lost) being found. We had driven by the hotel, at least, twice; it was late and dark; and I had forgotten the map . . . and yet, when all else had failed, I pulled right into the driveway – what can I say? Valerie had had us set up for a late arrival – but, not for that late!
We settled in for a great night of much needed rest. The next morning, after finishing a wonderful breakfast, we headed out for a day at the ruins of Uxmal and the Cacoa Museum and Plantation. Both tours are educational, awe-inspiring and well-worth the trip. Personally, I found the ruins of Uxmal to be more impressive than Chichen Itza.
At the Cacoa Plantation, we learned a great deal about chocolate – one of my favorite subjects – and gained insight into the daily lives of the average Maya family. When you visit most ruins, you hear about royalty, the grand ceremonies and the significance of the structures in governing, but seldom does anything you see figure into the life of the average Mayan citizen. Their connection with the land, and the harmony in which they lived with it, is inspiring. Their tools, and how they used native plants in their everyday lives, demonstrate their intimacy with and knowledge of the land.
We also learned some really interesting stuff about “Cacoa,” or the source of chocolate. The Cacoa fruit which contains the beans used to make cacoa, was originally discovered in Northern Brazil but migrated north with the spread of the Maya people over 2000 years ago. It was the Spaniards bringing the beans back to Europe from the Yucatan in the 1500s that gave birth to the chocolate we enjoy today.
The Pickled Onion B and B was another educational, albeit relaxing, comfortable, even sensual experience. They use the traditional Mayan style cabanas – rectangular with rounded corners and the beautiful, thatched roofs that keep the cabanas cool. The room we stayed in was the newest, and was nicely furnished with a mini-fridge, coffee-maker and sitting area. No internet and no TV for the weekend provided a nice change of pace. It’s a very peaceful, quiet spot, and we sat in front of the cabana on several occasions just to listen to the jungle and enjoy the beautiful garden.
We loved the garden and its paths including the small labyrinth maze with a lime tree in the middle. We had a fantastic dinner on-site in the charmingly quaint restaurant. The menu had many entrees using local ingredients, and some interesting fusions that were delicious. Try the meatballs with raisins and fresh mint . . . it’s amazing!
Valerie is a fantastic host, excellent massage therapist and we so enjoyed the time we spent with her. This is a trip, and accomodations, that we highly recommend. It is a combination of the perfect place to unplug and wind down, coupled with an interesting and unusual take on the Mayan culture!
Check out the short video below to see some of the highlights of the trip.