Sublime, Stimulating, Serene. Kayaking in Progreso

deck view with mangroves

This is the dock from where you will depart into the mangroves. This is on the leeward side of Progreso, just off the highway to Yucalpeten/Chelem, the bridge and the marinas.

Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t go to Brazil this year, but I found a recent trip through the mangroves by kayak to be a mostly relaxing and somewhat challenging adventure that reminded me much of what I miss the most about Amazonas.

The water is shallow, there are birds to be watched and the single-person kayak was easy to handle, even through the cramped tunnels of the mangrove forest that are literally meters away from the Progreso-Yucalpeten highway (you can hear the cars) but it seems like you are in another world entirely. In fact, you can imagine being in one of those cars speeding along and looking at the bush on the side of the road and not even thinking that there could be this whole other environment just inside.

The highlight for me was the relief of paddling in open water after the twisting and manoeuvering of the tunnel which presented multiple challenges to get the kayak through; in one case having to charge at full speed to go OVER a large mangrove branch, which our guide thankfully helped with.

The water is shallow, so you never feel you are going to drown, and unlike the Rio Negro, there are no piranhas to nibble on your fingers when you are pulling the kayak along using roots, branches and fallen debris, the paddle having become totally useless and stuck between legs and arms, along the length of the kayak.

Progreso has more to offer than cantinas and cheap massages on cruise ship days. Kayaking in the mangroves is definitely one of the more sublime and rewarding activities you can undertake, to work up an appetite for your freshly fried fish lunch at one of Progreso’s seafront restaurants a little later in the day. Enjoy the photos!

Thanks to SEFOTUR for the heads up and invite on this, the idea being to better get to know what sorts of activities there are for visitors to the Yucatan coast. This one is highly recommended!

reception desk, kayaks, Progreso

Here is the reception area where you will pay and decide what it is you want to do. There are night kayak tours and motorized fishing tours also available.

A look at the mangroves

These usually mark a natural fresh water spring many of which sprout up in the salty sea water, creating the brackish environment that birds love (think food)

Local celebrity Andrea from Yucatan Today, accompanying our little group on what was an official FAM trip

Into the tunnel

Traffic jams in the mangroves

Mangrove roots

More traffic

On this little island you can see birds (if you come early or late) and enjoy sinking into thick muddy quicksand up to your waist. It’s also nice to walk around for a bit after the mangrove tunnel kayak experience.

 

What is That in There?

Refrescos

Unmarked mysteries in the fridge

What the Hell is That?

Explaining some of those mysterious things lurking in that fridge.

If you are traveling in the Yucatan, and stopping here and there, especially in the smaller towns and villages along your route, you will perhaps see unusual things (along with the usual assortment of commercial brand soft drinks) in the corner store refrigerator that you might not have at your Seven Eleven back home. Here is an example (photo) of such a fridge and a brief explanation of what it is you are looking at, top left to bottom right.

Top Shelf

  1. Flan Casero. This means home-made flan and when I asked the young lady what it all had she said “huevo… y no sé que otra cosa” which means that she knows it has eggs in it, and that’s the extent of her knowledge of this version of flan. Flan is flan, so no need to go any further with the explanation, I think.
  2. Flan Comercial – this is flan from a box. Jello brand makes a flan that you add water or milk to and voila. That’s what’s in this larger cup.
  3. Those white liquid bottles are horchata. More on that when we get to the main horchata section.

Second Shelf

  1. Jamaica. Pronounced hah-MY-cah, this is an infusion made from a plant very similar to rosehips but much stronger. With fantastic diuretic and antioxidant properties, jamaica, along with its pale cousin horchata, are the most commonly found drinks along with sodas, in any self-respecting taqueria. Note that it is sweetened, as the original version with no sugar will make your tongue curl.
  2. Cebada. Cebada (seh-BAH-dah) is a drink made with barley. It’s kind of a strange, acquired taste kind of drink and those barley bits are a bit like bubble tea with the rubbery tapioca balls, and personally I am still struggling with it. But hey, it’s a drink with a source of fiber built-in.

Bottom Shelf

  1. Horchata. The rice (and sometimes almond) drink that accompanies jamaica in every fridge where Mexican food is served. There will be sediment on the bottom, which is a good thing. Give it a shake or two and enjoy it’s almond/cinnamon taste. Again, very sweet and most times made from concentrate. If you find the home-made version, marry whomever it is that made it because this is a true delicacy and becoming more and more rare in the world.
  2. Tamarindo. The fruit of the tamarind tree is a paste and it is extremely sour. Mixed with sugar, it becomes an excellent base for sherbets and drinks. Mixed with sugar, salt and chile it becomes the ubiquitous Mexican candy that will certainly give you the runs when you first try it.

There are other things in the fridge as well. In this case, as it was a taqueria, there was a giant tub of raw meat on the floor of the fridge. Do not be put off by such apparent disparate refrigerator ingredients and be thankful that you don’t live in a land where nanny-state laws prohibit such practical solutions to every-day restaurant problems.

The Death of the Kankirixche Cenote

As the owner of a tour company specializing in off-the-beaten-track adventures I have seen, over the last 10-15 years, a notable increase in tourism traffic to places that used to be quiet, beautiful and often magical.

This is unfortunate but natural, given that

  • a) we have more people in general so there is going to be more traffic everywhere, not only on the heart-attack-inducingly congested Prolongacion del Paseo de Montejo on weekdays around 1 PM
  • b) we have the ubiquitous internet to thank for the massive diffusion of any and all information so now potentially everyone knows where everything is and how to do it or get there
  • c) tourism authorities rack their brains to come up with new and exciting promotions to places that are often not ready to receive the influx of tourism that comes from said promotion
  • d) politicians not involved in tourism but who are anxious to be patted on the back for their social awareness and for helping the ejidatarios and campesinos in becoming better political clients, throw massive amounts of money in their general direction (with plenty left over for splatter to cousins, compadres and family members who carry out their ambitious projects) in the form of infrastructure and development.

Case Study – Kankirixche Cenote

Located between the towns of Abalá (which in Mayan means not much going on here but we like to spend money on lamp posts) and Mucuyché (we’re a rustic pueblo but our hacienda is fancy) the Kankirixche cenote is a large, mostly open cavernous cenote that was absolutely gorgeous, and difficult to access both in terms of the road and also the actual climbing in and out of the water.

You would drive along an extremely rustic and rough former railway trestle, hoping for no oncoming vehicle since this would mean you had to back up from whence you came, and would park under a tree near the cenote. You might find a pickup truck there with diving tanks and other related paraphernalia, and in the water, lots of bubbles and lights from below as you lower yourself down a rickety ladder strapped – in pieces held together by wire, rope and faith – to the roots of a magnificent alamo tree growing out of the middle.

Aside from the divers and occasionally some local kids who arrived by motorbike, the site was serene and lived fully up to how cenotes are described in glossy tourism promotion materials: magical, mystical places full of history and home to aluxes and the spirits of the ancient Mayans.

Fast forward to 2019.

There is now a giant blue government sign marking the turn-off to get to Kankirixche cenote. The sign has the symbol for the cenote, for a restaurant, etc. All very civilized. The road has been somewhat widened here and there, so there is no more backing up except for perhaps a few short stretches, and that is a good thing because there is now a LOT of traffic going in and out.

When you arrived you are greeted by a handful of constantly changing campesinos from nearby Uayalceh, who claim that this cenote falls within their jurisdiction ejidatariamente speaking and so it is they who are entitled to charge you 60 pesos (gringo price) to enter the cenote. There is a rope that is lowered once you have paid so you and your vehicle can proceed. Your laminated “tickets” you will turn in to yet another individual who is sitting under the dilapidated life jacket structure, where you will pay extra to rent those should you so desire. There, is also the rocky parking lot, which is now usually filled with at least 5 cars and vans (on a good day) and up to 20 vehicles on a holiday or weekend.

 

That laurel tree growing from inside the cenote? It is now dead, having been blown over by a chubasco, a small whirlwind storm that hit the area some years ago. Its carcass is still lying there, in the trampled brown dirt and dust-covered rocks. The desolate scene is accompanied by the shouts and shrieks emanating from the water inside the cenote, which you can now access via a rickety wooden staircase and which is covered with clothing, sandals, backpacks and more, all of which belong to the hordes in the water, who are screaming and hollering like there is no tomorrow.

Whatever spirits inhabited these caves have long since departed in disgust, as you might also do upon encountering this disturbing scene. There is no magic here, no mysticism. It is a swimming hole, pure and simple and a very commercialized and crappy one at that.

I haven’t gone into the infrastructure details that are a modern feature at Kankirixche. The powers that be, in all their infinite wisdom and benevolence, have provided the campesinos with everything they need (this is at many cenotes throughout the Yucatan by the way) and that means the ladder access, the life jackets, a massive palm thatch roof structure to be used as a restaurant, accompanied by a fully equipped industrial kitchen with refrigeration, giant gas stove, oven, and even an extractor. There are solar panels on the roof for electricity. There are bicycles for rent – stored in chains among the upturned tables and chairs – that have never been moved except when the palapa restaurant floor is swept which happens rarely as the restaurant is NEVER open. There are change rooms, and bathrooms with composting toilets.

The campesinos have been given all this infrastructure in the form of a handout, with no conditions attached either in the form of repayment (insert guffaws of laughter here) or even teaching these people the basics of business to help them become self-sufficient and therefore actually achieve what was the purported goal of the program. And so, the campesinos could care less about making anything to sell, which means the restaurant is always closed and the entire infrastructure WASTED, sitting there like the white elephant it is, a monument to government waste and unrealized social program potential. The campesinos are happy to extend their hand for more money when something breaks and yes, if they vote for the party doing the handing out, they will receive the money.

On the last visit I made to this once beautiful spot, I was greeted by the usual shirtless men who charged me the entry fee, along with the sight of a family’s laundry hanging among the trees in plain sight. Pots, pans and dirty dishes were strewn among the tables in the restaurant, as were more unwashed pots and pans in the kitchen. Women, presumably the wives of the men, lounged in hammocks hanging in the restaurant. When I asked what they had cooked up that the answer was the same as it always is when I ask this same question: “hoy no cocinaron” Today they didn’t cook. Yes, well, there were only 10 cars in the parking lot at that moment and so it probably didn’t make economic sense to USE THE FREE INFRASTRUCTURE TO BRING A GOD DAMN CHICKEN AND SOME TORTILLAS to make some food for the approximately 100-200 people that would be visiting that day. It’s so much easier to just sit there and collect money.

Are you in a tourism destination or a village on laundry day?

looking back at the giant palapa built with a no-repay loan for the ‘poor’ campesinos thereby dooming them to a continuation of paternalistic handouts and no education or self improvement

Speaking of laziness and lack of planning, it is interesting to note that the garbage that is collected in bins at the site is simply dumped in the underbrush a few meters from the parking lot. Stroll into the forest, such as it is, and follow the trail. You will come upon piles of glass and plastic, as well as toilet paper (used) and evidence of human defecation with the charming sounds (huge flies) and smells that accompany an open toilet.

Yes, that’s a pile of human shit at the bottom left. How about we clean this all up before we go to Berlin to the tourism fair?

Kankirixche cenote is a perfect example of human laziness, blind mismanagement, government misspending and how a pretty tourism spot can be completely and utterly ruined by over-promoting it to the point of surpassing its capacity.

RIP Kankirixche.

Los Tiburones – Telchac Puerto

An afternoon on the beach in Telchac and a rumbling stomach with a hankering for something fishy? Try Los Tiburones right in the main square of Telchac Puerto, a half block from the pier and the cheesy shark thing to take your selfie in or the giant wrought iron bench to sit on.

Food is excellent, prices are moderate, and the service, given that the hated temporada was over and done with and the hordes having returned to their places of origin, was great.

Recommended!

Byblos Lebanese Restaurant – Club Libanés

The Casual Restaurant Critic and Better Half recently attended a small, family and friends wedding reception which was held at the Byblos restaurant in the Club Libanés, or Lebanese Club, where all the paisanos hang out on Sundays and where the debutantes’ photos line the walls. The club in itself is not much to speak of – as a venue for social events it is popular but not particularly appealing – but the restaurant has long been a Merida staple for solid Lebanese fare, home-cooked and delicious. On this occasion, the reception took advantage of the buffet, with many classic dishes represented.

From ftoyer to labne to garbanzo to gallina to kippeh to tabouleh, everything was delicious and far too filling to enable the Critic to try more than each dish twice. The service was gracious and the air conditioning cool. Prices are reasonable and if you want to be a Merida resident, you must have visited here at least once.

Kippeh crudo – raw meat, onion, mint

Kafta, or ground meat skewers, without the skewers

Ftoyer, filled with spinach or some such leafy vegetable

Kibbeh, Kipeh, kibi… many varieties of names. These are good but the ones from MIR are better.

Arrolladitos de parra, or wine leaf wraps (there’s meat and rice inside)

Arrollados de repollo aka cabbage rolls. Again rice and meat inside

Gallina rellena. This means stuffed hen. I don’t see the stuffed part, but this dish was the best of the buffet.

Marmalade Barra de Cocina Norte – It’s Open!

photo of the locale Marmalade Barra de Cocina Norte

Discretely tucked away in the corner of the Bon Ami Plaza (yes that’s really its name)

Tucked away in a corner where the Pho restaurant used to be, surrounded by defunct storefronts in a small commercial plaza on a congested avenue that has the most ridiculous amount of little L shaped shopping centers in Merida, Marmalade is a welcome addition to the area and, judging by the quality of the food and service, guaranteed to remain for some time. This is refreshing since there are so many people that have more money than business sense who are throwing their money into any and all kinds of businesses doomed to fail because they really have no idea of what the hell they are doing.

Location at the bottom of this article!

But I digress. Marmalade is not one of these.

Having visited the location on 47 on two occasions, the Critic decided that Better Half needed to experience the food and service that Dawn and Stephanie are throwing out there. And what an experience it was. Three delicious breakfast items ordered and eaten with gusto, and fragrant baked goods for the ride home (LOL) along with the kindness and attention of the hosts, make this restaurant the new favorite breakfast spot in this part of town.

Each plate and food item is a work of art, the plating/presentation beautiful. Everything tastes spectacularly good and everyone who works here seems to be happy to be there looking after guests.

The Critic had used up all his jam on the toast that came with the breakfast but there was a slice left. Dawn generously brought over another kind of jam just to be able to put something on that last piece of toast. It was a home-made pineapple and serrano jam. Truly amazing!

The Casual Restaurant Critic (and the Better Half) cannot recommend this place highly enough. A perfect spot for a leisurely Sunday morning breakfast – this is Marmalade Barra de Cocina!

flowers, table setting, restaurant, Marmalade, Merida

Fresh flowers on every table

desayuno

Marmalade Breakfast – eggs, bacon, toast, homemade jam and hash browns too

Home-cured lox

wafles, fresas, crema batida, light, desayuno, Merida, Marmalade

Waffles with strawberries and whipped cream

Pineapple and serrano jam. Really

Location location location! There’s a map and everything!

https://www.facebook.com/marmaladenorte/

 

 

 

Casual Restaurant Critic Breakfasting at Habanero’s

A quick breakfast at Habanero’s which at 11 AM was surprisingly full of people. Better Half and the starving Critic had 30 minutes to snarf down a breakfast. Both had been here before and were always happy with the food and the service, and today was not disappointing at all.

The food is great and comes out of the kitchen fast, the salsas are still made to order (you pick the chiles and ingredients and they hand-grind them for you in a metate and the service has only gotten better with time. Everyone is friendly and people stop by the table check to see that everything is good.

Highly recommended for a filling breakfast or some real Yucatecan food at lunch. Valet parking too, if you are in a hurry.

Chilaquiles w mole and dos huevos

Salsa de tomate made to order with the chiles of your preference

Huevos with longaniza sausage. There’s enough huevos to feed a small village here

crabster photo, napkin

Almadia which quickly turned into Crabster

Late Seafood Lunch /Early Dinner in Progreso Part I

Better Half and the Critic were in the mood for fish and since a new restaurant had been announced, it was decided that they should go and try it out.

Almadia is a beautiful beach-front restaurant that looks like something from an architectural magazine, a stunning new addition to the restaurant scene at least in looks. For one thing, it sits diagonally on the malecon, just a few houses from the famous Casa del Pastel, and not aligned with the street out front, which sets it apart immediately from all its competitors, as do its modern columns and glass.

Almadia is a stunning addition to the Progreso waterfront

If only they had spent the tiniest fraction of what that architect charged on training staff! BH and CC went in, met no one at the door, had several wait staff pass right in front without so much as an hola and finally a hostess appeared in 4-inch heels and showed the Critic to a table. There, the Critic and Better Half sat and sat for the longest time, waiting for someone – anyone – to return to the table to offer a drink, at least. The hostess returned to her duties of doing Something Important on a clipboard with one or more of the staff members in another part of the restaurant.

Still hungry and bemoaning the tremendous waste it was to spend this much money and effort in creating a new restaurant and then not have anyone trained to run it, the Critic decided that enough is enough, and got up, took Better Half by the arm and left. There was no effort made by anyone to stop the Critic from leaving or even to say hasta luego.

Still, knowing the owners, there will be another attempt at this beautiful restaurant!

Late Seafood Lunch /Early Dinner in Progreso Part II

Crabster is, even when busy and everyone is running around like headless chickens, pretty much a guaranteed thing and after the disappointing experience down the street, the hustle and bustle of Christan Bravo’s seafront restaurant was a welcome sight.

Here, Better Half and the Critic enjoyed what they came for. A view of the beach, the smell of salt air and some good seafood washed down with some frosty micheladas. The awful street entertainment out front and the garbage trucks picking up trash from bins was a distraction, but not anything that Crabster could do something about.

Fresh guacamole, a deep fried grouper, some shrimp. Delicious. Gracias Christian!

Crabster in Progreso was reviewed previously in February of 2017 here.

Michelada!

Guacamole

Shrimp

Pescado frito – deep-fried grouper

 

Eureka Revisited

The Casual Restaurant Critic and his Better Half, does not partake in the usual summer vacation activities known as la temporada. Instead, they stay home in Merida and on this quiet Sunday afternoon, visited their favorite Italian restaurant, Eureka.

Fabrizio was in fine form and before too long, the entire place was packed with families looking for some delicious home-cooked food.

Service, as usual, was sparkling and the specials of the day were sublime. Better Half exclaimed that this was the best dish she had ever had at Eureka, and she has been there quite a few times with the Casual Restaurant Critic, since this is probably his favorite restaurant in the city. This is one of only two Merida restaurants where the Critic will leave the dish preparation entirely in the hands of the chef (when possible) and be deliciously rewarded for the vote of confidence with a mouth-watering creation.

Salmon carpaccio

Salmon carpaccio

Special of the day – homemade focaccia w bresaola, pear and a gorgonzola cream dressing

Special of the day – homemade focaccia w bresaola, pear and a gorgonzola cream dressing

Special of the day – a most amazing ravioli dish with pistachio/salvia sauce, the pasta pillows are stuffed with homemade sausage and cheese

 

Como Escribir para una Revista de Moda en México – Guía Rápida

Si eres un escritor con ganas de verte publicado en una revista social o de modas en Yucatán o posiblemente de circulación nacional, es muy importante saber cómo redactar el artículo para que tenga el tono y estilo adecuado para tan selecto público.

Para empezar, es necesario el uso indiscriminado de Mayúsculas. Las reglas normalmente aceptadas de gramática – esas que Aprendiste en la escuela – no importan en el Medio, lo importante es Usar mayúsculas a cada Rato, y sin razón alguna. Esto hará que tu escrito tenga un look más Sofisticado.

Siguiendo con ese tema, cualquier nombre, contrario a lo que podrias creer, puede escribirse con minúscula. Si participaste en el maquillaje para la obra musical cats, escribelo así: cats. O new york. No importa.

Hablando de look, aquí tenemos otra y very important Regla: cuando te sea posible, ignora el hecho de que exista una palabra en castellano para lo que quieres decir y usa su versión en inglés. Esto es una peculiaridad singular de los paises “en vias de desarrollo” antes llamados del “tercer mundo”. Cualquier cosa en inglés es mejor que el idioma del pais. Lo puedes ver en Brazil, todo los paises de habla hispana de Latinoamerica, Asia etc. Imagínate un anuncio alemán donde dice Das Auto ist Maravilloso. Der Neue BMW 945i- ¡Sustentable! Simplemente no pasa. Algún defecto aspiracional o de auto-estima han de tener los mercadólogos (y los consumidores) que provoca esta aberración linguistica.

Por ejempo, y volviendo a tu artículo de Modas, si vas a escribir acerca de peinados y belleza, además de look puedes/debes incluir:

  • make up artist – o sea la persona que aplica maquillaje. Si eres muy cool, pones sólo MUA, que no es un beso para el lector, sino la abreviacion must para Make up artist
  • must have – toda revista de modas incluye piezas (Pieces) de ropa o peinados que son los must-have de la temporada. No son indispensables o necesarios o ni siquiera de moda, son must-haves
  • fashion – obvio no vas a decir moda, siempre utiliza mejor fashion, como adjetivo, claro. Está super Fashion utilizar colores earth en esta temporada
  • stylist – estilista, pero a poco ¿no suena mejor en inglés? ¡Claro que si!
  • western – un style muy Fashion que refleja valores del medio oeste americano
  • it item – o sea, esa cosa que tiene que estar. El uso de it item causa hilaridad entre los que conocemos una que otra palabra en maya

Otros términos que puedes espolvorear por el artículo son charm, winter, summer (etc), cat-eyes, glitter, spray, lipstick, cool, beauty. Incluir frases como un toque cool, un boom de tu look, el look ideal, y el trend del verano es muy recomendables.

Una regla más: incluir un término que Puedes – y debes – usar ad nauseum, tendencia. La tendencia es muestra de que eres un Nostradamus del mundo fashion y se aplica a la Ropa, el cabello, el make-up y los accesorios must-have.

Sección bonus para los artistas del lente:

Para los fotógrafos: las inevitables fotos que saldrán en la Revista de moda – de cocteles de presentación del new Audi, birthdays en restaurantes con nombres mayas del norte de la ciudad, enlaces matrimoniales entre la gente nice, bautizos de niños y niñas well-off con el arzobispo del momento – deberán ser de personas con apellidos conocidos y nada cortos. Gente bonita (léase blanca) de la society es la que llama la atención, ya que esa es el mercado (AAA le dicen) que va a consumir el producto  – la revista con papel shiny.

De ninguna manera debe salir gente con rasgos indígenas o de apellido corto, a menos que sea de un evento fund-raising donde la crema y nata está de fiesta juntando dinero para alguna causa altruista. Niños pobres con cáncer, hogares para huerfanitos; ese tipo de cosa. Si hay alguna familia que insiste en que su nana de toda la vida salga en la foto, su nombre simplemente debe aparecer como Nana Pepa, al lado de los siete apelllidos de sus muy españolizados y distinguidos patrones y sus adorables vástagos.