|Here is my journal from my trip to the yucatan and quintana roo, from 12/1/07 through 12/9/07. i've added some photos with captions (hover over photos) to go along with this journal. as usual, i've left all the original typos. if you want to see more photos AND VIDEOS from this trip, please click here
nick & ellie's mayan ruins adventure!
okay, it's around 4:48 p.m. right now and the owners of our b&b, casa esperanza, have been kind enough to let me use their laptop. i'm gonna try to recount what we've been through so far.
our flight out of LAX to mexico city was pretty uneventful. they showed the movie "ratatouille" which was a lot of fun, although it took us forever to figure out exactly what the flight attendants meant by "radadoo." they also fed us a free meal which i was pretty impressed with. since aeromexico is owned by delta, i figured they'd make us pay. we got a turkey and cheese croissant sandwich, garden salad, bread roll, and caramel cheesecake. and they served free booze but i was simply too tired to partake.
when we arrived in mexico city, our plane taxied forever it seemed, and we then boarded a bus which took us back to the airport terminal. from there, we went through customs with no problems and then tried to find our connecting flight to merida. the flight info screens all said to go to terminal b, which turned out to be a resting area with lots of food vendors and stores. basically, it meant they didn't know what terminal or gate our flight was going to leave out of. anyways, imagine my horror when i realized that i REMEMBERED terminal b from our last trip to mexico city.
for the people who don't know, last time nick and i went to mexico city, we got super sick at the end. rather than pay for another night for a windowless hotel room and be forced to share ONE bathroom, we decided it would be better to camp out at the airport with their plentiful stalls of bathrooms. we ended up spending something like 17 hours there... in terminal b! and between frequent bathroom breaks, we met some colorful characters. first, there was selwyn, a kiwi who was stranded at the airport because of his passport or something like that. he seemed normal and friendly enough until he told nick that he knew him from a previous life as a cia agent. then he told us that someone or something had taken his god and he "couldn't make poo." at that point, both nick and i were thinking "damn, i wish i couldn't make poo" cuz that's pretty much all we were doing. anyways, he started freaking us out so we made some excuse and took off to another area.
and during one of nick's many trips to the bathroom, he actually befriended pedro, the night janitor, who unfortunately was cleaning the bathroom. i guess the guy got worried since nick was in the stall for so long and asked how he was doing. a long conversation ensued. funny way to meet someone but he was actually really cool. we ended up hanging out with him during his break and he made chamomile tea for us to help soothe our stomachs.
ah the memories. definitely mixed about the mexico city airport. i hope our layover on the way back is less eventful.
anyways, so our flight to merida was delayed, we taxied forever some more, and eventually landed a little before midnight, where we proceeded to taxi around some more. but no trip of ours can be completely retardation free. as soon we started getting off the plane, nick suddenly had to use the bathroom. he rushed to the front of the plane and begged them to let him use the airplane lavatory. so i ended up carrying all our baggage out and waiting around by the plane like a retard. after all the passengers had left, some employees asked if they could help me, and i had to tell them my boyfriend was still in the bathroom. also, apparently, even though nick was trying to tell people outside he was still in there, some guy actually opened the door on him. imagine his horror! anyways, finally we both got out, found an atm which worked perfectly (as opposed to in japan), and got a taxi into town. there was very little traffic at that time of the night and man did our taxi driver fly! we were at our b&b in like 15 minutes. a lot of the streets just consist of walled faces on each side, with little doors leading to the individual residences. so imagine our surprise when we entered what was a rather drab-looking front and find ourselves in this huge compound complete with trees and lush scenery and several small cottages or houses within. our hosts apparently upgraded us to this really nice unit with its own bathroom and a common area for eating and socializing. we were too out of it last night to really notice, but it's definitely the coolest place i've ever stayed. i took some photos i'll have to post later. our hosts just let us go to sleep last night immediately and arranged to have breakfast at 9:00 a.m. right after we went to bed, a kiwi lady showed up in the other room sharing the common area. apparently she was on our late flight from mexico city too, and she'd had quite a nightmare herself at the mexico city airport. lesson to be learned: stay away from that airport!
so this morning, we had a great breakfast. they made some huge enchilada thing with eggs, avocado, beans, cheese, and i don't even know what else. they had a nice fruit plate and fresh orange juice. and we got to chit-chat with our kiwi neighbor who has been traveling on her own since mid-september! god i wish i could take a 3-month trip. this is actually her last stop before heading back home. she'd been to cuba, costa rica, and mexico.
at around noon, we finally got out into town. we basically walked down the main avenue, calle 60, towards the zocalo, main plaza. and being that i'm me, we had to stop at every handicrafts store and stall. i bought myself a cool palm hat and wore it all day. i figure i already stick out like a sore thumb, so why not go all the way into nerdy tourist territory? i also searched endlessly for a huipil, traditional dress, but couldn't find one i loved yet. hopefully during our second leg in this town next weekend.
anyways, so after wandering around aimlessly for like four hours, we stopped back at our hotel and nick's now napping. tomorrow we plan to take a bus to the ruins site of uxmal and then bus to valladolid, where we'll stay for three nights, before returning back to merida. oh yes, and there definitely ARE mosquitoes out here, and they have all found me. my feet and ankles are all bitten up, but surprisingly my arms and face are fine. and no sunburn yet :)
well it's been some time since my last update. first off, i hope to god or whatever gods are out there that i finally get a good night's sleep. i'm falling apart here! i alternate between a dazed stupor and complete delirium. and i don't think it's gonna get much better for a while, but more on that later.
okay, so i left off right before dinner on sunday night. nick and i went to los almendros, a yucatecan restaurant. they had photos of all their dishes on the walls and on a photo menu to help you choose what you wanted. it was definitely different, not traditional "mexican" like what we get in the states. we started off with a sopa de lima (lime soup), a regional specialty. it's basically a turkey broth with lime, tortilla chips, turkey, and some other vegetables and seasonings. it was super tasty and hot. we also got panuchos which were like tiny tostadas with black beans, pickled purple onions, turkey, tomato, and lettuce. awesome! i should also mention that yucatecan cuisine consists mostly of turkey, chicken, and pork. so after our appetizers, i ordered the puchero tres carnes (it was the sunday special), which had--you guessed it--turkey, chicken, and pork in a brothy sauce with some different kinds of squashes and potatoes/yams, corn, carrots, and cabbage. it was also topped with this noodle concoction with garbanzo beans. it was super yummy! it also came with home-made tortillas that i unfortunately barely touched. it was simple, light, but still very flavorful. nick also got a regional specialty--poc chuc--which is basically a thin piece of pork, pounded tender, with a spicy tomato sauce, marinated purple onions, and black beans on the side. man, i'm definitely a fan of the purple onions. nick made these bastardized pork tacos with black beans! but he says they were very good still. this was one of the best meals we've ever had i think. it was definitely a good start to our culinary explorations :)
so with very full stomachs, we decided to walk around a bit along the main road. we bought a bunch of souvenirs at a shop where the guy said they were closing for good that night. i'm pretty sure he was lying, but he was super nice and let nick harass him with questions for a good 10-15 minutes. nick even got a photo with the guy, both wearing palm hats.
okay, so the next morning, monday, we got up super early (7:00 a.m.) because we needed to check out and take the bus to uxmal for the day, but our breakfast was kinda late (8:30 a.m.), and we didn't get out till like 9:15 a.m. so basically i hardly slept at all and woke up super early for nothing. for breakfast, we had fresh orange juice, scrambled eggs with ham and avocado, and the fruit plate again. i neglected to mention previously that they must have an avocado tree or something cuz they were amazing! like not too strong but super creamy and light. and i've discovered that i love papayas. i could've sworn i'd eaten them in the past and not liked them, but i must've been crazy. i think they also had a papaya tree as well, so maybe that's why they were so good.
this was our first lovely experience with the bus system. we got to the station at around 9:30 a.m., and the next available bus was for 10:45 a.m. i think we missed the 9:30 a.m. bus because some lady in the line in front of us took FOREVER! seriously, life is chill here. no one's in a hurry. i almost long for the efficiency and punctuality of japan again, almost...
anyways so we sat around the bus station. and i had to use the bathroom which was gross. you can't flush toilet paper down the toilet at most places so you basically have this trash can full of shit/piss next to you whenever you're using the bathroom. i just flush the paper anyways ;)
while there, we saw someone we thought was a mennonite. he was definitely tall and white, with a long-sleeved plaid cowboy shirt and overalls and a cowboy hat. nick says there is a sizeable mennonite popular in northern mexico but we were surprised to see one so far south. i guess it was't a coincidence because on our way back later that afternoon we saw another guy in an almost identical outfit.
so about our bus ride. we took a second-class bus to uxmal, "sur" brand. it's one of those huge buses that probably fits like 40-50 people. they're heavily air-conditioned so that's not even an issue. however, there was one peculiarity about this bus. there was a sign above the driver that read 95 km/hr and it would light up and beep every time he went faster than that speed limit. on the one hand, that is a rather ingenious way of making sure your drivers don't drive too fast. but i also kept thinking this has got to be like the bane of his existence. i bet he has nightmares with this obnoxious beeping noise going on. i found this all quite hilarious. like i felt bad for him, but at the same time i would totally crack a smile every time i heard the damn thing, which was quite often. now bear in mind, i'm already half-delirious at this point so pretty much anything makes me laugh.
so about uxmal. it's pretty rad. it's not as popular as chichen itza and that means you can touch and climb everything! it's also got lots of greenery and trees and HUGE iguanas! basically, it was really beautiful and cool, but i'm not going to bother to write much about it here. i'll post the photos soon and then i'll explain more in captions. it was super hot though and i was very thankful for the presence of trees and shade at the site.
after about two hours, we'd pretty much seen everything so we headed back to merida with an "ats" bus. from the bus station, we decided to walk to a new yucatecan restaurant--el portico de los peregrinos. this place had a lot more european-style dishes so i decided to go wild and order a pasta dish. since they had an entire section devoted to spaghetti i figured it was safe. they also like roquefort cheese a lot. anyways, so nick started with the sopa de lima and got another regional specialty--pollo pibil--and i had garlic shrimp spaghetti. the soup wasn't as well seasoned this time around. also, when nick first opened up the banana leaves--used to cook the meat to make it tender--he was disappointed as the meat was dry and not too flavorful. apparently he just hit a bad spot and the rest was very good. my pasta dish was actually quite good. it was shrimp in an olive oil/butter garlic sauce with parsley and pastilles chile peppers. the peppers definitely gave it a mexican twist and i really enjoyed it. we both had orange fanta.
also, our hosts at the b&b told us that merida has a very good health code and pretty much all restaurants use filtered water so it's safe to use ice with your drinks. i hope our luck doesn't give out cuz neither of us has gotten sick yet.
so after dinner, we went back to the b&b, cuz they were kind enough to hold onto our large backpack for the day, and then tried to flag down a taxi to take us to the bus stop. we started looking for a taxi at 6:15 p.m. we finally got a taxi at around 7:15 p.m. no joke. we only got that taxi cuz the people in it happened to be getting off right in front of our hotel. that morning, we got a taxi immediately when we were heading out to uxmal. anyways, so we finally got to the bus station, first class this time, and the next available bus was at 8:30 a.m. so we got to hang out at another bus station forever, albeit a much cleaner more modern one. the only differences between first and second-class buses that i could see were that the first-class ones had tvs and the seats were slightly more confortable. i think the beeping self-imposed speed limit was a "sur" exclusive. we took "ado" to valladolid, which took about three hours. i did get my jacket out for that trip. and we ended up watching "RV" (horrible movie) basically without sound. after that was another classic--"hoot." i wasn't sad when we weren't able to finish it. amazing how you can basically guess some movies' plots without any dialogue at all. oh yeah, and our bus was delayed. every bus is ALWAYS delayed here.
so we arrived in valladolid at around 10:30 p.m. and quickly found our hotel, el meson del marques, which is supposed to be the best in town. we were total pests. we had them show us the standard and the superior rooms. we then asked for a superior on the top floor. then we went back and asked to change cuz nick couldn't figure out how to use the a/c. so our room is pretty nice. it has two full beds, a mini-fridge, a fairly large bathroom, and balcony. we face the pool and currently there is no one above us. unfortunately, since we got in so late, we didn't get to bed till midnight and i stayed up a little longer to study up on our trip to chichen itza the next morning.
so at 6:30 a.m. this morning, suddenly amplified music and singing was ringing through our room. i was thinking, for the love of god, who does this at 6:30 in the morning?! turns out, there's a school right outside our window. nice. for a hotel that has 90 rooms and basically all vacancies, they somehow couldn't suggest a better room when the only prerequisite i mentioned was that i needed "quiet." so they said we could switch again, but they said we could go out and do it later in the day. so, nick and i went to chichen itza. when we came back and were ready to move, they had given away our room. FUCK! so much for sleeping in for the next two mornings.
we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, which is supposed to be the best in town. it may be worth mentioning that this town is really small so "best in town" isn't really as impressive as it sounds. still, it was excellent. they brought us fresh orange juice and crusty bread, which reminded me of cuban bread, and papaya jam. man, i really do love papaya now. i had a regional specialty, longaniza (blood sausage). i had the eggs and longaniza with black beans and potatoes. nick had green chilaquiles which he said were excellent. and since we're pigs, we ordered a third dish to share, another regional specialty--huevos motuleņos--which were eggs with ham, peas, cheese, and tomato sauce on top of black beans and a hard tortilla shell. it also came with fried plaintains and bacon. we basically stuffed ourselves silly.
anyways, so this time, we took an "oriente" bus (we're collecting buses, by the way) and hardly had to wait at the station, except that our bus was late, as expected. we arrived at the zoo (chichen itza) in about an hour. this ride was most notable for its turbulence, which caused our heads to wobble furiously from side to side in our headrests. this phenomenon was duly captured on video. so, back to chichen itza. it was just crazy there. definitely a popular tourist spot. it was hot as hell, and there are peddlers everywhere selling shit. a lot of it was quite good too. there were these guys sitting around carving masks and shit that they were selling for a few american dollars each. it really was quite a shame cuz some of it really was excellent. seems such a waste that a skill like that manages such a meager existence for them. especially when you can walk into trendy shops in LA and buy crappier wood carvings for way more money. pretty sad.
so chichen itza was a bit underwhelming. everything is fenced off and you can't touch almost anything. there was only one section where you could actually walk in the ruins. apparently after it was named one of the new seven wonders, they've closed off a lot of it. you used to be able to climb the pyramid, el castillo, but not anymore. you also used to be able to climb inside to a smaller pyramid inside with a jaguar, also off limits now. so you end up walking around in the burning sun with tons of tourists and people selling shit. it just wasn't nearly as pleasant or fun as uxmal. oh well. at least i can say i've seen it. and i imagine it must've been pretty rad to visit just a few years back. i did however buy some souvenirs so that was cool :)
so we took another "ado" first-class bus back to valladolid and, surprise, we actually only had to wait a few minutes! this bus was basically toting a port-a-poppy in the back, and lucky us got seats in the back. the occasional bump would serve to stir up the shitbrew, throwing a tantalizingly ripe smell into the back of the bus. basically it totally stunk the whole time. and there was some ridiculous movie on about some kid and his chimp pet who skates. it was pretty lame.
so after we got back to the hotel and were told they gave away our room, we went up and just rested a bit. we ate some muffins we had brought for our flight and laid around a bit. then, we decided to find cenote zaci, which is the most popular cenote in town. cenotes are natural pools created when the limestone caves collapsed. i've decided cenotes are not for me. they may be clean but they're dark. i think i'll stick to chlorinated pools where i can see my feet. and now i'm here at a cybercafe.
i think i've typed enough.
wow, a lot has happened today, but let me recap first.
so after i left the internet cafe last night, we discovered that it had been raining. we ran back to our hotel and decided to get dinner at the hotel restaurant. i started out with a gazpacho combo, something like "divorced gazpacho." basically, it was half tomato and half avocado gazpacho, so it was half red and half green. i was so hungry i accidentally started eating it before i took a photo. we've been very diligent about photographing our food on this trip :) for our main entrees, nick got pan de cazon (baby shark pie). it sounds really sad to eat but it was good. it had a dark sauce with spicy tomatoes on top. i got another regional specialty called papadzules, which were like small enchiladas stuffed with hard-boiled eggs. now, they really should've had a warning cuz it was damn spicy. seriously, i was crying eating it. i haven't eaten anything so spicy in a long time. but it was soo good so i had to finish. however, it also made me paranoid because spicy foods sometime irritate my stomach. and being that i'm already in mexico, this really wasn't the time to test my limits. i also got papaya aguas frescas, which is basically chunks of papaya, water, and ice all blended together. i had to order two because my mouth was burning like mad. nick got the watermelon version which was just like eating a super fresh watermelon. very good. he later made the mistake of ordering a grapefruit/strawberry juice that was super bitter. overall, another great meal. and it's official: i really like papaya.
after dinner, i decided to take on the task of hand washing all our clothes. machine laundry is like non-existent in this country, and since i really don't like the idea of random people handling my underwear, i figured i may as well do it myself. so something like 1.5 hours later, i was finally done. i thought hanging them overnight would be enough to dry everything since all our clothes are basically quick-drying workout clothes anyways. okay, the humidity here is amazing! everything was still sopping wet this morning. i had to blow dry some of nick's clothes with a hair dryer, and they were still kinda damp when he finally put them on. as we speak, we have the a/c running in our room with clothes hung all over the place, in the hopes that it will all be dry by tomorrow morning when we have to pack up.
so this morning, at 6:50 a.m. to be exact, we woke up to "uno, uno, uno, dos, tres." apparently whatever musical or performance the school was rehearsing for yesterday was still in effect this morning. we decided to just get up after all and get an early start. we purposely went to bed early last night in anticipation of rehearsal or whatever the fuck. we also were stressing out over the damn bus schedules because we only have two days left in valladolid and three ruin sites we wanted to hit. unfortunately, the bus schedules are all spaced out just enough that it seemed impossible to hit two sites in one day. finally, we decided to do coba first thing, then bus back, and take a taxi to ek' balam. oh yeah, one more thing i forgot to mention about the buses. the main irritation is that most stations don't list their schedules. so it's impossible to know when you should show up at the station and most likely you'll end up waiting forever. also, if there's a line, you have to stand in it forever just to find out when or if the bus you want is coming at all. oh yes, and one more difference between first and second-class buses: first-class has seat belts. you pay for safety apparently.
anyways, so since we are in vacation after all, we decided we must have breakfast before leaving to see ruins. i had the mexican-style eggs with onions, tomatoes, and green peppers, and nick had chilaquiles again, but this time the red sauce (yesterday he got the green). again, we had the bread with butter and papaya jam too and orange juice. all very yummy.
then i had my scare. i thought montezuma had finally come for me. however, considering i'm now okay i think it was just my spicy dinner from last night that did me in.
so on our way to the bus station, we found a taxi that was going to ek' balam and he agreed to take us to the ruins at 1:00 p.m., wait for us for 1-2 hours, and then bring us back, all for about $20. see, we were planning to go to coba at 9:30 a.m., arrive at 10:30, then leave on the noon bus, returning back to valladolid at 1:00 p.m. the plan was perfect! the actual outcome, not so much.
this time, we took a "mayab" bus, which was super exciting because we have now taken all the bus lines servicing the yucatan area. very exciting! this bus also had the funny 95 km/h beeper thing. but since we took only local roads and no freeways, it never went off. very disappointing. these second-class buses also appear to stop in really random small towns and will pick anyone up off the road, further delaying things. we got the seats right behind the driver, so we got to watch the scenery and everyone waving. apparently, like all commercial bus or truck drivers must wave at each other. it was rather amusing to see the various styles of waving. i found it funny anyways. there were also tons of guys with weed-whackers along the side of the road doing landscaping. this was one of the most pointless things ever! if you saw how overgrown the roadside was, you'd understand. but i guess if it gives a bunch of poor guys jobs, that's cool. and on our way back, i could see that they really had made some progress.
so it was bad enough that our bus was late, again, but then suddenly, about halfway through the ride, one of the damn tires popped! i was so afraid we'd all have to get out and wait for another bus. instead, the driver made us all move to the other side of the bus and he continued on his way, but a bit slower. when we finally reached coba, it was 11:00 a.m., which gave us a whole hour to explore the place. this was very irritating. this site is sooo damn big there was no way, and i absolutely had to climb the damn pyramid! i have never met a ruin i did not want to climb. i'm very simple and primitive. i like to climb tall pretty objects: pyramids, ruins, mountains, etc. anyways, we gave up on getting back on the noon bus. unfortunately, the next bus after that was at 4:30 p.m. i didn't really like the idea of staying at the site for 5.5 hours either though. but for the time-being, we decided to just try to enjoy ourselves.
coba is huge! they have tons of sacbeob, old white roads, all tree lined. it was just really nice and peaceful walking around in this like huge forest. and yes, i got to climb the damn pyramid. also funny is that we bumped into this american couple who was at our b&b back in merida. random. so after about three hours of wondering, we were ready to leave. we decided we try to hitch a ride or hire a taxi for the hour ride back to valladolid. we found a taxi with no problem, and we agreed to pay about $30, which i thought was a bargain considering how far it was. it was only 2:00 p.m. at this point, and i figured if we got back to town by 3:00 p.m., we could still make it to ek' balam as planned. our driver's name was fausto, and he was a mayan, and nick and he were talking the whole time. i just stared outside. i have to admit, despite all the inconveniences, i have enjoyed taking the buses and taxis around. i've been able to see a lot more of the country than i would have otherwise. and the scenery is really quite lush.
when we got back to town, we asked our driver to take us to the taxi stop instead of our hotel because i wanted to find the driver from the morning to take us to ek' balam. our taxi driver then offered to take us there himself and we would just pay him the additional $20 we had promised the other guy. i hated not using the other guy, but we can only help one poor taxi driver a day i suppose. and there was no guarantee the other guy would still even be there. we were two hours late after all.
so ek' balam is awesome! we got there with 1.5 hours before closing, and i'm now very glad we decided to squeeze it in. it's quite small so it definitely doesn't require a whole day, but it's very different from any of the other stuff we'd seen. most of the ruins so far involved carvings out of stone. this place used stucco and plaster to make sculptures rather than carving. and the designs are different too. unfortunately, since this place is a relatively new discovery, it wasn't listed in the guidebook i've been using. i've been using this mayan ruins handbook written by an archaeology professor for all our explorations, and it's been very handy. unfortunately, it shows and talks about a lot of ruins and sites that are no longer open to the public. so we've spent a lot of time trying to get at ruins that have been fenced off which is sad. nowhere was more obvious than at chichen itza, where the whole "old chichen" area has been closed to the public.
so after making our driver wait only one hour, we headed back to our hotel. i had been holding my pee since the morning! coba had no bathrooms at the ruins and ek' balam's looked beyond unsanitary. anyways, we ended up giving the driver a big tip and gave him about $60. it was definitely worth it to me since we would've still been on the bus back from coba and had to sit around for 2.5 hours with nothing to do if we hadn't gotten the taxi. and i think $60 is a fair amount of money for a lot of people out here.
so after our long day, we went up to our room to check on the clothes--still wet--and relax a bit. then we had dinner at the hotel restaurant again. i got the papaya juice and nick got the watermelon again. i ordered this dish called zac kol de pollo (could the first part sound more mayan?), which was slivers of chicken in a corn meal puree soup with tomatoes, capers, raisins, and almonds. it was super good. may be my favorite meal yet. and nick got the cochinita pibil, which is pork with spices cooked in banana leaves with a side of our favorite pickled purple onions. he loved his too. unfortunately, our table was by some shrubbery and i was getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes. by the way, i have definitely lost my battle against the mosquitoes. i was good for a few days and didn't scratch or anything. instead i would stomp around like a spoiled child because the impact of the stomping was kinda like scratching but without the actual contact. this not only looked really stupid, but it was also hurting my knees and feet. and considering how much walking i've been doing lately, that was the last thing i needed. i will now have new mosquito scars to add to the ones i still have from japan. oh yes, and i think my lack of sleep is affecting my body's ability to heal. my legs are all achy and sore from climbing up and down pyramids. i'm falling apart slowly...
anyways, now i'm all caught up again. nick was here with me and he was supposed to check over my work, but he suddenly had to go to the bathroom. hope he's okay. tomorrow, we do our very last ruin site--tulum--then we head back to merida for three days of hard-core chillin'! we like to end our vacations with lots of relaxing. our trips are generally pretty stressful and tiring so we need it. otherwise, i'll never make it back to work. hopefully i'll have internet access again in merida. currently i'm only paying like $1 an hour!
wow, so we're finally back in merida and we've had an interesting day.
so let's see, after i finished up yesterday, i went back to the hotel to check on nick, and he was just coming down himself. we decided to go hang out in the main plaza. they have these cute S-shaped seats for couples so we sat in one. unfortunately, there was a group of kids running from group to group singing and asking for tips, and of course i had no change on me at all. we tried to tell them we didn't want the performance but they wouldn't leave. talk about uncomfortable. it was just too awkward so we had to get up and decided to go back to the hotel. i've neglected up to this point to mention the massive amount of birds here, specifically the melodious black bird. dude, so NOT melodious. they are loud as hell and squawk all the time. anyways, there are probably more birds in that plaza alone than there are human residents in valladolid. so while walking back, i got shat on. but it was no ordinary shit. this bird had mad skills. so i had my right arm straight and i was holding my right elbow with my left hand, like in a half arms-folded pose. the shit hit right where my left hand, right elbow, and chest met. so in one hit, it managed to splatter on to three surfaces, and it apparently bounced off and then hit my right hand as well. so four hits in one. and apparently, nick told me that while he was running back to the hotel to use the bathroom, he had also been hit on the chest. seriously, we both got shat on within like 10 minutes of each other. these birds are gnarly. so we decided to spend the rest of the night in, to avoid torpedo bird shits and begging/singing children.
okay, this morning at 6:45 a.m., the soothing sound of amplified counting and music filled our ears once again. seriously, you'd think the town would've worked something out with this damn school to not start all the noise till a little later in the day. it's like counting, music, singing, and praying, off and on from 6:30 a.m. and on. anyways, so we had to pack this morning and i seriously barely got everything in our bags. it's all getting quite heavy too. the hotel agreed to watch our large bag in the front while we went to tulum.
for breakfast, we again had orange juice and the papaya jam with bread. also, just to show you how fatigued i've gotten, i actually ordered coffee. i never drink coffee. but the lack of sleep is just getting worse and worse everyday. this is my current sad state. anyways, i got the "mexican breakfast" which consisted of pork loin tips with tomatoes, onions, and peppers. it was really yummy and not too heavy. nick got his chilaquiles again, with green sauce. by the way, in case i never described these, they're kinda like nachos to me. they're like tortilla chips topped with cheese and sauce and raw onions all heated up. so it's like soft tortillas that get fried to become chips and then are softened again with sauce.
we took the 9:15 a.m. "ado" first-class bus to tulum. they actually showed a quality movie: "croupier"! and it was subtitled in spanish instead of dubbed so i got to watch. still, i could've sworn that when i watched it in the theaters it was shot in a grainy black & white. this version was in color and they definitely cut out a bunch of the nudity and sex. still, it was fun to watch.
so we arrived in tulum at around 11:30 a.m. the site isn't very large but it's very touristy. there were tons of americans and daytrippers from cancun. and even some asian tourists ;) it's kinda like disneyland. everything is fenced off, i.e. can't climb the ruins, and they have like arrows telling you to stay on the path. it's like you're being shepherded around. not my idea of fun. but i gotta admit it is beautiful, mostly because of the beach right next to it. i can see now why places like cancun are such attractions. the beach is an amazing aqua blue and it's so warm and clean. i went down there just so i could say i'd been in the caribbean :)
it sucks though cuz both nick and i finally got sun burns. after four days of hitting five ruins, we finally get burnt at our very last one! sucks! nick's hands got burned, which is really weird, and i have this awful tan line from my camera bag. i wear it like a purse across my chest so i have this diagonal line on my upper chest, with one side red and the other white. lovely. i don't seem to be able to vacation without obtaining some freakish tan lines. oh well.
so we got on the same bus back to valladolid at 2:30 p.m. funny, we even had the exact same bus driver. this time, they showed "proof" but it was dubbed so i couldn't really watch. nick said it was pretty lame. it's about math (which i actually like) and the math montages were pretty ridiculous.
so we got back to valladolid fairly early at around 4:30 p.m. we went back to the hotel to grab dinner before our 6:00 p.m. bus back to merida. i ordered a local specialty called lomitos de valladolid. it was kinda like cochinita pibil i guess. it was small chunks of seasoned pork in a tomatoey sauce with hard-boiled eggs on the side. it seems hard-boiled eggs are popular in this region. it's twice now that i've had hard-boiled eggs as a major component of my dish (the other being papadzules). it came with tortillas so i could make small tacos. very good. nick got poc chuc again and like his dish a lot too.
after dinner we went across the street to the main plaza where people had lots of arts & crafts and stuff to sell to tourists. since i never got my huipil in merida, i decided valladolid would be a good place. this was a very traditional town and most women wore them on a regular basis, not as special dress or anything. so i figured they'd have the best selection. plus, this town is mostly indigenous mayans, who are very short, and i figured i'd be able to get a good length and fit for me. another random thing i noticed. a lot of the mayan men totally have the same voice. it's kinda high and soft and a little nasally. i guess the mayan language tends to pitch higher than the mexican spanish i'm accustomed to hearing. anyways, back to the huipils... these things tend to fit really loose, like maternity wear, so i am swimming in most. anyways, we quickly picked one out for me which didn't look too fat and reached to about my knees. this was about dusk and the "melodious" birds were going nuts. they were filling the sky and it was really pretty. nick was trying to tape the phenomenon when i noticed that he had this brown shit like right on his crotch. i asked him "ew, what the hell did you do to yourself?" apparently he got shat on again! that's three times in 24 hours that we'd been shat on in that damn plaza. i think i'd like that town more if i weren't living in constant fear of bird shit. anyways, we got our bag from the hotel and headed for the bus stop.
we took another "ado" bus, and this time they showed "the game of their lives." now, i actually knew this movie, mostly cuz gerard butler's in it. i have a thing for british guys. anyways, it was dubbed, but it wasn't too hard to figure out. and at least i had eye candy ;)
okay, so now the weird shit happens. we get into merida no problem at like 8:45 p.m. we take a taxi to our second bed & breakfast. we ring the doorbell. nothing. we ring it again. still nothing. we ran it a bunch of times and stood around for like 5-10 minutes. at this point, i'm pissed. like just the week before i had confirmed with them that we'd be arriving at around 9:00 p.m., and i'd already paid 50% down. now, no one appeared to be home at all. and as i mentioned previously, it's hard to find taxis at night in merida (flashback to our hour-long attempt to get a taxi when we were leaving for valladolid). i was not happy that we had all our heavy shit with us and i'd have to run around and try to find a taxi to possibly go back to our first b&b again. then, this guy starts walking towards us and asks who we are. he's the husband owner of the b&b and had no idea who we were. he said something about his wife flying in from houston tonight and that their guest was on the plane as well. he lets us in of course and is really nice. apparently he had just gone down the street to buy something and was going to go directly to the airport to pick up his wife, but fortunately he decided to stop back at home for a second. he goes through some paperwork and eventually figures out who we are, but it's still all very confusing. and apparently his wife had to fly to the states at the last minute because her sister had died, adding to the confusion. anyways, he showed us around and it's very nice. it's smaller than the other place, but much more modern. they've done some serious remodeling and they have this cool like river/stream running through all their units. like when you're standing in the all-glass shower, you're like in a box within a box. and the outer box has a stream running through it and a stone wall facade. it's like you're showering in a natural cave or something. i'll have to post photos later because it's hard to explain. it's definitely cool though. and there are only four units here so it should be very quiet and peaceful. all in all, i'm glad it worked out.
also, they have a large supply of towels. i forgot to mention but the valladolid hotel only supplied us with two bath towels. no hand towels or wash cloths. weird. it also sucked cuz they would clean the bathroom floors by pouring water over them and letting it go down the drain under the sink. this would be okay except that the humidity prevented it from drying by the time we'd get back to our room in the afternoons, so we'd walk in with our dirty shoes and immediately start smearing shit everywhere. and since we only had two damn towels, we couldn't very well waste one to wipe the floor with.
so finally the wife comes back and the mystery is solved. apparently she thought we might be on her flight from houston because of the estimated arrival time of 9:00 p.m. she said all the buses from cancun come in at a different time, and she hadn't anticipated we'd be coming from valladolid. so when she was checking in for her flight back, she asked the airline if there was an "ellie liu" on her flight. they told her yes and even told her what seat i was supposedly sitting in. so i guess she phoned her husband and told him the news which is why he was confused when he saw us standing in front of their place. anyways, so the wife went up to the lady who was supposed to be me and of course totally freaked her out. by the way, this lady's last name was "ng" which sounds nothing like "liu." apparently, she had also been wandering around the airport yelling "ellie liu." pretty fuckin' weird shit man. anyways, cuz she felt bad about the mix-up, she let me borrow her laptop, which is what i'm typing on now :)
from here on out, we're just gonna hang around town and chill. gotta check out the super nice wal-mart in town and possibly the museum of anthropology. and eat, of course :)
i just had the best meal! but more on that later. i'm also back at an internet cafe and i really miss the american-style keyboard on the laptop our hosts let us borrow last night. oh well. i have to push the buttons really hard too.
so i just went right to sleep after my update last night. and we got to sleep in till 8:00 a.m. this morning, which was a beautiful thing. the bed here is also the softest we've had yet. for breakfast, since we were the only guests, we got a shitload of food. first there was freshly-squeezed orange juice and another fruit plate, again with papaya included. they also had this coconut yogurt stuff that i mixed with the fruit and the granola they supplied. it was definitely a local brand of granola because it had a lot of tropical fruit in it. then we had hotcakes with local honey and fried plaintains. i didn't realize it but apparently hotcakes are something mexicans eat. they also supplied us with some beans and fresh tortillas but i was too full, but nick said they were good. oh yes, and i had coffee again.
we also found out a bit about the building. apparently the husband's family had owned it but they were super poor. then he (chucho) moved to new york and worked as a carpenter, where he met his american wife. and since he is a carpenter, he pretty much built the whole current home and bed & breakfast. very impressive. they have waterfalls all over the place so it sounds very soothing. nick likes referring to the three cascadas: "las cascadas de merida, las cascadas de orina, y las cascadas de chucho" (the actual waterfalls at the b&b, my endless peeing, and chucho's flowing grey mullocks).
the wife, ellyne, suggested we do this hacienda cenote thing. apparently there's a very nicely kept up cenote just outside town along with a very nice hacienda that you can visit. she said it would be very soothing and a nice way to relax on our last few days. she also recommended one of the city bus tours, which is on this super rickety old school bus, for two hours. since we got up too late for the cenote thing, we decided to do the 1:00 p.m. bus tour. in the meantime, nick wanted to go to the central plaza to check out the book stores. and i agreed to go along because i knew there were tons of shops in the area too ;)
unfortunately, this morning, i woke up feeling crappy, as in not happy in the tummy. i dreaded this. and it unfortunately had me needing to pee constantly. and apparently most places charge to use the bathroom. so while we were out, rather than pay to use an unhygienic toilet, i decided to buy some strawberry sorbet since they had a sign saying the bathrooms were for customers only. it was cheaper to buy the sorbet than to pay to use the restroom! dude, the sorbet was amazing. like everything else i've had here, it was all fresh. you could tell it was basically pureed real strawberries, and the seeds were still in it. initially nick said he didn't want any, but he ended up eating most of it. then it was time for the bus tour.
there were eight of us total and man were the seats really uncomfortable. however it was neat since we got little bits of history and got to see parts of the city we would never otherwise have known about. and i took a ton of photos. hope they turn out alright. i'll provde additional info once i am able to put up my photos i think.
after the bus ride, we went to some shops and i bought a bunch of souvenirs. too many souvenirs. but i just can't help myself. and nick got some books too, so i didn't feel too guilty. however, given that we have a joint bank account, this is thoroughly irrational. after our super long day, we walked back to the hotel and hung out. oh yes, and i wore my new huipil today. and apparently nick thinks i have a similar gait to many of the mayan women around and i guess my outfit just completed the look. i also tried out the hammocks at the hotel and they're really kinda scary. i was totally afraid of falling out. this area is super famous for their hammocks, so i'm tempted to buy one. but i don't have anywhere to hang the damn thing and i'm really not so absurd as to buy one just in case, someday in the future, i have somewhere to hang it. or so i think anyways...
so after hanging out a bit at the hotel, it got to be a decent time for dinner. we've been told it's not super safe to eat at off hours as the food may not be as fresh. our hostess recommended this place called la casa de frida. breaking wth tradition (haha), we decided to go with general mexican (not to be confused with a mexican general) rather than traditional yucatecan cuisine. i figured since we've been eating yucatecan cuisine like every other meal, this would be okay. also, it came highly recommended. first, we got this dish called crepas de cuitlacoche, which the menu described as corn and mushroom crepes. but nick knew better. it was like corn and mushroom and corn MOLD crepes. it was good the lighting was bad cuz it actually tasted great, and i couldn't really see it very well anyways. and then, oh man, for my entree, i got the chile en nogada, which was a chile poblano pepper stuffed with beef, apples, pears, bananas and some other amazing shit. it came in a cream sauce with pomegranate seeds. and even though my stomach was seriously unwell, i absolutely loved it. i was just sad i didn't feel well enough to finish it. but i think nick was glad cuz he got to finish it for me instead. he got arrachera, basically skirt steak. it was super well seasoned and pretty tender. all good, but we both agreed my dish was the best. they also had the cutest little mutt dog at the restaurant named "pelusa." it definitely had some dachshund cuz it was weiner shaped.
and now i'm at the internet cafe. i think i'm gonna go for a swim tonight before going to bed. and hopefully my stomach will settle by tomorrow morning. i hate having to be close to a bathroom all day.
oh yes, i forgot to mention something yesterday. at tulum, at the entrance area, there was a performance by a group of "voladores" (flyers). they were dressed in folkloric attire and would hang upside down from a very tall rotating pole, like a flag pole. it was like those swing rides at amusement parks where everyone flares out like an umbrella, except these guys were hanging upside down, with their feet tied to the ropes. scary shit but pretty cool.
well this is my last update from mexico. i'm so going to miss the internet cafes. after last night's update, nick was too tired to swim so he watched some mexican tv and i started reading jane eyre. quite enjoyed it actually.
first, while i'm thinking about it, traveling in countries where everyone is short has both perks and drawbacks. on the one hand, i'm finally tall! on the other, i'm constantly hitting my head on shit. and i always have to duck when walking on the streets because of low awnings and tree limbs. overall though, i like being big :)
also, i think we've decided we like our current b&b the best. it's really modern, has great shower water pressure, and the hosts are very nice and knowledgeable. the only drawback is that it's a bit farther from the main square, but still walkable. also, we have to put the toilet paper in a trash can. i had been ignoring this request up to this point, but since our hosts made a huge deal of it, i'm trying my best to abide. apparently merida doesn't have a sewer system which is why we can't flush toilet paper. i'm not clear on how exactly not having a sewer relates to toilet paper, but whatever. other than the obvious hygiene issues i have with this, the act of throwing away the toilet paper totally throws off my routine. now, i actually forget to flush the toilet completely, which i think is even more gross!
so we did the hacienda cenote thing today, called sotuta de peon, and i'm super glad they recommended it. we got up early and had breakfast at around 8:00 a.m. we had the fruit, coconut yogurt, and granola. i also had some tortillas with black beans, which was way tastier than it sounds. also, they made us mexican-style scrambled eggs. this time, no coffee, just fresh-squeezed orange juice.
a minibus picked us up from the hotel at 9:00. our guide's name was robert and he was originally a new yorker of puerto rican descent (nuyorican). he was super cool and knowledgeable. we were also joined by this other couple and their b&b host. the guy was german and wheel-chair bound, and his lady companion was ukrainian. i kept thinking mail-order bride... the host was an american named vince who was also very nice. the bus ride took about an hour, but it went by very quickly as both vince and robert were very fun to talk with. robert pointed out many houses along the way which made it quite interesting. don't think i've previously mentioned this, but there are stray dogs everywhere! like some small towns probably have more dogs than humans. anyway, once we arrived at the hacienda we were joined by two pairs of canadians. one set was super burnt, like euro style. it was gross. some white people should never be that brown or orange. it just looks unhealthy.
so the hacienda is half tourist attraction/museum/re-enactment and half working henequen plantation. henequen is used to make sisal, a fiber for ropes and textiles. the henequen plant looks like a huge aloe plant and is related. i found out (too late) that it repels mosquitoes. i really should've bought a huge muumuu for myself early on.
so we got a tour of the main house on the hacienda itself, got a demonstration on how to hand make rope with the sisal fibers, and the various machinery used to treat the fibers for production and export. we also got to see a traditional mayan house with its very own super old traditional mayan man, named don antonio. this little guy was a born entertainer. he spoke no english at all, and most of his spanish was actually mayan, but that didn't stop him from talking. he demonstrated how to grind corn, make tortillas, and plant the henequen plants. and he was constantly posing for photos. he just loved it. and apparently when they first hired him, he was so shy he barely smiled. and he was just hired to basically stand in the house for show, and he came up with all the theatrics on his own. man, he was classic.
all the while, we're being towed on these mini train tracks by a mule on a cart. it was pretty neat. and the scenery was very pretty. one thing's for sure, the skies are beautiful here. super blue. they make for great photos. and all around us on the cart were these aloe plant things. then finally, we were brought to the cenote. this pool was actually completely underground and we had to enter through a small opening up top. the water was all lit up and so pretty. they also provided us with snorkeling masks, but one look down into the depths and i was perfectly content to keep my head out of the water for the rest of the time. very clean, clear, and quite the experience. i'm really glad i got to at least experience a real cenote once. i had worn my swimsuit under my huipil so i didn't have to change, but i did end up with a moist butt for the rest of the trip.
after that, we were taken to their little restaurant. we weren't super hungry so we both got appetizers. i got the sopa de lima again, very good. and nick got the papadzules that i had gotten previously and that were super spicy. i mentioned that to robert, who joined us, and he said that it's never spicy. i'm starting to wonder if the other place was playing a trick on me or something. maybe they were all betting in the back if i could actually eat the damn thing! hope someone won a good chunk of money at my expense. oh well, spicy or not, it is a damn good dish. we also got some desserts. i got pickled papaya with cheese, which was interesting to say the least. the cheese was like parmesan or something. you had to eat it with the papaya, like in the same bite, or else it was just weird. nick got this coconut pudding thing that was really good. the whole tour lasted till 3:00 p.m. when we finally got back on the bus and headed home.
when we got back to our place, we met another american couple who had bought a house in merida. they were visiting with our host. more new yorkers. seriously, after a week here, i'm starting to understand why people fall in love with this town and want to buy property. it really is just so peaceful and nice. it's sooo safe here. like sometimes i still instinctually get suspicious or afraid, but everyone has been so nice. you say hi to people on the street and they respond in kind. funny how after the first few days i absolutely had no desire to live here, and now i can almost see myself doing it. finding out that you can buy huge plots of land downtown for like $50-100K is also definitely an incentive. no wonder americans are all buying up land and opening b&bs. and of course nick likes the idea because he's always wanted to spend a lot of time in a spanish-speaking country to immerse himself in the language. and what better place than merida which is super safe and nice? and did i mention cheap in terms of real estate? definitely something we'll have to think about once we get back home. if nothing else, it could be a great investment for a future vacation home.
anyways, so after discussing real estate with chucho, we decided to finally take a dip in the hotel pool, especially since we were still in our bathing suits anyways. it was cold. we found some noodles. i was cackling away like a mad woman. but it was fun :)
saturday is a huge party night here in merida. the government actually like closes off the main street, calle 60, around the square and sets up free outdoor concerts. the fact that this happens every saturday is a good indication of the quality of life here and the quality of the local government. sunday is another huge day here with tons of traditional music, dancing, and crafts in the public squares. seriously, this is a nice place to live. so since this was our last night, we figured we should definitely check out the night life. so i thought the huge party would be like drunken kids, but like i mentioned, it's all totally g-rated. families are all out there dancing and eating and just generally have a good time.
also, since it was our last dinner, we decided we had to hit up los almendros again, the place we ate our first dinner. we started out with the panuchos again, this time pork instead of turkey. for my entree i had pollo ticuleņo, which was breaded chicken topped with peas, tomatoes, ham, and cheese, with all of that on top of black beans and fried tortillas. it was actually very much like the breakfast of motuleņos, just substitute the chicken for the eggs. it was really good. it's so easy to over eat while over here. nick got pierna asada a la yucateca, which was tenderized pork marinated in recado rojo sauce, served with sweet grilled onions in the same sauce. when the server said it was flavorful, he wasn't kidding. and for dessert, nick got caballero pobre, which was essentially a soaked-through bread pudding. i wasn't the biggest fan, but nick liked it. overall, a great dinner to finish off our culinery experience here in the yucatan.
after that, we walked through the plaza a bit just to see what all was going on. we saw at least two live amplified concerts. all the restaurants also had their own bands inside and many had tables set up outside for the ambiance. all very nice, but we were just too tired to really take part. it's now just about 11:00 p.m., and we're seriously ready to turn in. god, we're so old and boring!
tomorrow morning, we'll have our last breakfast and take care of a few last things. nick wants to buy a few more books, and i might look to see if i can buy some more souvenirs. we can't have extra pesos, now can we? i was planning to pack tonight, but i'm so tired, we'll have to see. then, a nice 7-hour trip back to LA. ahhh... can't wait!
so i'm finally home! so happy yet so sad to be going back to work tomorrow morning!
so from where i last left off, we basically crashed as soon as we got back to our hotel. unfortunately, we discovered around midnight that a mosquito had somehow made it into our room. i woke up to nick jumping out of bed clapping madly trying to kill the damn thing. i was pretty groggy for most of it, but i also remember nick asking me where his headphones were. apparently, he thought it'd be a good idea to wear his headphones to bed so the mosquitoes wouldn't get in his ears. i also remember various occasions where the lights would suddenly come back on and nick would be running around the place with his headphones in place and the cord in his hand. seriously ridiculous. and i just laid there half asleep, basically as bait. which would've worked except that we never actually caught him and i still managed to get bitten at least two more times that night. i guess after about three hours of this, the mosquito had gourged himself on my blood and decided to take the rest of the night off. so basically, we slept like shit on our last night in merida. when we got up this morning, nick had an imprint of the stupid headphone cord and jack on his side. apparently he was laying on it all night.
we went to breakfast and basically had the same stuff. i had a guacamole omelette and nick had plain scrambed eggs cuz he doesn't like avocadoes (the horror!). after breakfast, a wonderful thing happened. nick found and killed the damn mosquito! he totally smashed it against the white wall and splattered (my) blood everywhere! he really relished then squishing it between his fingers even though it was already dead, and it basically made the rest of his day. he's still talking about it now. revenge is sweet.
after breakfast, we went back downtown and basically spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon buying books for nick and getting last-minute souvenirs. then we decided that we needed another bag to carry all our new purchases, so we wandered around some more looking for that. we finally settled on a knapsack thing, basically a sack with a tie on top and two straps so you can wear it like a backpack. it has a simple mayan design on it with the words "merida" and it only cost us $5.
we cut it really close and practically ran back to the hotel to call a cab. we got photos with the hosts, used the bathroom, and we were out of there again within 10 minutes. thankfully i had done some packing last night and the remainder of it this morning before breakfast. and we ended up leaving mexico with only about $20 worth of pesos. not bad! spent all our money basically.
the flight from merida to mexico city sucked! they put us in the row right in front of the emergency exit so we couldn't recline our seats at all. super uncomfortable. also, the weirdest chick was sitting by us. she was straight out of tacky ski gear land. she was dressed in matching head to toe red jacket, red pants with rhinestones, and these hideous red patent shoes. i kinda wish i knew where she was from so i could make a point of avoiding it at all costs! and remember, it was like 90 degrees in merida when we left. why the hell she was dressed for the slopes is beyond me.
once we arrived in mexico city, we had to like run with all our shit to the other end of the terminal (of course) cuz the original layover was only about 45 minutes, and of course our flight coming in was late. on the mexico city to LA flight, we were way in the back, right across from the emergency exit/flight attendant area/kitchen. and there was no third person in our row, so we had the whole row to ourselves. and we could recline. now, if only we weren't right next to the engine where it was super loud, it would've been great. still, i was just glad to be able to stretch out a bit and recline. this plane was weird though. it didn't look like the other aeromexico or delta planes we'd flown before. and they weren't set up for movies. and being by the engine was kinda scary cuz we could hear when the engine was turning on and off. but all is good since we're home now :)
so we arrived at lax early at around 8:20 p.m., but we didn't get out to the street curb till like 9:20 p.m.! apparently, it's harder to enter this damn country as a citizen than as a visitor! the visitor line at customs was moving faster than the citizen line. and the visitors had to get fingerprints and headshots. how is this possible? they asked us stupid questions like how long have you been in mexico, is this your first time, what do you do for a living, do you have any fruits, how are you related to each other? i lied and said we were married cuz i just didn't need any more complications. seriously, a whole fuckin' plane full of passengers and they only had two customs agents working. totally inefficient and annoying. funny how america was just as, if not more, inefficient as mexico. and all the currency change places were closed, cuz no international flights ever come in at night, so i'm stuck with my pesos. guess it just means i'll have to go back soon :)
and so concludes nick & ellie's mayan ruins adventure, aka nick & ellie's mexican buses adventure!
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