Suitcase and World: May 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Packing. Mexico.

For this trip I thought I would whip out my old leather suitcase and take it on one last trip before it heads for the trash can. A bit of nostalgia. Only kidding!! I've not traveled with a suitcase, except for when I go away on business, for years and I don't have any intention of starting now.

Over these past few years of travel, since my trip to Peru in the summer of 2006, I've traveled with a backpack and I've traveled light. I still travel light but now the backpack comes with wheels as well so I can roll my luggage in places that allow for that.

Clothing wise, I've accumulated a small collection of lightweight travel clothes and until they become threadbare, I will continue to wear them.  Everything scrunches down so clothing takes up little space.  In fact, I can probably fit in all my shirts in the same amount of space that my shoes take up!


Loggerhead Turtle
Tortuga is the Spanish word for turtle.

There are seven species of sea turtle in the world, all of which are either threatened or endangered. México is home to six of these species, four of which can be seen off the coast of the Yucatán.

 The local beaches around Akumal, "the place of the turtle" in Mayan, are nesting ground for two of these species - the Loggerhead (Caretta Caretta) and the Green sea turtle (Chelonia Mydas). Nesting season for these turtles is May through October.  Along with its 4.5 kilometers of nesting beaches for the Loggerhead and Green turtles, its bays are a year-round home to juvenile Green turtles, and the coral reef just off shore is feeding ground for migrating Hawksbills.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


May to October is whale shark season in the Yucatán and from June 1st to September 15th, tour operators are allowed to take tourists out to swim with these magnificent creatures!

A while back I had lunch with my friend Roger who told me of his experience swimming alongside a whale shark, off the coast of Mozambique. I remember thinking to myself how amazing that experience must have been to be and that I must do it if I ever got the chance. So you can imagine that I'm thrilled to pieces to find out that we'll be in Tulum at the time of the year that the sharks will be in the waters off  the Yucatán.  There is an interesting article in the Washington Post that describes a phenomenon known as the afuera - a gathering of hundreds of sharks that have migrated in to feed off the huge schools of little tunny, an abundant member of the tuna family, which spawn in the warm Yucatán waters.

Mexico Itinerary.

We're set to go!  Itinerary finalized and air plane tickets bought!

My brother and I will be doing the full trip - a combination of several tours cobbled together and independent travel. I like to mix and match things up. We do the tour where it makes sense and whenever possible, we travel on our own.

My friend and former colleague Ayşe ("ai-yee-sha) will be joining us on the Puebla to Chichén-Itzá leg after which we will continue on to Tulum and she will head to Cancun to spend the night before catching the plane back to DC.  It will be her first trip to Mexico and she's very excited about going! 

I still have to finalize the tour arrangements for Ayşe which should be taken care of next week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Millenia ago, the Yucatán Peninsula was originally under the ocean.

Through a combination of geological events and climate changes, the foundation of the Yucatán evolved into is a porous limestone shelf of fossilized coral.

One of the unique geological facts about the Yucatán is there are no above ground rives; the rivers are underground.

All of the ground water sinks through the porous limestone and travels to the sea in these underground rivers.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Painting by Dan Staten

Quetzalcoatl (ket-sahl-koh-aht-l) was one of the major deities of Mesoamerican mythology.
The name Quetzalcoatl means "Feathered Serpent". The name is a concatenation of the words quetzal which is a magnificent green-plumed  bird, symbolizing the heavens and the wind, and coatl which is the snake, symbolizing the earth and fertility. Quetzalcoatl's name can also be translated as "precious twin," and in some myths, he had a twin brother named Xolotl, who had a human body and the head of a dog or of an ocelot, a spotted wildcat. No, they were not the most handsome of twins :-)

Sunday, May 1, 2011


A beautiful colonial city built on the slopes of a mountain of the "Sierra Madre" of Guerrero, the official name of the city is Taxco de Alarcon in honor of the playwright Juan Ruiz de Alarcon born in Taxco in the year 1581. I've just always known it as Taxco - the place in Mexico that you go to if you want to buy silver.

Historically, and presently, the majority of silver has been discovered at the Mexican Silver Belt, called La Faja de Plata. This belt, which extends for approximately 800 kilometers along the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains, is easily the world’s most productive silver district.  Situated in this area, Taxco has been a mining town going back to the times of the Aztecs.  To them, the region was known as Tlacho meaning the "place of the ballgame".