Posted by: ktzefr | February 24, 2016

Roosting Among the Ruins: Hacienda Chichen

Hacienda Chichen, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico, January 2016…

I have been many places one time.  There are only a few places, however, that I have wanted to return to again and again.  Hacienda Chichen is one of those places.

At the edge of dark I sit on the porch listening to the birds settle in to roost for the night in the nearby acacia trees, their black figures silhouetted by the falling sun.  Tree frogs and night birds sing, a perfect accompaniment for swaying in a hammock or curling up in bed.  Hacienda Chichen is a green oasis in the Yucatan jungle.  It’s a short walk to the nearby Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and a perfect place to wander in beautiful natural surroundings. 

El Caracol, Chichen Itza; Photo:KFawcett

El Caracol, Chichen Itza; Photo:KFawcett

The hacienda is also a good place to relax and do nothing.  Cottages are scattered throughout the property and hidden among the majestic royal palms.  It’s quiet late at night, except for the sounds of nature.

 

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

The casco or main house is almost 500 years old…

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

On our first day it rains all night.  Sometimes barely a sprinkle; sometimes it sounds like a deluge on the cottage roof.  When dawn breaks I slip out of bed and open the window to a burst of cool, moist air and a cacophony of song.  Mornings here start with the call of the chachalacas, the whistle of the great-tailed grackle, the coo of doves.  Cenote Xtaloc, one of two large sinkholes on the grounds of the nearby Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, is only a few minutes’ walk from here and is the closest watering hole for the area’s birds.

Pathways meander through the grounds in the shadows of stately palms, African tulip trees, and gumbo limbo.  Enormous philodendrons wrap around tree trunks and mingle with a plethora of bromeliads — dainty ferns and spiky air plants.  Clusters of bougainvillea hang from the rooftops.  Yellow flycatchers soar from tree to tree.  Parrots chatter to each other.

Trees grow on top of ruins on the hacienda grounds.  The roots cling to the sides of this ruin…

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Blooms everywhere…

 

Photo:KFawcett

Photo:KFawcett

In January the African Tulip Tree is in bloom with its shower of fiery orange blossoms mingling with the palms…

African tulip tree, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

African tulip tree, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

 

Photo:KFawcett

Photo:KFawcett

Bromeliads find spots to grow in the crevices of trees and rock walls…

Photo:KFawcett

Photo:KFawcett

 

Bromeliads, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Bromeliads, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

In the organic gardens the bananas and papayas are ripening…

Papaya, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Papaya, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

At the end of a winding trail through the gardens sits the little church of San Isidro…

San Isidro, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

San Isidro, Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

 

One of my favorite spots on property is the long, front veranda of the casco, which was built by the Spaniards in 1523.  This house first belonged to the “lord” of the hacienda, who was appointed by the Spanish crown to oversee the once vast cattle ranch that later became a thriving sisal plantation.  In modern times the hacienda has been most noted as a home-away-from-home for the archaeologists — many sponsored by the Carnegie Institute — who first came here to study Mexico’s most famous Mayan ruins.  The guest cottages spread about the property are named after the individuals for whom they were initially built.

View from the veranda…

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

 

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Hacienda Chichen, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

And the pool…

 

Photo:KFawcett

Photo:KFawcett

One afternoon we took a nature walk and visited the nearby hut of a friend — Jim Conrad — who writes a Naturalist Newsletter online describing his life in Yucatan and the plants and animals he meets on his daily excursions.  Visitors can take a walk with Jim to learn more about the hacienda’s many trees and flowering plants and the vegetables and fruits in the organic gardens.  

Photo:KFawcett

Photo:KFawcett

After dinner and a day of exploring the Mayan temples and ball courts and studying the hieroglyphs that decorate the stone columns in the ancient market place at nearby Chichen Itza, I settle into a comfortable chair on the front porch.  Night bird calls mingle with trova music from the ballad-singing trio that comes nightly to entertain at dinnertime on the back veranda.  I’ve known the singers for years, Bibiano (center; my favorite bird guide in Chichen, too) and his brother and son or sometimes (here) a nephew.  All talented musicians.

Photo:KFawcett

Photo:KFawcett

Beyond the skittering of bats in the candle trees a few other flying visitors appear like magic against the deepening purple sky.  Parrots maybe.  Flycatchers or kiskadees or melodious blackbirds.  A pygmy owl.  Honeycreepers, tanagers, or motmots?  It’s impossible to know who has come to sleep or sing night songs among the branches.

After awhile the music stops, the dishes cease rattling in the kitchen, and the last of my fellow travelers closes her IPad (the front veranda is the best place to connect both with the outside world and the closer natural world at the same time).  I stretch and yawn, then make my way along a winding path beneath the trees to my cottage.  It’s roosting time.

 

**************

For more information:

Within the 300 hectares of privately-owned property, the Hacienda Chichen has dedicated less than 0.08% to constructed areas.  The rest is home to many species of natural flora and fauna, including 150 different bird species.  The Hacienda supports several projects and an active volunteer program to increase environmental care and eco-vision awareness among locals.  A reforestation project in recent years has added more than 3,500 indigenous hardwood trees to the property, making it a haven for many endangered endemic species, including families of kinkajous, oscillated turkeys, white tail deer, Morpho butterflies, and a variety of birds.

Activities: Birdwatching and Nature Guided Tours, Maya Cooking Lessons, Yaxkin Spa and Maya Healing Rituals,    Volunteer Vacation Programs

 

 

 

 

 

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