Saturday, March 7, 2009

Snow in the Yucatán?

Of course not! The coldest night of the year was in the mid-40’s Fahrenheit, so even if there were a freak snow fall, it wouldn’t stick. You are looking at me holding a handful of salt.

Pablo and I drove to Celestún this week for seafood and a relaxing day looking out at the soothing emerald green of the Gulf of México. After a satisfying lunch and a few shots of tequila (only to beat the chill in the air, honest!), we went looking for adventure.

There is an old salt mine called the Real de Salinas, Hacienda Salinera within the Celestún Biosphere. We had seen it by boat from a distance while on flamingo watching trips. This time we set out to find it in the car. From the pueblo we drove down a dirt road passing extensive salt flats. We have seen the salt flats in many parts of the northwestern Yucatán and they are as exciting as their name indicates: expansive flat areas of dried cracked mud with layers of salt visible from the road.

But this time we rounded a curve and found the most incredible sight! I thought my eyes were playing tricks with me. It was an area of shallow clear water where the red mangrove has painted the sea bottom red, thus giving it the appearance of red water. The beach looked like sea foam. We walked down to the beach thinking it was salt, and I said to Pablo, “Oh, it is just some kind of spume or foam,” disappointed.

But he said “No, this is definitely salt.” I reached down and sure enough, it was pure white salt. Looking down the beach reminded me of walking along Lake Erie in the winter with a fresh layer of snow and its drifts. At this beach however the drifts were piles of harvested sea salt. Even though on a much smaller scale, the locals still gather and process salt from the area’s many salt pans. The ancient Maya called salt “white gold” and have appreciated the importance of this element for more than 2100 years.

Looking out into the lagoon we could tell there were areas of deeper water, which shone aqua blue in the sunlight. The contrast of the white salt beach, the illusional dark red color of the water, and the bright blue deeper water in the lagoon was stark, and a hidden beauty I’d never imagined.


Merida Mikey said...

Wow! Quite an interesting blog!

I've seen a few piles of salt along the coast, but absolutely nothing like you describe and photograph.

Great job!

Pepe said...

I love Celestun, is the best beach we have by far. I've never seen that area though.

Linda Dorton said...

Pepe, I agree that Celestún is the most beautiful beach we have. This side trip to the salt beach was a bonus. I am working on a post about the Hacienda Salinera with check it out!

Thanks for reading my blog and for the comment. P.S. I also think the best seafood is in Celestú far the best place for conch ceviche....¡Viva el Yucatán!

K.W. Michigan said...

We drove to Celestun a couple years ago (from Cancun)and spent a few nights in Merida. Loved the beach in Celestun. Eat in the palapa restaurant on the beach (great food). We collected bags of beautiful sea shells. Had no idea of the salt mine, next time tho. Thanks for sharing!