UTadventure in Merida
Beginning of the love affair
Dmitriy and I love to travel.
We blend in with the locals. We try local dishes (bugs by the pound in Thailand? Hell yeah!). We try to pick up at least few words in the native language.
And we ALWAYS make an effort to meet the locals - they are the BEST source of info on where to go, what to see and what to experience!
And so it was, thanks to our good friend Humberto (a world traveling National Geographic photographer and a proud Mexicano), that we had a chance to explore the hell out of the Cancun area, and then got a hard to resist invite to visit his beach house near Merida, the cultural capital of the Yucatan peninsula.
We fell in love with Merida on that very first trip!
The Yucatan peninsula is one of the most culturally and ecologically rich regions in the world, and posing for Humberto’s lense in the most picturesque locations, while creating unique nude art, was an insanely inspiring experience, and such a blast!
Humerto’s roots in the Yucatan go back several generations, so he is a wealth of knowledge of all things Yucatecan, and really knows his way around. All the incredible places that we explored, he with his camera and me with my nude derriere, were totally off the beaten path and IMPOSSIBLE to get to unless you are a local speaking Mayan.
It’s safe to say that it was the FIRST time a tall, nude, Russian blonde was seen making various shapes with her body at most of the locations on our trip!
There was the unbelievably serene cenote tucked away in the jungle deep into the peninsula, hidden in plain site in Humberto’s cousin’s backyard.
Mayans believed cenotes to be portals to the afterlife, and these otherworldly undercaves are a wet dream for ANY nature loving photographer out there. But unfortunately, as many of you know, most cenotes you get to see in Mexico are FLOODED with screaming kids and their noisy parents, all taking thousands of selfies and peeing in the sacred waters...
NOT the one we went to!
When we arrived there were only a few fearless Mayan teenagers diving in the turquoise cave. Our Mayan guide, another of Humberto’s contacts, offered them a few pesos in exchange for keeping an eye out for a few hours while we made our photo magic.
After making our way down several steep steps, we were taken into another world, much more sacred and magical that the one we came from, and even though Humberto was impatient to start shooting, I simply HAD TO take a few minutes to sit down, slowly absorb all the beauty around me and silently bow to the sacredness of the place ... before taking off my clothes and gliding into the silky waters accompanied by sound of the shutter button...
And of course that abandoned 18th century hacienda (a Spanish word for an estate), scattered with surreal crumbling structures among a desolate landscape of cactus and agave.
I was the one who spotted those monumental iron gates from the back seat of our car on one of our adventure seeking trips. They looked unlocked, so we simply HAD TO find out what was behind them!
Inside, we found a sleepy yet delighted Mayan grandpa, who had been watching over the property for the past 20 years in exchange for a small fee provided by descendents of the hacienda’s original owners. Using the help of our indispensable Mayan guide, we quickly obtained permission to shoot on the premises.
I even got to pose in the old chapel that still houses the remains of the original founders!
In it’s glory days, a typical hacienda was an elaborate institution, featuring the main house - an ornate colonial mansion where the owner and his family lived, together with its main quarters, stables, a general store, a chapel, a school, servants quarters, granaries, corrals and a forge.
IMAGINE all of it slowly decaying in its faded grandeur! Endless photographic opportunities around every corner indeed...
And the food?!?
Yucatecan cuisine is a UNIQUE mouth-watering melange of influences from Europe, Mexico and the Caribbean. A long tradition of fine dining, going back to the ancient Maya and incorporating sophisticated European influences, is very much in evidence in the cities, towns and villages scattered throughout this fertile area.
I can s t i l l taste the achiote, citrus, habaneros, and smoke - the four defining pillars of exquisite Mayan cooking - lingering in my mouth.
Since we never found a dish we didn’t like, the hardest thing was to keep that delicate balance between indulging in elaborate lunches and dinners while still looking lean and mean on my daily photoshoots. (Luckily, Dmitriy and Humberto did not have that problem!)
I had such a blast running around naked and being silly making beautiful art in the Yucatan with Humberto, that keeping all the mystical cenotes, pueblos magicos ( “magical towns” hidden away deep in the heart of rural Mexico ), lush flamingo preserves, grandiose Mayan ruins, secluded beaches, and magnificent ancient cemeteries to myself seemed AWFULLY selfish.
We absolutely HAD TO bring our photographer and model friends to Yucatan for a chance to experience the same unforgettable photo vacation.
And so, one beautiful evening, while sipping excellent Mexican wine (forget margaritas, Mexican Cabernet is where it’s at! ) and savoring “pulpo en su tinta” (a famous Yucatecan delicacy), UTadventure Team decided to do Yucatan!!!
So, watch out for more upcoming blog posts detailing our Mexico adventure.
So much to tell!