Our chariot on the tour. Our tour company, Caravan, used one of these buses. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced in the US. The seats were well cushioned and much more comfortable than airline seats. The views from the large, well-cleaned windows were spectacular. There were several drop-down "in-flight" screens along the aisle, so we could watch movies and videos on the long stretches between overnight stops. In addition to an on-board restroom, the bus service provided bottled water and sandwiches for our comfort. Most people from the US think "grubby Greyhound" when they think of long-distance public buses, and consider them the last resort when there are no other options. In Mexico, there are several excellent long-distance bus companies which provide regular service all over the country, as well as charter tours like ours. In this respect, the Mexican transportation system is light years ahead of its northern neighbor. Since there are no "show up 2 hours early" rules or security checkpoints, or interminable waits for baggage, you can actually get there faster than flying in some cases, and the buses are certainly much cheaper and more comfortable.
Brown Pelican cruises for lunch just off shore at Champotón. We stopped for lunch at this small city about 20 miles south of Campeche. El Timon restaurant extended right over the water, and we were able to watch both pelicans and human fishermen mining the fishy treasures of Campeche's Gulf Coast. Brown Pelicans can be found on both the Gulf and Pacific Coasts of Mexico. Unlike the White Pelicans that visit Lake Chapala in winter, the Brown Pelicans dive dramatically and are quite entertaining to watch. They share the White's tendency to appropriate any available anchored boats as perches. After 39 years on the Endangered Species list, the Browns seem to be recovering.
Shrimp hardly gets more fresh than this. I found this pair of Mexican women cleaning freshly caught Gulf shrimp just outside El Timon Restaurant. These would no doubt grace someone's plate in a short time. The women seemed a little mystified--but pleased--that someone would think their commonplace task worthy of recording on film.
The main line of defense was on the walls above the gate. As you can see, a cannon in this position would easily command the main gate and the enclosed yard in front. Attackers who make it this far will be penned in the yard and hit by rifle and cannon fire from several directions.
The walls of the main gate are extremely thick. Above the gate is a bell to alert the town of the approach of strangers. On the parapet along the top of the wall are more gun ports for either rifles or cannon.
Huge and powerful cannons awaited attackers. Carole walked through my photo just in time to provide some sense of scale. This is a very large gun. This particular cannon was probably originally situated on the seaward side, since it had the kind of range needed to fend off pirate ships in the Bahia. Note the royal crest on the upper part of the backside of the cannon.
Parapet walkways provided cover for soldiers moving between the bastions. Carole is walking toward the bastion known as the Baluarte de San Juan.
Baluarte de San Pedro: how it looked to approaching pirates. There are only traces left of the moat that protected the base of the bastion. You can see cannon protruding from some of the embrasures (openings in the wall along the top of the parapet). From the base of the moat to the top of the parapet was a distance of about 18 feet. And, of course, anyone falling into the moat would probably drown, particularly if they wore any armor.
Sentry posts provided shelter from weather as well as gunfire. This one is placed about 1/2 way between the Puerta de Tierra and the Baluarte de San Pedro. The sentry inside could fire through a slit out the front, or through slits on either side, while being afforded almost perfect protection. The side slits allowed fire down the length of the wall at anyone attempting to climb over.
Baluarte de San Pedro, as a Spanish defender would have seen it. The bastions, or baluartes, were 4-sided, with 2 sides facing along the walls in either direction. Cannon like those you see above, or soldiers with rifles, could sweep the walls of attackers.
Interior of Baluarte de San Juan. The walls of the baluarte once echoed with the sound of Spanish boots pounding up the stairs, as soldiers were called to arms. These baluartes were forts in themselves, capable of independent defense even if other parts of the fortifications were overcome. The circular object at the bottom is a well. The heavy wooden gate leads out into the city.
Spanish soldier whiles away his free time with a bottle of rum. Spanish soldiers were highly disciplined and respected the world over as tough fighters in their time. As you can see, life was spartan in an outpost like Campeche. Quarters were small and shared with others. You can see a bunk bed in the back, and a few simple possessions.
A well was a vital part of the defense. One of the most critical issues in defending a fort is an ready supply of water. This is particularly true in a tropical climate like that of Campeche. With adequate water, food, and ammunition, defenders could hold a fortress like Campeche indefinitely against the most determined attackers.
The lot of a prisoner was grim. Here a prisoner is shackled with chains to a stone wall. He has no way to lie down or get comfortable for the hours, days, and weeks ahead. Is he a captured English pirate? Is he a Spanish soldier punished for too liberally using his allotment of rum? There was no sign to indicate, so it is left to our imaginations.
A rooftop restaurant, perfect to catch a breeze off the bay. I took this photo from the parapet of the fortress. Part of the restaurant is under a set of portales, while the rest is directly across, almost at eye-level. Campeche possesses a large variety of interesting and attractive restaurants.
Another shot from the walls of the fortress, this time of ruins. Although the houses above looked intact from street level, from above I could peer into their interiors. You can see the holes for the ancient wooden beams, and the old stone walls covered by innumerable coats of plaster applied over the centuries. One of the rooms above is beautifully draped by bougainvilla.
Stately streets of Campeche glow in the afternoon sun. Second story wooden doors lead out onto iron balconies. Leaving the doors open would let in a welcome ocean breeze, and perhaps allow the Spaniard in residence to step out and view the activity in the street below. The whole of the old city seemed to be painted in lovely pastels.
Local public transportation. I found these motorized trollies parked beside the plaza. For a small fee, one could board for a tour of the city.
Cathedral spires glow over the city walls as evening approaches. I had made friends with Patrick, another guy on our tour who is a talented photographer. We decided to go out with our cameras and see what Campeche at night might offer. We were not disappointed in the least.
Puerta de Mar at night. The Sea Gate looks down an old and gently lit Campeche street. The goods of the Campeche province interior poured out this gate to waiting galleons, and through the same gate expensive Spanish imports poured into the city, no doubt passing each other in the streets.
Cathedral, plaza, and kiosko are lit up beautifully in Campeche's El Centro plaza. The kiosko (bandstand) is one of the more unusual I have found in a colonial town or city. The usual bandstand structure is there, but a roof extends out all around forming space for a restaurant/bar in the round. The flood-lighting of the Cathedral was gorgeous, the best I have seen in Mexico, and it made night photography almost too easy. Almost.