The Hacienda is a working farm that still raises and processes henequen, the specific type of agave that produces the fibers misnamed "sisal", when the port of origin was confused with the shipped product in the first half of the last century. The henequen plantation tour starts in the fully restored (and never lived in) mansion, which fell into disrepair in the 60's when the farm was abandoned, then proceeds to the various stations where the plant's leaves are crushed and their fibers combed out, dried and spun into string, then twine, then rope. A donkey ride on a railed tramway then takes you to a traditional thatched hut complete with hammock, and an old Mayan gentleman, Don Antonio, who worked in the fields in the plantation's heydey demonstrates how the henequen was planted and cared for. The next stop is particularly refreshing; a descent into a subterranean cenote where you swim in crystal clear water with a single shaft of light illuminating the cavern. For those who care less for spelunker aquatics, an excellent little bar topside (also pulled by mules) serves margaritas made with the fermented liquor distilled from the henequen variety of agave. After the refreshing dip, back we went onto the BurroTram for the ride through the agave fields. The tour concludes at an attractive, thatched, open-air restaurant which we decided to forego. (There's a great place to eat, Hacienda Teya, on the way back to Merida, but that's another review.) The tour lasts a couple of hours and is a pleasant and easy, if sometimes hot and noisy, excursion into the forgotten world of the Green Gold of the Yucatan, hosted by an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and well-spoken guide. As a history buff with a real appreciation for well-built and well-maintained late nineteenth/early twentieth century machinery, I enjoyed it and found it well worth the just-under-$30 admission.
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