Tag Archives: #17 Explore Mayan ruins in the Yucatan and cool down in a cenote afterwards.

Ruins and Cenotes, Part Two

31 Aug

31/08/2010: Coba Ruins and Gran Cenote

Another day, another Mayan adventure. 🙂

It was our last day in Tulum. I had already been up for hours because I just wanted to take as much of this paradise with me as I could – the sunrise, the hammock in our balcony, the usual breakfast by the sea and the drive that usually leads to some place beautiful. Today’s destination was Coba.

Coba sits in the middle of a jungle that’s about a half an hour drive out of Tulum. It was settled earlier than Chichen-Itza and its architecture is similar to the farther site of Tikal in Guatemala.   I was supposed to visit Tikal on this trip as well but I’ve had to postpone the trip due to the recent calamities that hit Guatemala. It would’ve been great to compare the two sites as studies of Coba suggest an alliance between the Yucatecan Mayans and the Guatemalan Mayans. I guess Tikal will have to wait. Because today, it’s all about Coba.

My first glimpse of the Coba ruins. I felt like I was in the set of an Indiana Jones movie.

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Right by the entrance is a pyramid called La Iglesia which is situated between two big lakes. It’s a shame we weren’t allowed to climb it because apparently the view of the lakes is quite pretty. Look how far we were allowed to go (it’s higher than it looks, really :p)!

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Playing the part of a film extra. 😉

Coba

It was a really hot day but there was a lot to explore in the Coba jungle. A lot of the ruins here have yet to be excavated and it was interesting to see parts of structures poking out through the forest. Coba also features a network of old stone-paved roads which branch out from the Nohoch Mul pyramid in the center of the Coba site. Some of these roads reach as far as 100km out of Coba which indicate how big the Coba territory would’ve been during the Mayan rule. And now let’s go find Nohoch Mul!

Coba

Donde esta Nohoch Mul? We found a juego de pelota on our way to Nohoch Mul.

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On top of the world!

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I was blown away by this view when I finally reached the top of Nohoch Mul. The air was so fresh and the trees were so lush… I was at peace with the world. It was definitely worth the 40m ascend under the 30 degree heat.

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The kids came out to play… Triple Scoop and Scoob loved the views too. 🙂

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You’d expect descending the pyramid would be easy after the big feat that was climbing it… NOT! There was nothing to hold on to and the steps were quite steep. I was glad we left when we did because it started pouring after we had descended Nohoch Mul. Imagine how slippery it would have been if it started raining whist we were up there.

We then found ourselves in Grupo de las Pinturas which houses different Mayan calendars. And to add to the mysteries that surround Coba, this is also where you’ll find the Mayan calendar that was interpreted to mean the start of a new era in 2012.

Coba

It started pouring really hard as we were making our way out of the Coba jungle. I felt free… so I ran and danced in the rain as I welcomed the raindrops with open arms. The rain had stopped by the time we got to the car. The skies were blue and the sun was shining again. It was at this point when I decided that today was the best day that I’ve spent in Mexico during this trip… and it wasn’t even over yet!

 Coba

We had finished exploring some ruins and it was time to cool down in a cenote… yet again! And after such a hot day in Coba, we knew exactly where to go to cool down.

We had been to Gran Cenote just a couple of days before and we easily deemed it as our favourite. The photos below were actually taken during our first visit. We decided to go back and hire snorkelling equipment this time.

This stunning cenote aims to impress. It has a pretty lagoon as well as caves and lush greenery around it. The water is clear and refreshing. I saw a man jump into the water from the exact spot where I was standing in this photo. And no, I wasn’t brave enough to do the same.

Gran Cenote

The rock formations and the turquoise waters were enthralling. The water was deep though… it was a bit of an issue for the non-swimmer in me but Tino managed to find me some patches of sand that I could stand on. Bless. 🙂

Gran Cenote

Snorkelling here was such a wonderful experience and it gave be a better perspective of how deep the waters truly were. There were lots of small fish as well as impressive caverns and rock formations under water.

Gran Cenote

Divers come here as well and explore the caves within Gran Cenote.

Gran Cenote

Tino enjoyed floating about in this part of the cenote. We went inside this cave with our snorkels. It was very pretty as the small amount of light that came through the cave made the water luminous and it made me momentarily forget about our bat friends.

Gran Cenote

I am so grateful for the opportunity to go back to Gran Cenote because I got to experience it in a different way. I know that it wouldn’t be the last visit either because I hope to share this beauty with loved ones as I bring them over for future encounters with Tulum.

I love love loved today! 🙂

Gran Cenote

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Ruins and Cenotes, Part One

30 Aug

#17 Explore Mayan ruins in the Yucatan and cool down in a cenote afterwards… DONE AND DONE!

I’ve always been fascinated by the Maya civilization. During its peak, the Mayans were ahead of their time. They had systems in place in language, mathematics, art, architecture and astronomy way before any colonizations took place. To this day, the Mayan culture live on through beliefs and traditions that are still being practiced by Mayan descendants.

In order to get a more up close and personal take on the Maya civilisation, I decided to explore some of the remnants of a culture that is so rich and diverse by visiting archaeological zones and swimming in cenotes around the Yucatan.

30/08/2010: Chichen-Itza and Cenote Ik-kil

We were up bright and early today albeit running late by an hour. We had breakfast in Zamas as per usual then made a quick stop to Tulum Pueblo to fill up on petrol. Today, we are visiting the ruins at Chichen-Itza!

We drove past some Mayan rural towns on our way to Chichen. The roads were small and rough. We could actually see the locals going about their daily business – men tending to animals in the front yard, kids playing in the streets, women weaving colourful textiles, etc.. Little did we know that we had actually missed a turn and went off-course for a bit. No wonder the drive was taking longer than expected! Finally back on track, we continued making our way to the Chichen-Itza ruins. We drove to Valladolid and bought rambutan from the streets. At around 1pm, we had finally reached our destination.

I’ve been warned that Chichen-Itza can be touristy and it really was. It was as if all of Cancun came to visit for the day but none of that mattered when we entered the archaeological site. I was welcomed by the sight of El Castillo, the main pyramid at Chichen-Itza.

Mayans built temples on top of pyramids so that they can be close to the sky. Twice every year, during the equinox, the sunrise and sunset cast a shadow that forms a serpent along the pyramid’s staircase.

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The Templo de los Guerreros is surrounded by hundreds of columns which represent Toltec warriors. The actual temple houses a chac mool which is a stone figure of a reclining person with a tray on his tummy. It is believed that they were used to make offerings and carry out human sacrifices.  Unfortunately, the temple is no longer accessible to the public. I only learned all of this from speaking with the girl who sold me my postcards. 🙂

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The skies dramatically changed whilst we were in the Chichen premises. The bright blue hues were replaced by low and dark clouds which were seemingly reaching out to the top of El Castillo.

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It started pouring not long after. I felt a sudden urge to play in the rain so whilst everyone else ran for shelter, I made a beeline for the opposite direction. It was the most amazing feeling!

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The rain came and went and the blue skies were back in no time. Tino and I then headed to the Gran Juego de Pelota. This is where Mayans used to play ball. The leader of the winning team gets the privilege of being sacrificed to the gods. The leader of the losing team, as if to rub salt to the injury, gets to execute his opponent.

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Clapping in front of El Castillo would send a resonating sound of an echo that resembles the sound of a chirping bird. They say that it mimics the sound of the Quetzal, an elusive bird that is revered by the Mayans. Some also say that these echoes were used as a form of communication among the Itzas and the gods.

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After a few hours of exploring the ruins in the sun, it was finally time to cool down. And we knew the best place for it too!

Cenotes are underwater sink holes filled with fresh water. There are thousands of them in the Yucatan region. They are important in the Mayan culture because they are believed to be the entrance to their underworld.

The cenote waters are deep and clear. They are excellent for swimming, snorkelling and even diving. In and around these sink holes are plants, caves and rock formations that when combined with varying amounts of light, add further dimensions to their uniqueness.

Around five kilometers away from Chichen-Itza is Cenote Ik-kil. We got there just as a group of people were leaving so we had the swimming hole to ourselves for a little while. Perfect timing!

This cenote is quite impressive. It looks like a big lagoon with sunshine coming through the mouth of the sink hole. The water is 90m deep and there were no ropes for me to hang on to. Being the nervous swimmer that I am, I got a life vest so I can let myself free in the magnificent waters of Cenote Ik-kil. We descended down the steps and stopped at several levels for different vantage points that impressed everytime.

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We finally reached the bottom level and went in for a swim. The water was freezing at first but it didn’t take me long to get used to it. It soon became the refreshing temperature that I was craving after a hot afternoon under the sun. It was so good with the life vest as I could just float about freely. I love love loved it! Cenotes are definitely a highlight from this trip.

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Our cue to leave were a busload of tourists and tummies calling out to be fed. By that point, I’ve already had a perfect day and a happy heart filled with memories that I know I’ll remember forever. 🙂

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Up next… more Mayan ruins and cenotes as we explore Coba and Gran Cenote!