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Day 354-360, 30Jun-6Jul 09: Mums in Mexico pt.1: Ruins & Cenotes!

September 26, 2009 by , 8,358 views 
Filed under Mexico, North America, Trip reports, Yucatan Peninsula

Photos: relaxing in Cancun

We started our holiday with a few days in a Hostel and some visits to the beach as well as the nice local park. The park is not visited much, but is basically a part of original jungle in the middle of the city. It has some great trails, a turtle pond, many lizards walking around and we even saw a snake.

Ivana and Cristi, CancunIvana inspecting a palapa, CancunMutti at the beach, CancunMutti and Cristi, Cancun

Off to the : Chichen Itza!

Of course you cannot visit Central America without visiting at least some of the ancient Maya . Cancun is quite close to Chichen Itza, maybe the most famous city of them all, especially after a huge marketing campaign managed to get it entered as one of the new 7 wonders of the world.

We had rented a cheap car for a week, so we could tour around for a while, leaving the beaches for later. Our mums experienced a hint of our way of life when we told them that they could only take 1/3 of their luggage –as more did not fit in the tiny car- and that they would see the rest only in a week :)

dinner in PisteThere is a wonderful new highway from Cancun to Chichen Itza, but we only found out why it was so deserted (we saw 2 cars in 200km), when we needed to pay over USD 20 in toll fees, close to the exit. Now we understand why Francisco and the other truckers all choose the ‘Libre’ road instead.

The mums got another taste of our trip when we booked them in a small but cheap guesthouse, with 3 beds in a dusty and very hot room in Piste, the town next to the old Maya City. We had arrived in the afternoon, so we had time to have some dinner and go to Chichen Itza for the evening show. Chichen Itza, El Castillo at nightMost people do not see this as they come on day trips from Cancun & Merida, but every evening the main structures are illuminated at sunset, while a set of voices tell about the history and legends of Chichen Itza.

The Spanish whispering was a bit too much for me, but it was nice to sit in the fresh breeze while the most famous main structure, the temple of Kukulkan, better known as ‘El Castillo’ -the castle- turned form green to purple.

Here is a photo impression (click to enlarge, more photos in the photo section here).

Chichen Itza, El CastilloMutti and local lady, Chichen Itza Skull carvings, Chichen ItzaCarvings, Chichen Itza Chichen Itza, El Castillo (2)Chichen Itza, Jaguar statueChichen Itza, near the  ballcourt (2)Chichen Itza, Serpent'shead of El Castillo Chichen ItzaPablito and Pedrito, Chichen Itza

Souvenirs & Cenotes

Of course the place is stuffed with souvenirs and other semi-local handicrafts. The sacbe number 1, the ancient Mayan road, leading to the ‘cenote’ was lined with vendors. The peninsula is lined with Cenotes, which can be anything from a large pond to a huge underground cave filled with water. The soft limestone base of the peninsula combined with tropical rainfall had created these holes and many of them were either sacred or at least an important water source.

The cenote at Chichen Itza was found to contain several artefacts and bones, it was clearly used as a sacrificial place. Some more pix :) :

Souvenirs at Chichen Itzasouvenirs at Chichen Itza (2)The sacred Cenote, Chichen Itza souvenirs at Chichen Itza (3) Chichen Itza (2)souvenirs at Chichen Itza (4)Us in Chichen Itza, with El CastilloCichen Itza, mutti and El Castillo (3)

Swimming in the Cenotes

Cenote near Dzitnup (2)Cristi and Ivana in CenoteCristi in Cenote near Dzitnup (2)Not all cenotes are closed to the public. In fact there is a large tourism sector focused on either swimming in them or even exploring them while diving, as many are connected by underground rivers. We stuck to swimming in a couple, with the first one being close to the  town of Dzitnup.

The cenote is inside a huge a cave, but it had a hole on top where sunlight shines through. next to the hole grows a tree and it roots come all the way down to the water, a magic place for sure..

Jungle ruins: Ek Balam

Christi and Harry, Ek BalamThe ruins of Chichen Itza are the most famous, but its popularity has caused some downsides. You can no longer climb on El Castillo as a tourist had fallen to her death a few years ago and the sheer number of visitors can cause irreplaceable dame to the structure.

Also most of the other structures are off-limits now, meaning you can only see them from a (short) distance.

Ek Balam ruins (17)Therefore it was nice to visit a much ‘newer’ site, Ek Balam. Largely unknown for mass tourism, but with some impressive structures, of which the 2nd and 3rd largest are still unexcavated and buried by the force of nature.

The highest structure, known as the Acropolis, can be climbed on its narrow and sloping steps, offering great views over the site and the surrounding jungle.

Somehow, it felt more ‘real’ being here compared to Chichen Itza. An impression:

Ek Balam ruins (7)Pedrito and Pablito at Ek Balam (2)Ek Balam ruins (14)Christi and Griet in Ek BalamEk Balam ruins (10)Ek Balam ruins (2)Ek Balam ruins (16)Ivana at Ek Balam ruins (4)

X’Canche & Genesis: Swimming and relaxing in Ek Balam

X'Canche cenote, Ek Balam (4)The hard life, Ek BalamEk Balam had one bonus: it has an open Cenote (meaning open to the public, you still have to pay an entrance fee) a 15 minute walk from the ruins.

This one was open, but also had many roots growing into it, as well as many fishes and plant and we enjoyed the cooling water as well as the collection of free hammocks nearby.

We had spent a few days in the wonderful Genesis Resort in the nearby village of Ek Balam, run by Lee Christie. A nice oasis in the dry surroundings, it had a great swimming pool and evens some bike for rent. In exchange for a discount on the price of the room, we cleaned and fixed the bikes, so that they were safe again :)

Genesis Retreat, Ek Balam (4)Genesis Retreat, Ek Balam (3)

On the road again

Pizza near Ek BalamAfter a huge pizza in a nearby village, and some clothes testing for Pablito and Pedrito, it was time to hit the road again. Not to the ruins and beaches of Coba & Tulum as planned, but back to Cancun, this time on the libre road. Ivana had to undergo a second part of a dental treatment, as part of her tooth had broken off the day our mums arrived.

Pedro and Pablito go mariachi, ValladolidIt was fixed ok, but the next problem was that both Cristi as well as myself developed a rash on our legs and arms, there must have been something in the Cenote water, though Ivana had no problems.

It was time to hit the other famous parts of the Yucatan Peninsula: the beaches!

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Comments

5 Responses to “Day 354-360, 30Jun-6Jul 09: Mums in Mexico pt.1: Ruins & Cenotes!”
  1. Val says:

    Hey, I really love your blog. Your photos are beautiful and I really get a sense of the places you’ve visited and perspective on the “reality” of what’s going on as opposed to what tourism sites say.

    We’re heading over their sometime soon, so it’s helpful to read your blog as a guide while we figure out our plan of action!

  2. Juan says:

    Some corrections: “Of course you cannot visit Central America”… Mexico is still North America.
    Cenotes: “with tropical rainfall had created these holes”, I think you shoud do some homework, as this isn’t how they think it’s created.
    The cenote you swim in is called samula, this one has a tree growing inside.
    The reason why you can’t climb Chichen Itza anymore, is because a stupid lady from the States fall, didn’t die, but suit Mexico for it. Typical American attiude.
    Genisis in Ek Balam isn’t as nice as you mention…. yes maybe for you as a tourist, but the owner…Lee Christie… is very hard for the locals that work for her. Here you can see how someone with money feels superior to poor Mexican. The so called “eco friendly” Genisis, isn’t half of what she says it is. Using tons of Bleach in the pool, Having toilets dumping in the ground and Lee Christie driving around in a huge car.

    I wonder what you guys did understand of your trip to Yucatan?

    • Avatar of Harry Harry says:

      Thank you for your comment I guess. It is interesting that in cycling 5 months in Mexico we met only nice people, but you seem to be the exception.

      What is your point? Are you trying to scare tourists away by pointing out that Mexicans are rude and tourists and their money are not welcome? I have been defending your country and its people, culture and nature against thousands of people that had wrong ideas. Be aware that what you read in Mexican media about foreigners is often as untrue as what is said in foreign media about Mexico, so it is better to disprove it than to confirm it.

      ‘Central America’ was mentioned in a sentence about ancient Maya cities in this part of the world. Believe it or not, these can also be found in Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. Are these North America as well?

      Tell me how a Cenote is formed if it is not by dissolving rock as a result of rain and rain-created streams and rain-fed changing groundwater levels. If my assumptions are wrong, then tell me the correct information. Be constructive instead of just shouting negativities.

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichen_Itza
      “Over the past several years, INAH, which manages the site, has been closing monuments to public access. While visitors can walk around them, they can no longer climb them or go inside their chambers. The most recent was El Castillo, which was closed after a San Diego, California, woman fell to her death in 2006.[46]”

      This was confirmed by a local guide, but I guess you have more and better information than WikiPedia and a Chichen Itza guide.
      You probably also do not believe the local newspapers and the eyewitness, see http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g150808-i1365-k426386-o20-Climbing_el_castillo_closed-Chichen_Itza_Yucatan_Peninsula.html for the witness report and article.
      Maybe the family sued, I do not know, but that is not the point. To call an 80-year old woman that fell to her death ‘stupid’ and then twist the facts is very disrespectful.

      We ate homegrown organic food, fixed bicycles and liked Genesis as it is 100 times better than any of the mega resorts without excessive lighting etc. If you have suggestions for her to improve her ecologic footprint, I am sure she will listen.

      It is ok to write corrections or additions; they are very welcome, but they must be correct and respectful. I have never claimed to know everything about your country, but I think I know more about yours than you about mine. But you can do it in a more respectful manner than just insulting I think?

      Gracias,
      Harry & Ivana

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