Monday, November 22, 2021

Ek Balam and Cenote Xcan ché

I spent some time reading a few travel reviews of the Mayan Ruins at Ek Balam. Overall they seem to be a bit over the top. When compared to the madness of Chitzen Itza, which they all inevitably are, yes it is a less touristy site and yes you can climb the main temple but thats about where it should end. I enjoyed this site for what it was but it is not some splendor alternative to Chitzen Itza.

Now that being said, I may be a bit jaded having been to some sites of various grandeur in and around Latin America. These include Palenque, Chitzen Itza, TulumTeotihuacan, Cantona, Cholula and Ndachjian (Mexico) Copan Ruins (Honduras) Tikal (Guatemala) Cahel PechXunantunich (Belize). This site was small, although most archeologist I have read about mentioned that many Mayan sites uncovered and that are on display, there is usually an equal amount of that site lost to the jungle.

The park is about 25KM north of Valladolid. The best option for me was a share taxi called a colectivo. The colective location was easy to find but a first timer might be scared off because it was not the sexiest of taxi stands. That being said there were lots of friendly smiling faces callout out plus a few confused tourists not quite sure of what to make of it all. You jump into a taxi with 3 others and pay 70 pesos each and off you go. If there are not 4 people the taxi will wait, and so will you, until a forth arrives. I showed up and was on my way in about 10 minutes. 

* The colectivo location is on Calle 44, between 35 and 37. It is the only building with a large driveway that heads into a courtyard. The drivers are in white shirts and will shout out and wave you over if you are not sure. 

I just read that there are over 4,400 Maya sites throughout Latin America. That little fun fact blew me away.

The entrance did have some very nice murals, mostly of jungle cats. They are native to the jungle that I was about to trek into. As the local guy at entrance said when I knowingly and jokingly asked about puma and jaguar in the area. "If they are here you would never know, until they were chewing on the back of your neck". And with that, I was off.

Ek Balam as a site was small, 5 or 6 buildings plus the grand pyramid. The bonus here is you can climb the steep steps up the Pyramid, which I did. Fun Fact. Three days later my legs are still sore as they were shredded from the climb. I am out of climbing practice that is for sure. Although my last hike in Borneo destroyed my legs. Maybe, just maybe these old bones are starting to tell me something like less climbing, more SCUBA. If you want to learn more about Ek Balam you can click on the link. The best part of wandering this site is the climb to the top of the pyramid. The views of the surround jungles were brilliant and there were only a few people on top to share the experience. As I said, the steps were steep and it was slow and steady. I was feeling confident with each step, then a local guide passed me running down like it was the easiest thing he has ever done. Stupid Mayan blooded local. Time for a swim to wash off my tourist shame.

The second part of this day trip was that the Cenote Xcan ché was a 15 minute ride down a winding and bumpy jungle path on old rickety bicycle. This bike chain had not seen oil since the Mayan Times. It is a part of the same Archelogical site but a separate admission, naturally. It was a well spend 170 Pesos (C$10.28).

You had to take a cold shower before you went to the cenote. I don't ask why but I figured with all the lotions and sprays people put on now there was no desire to have any of those finding their way into the clear and pristine cenote water.

I have read all about he cenotes in and around the Yucatan. I did see one in Chitzen Itza but it was pretty nasty. Plus Centoe Zaci in Valladolid was closed although you cold take photos. This time everything was a go. There were some steep and very slippery metal steps you have to navigate down but before I did that I just stopped to have a look. It was an impressive site. A deep sink hole filled with clear blue water surrounded by hanging jungle vines. There was a man made water falls which added a nice effect. Once safely down the stairs of Mayan Doom you could pick up a life jacket (yes I did) and there were a few small inner tubes available (yes I did). 

There were about 10 others there and I found a rock to put my things on. There were lockers at the entrance but aside from my phone I was fairly confident nothing was going to disappear. Loaded up with my life jacket and small tube I walked to a small platform about 5 feet off the water and jumped. It was refreshingly cool and after sweating in the heat of the jungle this was exactly what I needed.  I just bobbed along like a cork as I was not putting any effort into avoiding the small black and harmless catfish that were everywhere. There were a few Tik Tokers and Instagrammers there,(I am sensing a recurring social media theme on this trip) which was fun to watch as they argued about getting the best shots. There was one little blondie who had her doting and sadly submissive boyfriend take continuous pictures of her at the same spot with different poses, I counted 27 different poses so who know how many pictures. There was a close up of her ass which was amusing. Then they moved onto videos and I got bored.

I picked up the colectivo back to Valladolid from the spot I was dropped off a few hours earlier without much of a wait. I did grab a coke and a bag of chips from a local vendor which cost $5. So be it. I needed the sugar and salt. This was a nice daytrip to start getting back into the grove of of seeing the world outside the boarders of my comfort zone. Although Mexico is as about as easy a country to travel in as any I have been in. None the less, and with all due respect to Kerouac. I am back "On the Road"

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