Friday, November 18, 2011


We booked a day trip away from the resort that took us to an archeological site that only recently has started to be unearthed (I believe it's only been for the past 10 years of so).  It was/is a town/village called Coba in the Mayan jungle.  It took us about 2 hours to get into the heart of the Yucitan territory.  We drove through many small communities enroute to our final destination that gave us a more realistic glimpse into how a lot of the citizens of Mexico still live.  In small huts with no running water or electricity.  A very different world than I am exposed to.  Dogs everywhere, strays wandering all around, on the side of the highway even.  Sadly we noticed even small toddlers without obvious parental supervision also frequented the side of the highways. 

Once we got to Coba, we were assigned a guide for 45 minutes before we were permitted to explore on our own for an hour.  Our tour guide Juan is a Mayan.  His first language is Mayan, not spanish.  He learned spanish in school.  He learned Italian and English and French from movies and tv.  For reals.  He spoke VERY fluent English. 

That's a side view of Juan.  That mound of rocks and earth and growth is actually a Mayan building that has yet to be unearthed in the restoration process.  The Mayan jungle is flat, so anything that resembles a hill or 'mountain' is an old ruin.  If they start taking the rocks and trees and dirt away, a building will be uncovered.  Pretty amazing.  The part of Coba we saw consisted of a small church/temple, a palace, an inverted temple/ball court, an observatory and the main temple of Coba where the sacrifices where made.  The life sacrifices in Coba were mainly animals and not too many humans.  These unearthed buildings comprise only 1% of the village of Coba.  The village construction first began 2-3 hundred years after the death of Christ.

That above picture gives a little more detail about the archeological site.  Pretty fascinating and hard to grasp that people lived in these ruins and just how old they actually are.  It's surreal to have stood in that spot and wonder who else has also been there. 

The above is one half of an inverted temple.  On the outside of the temple are rings.  The object of the game was to put a very heavy ball through the rings.  The game was played in teams.  The catch was that the players were not permitted to use their hands, feet or head to get the ball through the rings.  They were only permitted to use their shoulders, elbows and thighs.  The winners of the game were then sacrificed.  It was deemed an honour to sacrifice yourself to the 9 Gods they worshiped.  11 when they added Catholicism.  (Jesus and God if I remember correctly).  The sacrifice consisted not of dying, but of piercing a blunt object through their penises and pouring their fertility blood to the Gods.   When the women were sacrificed, they pierced their tongues and the blood from the tongues and penises was spilled for the Gods. 

This is a smaller temple in the Coba Village.  Their services were often held here.  The 'priests' were at the top and the level you were at on the side of the temple reflected your financial worth in society.  As you climb the temple you were in a bowing formation thus showing respect to the leaders.  The poor were at the bottom and the rich towards the top.  The Mayans didn't believe in Heaven and Hell.  They believed in the sky (temples going up), the earth (land they lived on) and the cenotes (underground waters, inverted temples). 

This was the ruins of a palace.

This is me and Margie with our Mayan Limo driver, Abraham.  He rode the bike, we plopped our lazy asses down in the basket on the front of the bike.  He rode us all the way to the big temple so we'd have more time to climb the structure and not miss our bus.  He was a total sweetheart. 

This big boy was the main reason we wanted to do this trip.  It's the last of the Mayan ruins where you are still permitted to climb the structure.  The rumour is that each year they (whoever "they" are) keep toying with the idea that they will shut it down to the public.  So far though it remains open.  There are 120 steps (but some are as big as two feet high) to the top/alter.  We vowed to climb it.  Easier for me than Margie as she's afraid of heights.  But she persevered and we made it.  I stopped half way to take a photo and we had a little siesta when we got to the top before turning and looking down at what we'd climbed.  Going down was far scarier than going up, that's for sure!  In the ancient times the Mayans leaned more towards sacrificing animals rather than humans.  Aside from the genital sacrifices of course

Halfway up, I braved turning around and looking down.

Margie grateful to be at the top.  Shaking like a leaf.  She was killing me.  Which you'll see evidence of in the next photo.  I'm such a sweet and supportive friend. 

Holy fucken shitballs!!  This is awesome!
As I mentioned the climb down was more daunting than going up.  You had to position your body accordingly so gravity didn't take over.  There was a large rope in the centre for you to hang on to for dear life.  Margie took the descent on her ass most of the way but after a few ass bumps down, I thought I'd try it on my feet and I got a pretty good groove going.  We later asked Abraham (our limo driver that I introduced at the beginning of this post) how many people fell to their death each year and to please be honest, because I wouldn't believe it didn't happen.  He said on average FIVE!!  Now is that five lone deaths or one idiot who stumbled and took out four innocent bystanders on the way down?  I'll never know.  A whole different theory on Mayan sacrifice or Mayan ball games (bowling anyone?). 

The view from the top!

After Coba we hopped back in our van and headed to a Mayan community where we were going to be ziplining next.  I was very excited needless to say about this portion of the trip.  I've never done it and I've always wanted to try it.   I was pretty sure I'd need to be pushed off the platform and I was right.  But it was uber fun and I'd love to do it again but from even higher and for a longer distance.  This one we did was like ziplining from the top of the gorge to the bottom (for those familiar with the Gorge). 

Following ziplining we then repelled down into the ravine we'd just zipped over.  It was a beautiful little jungle down there.  I have to admit the rapelling terrified me more than the ziplining did.  Frankly getting pushed off a rock wall backwards is not how I envision spending my day.  And going down the line created an intense burning in my hands even with the disgusting gloves they gave us to wear.  But I'd still do it again if the opporutnity arises.  It was pretty awesome climbing down the side of the ravine wall to the beauty that awaited below.  

After hiking back up the ravine to the top, we reboarded our chariot and headed to a secluded area where we then kayaked through a marsh to hike our way through an actual jungle.  As we trekked through we stumbled upon a trapdoor spider nest/home.  I wasn't sticking around to do a meet and greet.  Frankly I had just rapelled and ziplined, that was enough adventure for me thanks. 

Part way through our hike we came across a beautiful wooden alter in the middle of the jungle.  And shortly after arriving we were joined by a real Mayan Shaman who was going to give us a traditional Mayan blessing on the jungle floor.  I didn't give too much of a shit about this either way, but man once he started I was overcome with emotion.  Not sure if it was just this whole year catching up with me or what, but I felt like I wanted to stand there and cry.  I didn't of course, there were people there I didn't know for crying out loud.  That would be embarrassing.  Yeesh.   And it was really truly interesting to learn a little about the Shaman.  He has lived in the jungle since he was about 4.  He was raised there.  He is currently 76 years old.  He lives in a hut just outside of the entrance to the cenote we were heading to.  He has no doors, no windows, a thatch roof, no running water, no electricity.  He loves it there.  He spends his days walking among the animals.  And of course coming out and doing these blessing for us fools of the modern world. 

And then we reached was we really came for.  The CENOTE.  And underground cave system with fresh water.  The hole we had to descend into was just slightly larger than a rabbit hole.  I'm still trying to figure out the day someone decided it was a great idea to go into the little hole.  Like who though that was a good idea.  Turns out they were right, but still!!  Anywho, we had to climb down some make shift 'stairs' backwards holding ropes to get into the actual cave but man, once we did it was breath taking.  The photos don't do it any justice at all.  I was hesistant to swim in it because well, I'm always cold, and being that this is underground, I assumed the worse.  However, I was wrong. The temperature was lovely.  And the water so crystal clear that even in poor lighting, you could see the bottom.  They believe it's a sprititual pool and I tried to be openminded to everything. It was quite an enlightening experience. 

Upon leaving the cenote we headed back to the original Mayan Village and the ladies of the village had prepared us a lunch of traditional Mayan fare.  I cannot get over how delicious everything was.  I trust it wasn't merely because we were starving at this point.  I'm missing the food there so much.

After our lunch, we hopped back into the van with our amazing tour guide Paco and made the two hour trek back to our resort.  Of course I got car sick, in typical Holly fashion and required a serious nap when we got back.  What a wonderful day!! 

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