The next adventure would be a day trip to Tulum and Coba and a cenote. I would spend the day with a lovely French couple from Brittany, who spoke no English. Bad enough that my Spanish had been dismal throughout the trip, but then I am forced to speak French for an entire day, when I was really trying to focus on my Spanish. Well, the next day, I kept mixing up words with the hotel staff, and that was fun! lol. But what a great couple - we had so much fun!
It is an easy enough trip from Playa del Carmen, and so we were off.
Tulum - Beautiful seaside Mayan ruins. It was a crisp , warm day with blue skies and without a doubt, the best way to see the cliffside ruins of Tulum. While not as large as Chichen Itza, it surely does one-up it with its location, nestled above the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. If there was any Mayan envy, it had to be all aimed towards the guys at Tulum who had to wake up to this gorgeousness every day.
It was really a beautiful site and surprising that back in the day, people from other cities across the seas steered little canoes or boats across the choppy seas as Tulum was an international trade hub. The walled city itself traded a lot of tuquoise, jade and salt - I mean - duh. As with the Amerindians in the West Indies, European diseases via Spain, killed off the Tulum Maya and the ruins left behind remind us of a time when original settlers lived full and rich lives, with their religious practices and simple way of life.
|The Temple of the Winds at Tulum - worship of the wind god happened here|
|One of the ruins scattered on the complex|
Coba - Much larger and more extensive than Tulum is the Mayan city of Coba, which was an important trade link between the coastal traders and the inland cities. Where Tulum is believed to have a population of roughly 5,000, Coba's population was about 10 times that. And unlike Chichen Itza, a lot of the site is unexcavated. The site sits against jungle, with much of the structures having been overtaken by nature. The time and expense of archaelogical excavations mean that the majority of Coba may sit undiscovered for years and years. An extensive network of roads linked the inland cities to Coba.
|The Oval Temple|
Now when I planned this little adventure, my main worry was actually about the cenote visit and the fact that I cannot swim. I did not want to have the adventure be wasted simply because I am a land baby. However, nowhere in the fine print did they say anything about having to ride a bike. The last time I had ridden a bicycle, I was 10 and while a BMX speedster and top (read: only) female rider on my street, quite a few calendars have been ripped up since then and so I am sure I turned white, if that is even possible for someone of my hue, when the man started talking about riding a bike to the ruins. He sold it as "you never forget" and while there was a pedicab option, he also made it seem that I would be the biggest chicken if I did not take the cheaper bike option. Needless to say, after five minutes of cajoling, I was perched on the seat of my rented bike, trying my best to not fall over. It took me a good 10 minutes to finally be able to pedal down the path without 'breaking my ass' and I was reminded just how much I liked biking. I was soon passing people and snickering to myself about my reclaimed prowess.
Renting the bike or the pedicab is recommended as the site is quite extensive and if you like walking, then great - but it just saves so much time as well. The day was pretty hot and humid as well, so the bike ride worked out better than the walking.
I stopped along the path to look at some of the smaller structures on the site but of course, the main draw is the main temple known as Nohuch Mul. Unlike the pyramid at Chichen Itza, the temple at Coba is still open to visitors to climb. Yes, I decided I would climb it. The structure is about 130 feet high, with about 124 steep and narrow steps taking you to the top. It seemed like a good idea from the bottom but by step 20, I was regretting this decision. This climb is not for the faint hearted nor for someone who is not that thrilled at heights. It is a hard climb up but an even worse descent, and I saw many people literally on all fours going up, and scooting down on their butts. I however took the decision at step 20, that I had seen enough and there is a thick rope in the middle of the structure to help with the ascent and I guess more for the descent.
|Visitors making the climb at Coba|
|Another view of the 130ft high temple at Coba|
My female French travel mate, like me, also turned around when the going got rough. But please - do it, if you are so inclined. Where else can you climb an ancient temple? The view from the 20th step was pretty awesome so I can only imagine what the view was like from the very top.
Mayan village and cenote - in the next post. lol. Sorry guys.