Well, I might not be the ultimate tourist (actually maybe that is just exactly what I am) but you might be surprised to hear that when we were in Cancun we actually never ventured in to Cancun even once during our entire two-week stay! There were several reasons for this, but mainly the fact that our resort was located in the middle of nowhere, right in between Playa del Carmen, and Cancun, and it would have been a $40 taxi ride if we wanted to go in there.
As far as I know, Cancun is good for shopping and nights out, and as we were not there to shop, nor are we massive party people, I didn’t see the point of paying money to go somewhere, to pay more money for food and drink when we were staying in a gorgeous resort with several restaurants and bar options, all inclusive. But maybe I have missed out?
Anyway, instead we chose to spend our money on a couple of excursions, and I definitely do not regret this at all – not even when I checked my bank balance this morning, because we figured this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and although we would love to go back there, realistically, I think we both know that that isn’t going to happen in the next few years at least!
Enough about that now, I haven’t even started talking about what this blog post is meant to be about, so without further ado – let me tell you about our first excursion, our trip to Coba!
We had booked us on to a small guided tour with a company called Mayan treasures to go and see the Coba site and climb the temple. This temple is I believe the last one that is open to the public to climb, however they plan on stopping this in the next few months. The site is also not completely excavated and open, so compared to for example Chichen Itza which is very much open and exposed for all to see, this site is still very much embedded in the surrounding jungle.
After about an hour in the car we were taken to the first stop, the site itself. Our guide was really informative and told us all about the Mayan culture, their numerical system, the calendar, zodiac and other interesting tidbits, which was all really interesting. I actually felt a bit stupid, because I was under the impression that the Mayans were extinct, but of course there is a difference between the Mayan Civilization, and the Mayan culture!
The site actually consisted of several buildings and temples, not just the one, and I found it quite fascinating to hear how the tradition was to build the temples by adding on a new level every 52 years. This temple had 9 levels.
We were also told about the ritual game called Pok-ta-pok (actually they have no idea what it was called, but they have decided to refer to it as pok-ta-pok due to the echoing sounds the ball would make between the courts) Basically two teams would compete to get the ball between the whole on the opponents site, without being able to use their arms or legs to touch the ball. The winning team captain then got the honour of being sacrificed to the gods! Now I am usually a bit of a sore looser, but this sounds like a game I would prefer no to win!
The walk up to the main temple itself was about 2 km through the jungle, we could have paid a bit to get taken up their by “taxi” instead, but honestly, the walk wasn’t that bad, so we stuck to using our feet. I didn’t even mind walking when the rain started, in fact the rain actually was quite refreshing as it was fairly hot and humid, being in the jungle and all.
This is the temple of Nohoch Mul (If I remember correctly, this is the god of honey), which is the one that you get to climb to the top. It is 7 levels over all, so will have taken at least 364 years to build!
And this is where I chickened out!
As you can see, there was only a rope that was lying across the steps to hold on to for support, and the steps were really uneven, high, steep and slippery. It didn’t help that it had been raining pretty badly, so it was even more slippery than it would usually be!
I got to about a third way up before I decided enough was enough and just went back down! I would like to say that I regret it, and in some ways I do, however I know I would not have enjoyed the experience of being at the top cause all I would have worried about was going back down. To top it off as Pete was making his way down, a torrential downpour started, and even he was struggling a bit!
Anyways, Pete made it to the top, and yeah, the view was amazing apparently.
After lunch our next stop on the trip was to a Mayan village where we got to meet two families in their homes. This felt a little bit awkward but at the same time it was really interesting to see how different other people live compared to you!
The first family was selling various handicrafts, I bought one of these with a Toucan on it, not sure what I will do with it though, maybe frame it?
We also got a welcome gift from the family; – tiny bananas!
Next family that we visited, well, they had a domesticated spidermonkey! Cute overload!
Apparently, you are usually not allowed to keep spider-monkeys as pets in Mexico, however, the Mayan villagers get special permits for this.
Incidentally, he loved bananas, and what luck – we had some bananas that we could pass on to him!
Whilst there we got a demonstration and got to try some homemade tacos that they had prepared for us (I stayed away from the spicier stuff, but they tasted delicious!)
They also had some super-cute parrots and Toucans (I might be mistaken, but I believe this is a green billed Toucan) in their back-garden – I could have stayed there for ages, but I would have overstayed my welcome a bit I think!
Next stop was to one of the more hidden away cenotes for a swim, it was a wee drive away, but they explained that they wanted to show us something a bit more remote that the locals used rather than the typical touristy cenote that would be full of people.
If you don’t know what a cenote is, it’s essentially a sink-hole that is filled up with freshwater and more or less covered. The one we went to was completely underground, and unfortunately I do not have any photos from here as we didn’t bring our camera inside. The entrance was just a whole in the ground, with a steep staircase leading down to a platform where you got in the water from, and you got to swim completely underground in crystal clear waters completely surrounded by stalagmite and stalactites.
As much as I love swimming, and the cenote itself was amazing, it freaked me out a bit swimming in it. The water was so clear, and you could see every rock underneath you, but it was really hard to make out how deep or shallow it was below, plus you were completely surrounded by rock.
And of course, when we got out of there one of the other tourists showed us a picture of a massive snake he had spotted swimming in the water alongside us! Well, let’s just say it’s a good thing we found out about it after we were out of the cenote!
Last stop on our trip was a cooperative where we could buy locally handmade souvenirs. I didn’t end up buying much in the end but had I had the space in my suitcase I would have totally wanted to buy a handmade rug or throw or some ceramics! Oh well!
At this point both Pete and I were really tired and ready to go home, and luckily it was home time, so we all got back in the car for the journey home. Unfortunately for us, we were the last hotel, so we had to drop everyone off first, before we were finally taking back to our resort. Around 9pm we got back and headed straight to dinner where I am sure our neighbours thought we had had a massive argument as we just sat in silence eating our food trying not to fall asleep! Not to worry, it was just sleepiness!
So that was our first excursion, and probably my favourite one, even though it was a really long day there was just loads to see and experience and we learnt a lot!
Our next trip was to Chichen Itza, but I think I will leave that for another post!
Have you ever been to Mexico? Do you prefer to travel alone or in groups?