Thursday, September 2, 2010

Chichen Itza, Ek Balam and a Cenote

If the title sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, don't worry--none of it's English.

So, once again, this is going to be a lot of pictures with some commentary listed underneath.

And, I wanted to answer a few questions about our resort:

1. It's all inclusive--that's the only way you can stay--you get it all. And, we just booked it through the resort's own site as it was cheaper than any of the other various sites out there and I looked at A LOT.

2. It's also an adult's only resort, so there were no children around.
Okay, now back to the fun!

Of course this trip wouldn't be the same if our guide hadn't been pulled over by the police. We thought he was going to have to pay some money for a "fine" but they let us go--perhaps because they saw us taking pictures?

This is the ball court at Chichen Itza. It was considered the ultimate field to play on--think of the pros vs. college fields that you would find at other ruins. The players had to score a goal by using their hips to knock a ball through a hoop mounted on the side of a wall. The lucky winners were then sacrificed to the gods.

I tinted this picture, so you could see some of the detail. They have so many ruins in Mexico that they don't have the money or time to restore all of them, so it's hard to do justice to everything you see in these photos, but just imagine only having a chisel to do this kind of work on rocks.

This was at one end of the ball court and it was reserved for the high priests and nobles. The sound in the stadium was amazing. Our guide stood at one side and clapped three times and it echoed loud and clear at the other side. Imagine how intense it must've been during a game.

This was a wall on the grounds that had skulls carved all over it. I don't personally go for decorating with skulls, but there were lots of vendors selling skulls painted in various rainbow colors.

A skull close up.

You can see in this photo a warrior carrying the head of another warrior. You'll also notice while you're there that there are several snakes carved onto their structures. Some of the snakes also have feathers. The symbolism is really cool to learn about, but I won't ruin all of the surprises for those of you who want to go. But, I will say that if you go, you need to go with...

This guy, his name is Nephi. Really. That's his name. His dad's name is Helaman. They run an LDS tour of the various ruins called Helaman Tours. They teach you all of the symbolism of the various carvings and what each building was used for. It was an incredible experience and well worth the money. There are no placards to explain anything while you're there, so you want a guide.

This is it--the temple that is one of the seven wonders of the world. You're not allowed to walk up it anymore because back in 2005 a woman fell down--there's 91 steps on each side all carved in stone, so you can imagine how that felt. For those of you who aren't mathematicians, 91 steps x four sides = 364 + the platform on top = 365. And, that craziness you hear about how the Mayan calendar stops in 2012--not true. The Mayan calendar cycles through every 52 years. 2012 is when it ends this current cycle.

These big guys are crawling all over Mexico. Not only did we see them at every site, but our hotel had them too. They don't let you get very close, but they sure aren't worried about being around all the tourists.

So, after lunch, Nephi took us to the cenote called Ik Kil. It was absolutely beautiful!!! That is the natural color of the water and you can't see them, but there are little black fish swimming all around down there too. These cenotes are constantly getting fresh water circulating through some underwater system. The Mayans used these underground lakes to sacrifice people and bathe for rituals. But, we use them for...

JUMPING!!! It's a 20 foot drop which doesn't seem like much until you're up there. It's a rush. In fact, here's a video of Derek and McKay.

It's only about 30 seconds long. (If it will work.)

We are so in love.

The couple that did the tour with us were named McKay and Rachel Barlow. We had never met them before, but now they are our best friends. Seriously though, we had such a great time with them and wished that we'd all been staying at a resort together, so we could've done more activities with them. It's such a small world, but McKay's roommate in college married my roommate from Spain. Plus, the blog that I looked on to learn about the tour we took ended up being McKay's brother's blog. Small, small world!

Lastly, we visited the ruins of Ek Balam which were smaller than Chichen Itza in total area excavated (for now), but completely worth the time because you can still climb and explore on these ruins. We climbed to the top of the temple which is where I took this picture of some of the other ruins. The temple at Ek Balam is the third tallest ruin in Mexico, behind a building at Tulum and Coba, but taller than the temple you saw at Chichen Itza. I can't remember how many steps it was, but they were steep and there were no handrails.

You can see how narrow the passage way between the buildings is.

We were able to be right next to these ruins which were discovered only a couple of years ago after the wall which was hiding them accidentally fell down. Pay special attention to the hands on the statues.

This tour was one of the greatest things we did while we were there. If you ever have the chance--GO!!!


Amelia and Justin said...

That sounds like such an awesome tour! I am definitely putting it on our "to-do" list. But, I fear it will be several years before we are able to take a trip like this again :)

And, that last picture: fascinating.

jayne said...

okay. I've been to Cancun and it was not a great experience. Chichen Itza was awesome, but would have had waaaaay more meaning had we been with an LDS tour guide I'm sure. And if I weren't 5 months pregnant. I would have been that lady that fell in 2005 if I'd attempted the climb up like Shawn did. She must have fallen after we toured. But. Now I REALLY want to go back. And stay in YOUR resort (ours was horrible. And it was because of the bad food). And I also want to be guided by Nephi. Totally cool trip. I'm jealous. And such a copy cat that I'll probably email you for details later.

wackywilsons said...

I can't wait to hear even MORE details in person! I went to Cancun back when I was fun it would be to go back. I want to hear about how to make it happen!

Lauren and Trevor said...

What an awesome experience!!! It sounds like having the right tour guide is key.

kimberlina said...

What an amazing trip! It looks like you've had a great time and how incredible to see all of the ruins. I would love to see them one day.

Melissa said...

Looks like so much fun!

Jack and Annie said...

How fun! I am so happy you guys had a great time! I will have to get all the info from you, we are planning our first cruise next year!

Erin said...

Your trip sounds amazing! I'm definitely putting it on my list!