Ben and Kirsteen's World Trip 2005/6 travel blog

K at the death wall

K at the observatory

K at the temple (you can see the chac-mool at the top)

Us at the famous calendar pyramid

A ballcourt - they had to get a 3kg ball through that...

K descending into the first cenote

Such cool, inviting water

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

(MP4 - 1.21 MB)

Echoes from the temple (make sure your speakers are turned on)

(MP4 - 828 K)


K: Chichen Itza is the famous Mayan site whose may calandar temple (big pyramid) on the equinoxes appears to have a shadow serpent go down and back up the the stairs on its north side. You also used to be able to climb it but unfortunately a tourist fell down and died and spolit it for the rest of us as now you are only allowed to look!

It was a very impressive site though and I was glad we had got a guide to explain the history and rituals of the place. They were very advanced, particularly in astromnomy but, obviously, it`s the stories of gods and human sacrifice that we wanted to hear. All I can say that they must have been very small people judging by ritual ball games, the size of the doorways and the height of the modern population.

Our next stop was Merida, which had lots of nice colonial architecture but the best thing (and for me in the whole of the Mexican trip) was visiting the cenotes. Cenotes are fresh water holes that form in limestone caves and they were amazing. We visited 3 and it felt so good to get out of the heat and get into cool, clear bluer-than-blue water. It was a surreal experience swimming in underground caves with tree roots hanging through the ceiling and swallows and bats flying around. The only light is natural through openings in the roof and, even thought there are no monster fish, it was a bit scary swimming away from the light to the backs of the caves.

B even persuaded me to jump off a 3 metre platform into the water, although only the once. There were some wee kids, whose genitals had clearly not dropped yet, who were jumping into the water from the cave opening - about ten metres high, insane (see the video).

B: Chichen Itza has the famous Mayan pyramid as seen in all the photos. It has been restored on 2 sides and looks more like a pile of rubble round the back. I say this, not to spoil the illusion, but to illustrate the state the site was found in after hundreds of years being lost in the jungle.

Again, it was hot and humid so we hugged what little shade was available. The site is big and incorporates the largest known ballcourt in Mexico where the teams would play off for the privilege of being sacrificed. It was their tradition that the losing captain would chop off the winner's head to ensure the crop for the year.

The part which I found the most fascinating was the echo from the temple at the top of the pyramid. If you stood in the right place and clap, the sound who echo back slightly altered. The priest used to hide up the top and make booming (thanks to the acoustics) pronouncements which the ordinary folk would think came from god and obey.

The Cenotes experience was quite strange. We went in a minibus to a small village where we were transferred into small wooden carriages for 4 on train tracks like those used for mini tourist trains. These were then pulled along by horses to the three stops. Each stop had a cenote.

The first was quite tranquil with a five foot hogh platform to jump off. I persuaded K to try this which she did to my surprise without much persuasion. The second involved climbing down a long, precarious ladder to a pool with tree roots hanging down. I did the jump from here which was bigger than the previous one.

The final cenote had a big hole in the top so you could jump 10m into the water. I declined but one of our group tried it and for the next few days his "ass was in pieces" following the impact. There was also a 3m platform to jump from which I did several times. K looked at it for a bit then launched herself off it. I was even more surprised than before - I hadn't even tried to cajole her as I figured it was too high for her!

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