|I was getting a little bit tired of sitting on the beach every day, so I decided to book a tour with Alltournative, which is a company that I have heard good things about. They organize adventurous, off-the-beaten track tours, with an emphasis on sustainable ecotourism. Lauren wasn't interested, so I left her to sleep in when my van picked me up at 7am this morning.
We started off the day by heading to a remote Mayan village. Alltournative is the only company that goes there, and they rotate between this village and two others, so it is still pretty traditional and doesn't cater to tourists because the villagers don't see very many outsiders. After the commercialism of the rest of the Yucatan peninsula, it was a real treat to see a relatively "unspoiled" village.
Our first activity was a hike to a lake where we took a zip-line across to the other side. I did a canopy tour in Costa Rica a few years ago and loved it, so I was really looking forward to doing another zip-line on this trip. After the zip-line, we hiked to an amazing cenote called the Cenote of the Jaguar. This particular cenote is still very natural and not developed into a swimming spot like the other ones that I have seen in the last couple of weeks, meaning that there is no staircase to get down to the water. The cenote had only two small holes in the roof, and from there, it was a 15m drop to the water. We were hooked up to some ropes and then we rappelled down to the water (I love rappelling!) where there were inner tubes waiting for us. The cavern was very large and the water was crystal clear. Even though it was 12-14m deep, we had no problem seeing the bottom, and there weren't too many catfish. Because there were only the two holes to the surface above us, it was pretty dark, especially around the edges, but when the sun came out above, it was beautiful. Two shafts of light came down and reflected off the surface of the water onto the cavern wall, which is how the cenote got its name, because the spots of light on the wall look like the eyes of a jaguar. We floated around for half an hour or so, and then we had the option of either climbing up a slippery ladder to the surface (remember... fifteen metres!) or getting pulled up by rope. I chose to be pulled up... easier, and definitely more fun. We headed back to the village, learning about some of the native plants on the way, and after canoeing around a lake for a little while, we were treated to a buffet lunch of Mayan food prepared by the local women.
After lunch, we hopped back in the van and drove to Coba. The ruins of Coba are very different from those of Chichen Itza for a few reasons. First, they are in the middle of the jungle, rather than on a plain, and very few of the structures have been cleared and restored. Also, they are far more extensive (the city is believed to have covered 50 km² at its height, and had a population of 40 000 people), so we rented bikes to drive along the paths to get to different parts of the park. Finally, the structures themselves look quite different from Chichen Itza, and more closely resemble the pyramids of Tikal in Guatemala, several hundred kilometres away. The ruins were far less manicured than Chichen Itza and many of the buildings were just mounds of stones overgrown with jungle. We could see in some places just how the tree roots grew into the buildings, breaking the rocks apart. At the end of the day, we had the chance to climb Nohoch Mul, also known as the Great Pyramid. It is 42m tall, making it the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula (remember that El Castillo was only 25m high!), but the stairs were larger and not too steep, so it wasn't very difficult to climb. From the top, we had a fantastic view of the surrounding jungle.
After Coba, it was back to Playa, where I met Lauren at the hostal to tell her about the day's adventures. After dinner, it was an early bedtime for me... I was beat.