Uxmal - World Heritage Site
Uxmal is a very different experience from Chichen Itza. Here there were none of the crowds, none of the vendors, just a number of very well restored structures. The Mayan glyphs (their alphabet is a complex set of signs and symbols that took decades to unravel) are much better preserved here than at precious sites. Again, the site, while distinctly Mayan, is notably different than those that came before. Lorraine noted that it feels much more communal and less warlike than Chichen.
I climb the Great Pyramid here. Except for Coba, this was forbidden at earlier sites. A great view of jungle stretching in every direction. I appreciate the reasons for preserving the artifact. I also appreciate the reasons for preserving the experience.
Uxmal was one of the sites I first read about in John Lloyd Stephens' Incidents of Travel in Central America illustrated by Frederick Catherwood. In the 1830's and '40s they discovered, mapped, and illustrated over 40 Mayan sites. It's back on my reading list. In many ways the Mayan achievements are even more inexplicable than any of the other great early civilizations. They created a complex alphabet, used the number zero, were extremely sophisticated in astronomy, and built enormous city complexes of real beauty - without the wheel and using only stone tools. Their culture lasted for the better part of a thousand years and left behind as much mystery as beauty.
After our visit to Uxmal we had lunch at a little comida in the nearby town of Santa Elena. We always found excellent food and hospitality wherever we went in the Yucatan - from the simplest comida to the most elegant resort.
We're staying an eco-lodge called The Pickled Onion, named for a common Yucatan condiment. The owner/manager is American. The atmosphere is eclectic, the food delicious, the drinks just right and the service is perfect. We take an anonymous poll at the end of the trip and the Onion is our unanimous favorite.
Our final ruins of the trip were just a few miles South of the Onion along what is known as the Puuc Route. The Puuc hills were home to a number of smaller Mayan sites that were connected to each other by the "white roads" that were as much as 100 kilometers in length.
Kabah is quite small but one of the most memorable ruins on the Yucatan. Its palace, the Codz Poop, is ornamented with hundreds of Chuc (Rain God) masks. On the opposite side of the structure are two warrior figures, perhaps the best preserved of all the figures we saw.