Cinco de Mayo - Your
place or Mayan...
El Castillo at Chichen Itza
Another "sanity vacation"
opportunity arose in-between two business trips in early
May, so off I flew for three days in Cancun. The trip
was a good mixture of Caribbean beaches, visits to four
Mayan archeological sites and just plain downtime. All
told I hiked about 10 miles, drove over 500 miles and
climbed two tall pyramids in the Yucatan. This was my
first trip to Mexico in a long time and I was pleasantly
surprised. The roads were excellent, the beaches
beautiful and there was more than enough good food and
things to do and see.
May 5th - Cinco de Mayo
My flight from Chicago arrived
around noon on Cinco de Mayo, Mexico's commemoration of the
victory of their militia over the French army at Puebla in
1862. I was out of customs in 40 minutes and driving my rental
car out of the airport by 1pm. It was around 90°F and humid
during my entire stay, normal for this time of year. Somehow I
got lost crossing Hwy. 307 and ended up going through the city
of Cancun then coming south
through the beach area instead of direct to the hotel.
Top of Nohoch Mul El Castillo at
After checking in at the
Marriott Casa Magna and doing my ceremonial sanity
vacation watch removal, I headed north to the Hard Rock Café
for a late lunch. I roamed around the Punta Cancun area for a while,
picked up some supplies at a grocery store and headed back to
the hotel. After a beer break on my balcony (first picture
above), I headed out for a long barefoot beach walk - probably
3 or 4 miles round trip - ending after sunset (second picture
May 6th - Chichen Itza & Ek
Having read stories on the web of
how crowded Chichen Itza got once the tour busses start
arriving in late morning, I decided to head out around 7am on
Hwy. 180D Cuota (toll road) for the two hour drive west. The
Cuota was a dream to drive (third picture above), four lanes,
110Km/Hr with almost no traffic, but the two tolls were steep -
194 & 48 pesos (~$23 US total) each way.
A thousand years of pre-Hispanic
history happened at
Chichen Itza, beginning
around 500AD. The 2.5 square mile site is hard to describe -
being there was part of the experience.
The famous main pyramid, El Castillo, was certainly imposing (fourth picture above, first and
second pictures below). The whole site took about 90 minutes
to see - I tend to move fast. I climbed everything they let me
climb, but El Castillo is now strictly off-limits. The
observatory and "church" (La Inglesia) were visually striking
- plenty of science mixed with religion (third and fourth
from Chichen Itza, I noticed that there are an incredible
number of butterflies wild in the Yucatan - so many that they
dotted my windshield on the way from Chichen Itza to Ek Balam,
another Mayan site about a half hour north of the Cuota on the
way back to Cancun.
Ek Balam (Black Jaguar) was prominent from
around 400AD until 1200 AD. The site (first picture below) was
much smaller than Chichen Itza, dominated by the 100ft tall
Acropolis Pyramid (second picture below). I climbed to the top
and took the third picture below looking back over the rest of
the site and surrounding jungle.
I got back to Cancun by
mid-afternoon and spent the next 4 hours walking the beach and
hanging out on my balcony reading a book and listening to
music. For dinner I walked over to the Crab House where I sat
at an ocean front table to watch the sunset over the city of
Cancun across the bay (fourth picture below), including a
drinkable Mexican wine and seafood with a Mexican spice flair.
May 7th - Tulum & Coba
Monday mid-morning I headed south
on Hwy. 307 for a leisurely two hour drive along the Mexican
Riviera Caribbean coast, stopping first at Tulum (first and
second pictures below).
a very famous Mayan walled city, but
besides the beautiful location perched on the cliffs
overlooking the Caribbean, it left me cold. There were
lots of tourists there and I wasn't allowed to climb or even
get close to its El Castillo. My impression is that they've made
the site too
Contrast that to
Coba - outstanding!
Heading out of Tulum city, Coba was an easy 45 minute drive
inland on good roads, with an occasional small village along
the way (third picture below, showing Mexico's notorious speed
bumps). Coba's massive 26 square miles are almost completely natural, with much of the site
still swallowed up by the jungle. The walk in to get to
much of the site was on a well groomed jungle pathway (fourth
picture below) that's about a mile
Along the pathway there were
several groups of buildings, including La Inglesia (first
picture below), which I climbed as far as I was allowed.
Coba's 138ft tall Nohoch Mul El Castillo (second picture
below), is the highest pyramid in the
Yucatan and the second highest in all of Mexico. Best of all -
they let me climb it to the top (large picture top of page
right). That view across the jungle floor was imposing, as was
the view of those steep 120 steps heading back down (third
picture below). Along the pathway back to the parking lot I
took a detour to see some of the other areas, including the
"Paintings complex" and the unique oval shaped Xiabe temple
(fourth picture below).
returning to Cancun in the late afternoon, I spent some more
beach time and then drove to the north end of the island to
do some souvenir shopping for the family. I ate dinner at a
famous loud bar/restaurant called
Carlos and Charlie's, which
was apropos for my last night in Cancun. Having declared
myself once again relaxed and sane, on Tuesday morning I
reluctantly donned my watch again and flew out to Boston via
Chicago to continue my business trip.
I highly recommend the
Guides in a Map", which provided maps and insights for
this trip. I bought the Chichen Itza, Riviera Maya and Cancun
editions ahead of time on the web at $8US each.
Mackey Group, Inc.
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