It was 6:00am and we have a 6:30 bus to catch. We are also moving rooms so we need to make sure everything is packed and ready. We went to bed at a reasonable time, but the same assholes got in at 3:00am and blasted music while partying it up. I was going to get up when I heard multiple other doors open and a yelling match start. I’m not about to get into some multi-way fight – but after a few minutes of shouting it all ended. Doors slammed and we were done.
I didn’t sleep after that but was dozing and my alarm didn’t sound at 5 like I wanted – so we were now running late. We gathered everything, cleaned up and packed all the bags. We ran to the Lobby, and I had to run back since I forgot the tickets.
Fortunately the van was a little late, so we were just on time. We were up this early because we had a full-day excursion out to Chichen-Itza. We were going to visit the Pyramids and Ruins, see the area, then we were going to swim in a Cenote – which is basically cave (or open depression) filled with fresh water. It was a 2.5 hour drive to get there – so we had to be up early. My panic subsided as we took our seats in the van, and we were off.
It was a long drive out, but we had a really nice group with us on the van. By this I mean we didn’t have any “Ugly Amaricans” along for the ride. We have had quite a few trips ruined by a group of loud, complaining White People – and not having that makes a big difference. we had a couple from Spain, a family from Italy, and a big family from San Diego. Everyone spoke some Spanish except us, so we were kind of the odd ones out.
We drove through Tulum, and along a highway that headed away from the coast since Chichen Itza is centrally located in the Yucatan. It was a nice area, but the deeper we got the poorer it became. Our guide mentioned that tourism really is the #1 industry, so the whole area is working to create more ways to promote visitors. Personally I think that’s great. I really don’t like the idea of resorts being so isolated from their communities. We always hope our tourism dollars help a community as a whole. The Cenote we were going to was apparently locally run by villagers and they benefit from it directly. Good!
As we got close to Chichen Itza we had a snack on the van – it was a sandwich and an apple. Not a great meal, but there would a be a full lunch at the cenote. I noted the the apples were Red Delicious – a name that I consider to be 50% accurate. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were from Washington. Everyone loves Red DeliciousApples – execpt anyone who has had literally any other kind of apple. These were actually pretty good for the variety – but if you are from Washington you can tend to become an apple snob. It’s like everyone drinks Cuervo – but you go to Mexico and had *real* tequilas. Same for apples.
That held us over and we pulled into the parking for the park. Everything was really well organized. We had to mask up as we went through the ticketing area, but once intop the park we didn’t need to keep them on. It was pretty hot again so that was good that we could ditch the masks. We walked up through trees into the open plateau and the ruins rose ahead of us.
They were stunning. I’ve said before how much I love architecture, and history, and this is a perfect combination. The ruins have been partially restored, and the whole plaza is available to walk around i. You can’t go into or on the ruins anymore – the area is a protected site since 2015 apparently. But I was happy to get pictures and hear about the history. We were also lucky to have a personal tour, we had two guides, one in Spanish and one in English, and the whole rest of the group went with the Spanish tour.
I found the main Pyramid and the Ball Court to be the most amazing. The detail of the carvings is still really good in a lot of the areas – and you can see traces throughout the walls of where color used to be. Imagine a whole plaza of ancient buildings all painted brightly – I see the use of color in modern mexican art and I imagine it is all from the same tradition. Really stunning.
We walked the grounds and found some shade as the runs extended into the wooded areas, right up to a small Cenote that was part of the ancient village there. This area now had a lot of local vendors, which meant that Yulia was immediately bargaining with them for some little bits of artwork and souvenirs. We headed back into the entrance plaza, and grabbed some Tacos from a spot out guide pointed out. We weren’t sure when lunch was going to be so it made sense to have something. We hung out there until the rst of our tour was back, and got in the van for the Cenote.
It was going to be an hour drive to the Cenote – so we were glad for the tacos. There was actually a lot of highway construction in this area. We had to detour a few times to go around some new roads being built, then we turned down a smaller road. From there we went and turned down and even smaller road – and that turned into a “road”. There had obviously been pavement here at one point, but it was less of a road with potholes than a pavement archipelago held together with hopes and dreams. Things improved once we ran out of pavement, and we pulled into the Cenote area. This was a nicely built adventure area.
We left the van and took a small walk into the jungle along a developed walkway. there were other areas for picnicking, and it looked like they also ran other tours here. But we followed the path to the cenote. This cenote was apparently one of the largest covered (full cave) centoes in the Yucatan. We were met at the front by a local elder who welcomed us in Mayan, and gave a traditional blessing for swimming in the Cenote. We were then shown in and had an excellent lunch of chicken and rice. This was served with a local variant of fried tortilla that included ground leaves that were part of a traditional recipe. Those were so good. I’m sure I ate too many.
After food we changed and showered before heading into the cenote. This is when I learned that we were going to rappel down. I didn’t realize it but when we ate lunch we were directly on top of where we would be swimming. The cave was directly below us. We went over to a platform and looked down. The water appeared to be a good 40-50 feet below us, and the cave was massive. Yulia was really excited and ran to the front, which meant I was going second. I think everyone was OK with watching us go first, this was something pretty new for everyone in the group.
We geared up into harnesses over our swimsuits, and they hooked us up two at a time. They had us lean back to take a picture, and Yulia went first. I started chasing her down the rope, we spun a bit as we descended, and you could really get a scale of the cave. Melted limestone ran down the walls, and you could see where old stalactites had been cut out for safety. We splashed down in the water, which actually wasn’t as cold as I expected, but it was really cold. We swam over to a platform to get rid of our gear and floated back out on inner tubes. Light was shining down through a hole in the roof of the cave, so we swam over to where it hit the water and pretended it was warmer there.
We watched as everyone in our group came down the ropes. Birds would fly into the cave and go in circles above us. In other areas, roots from the tree as on the surface hung down lice support cables into the water. It was nothing like i had ever seen. We swam about until we were getting too cold, then followed a set of stairs to a ramp that led out of the cave and back to the surface. It was a lot like a subway tunnel carved into the rock. It really let you know how deep we were.
We dried off and changed back into clothes. After the group was done, and we had time to get some local chocolate and gum (actual traditional tree gum) we all headed back to the van. It was going to be another 2 hour drive to the hotel. At this point I got a WhatsApp notification from our hotel that our new room was ready. I got them to move our bags, and they would update our keys once we returned.
It was a long drive back, but absolutely worth it. By the time we pulled into the Lobby, we were beat. Sasha and Petru went directly back to their room, and Yulia and I got our keys updated. Our new room was a big improvement, and we were happy to clean up after a long day.
We are also happy to be far away from our 3 am neighbors.