Saturday, 12 January 2013

Vacaciones en México: Parte 9

A day a little more energetic than our jaunt to Xpu-ha yesterday.  Today we took an organised tour that gave us the opportunity to visit a present day Mayan village, a guided tour around the ruins of Coba and, last but not least, a swim in a freshwater cenote.  From the outset the cenote swim was in doubt for me - cold water? You've got to be joking.

Firstly the Mayan village.  I am, by nature, a questioning, cynical person (Moi? Surely not) and that makes me a questioning, cynical tourist.  But I have to say that, putting a little folklorists colour to one side, our visit to the village was totally without the sort of 'look at the funny natives' patronising guff we've had during similar visits in other countries.  We saw a community as it is now (water from a well, open fires and clay ovens, one electric light powered by a car battery into which a small solar panel fed). Without most of the material trappings we consider essential for our lives but at ease with their way of life.  It's a community that embraces the present and wants to provide a different future for its young. It's also a community on the brink of tremendous change for across the road from them a new Mayan archaeological site, Muyil, is opening up new areas soon. This will attract many more tourists to their village and surrounds and there will be accompanying developments (hotels, restaurants etc).  We asked the question "what did they think about it?".  Some did not want any change, preferring the old ways, but the majority wanted to give their young more opportunities than they had.  It's going to happen so they may as well benefit from it. 
Concern for their future is shaping the way the community is positioning itself.
After the village, we headed for Coba.  Coba was in its prime from around AD 250 to 850, after which it declined through war with its neighbour, Chichen Itza.  It's a large site and is not yet fully excavated: there's a lot of buildings and structures still covered by the jungle.  The highlight of the visit was a climb (150 or so steps) to the top of Nohoch Mul, the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan.  It's also the only one that can be climbed but this is going to stop at the end of this month because of conservation concerns. It was steep but relatively easy going and the views from the top were magnificent.  It's then that the full size of the site and the mounds yet to be uncovered can really be seen.  As an aside, the previous time I climbed this structure I was wearing a steel corset - but that's another story. We went around the site the easy way - by cycle taxi.  OK, perhaps a lazy way of doing it but it was hot and the site is owned and run by the local Mayan community so we were helping them by employing their services.
Nohoch Mul: a doddle after Dartmoor
And finally my opportunity to show what a wimp I am - the cenote swim.  This one was at the end of quite a long path into the jungle and was surrounded by, you've guess it, trees.  Clear, fresh water oozing from limestone caverns.  Sounds tempting? But not tempting enough to get me in.  But my ITC, who is made of braver stuff than me, seemed to enjoy it.  Another good day out and we ended with the dilemma of where to eat tonight.

Look who's lurking in the cenote

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