|Subject: Maya Ruins - Part 2|
We left Merida in our rental car, (the $40.00 USD per day rental included insurance). Our first stop was the ruins of Oxkintok. This pre-Hispanic site is located half way between the port of Celestun on the Gulf of Mexico and the Dzibilchaltun archaeological zone just four miles north of the city of Merida. It is also the gateway or passage formed by both the west end of the Puuc hills and the rolling country bordering the Yucatan. The ruins date from the Early Classic to the Terminal Classic period, (300 to 1050 A.D.) and are partially restored. The site was deserted except for my wife and I and a bunch of iguanas scurrying around, entrance fee $38 pesos.
We next headed towards the town of Ticul. Ticul is best known for their pottery and leather goods and their artisans supply quite a bit of the Mexico market. The town itself is unremarkable for sights and has a few 1 star hotels. Driving in this area is a challenge not from the driver safety stand point, but rather basic navigation. The roads are narrow and usually unsigned. Even one way streets, (which abound in the Yucatan) are not always clearly marked! The other problem was language. Maya was widely spoken with Spanish as a second language.with my bad Spanish, at times it was a challenge! The people were always friendly and gracious to us and appreciated the effort, so it was only an inconvenience. Ticul was filled with large bikes that had two big wheels in the front with the driver sitting over a single wheel in the rear. They were used as taxi cabs; pick up trucks and general transportation. The bikes reminded us of the three wheeled bicycles we saw all over China, and were used just as creatively, carrying anything and everything!.
As it was getting dark, (a word of caution, DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT IN MEXICO, cows, horses, pedestrians and cars without lights are hazards you donít want to deal with!!) we decided to stay at the Mission Uxmal Hotel for two nights. The hotel is located within view of the Uxmal site, (pronounced OOSH-MAL) The hotel was classy, nice size rooms with balconies (4 star) and cost about $100.00 USD per night. The rooms were air conditioned, (when the air conditioner was turned on, a couple of geckos ran out and stayed the rest of the time on the ceiling. The harmless little lizards were in quite a few of the rooms we had, natural bug catchers.) The hotel had a nice pool, restaurant and bar. The other hotels near the Uxmal site were considerably more expensive, (I have a hard time paying a couple of hundred a night for a hotel in Mexico!) so our only choices were Ticul or Merida.
That night we went to the sound and light show at Uxmal. They open the ruin site at dark and visitors are seated in the Nunnery complex. Admission was $88 pesos, ($50 pesos was an archeological fee which was applied to your admission the next day at the site, save the receipt) and wireless head phones could be rented in several languages. The show was surprisingly entertaining! The ruins were lighted in different colors, (which complimented the ornate ruins) while you listened to a story of the Uxmal Mayan life and culture. The next morning we spent 7 hours exploring Uxmal which is an unbelievably beautiful site. The city of Uxmal, (600-1000 AD) is a stunning example of Classic Mayan architecture, visually the most dramatic site in the Puuc highlands and, some believe, in all Yucatan. Grouped as they are on a broad plateau, the buildings appear almost unreal. Uxmal is believed to be a site of extensive government and religious significance, although there is evidence of a large population of ordinary people living there.
We then explored the ruins of Kabah, which was completely deserted except for the two of us. We were able to explore, climb and poke around in every corner to our hearts content. Kabah is located 19 miles south of Uxmal and straddles both sides of Highway 161. Entrance to the site cost $38 pesos.
If you do visit Kabah, try and stop at a restaurant named El Chac Mool for lunch near the small town of Santa Elena. The restaurant is basically a large thatched hut located right on Highway 161, (well signed) just past the road to Santa Elena. The place was clean, the wait staff attentive, very inexpensive and the food was outstanding. We developed quite the liking for Yucatan food, definitely not typical Mexican food.
The main ruins at Kabah are only a few acres in size. The highlight is the Codz-Pop, a magnificent facade on a temple that is decorated with over 250 carved Chaac masks. The masks of Chaac, (Chac is pronounced CHALK) are everywhere in the Mayan ruin sites. Chaac was the all important god of rain, which was precious to the Maya due to the long dry season. Much blood has been let and valuables sacrificed to this important idol. The masks also bear a striking similarity to the Chinese Tíoa Tíie mask of the Chang period. How tempting to search for some form of relationship between them despite the geographic separation and a time gap of some 2000 years!
Water was kept in cisterns by the Maya for storage, (deep, brick/plaster lined holes in the ground used to store water) as Yucatan is a large porous limestone slab, and there is little to no surface water. Cisterns of various sizes were numerous throughout all of the sites. Lack of water and crop rotation problems are possible causes for the Maya decline, although scholars donít have answers due to the rapid decline of the civilization.
Chaac was portrayed with a long curved nose and eyes that look like he is wearing goggles. In the pictures I attached the link to, look for the long curved nose of Chaac,(some were broken off) and you can make out the goggles which are the eyes.
Close by the temple of the masks is a small path that leads off into the jungle to more partially restored buildings and mounds covering temples waiting to be discovered. Another Kabah attraction is located across the highway. Itís an impressive arch which once marked the beginning of a Sacbe extending all the way to Uxmal. A Sacbe is a raised Maya road that was made of limestone and covered with a layer of plaster. The Kabah Gate served as a kind of toll booth for travelers.
The Maya arch is also interesting. The Maya did not have the concept of the keystone, so the arches were built with progressively larger stones. What also amazed us is that the Maya built all of these beautiful, expansive elaborately carved cities without the aid of metal implements; they did not have use of the wheel nor used any beasts of burden! Everything had to be carried on their backs, often using a band that went around the forehead to help carry the load on their back; (you can see some Maya still using the devise today for a heavy load). These Sacbe were constructed through the jungle to link all of the cities together, some over 100 kilometers long.
Next we travel to Labna, Sayil, Zlapak and then off to Chichen Itza. Picture links follow:
Frank, California, USA