Thursday, February 16, 2012

Come to Coba Just off the Mayan Riviera in Quintana Roo, Mexico

The ancient Mayan city of Coba was home to over 50,000 people and flourished between 500 and 900 AD.  Conflicts with Chichen Itza contributed to its demise after that time and it was abandoned to the jungle around 1550 just as the Spanish were arriving on the scene.  Coba was left alone and hard to get to until modern roads began to penetrate the area in the 1970's and even today it remains less than 10% excavated.

There is little surface water in the rocky grount of the Yucatan so we were surprised as we approached Coba to see some lakes. The explanation was astounding.  They were formed by the quarrying of the stone to build the city. Below is one of the five lakes around the city.

Once at the Coba site entrance you can walk or take what our guide called a Mayan Limo.  Two people jump on a front seat of an adapted bicycle and a young strong Mayan fellow pedals from behind. 

Here's our power supply,  Manuel.   

You can just see our tour guide, who jumped on a regular bicycle,  and led us off rolling through the jungle.   Visitors can also hire a regular bike or walk, but the excavated sites are some distance apart and if you are in a standard tour and have a time limit, the Mayan Limo is a good choice. It also makes a fairly nice slowmoving platform from which to snap photos.

We soon were able to see one of the two ball courts on the site.  The scoring ring is shown here. The courts here are much smaller than those at Chichen Itza, but the result was the same. The captain of the winning team earned the honor of being sacrificed to the Gods.

Jus below is our guide, Oscar,  off his bike and giving us a lesson in jungle smarts.  He showed us a bad tree with black stuff on it that you should not touch because it would give you a nasty and painful rash. He also showed us that usually somewhere nearby would be a good tree and some secretions on its bark  would help heal the rash if you got it. 

Oscar was an interesting fellow.  He was superbly bi-lingual.  He was born in the states. His father was an American Marine who was killed in Viet Nam and his mother was Mexican.

Off we go again.

Many of the temples, like this one, show the definite signs of being built in three stages. 

Oscar volunteered to take our picture at the entrance.

A number of stelae have been found at Coba. Many are in poor shape as they were carved into extremely soft limestone.  Some of the largest ones are now semi-protected by shelters.

The major sight at Coba is 140 foot tall pyramid called Nohoch Mul. It is one of the tallest in the region and also one of the few in the area that you can still climb.  Below we have dismounted from our bikes and are walking up toward the open plaza at the base of the pyramid.

There is a huge rope running up to the top and less intrepid climbers can use it for added support. 

We didn't sign up for the summit push, but we did manage to get up far enough to take some pictures.


The true bravehearts were justly celebratory when they did reach the top.

Given our age, the heat, the humidity, and the dire warnings scattered about the grounds we did not feel too guilty about choosing to be groundlings. 

Our Mayan limos then took us back to the entrance where our van was waiting to take us to lunch in a pleasant little open air restaurant on the shores of one of the lagoons..

 Mayan Lime Soup was a featured element of our meal and  it was delicious.

 Stay tuned for Tulum.  Coming next.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

And Then There was Mexico

My oh my! What are they looking at?

It is the view from the balcony of our old college friend's Playa del Carmen time-share and it has to be one of the most delightful sights this side of paradise. 

We have just returned from ten days of bonny beaches, delectable cuisine, and monumental Mayan archaeology.  It is hard to know where to start, but let's first give due to the unsurpassed hospitality of our hosts, Dave and Irene Spaetzel who honored us with an invitation to spend a week with them on the  Cancun Riviera at the Royal Resort's Royal Haciendas.  

We were in the lap of luxury from the first greetings by the well spoken and friendly folks at reception.  It doesn't take long after that to join the active group fun.

You can also belly up to happy hour service right next to and even in the pool.

Or how about taking over a palapa and just watching the Carribean lap gently on the shore.

If even that is too, strenuous grab a hammock and snooze the day away.

Nature lover?   There is no need to leave the reservation.

You don't even have to go off site for Mayan architecture when there's a Bob the Builder on the beach.

I know it's tough to leave the pool, but there are as many delights in the countryside as there are within the resort.  Join me tomorrow as we visit the ancient Mayan Cities of Coba and Tulum.