Because there’s so much to do on-site at Sandos Caracol, we only booked one excursion during our ten-day stay. The Mayan ruins at Tulum and Coba. It was an early start to the day and not even the burros wanted to be up yet. Just look at this sleepy guy leaning on the shed. Tulum is the oldest Mayan city located on the coast. Built in the late thirteenth century, the site had been abandoned by the end of the sixteenth century. It’s surrounded on three sides by a limestone wall, sixteen feet high and twenty-six feet thick, with thirty-nine foot cliffs guarding the sea side. Some historians believe the wall was used as protection for the city. Others contend only the upper castes, such as priests and scholars, were welcome in Tulum, so the walls were needed to keep out lower caste citizens. I wish we’d gone to Tulum before we experienced the grandeur of Chichen Itza. Not only because it’s much smaller in scope, but also Tulum’s ruins are roped off now and having to view them from a distance was a considerable letdown. I understand both the liability issues and the need to preserve the ruins, but perhaps a compromise could allow visitors to get a little closer. The Cenote house, built over the underground water source. The Gods of Winds temple and offertory. Our tour guide pointed out how this rock formation resembles an iguana, with its head in the water, the cliff as its body, and other rocks as its limbs. My photo doesn’t show how remarkable the resemblance really was. The structure on the cliff is the Temple of the Descending God. The beach below is protected for nesting sea turtles and no one is allowed on it. This structure is known by the romantic name of Palace 25. Temple of the Descending God. The Descending God motif is still visible above the doorway. I would’ve loved to have gotten a closer look at El Castillo, the largest building on the site. A walkway runs behind the castle and has spectacular sea views. The white line of waves is the barrier reef that runs along the Riviera Maya from Cancun to Guatemala. Not sure how successful this young man would be in rescuing anyone who might fall thirty-nine feet to the sea below. A view of the protected sea turtle beach from the other side, with the Gods of Winds Temple to the right. This dramatic photo of the Gods of Winds Temple that Hubby took is one of my trip favourites. Usually visitors can venture down to the beach to view the ruins from below. Access was disappointedly restricted that day because of high winds on the water. This structure is simply called Temple 54. One of the better preserved structures is the Temple of Frescos. There’s lots of interesting detail on the outside and a mural still exists inside, although we weren’t able to see it. Sculptured columns running along the length of the Great Palace’s main wall. Great Palace with Palace 25 in background. Great Palace with Temple of the Descending God in background. Cute little coati. Iguanas were everywhere. One of these small structures is the Watch Tower Temple. As we boarded the bus to leave Tutum, the skies opened. During our vacation we’d experienced occasional brisk winds and sometimes the sky briefly clouded over. But not a drop of rain fell until that day. (Coincidently, it also rained when we went to Chichen Itza, five years ago) The rain continued to fall as we arrived at the Mayan village and cenote. A Mayan Chaman did a cleansing ceremony for us. The Mayan religion has crosses similar to Christian ones, but a Mayan cross is distinguished by its traditional white Mayan dress. We explored the small hut while waiting for the rain to ease. Which it didn’t. After experiencing torrential rainfall in Cancun, Hubby and I always travel with rain ponchos. For the first time in five years, we needed them that day. Definitely not the height of fashion, but at our age comfort is foremost, and we were happy not to have to spend the rest of the day in soggy clothes. The cenote water was beautiful, even in the rain. This unusual cenote had an island in the middle. Presumably the island was formed when the ceiling of the cenote collapsed in. The rain had stopped by time we had lunch at the Ki-Hanal Restaurant just outside the Coba gates. This charming little gal tried her best to make friends with Hubby. I spotted this gorgeous Bougainvillea from the restaurant window and went down for a closer look. Too bad we can’t grow it at home. I’d eagerly anticipated our visit to Coba for months and my only disappointment was not being able to stay longer. Coba was occupied in the first century, with the population growing to about 50,000 inhabitants between 600 and 900 AD. The site was abandoned around 1550. It is approximately thirty square miles in size and largely unexcavated. It’s believed there’s up to 6000 structures, but only three small settlements can be visited. Dense jungle covers most of Coba, slowly and surely reducing the ruins to rubble. We saw many instances of this insidious encroachment. Visitors can no longer climb Grupo Coba. The first of two Juego de Pelota courts is located near Grupo Coba. These ball courts differ vastly from the large one at Chichen Itza, with the playing walls being much closer together. Despite the design difference, the results were similar – The captain of the winning team was sacrificed by having his head chopped off. There were lots of these low tunnels throughout the site. There’s three options to get to the next settlement two kilometres away. Walk, rent a bike, or hire a bike taxi. We walked, hoping to see more that way. This is an invasive African beehive. This is a Mayan beehive. I got an incredible close-up of the wee bees. (They don’t sting.) This hieroglyphic slab is called a Stela and there are many on-site, protected under thatch roofs. The second ball court, located near Grupo Nohoch Mul. Grupo Nohoch Mul is the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan. It’s approximately 140 feet tall with 120 steep, narrow steps. I could barely contain my excitement at the thought of climbing it. Hubby’s a machine and he motored up far faster than I did. I leisurely enjoyed every moment, stopping to take selfies, and had no problem making it to the dizzying view on top. With my vertigo on high alert, I had concerns about the trip down. Some young show-offs literally ran up and down, while others scootched on their butts, gripping the rope. I chose something in between, taking one step at a time, focusing downward as I moved. And it was a breeze. (Check out my climbing buddy!) It might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but it certainly was an exhilarating one for me, and I’m proud to say I conquered Grupo Nohoch Mul! Coba Lagoon Dinosaur towel art back at the resort Instead of traditional Mexican dancing, that Sunday’s evening show was about Xcalacoco. Remember the leaning burro from the morning? Here’s his brother sound asleep that night. You’d think he’d climbed a pyramid that day.