Conquering Grupo Nohoch Mul

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. 1 Burro, early in the morning needing a lean 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. 3 Tulum 3a Tulum 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. 4 Tulum exit gate 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. 5 El Castillo The Cenote house, built over the underground water source. 6 Cenote House The Gods of Winds temple and offertory. 7 Templo Dios del Viento (Gods of Wind) 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. 8 Iguana-shaped rocks This structure is known by the romantic name of Palace 25. 9 Palace 25 10 Palace 25 11 Palace 25 Temple of the Descending God. The Descending God motif is still visible above the doorway. 12 Temple of the Descending God I would’ve loved to have gotten a closer look at El Castillo, the largest building on the site. 13 El Castillo 14 El Castillo 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. 15 Tulum 16 Tulum 17 Tulum Not sure how successful this young man would be in rescuing anyone who might fall thirty-nine feet to the sea below. 18 Tulum A view of the protected sea turtle beach from the other side, with the Gods of Winds Temple to the right. 19 Gods of Wind Temple 20 Templo Dios del Viento (God's of Wind) This dramatic photo of the Gods of Winds Temple that Hubby took is one of my trip favourites. 21 Templo Dios del Viento (God's of Wind) 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. 22 Tulum This structure is simply called Temple 54. 23 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. 27 Frescos Temple 28 Frescos Temple 29 Frescos Temple Sculptured columns running along the length of the Great Palace’s main wall. 30 Grand palace 31 Grand Palace Great Palace with Palace 25 in background. 32 Palace 25 & Grand Palace Great Palace with Temple of the Descending God in background. 33 Temple of the Descending God Cute little coati. 34 Coati @ Tulum 35 Coati @ Tulum Iguanas were everywhere. 24 Tulum 24a Iguana by Tulum 25 Tulum 26 Great Palace One of these small structures is the Watch Tower Temple. 36 Tulum 37 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. 782 Pouring rain A Mayan Chaman did a cleansing ceremony for us. 783 Chaman's hut @ Mayan village 783a Cleaning ceremony The Mayan religion has crosses similar to Christian ones, but a Mayan cross is distinguished by its traditional white Mayan dress. 784 Chaman's hut @ Mayan village We explored the small hut while waiting for the rain to ease. Which it didn’t. 783b Chaman's hut @ Mayan village 783c Chaman's hut @ Mayan village 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. 785 Pouring rain @ Cenote The cenote water was beautiful, even in the rain. 818 Cenote 824 Cenote This unusual cenote had an island in the middle. Presumably the island was formed when the ceiling of the cenote collapsed in. 814 Cenote 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. 846 Ki-Hanal Restaurant 848 Ki-Hanal Restaurant 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. 840 Bougainvilleas 841 Bougainvilleas 842 Bougainvilleas 843 Bougainvilleas 844 Bougainvilleas 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. 859 Coba Dense jungle covers most of Coba, slowly and surely reducing the ruins to rubble. We saw many instances of this insidious encroachment. 880 Coba 881 Grupo Coba 882 Coba Visitors can no longer climb Grupo Coba. 860 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. 862 1st Juego de Pelota court 863 1st Juego de Pelota court There were lots of these low tunnels throughout the site. 864 Coba 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. 892 Coba This is an invasive African beehive. 893 African beehive This is a Mayan beehive. 924a Mayan Beehive I got an incredible close-up of the wee bees. (They don’t sting.) 926 Mayan Beehive This hieroglyphic slab is called a Stela and there are many on-site, protected under thatch roofs. 901 'Stela' Coba The second ball court, located near Grupo Nohoch Mul. 902 2nd Juego de Pelota court 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. 906 Grupo Nohoch Mul Hubby’s a machine and he motored up far faster than I did. 907 Grupo Nohoch Mul I leisurely enjoyed every moment, stopping to take selfies, and had no problem making it to the dizzying view on top. 912 View from Grupo Nohoch Mul 914 On top of Grupo Nohoch Mul 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!) 921 Grupo Nohoch Mul 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! 923 Grupo Nohoch Mul Coba Lagoon 931 Coba lagoon Dinosaur towel art back at the resort 936 Towel art Instead of traditional Mexican dancing, that Sunday’s evening show was about Xcalacoco. 940 Xcalacoco Show 942 Xcalacoco Show 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. 948 Sleeping burro

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