Day 5 - Chichen Itza, Cenote Ik Kil, Ek Ba'lam

Date: 2007-11-13
Location: Cancun 07

Today our tour bus arrived early and we jumped onboard. Along the way Ricardo showed us some maps, books and pictures of the Mayan kingdom. He also told us about the rich history and the chain of violence that surrounded the Mayan culture. We listen attentively while our driver took us deep inland to the famous Mayan ruin--Chichen Itza.

Along the way, we noticed a lot of the Mayan buildings, a mixture of modern houses and primitive houses with thatched roofs. Along the way, some people liked up at us with wild eyes, while others just attend to their own business.

We drove over two hours and finally arrived Chichen Itza sometime in the morning. The park was just opened not long ago, and we were glad that we’d beat the school of buses that buzzed around the area with their belly full of tourists.

Ricardo warned us that the place had become very much commercialized. Each day, hundreds of vendors would lined up around the area, selling you things mostly stuffs that either made from place like Tabasco or foreign places such as China or Philippines. The only locally made artifacts were probably the wood carvings.

Once we entered the entrance gate, we saw that he was right. Even under the morning sun, countless vendors already started to unpack their merchandise along both side of the street. Ricardo told us the vendors pay a small fee each day to obtain a spot here.

The temples in the back were richly decorated with sculptures and carvings. One of the structures has a sign “The Church”. Though I couldn’t find any correlation between the building and the word “church”. It had the Becabs on its four corners. The Becabs was a set of four divinities that supported the four corners of the sky – the turtle, the conch, the armadillo, and the crab. Each of the deity came with a hard shell that supports the sky; each of them has the hand and legs of human. A little over it was a structure that a doorway resembled a huge mouth with sharp teeth hang over the roof of the door, a rolling tongue extended out as an entrance way, and a set of teeth (now already fallen down) that protruded out from underneath the door. It is the gateway to the underworld. This scene can also be seen at other sites.

We walked around and witnessed some beautifully constructed structures. One place was used as a sauna that servants would pure water over the burning wood to create steams in the small room. Outside of it was a pool that a steam of water was led into the round shaped tube that one can cool down a bit after the sauna. This complete the purification process before the king or the priests enters the sacred area. The Observatory that had a dome shaped, unfortunately now partially collapsed top. The place must been a splendid palace back in time. Ricardo told us there are four doors on the four sides of the temple. Using the shadows cast on the floor, the ancient astrologists would calculate the days in a year. We climbed on the middle level. The level that led to the dome shaped structure was closed to the public. We walked around it until we found a small door that led to the circular path that led to the interior of the observatory. The door, however, was locked with an iron lock.

Once we were back to the path, we heading toward the most famous structure in Chichen Itza – the Castillo (or the Pyramid of Kukulcan). The ancient pyramid was under several restorations. The stairs that once climbed by kings, priests and modern day tourists were no longer open to the public. One can only admire it from below. Regretfully, some of its sides could not be completely restored because the Spanish had taken the stones to build their haciendas. One can only visualize it former magnificence and glory by looking at the front side of it.

Ricardo pointed out each corner of the pyramid has a head of a snake. During Equinox, modern day scholars found out the shadow of the stairs and the head gives the impression of an undulating body of giant serpent.

We noticed some tourists were clapping hands while standing toward the opening door of the temple that sits on top of the pyramid. We tried the same and found the effect a bit eerie. The clapping sound was echoed back to us was loud and a bit metallic. First I thought it was like someone beating the rock with a bamboo stick. Then it sounded like knocking on a tightly winded metal thread. It was crispy and twanging.

Walked around it we found ourselves looking at the Temple of the Warriors, here many stone columns were erected around the temple. Sitting on its top was a Chac Mool, a reclining man that holds a plate on its stomach. Again, the restoration of the area force us to admire it from blow and far away.

Ricardo then took us toward the famous ball court. We first came across the wall that contains rows after rows of life-size carving of skulls. Back in the old days, the head of the loser can be seen displayed on top of the wall. The middle relief depicted the ones that no longer seemed to be living. They are dressed exactly alike their counterparts with feather head dress, body armors, and one hand hold some kind spear like weapons while the other grasping hairs from a decapitated head. They had skeletal legs and arms and they had a blank expression on their face. On the right side, however, they are more like normal people with live expression.

Once passed this gruesome depiction, we arrived the ball court. The ball court here is much taller than others. The two walls were unlike others, they were straight with two rings hanging on top. I guess this made the scoring even harder.

One end of the ball court were stands for the priests while the other ends were stands for loyalties. The acoustic inside was well designed so the communication was done by facing wall and talking normally, and the other side could hear clearly.

Just as we leaving the area, we could see the buses loads of people started to showing up. We were glad that we had beat the rush.

Leaving Chichen Itza, we stopped by Cenote Ik Kil, know as the Sacred Blue Cenote The Cenote was a huge underground water hole about 80 feet blow the surface. Unlike most of the cenote, it was round and has a huge opening to the sky. The opening was surrounding with rich green foliage. Their long roots hang from opening, drapped down like long curtains. A winding stair led down to the bottom of the cenote. At a couple area, there were large window like openingd on the rocky wall. We stood in front of a couple of them and gazed down into the deep green pool below. After taking several flights of stairs, we reached the bottom level. Here a rocky paved landing area surrounded the entrance to the pool. There were a couple of wooden stairs that led into the pool. Some visitors, however, enjoy jumping directly into the cool refreshing pool.

The view was splendid. The giant opening on the top was like a huge sky roof, were sun light and plants peaked into the opening. At a few openings, cool water running down like small water falls.

When our stomachs started to protest, we left the cenote and head toward Shabe, a Hacienda style buffet place that frequented by various tourists groups. For about 80 pesos per adult, one can eat as much as you want. There is a plenty of salad, Yucutan style baked chicken, fried fish fillets, spaghetti, fried egg cake… all the way to various deserts. I loaded my plate with fish fillets. We even asked our waiter to bring out a cup of habenero slices. It seems that only in the Yucatan area, one can request freshly chopped habenero without having to explain what habenero is.

In the afternoon, we went to Ek Ba’lam. The name of place was translated to “black jaguar”. The king was once ruled the place was Couch Cal Balam, or "king of all kings". Once we walked into the area, we found the place nestled within the dense jungle and clocked in an air of serenity and tranquility. The whole place stood within the jungle and bathed in a shower of golden late afternoon sun. For a while, we almost believed that we had the whole place to ourselves.

We walked by the usual temples, ball courts and other structure. While the two little guy peering into the darkness of this small room, Ricardo casually informed us that no long ago, remains of a small child was found inside of a pot. It seemed to be an offer to the god. I couldn’t help but felt a chill ran through me and I pulled the little ones out of the room.

The tall pyramid in the middle of the jungle was the Tower. It is a tall structure under aggressive restoration. In the middle of the structure was a stair case reached all the way to the top temple. There were levels divided on each side. Each level was lined up with rooms in various sizes.

Ricardo, who actually climbed up the steeping steps with us, told us the interesting story behind the level of sculptures. He said the whole level was first blocked off by a wall. The archeologist reached the back of that way. When shine inside with a flashlight, they found the profile of some sculptures. Once the wall was removed, a vividly depicted scene appeared.

The center was the opening to the underworld, with its gaping mouth opening wide. The opening was adored with beautifully carved figurines. If Ricardo didn’t tell us that everything was in their original state, I would have believed that the restoration just recreated the whole place a few days ago. Ricardo told us that the Couch Cal Balam’s remain were found within the chamber. It seems the Mayans simply put a wall around the section when they left the city.

I followed Ricardo walked in a zig-zag fashion and soon we were on the top of the tower. Among the green ocean, we could see some other areas structures gleaming in the far distance. In good days, Ricardo says, one could see Chichen Itza and Coba. Though I didn’t see as far as that, I did felt a sense of peacefulness rush through me as I looking into the hazing world underneath of us that was bathed in the golden sun light.

The return trip took much longer than we each cared for. I believe everyone of us, except our driver, dozed off at some point.

It was dark when we returned to our condo. Amazingly, the little one still wanted to go to the pool. The guys dragged themselves to the pool with the little ones. Most of us were still full from our buffet lunch. So we each had a couple of instant noodle and went straight to the bed.

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