We were now in Maya realm, well only at its gates because it stretches to the whole of the Yucatán peninsula, the Mexican states of Chiapas, Belize, Guatemala and even Honduras. But time will come for everything. For the first contact with this civilization, we choose the archaeological site in Palenque. Before we got there we met, in a road blockade made by teachers in protest, a nice couple from Yucatan with his family. Within a short time, we were given cocoa fruit, which we never tasted before, local orchids and even an owl made of jade, a green mineral that is of great importance to Maya people. We were very pleased.
The city, discovered in 1746, flourished in the period from the mid-seventh to the end of the eighth century during the reign of King Pakal the Great (you can see the large carved stone sarcophagus lid from his tomb in a few photos above) and his son. You can read more about the history of this place, for example here. We started sightseeing after visiting the museum just after its opening (we were the first), then we walked among the pyramids, climbed on it and tried to learn as much as we could by keeping close to groups with tour guides:). It turned out that one of them even knew a few phrases in Polish; also his ID card was hanging on a leash with the word Polska. On the stairs of one of the buildings we met – Asia and Michał, polish backpackers (I used to think that it was the Portuguese who were everywhere but seems that I was wrong!) who started their adventure from South America. In the evening we also visited the less historic part of Palenque together.
Then we went to Campeche. Sergio had enough of the jungle and longed for the sea.
Campeche is a charming town, whose old buildings are surrounded by a wall. The facades of pastel coloured houses give a picturesque look to the streets during the day (uff how hot). During the day, we tried to be in the shade by, for example, visiting a restored hacienda at the market, and in the evening we went to a multimedia show.
At night, the streets are full of tourists, and the locals, oblivious to the flashes of all their cameras, show what the term Latino stands for.
For our surprise we met again with … Asia and Michał. We decided to spend some lazy days together in Celestun. Just enjoying the beach and the shade of the coconut trees.
The lazy days under the coconut trees were abruptly terminated due to heavy winds and rain. The rain was not that bad, but wind, violently wagging the tent in all directions, was becoming a serious threat. After a sleepless night (how do babies fall asleep in a swinging trolley is for me a complete mystery!) we thoroughly checked the tent for any damage. No damage whatsoever. The only casualty was one of ours foam mattresses – Sergio’s :), that flew away never to be seen again! It was time to change the Gulf of Mexico to a much friendlier Caribbean Sea. On the way to Valladolid, where this time we had an appointment with Asia and Michał, we stopped to visit Chichén Itzá.
It’s considered one of the largest Maya cities. The step-pyramid El Castillo, also known as Temple of Kukulcan, dominates the centre of the city. But Marzena was fascinated by another place – a Ballcourt for ritual ball games – Ullamaliztli. The outcome of the game sometimes determined the life or death of players.
The Maya still live in Yucatan. They mainly live from agriculture, cattle breeding and crafts.
In Valladolid we stayed at Xkopek campground. Here we saw how honey is produced in a traditional Mayan way. The name of the place refers directly to the dry cenote where the camp is located. Cenote is a natural pit resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. They are an important part of the Maya culture. Not only as a source of water but also as a sacred place, the entering to another world.
Together with Asia and Michał, we visited several cenotes within Valladolid’s surroundings.
And this is where we ended our forty-day journey through Mexico. Next post will be from Belize.