Monday, 28 April 2014

Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc

Being nowhere near a town, Uxmal has more facilities onsite than you’d expect from an archaeological site, and for 131 pesos we were allowed to park overnight in a small grass field. This is not a great price considering there was little shade, and no access to water, electricity or bathrooms, but we compensated ourselves by stealing the extremely good Wi-Fi connection from the Uxmal Lodge hotel next door. Getting a free internet connection in Mexico which is strong enough to use Skype on is rare, but the signal at Uxmal is plenty good enough. If I hadn’t been so concerned about damaging the revenue income from the hardworking studios in Hollywood, I would undoubtedly have downloaded a number of films overnight.

The next morning we visited the ruins early, aiming to get into the site before the tour buses arrived and before the day got too hot. Despite arriving half an hour after opening, the site was already busy. It wasn’t until a week later that I discovered that Mexico had come out of daylight savings time and we had actually arrived an hour and a half after opening. It is one of the joys of unemployment that you can happily live for more than a week with your watch an hour slow, without it making the slightest difference to anything.

After seeing a number of Mayan sites, they start to lose the sense of magic that they give you when you first see them, nevertheless Uxmal was still worth the trip. The Puuc style carvings found at Uxmal and the surrounding sites are amazing, even when compared with European facades from centuries later, and make the sites stand out from other Mayan sites with more typical architectural styles.


The day that we chose to visit Uxmal was uncharacteristically hot, even against the backdrop of many days not dropping below 35°C until well into the evening. There are a number of other Puuc style Mayan archaeological sites within a short distance from Uxmal, but in the heat we couldn’t summon the energy to visit most of them.

We did visit Kabah though, the small Puuc style site south of Uxmal, and not the holy Muslim shrine in Mecca, tens of thousands of miles away. The site is very small, and is clearly still work in progress regarding restoration. It was almost deserted when we visited, which I would speculate is because the site has no restored pyramids with which to lure fickle tourists. Nevertheless the huge carved façade is unique, and is something the huge pyramids at Chichen Itza and Ek Balam can’t compete with. 

The only sensible thing that we could think to do on such a hot day was retreat to the cool shade of a cave, and so we spent the rest of our day at Grutas Loltun, a huge cave which has been used by humans and animals for millennia. The cave has been robbed of all its Mayan artefacts, some legitimately to put in a museum in Campeche, some by less scrupulous folk, but the cave itself is still worth a visit. The cave is cavernous and the 2km guided walk exposes just a fraction of the caves extent. The guide’s do not get paid, and get their income from tips; in a group of 20 people a small donation per person will give the guide a decent sum, in a small group it becomes pretty expensive even just to give the guide something that isn’t insulting. With just Naomi and me in the group, we ended up spending more than we’d intended, it was nice to have the guide to ourselves but I expect if we’d known what it would cost us, we’d not have visited.

The day was drawing to a close as we left the caves, and we spent the night at a nearby Pemex, on the road to Merida.

1 comment:

  1. I love that your watch was an hour too slow for a whole week and you didn't realise! You can't do that in the 'real world'.