Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 3 - Acanceh, Cenotes de Cuzama, and Mayapan

We left Merida early this morning and headed south to Acanceh, a small Mayan ruin that is surrounded by and part of the modern town of Acanceh. Here Josh and I are standing atop the Pyramid, with the main church of Acanceh in the background. Our guide unlocked the fence surrounding the Pyramid (yes, something this large had a fence around it) and was kind enough to show us around.

From the top of the Pyramid, we could see into the neighbors' backyards. A second pyramid in the process of excavation is also seen here.

The top of the Pyramid in Acanceh has a roof built over the top because of an ongoing excavation of these large stucco masks. The previous palapa (thatch) roof was struck by lightening in a hurricane a couple of years ago and burned down.

After Acanceh, we drove to the small village of Chunkanan for a tour of the "Cenotes of Cuzama." To get to the cenotes, the local residents of Chunkanan have preserved and maintained a network of narrow-gage railway lines, which were once used to transport the annual henequen (a rope-like textile) harvest.

The local henequin plantations are no longer in use but the old rail lines and rail trolleys are used today to transport tourists to three cenotes. We traveled approximately five miles roundtrip on these rail trolleys today.

On our way back from the last cenote on the line, we encountered other rail trolleys inbound to the cenotes. The inbound rail trolleys had right-of-way and our conductor kindly asked us to exit the trolley so he could remove the trolley from the rail line. (The horse took this opportunity to find lunch). Once the inbound trolley had passed, our conductor pushed the rail trolley back on the rail line, reattached the horse, and we were off again!!

The cenotes themselves were breathtaking - all three were accessed by either a wooden stairway or ladder for an approximate decline in 50 feet from surface to cenote.

I took this photo of Josh halfway down the drop into the cenote.

Tree roots always seem to find their way through the ceiling of the cave and into the freshwater of the cenote.

Following our rail trip to the Cenotes of Cuzama, we lunched on a delicious lunch of cochinita pibil (marinated Mayan pork baked in banana leaves) and chile rellenos in Chunkanan. Next stop: Mayapan!! This small compact ruin (pictured above) was practically empty of other tourists and provided Josh and I with a great perspective of our surroundings.

Mayapan is one of the few Mayan ruins left where tourists can still explore every ruin on site. The above water-themed fresco was found on the top of the Templo del Pescador, or Temple of the Fisherman. There is a fish visible in the bottom-left corner of the photograph.

This stucco of the Mayan rain god Chaac (note the long nose symbolizing Chaac, a common theme in Mayan ruins) was found at the Observatory at Mayapan.

Between our stops in Acanceh, the Cenotes of Cuzama, and Mayapan, we could not have asked for a better way to spend a day. We shall see what tomorrow brings!

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