A Travellerspoint blog

Ek Balam & Sak'awa Cenote

A local boy guides us to a beautiful underground swimming hole, by Ailsa

sunny 35 °C

After spending the night in a traditionally built palm-roofed hut we headed to Ek Balam to explore the ruins there. These ruins are smaller than Chichen Itza but we could climb the pyramid and touch the stones as practically nothing was roped off and the jungle was close on every side. We were the only visitors there for the first hour of the day so it felt really cool like we were discovering something in the middle of the jungle.

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Once the tour buses began to arrive we decided to leave and look for a cenote to cool off in. There is one at Ek Balam, but it sees lots of visitors each day and we were looking for something a little less touristy. A few villages further on we met a boy about my age who said he would show us a private cenote. He rode in our car and gave us directions. I couldn't understand what he said his name was so we just smiled at him. We parked our car and paid the landowner, Señor Antonio, to visit his cenote. We took a long path through the forest until we reached a huge hole in the ground. There was a wooden staircase which we climbed down and when we got to the bottom we looked around and saw turquoise blue water surrounding a little island, lots of little fish swimming around and vines, moss and trees stretching down from the ground above us. We threw on our swimsuits and tested out the water with our toes. It felt so good because it was cold and we were really hot from climbing the ruins. We swam around and then noticed a platform that we used to jump off into the middle of the cenote. We swam for about an hour until our parents made us get out and get dressed again. I would have stayed there for five hours.

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We climbed back out into the heat and got back in the car. We dropped our new friend off and headed to our next stop: Valladolid, to find our hotel and get some lunch.

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 14:02 Archived in Mexico Tagged ruins cenote Comments (0)

Rhymes with chicken pizza!

Chichen Itza, by Mirren

sunny 30 °C

We checked into the hotel on the grounds of Chichen Itza but the site was closed to visitors for the night. Instead we got to go swimming in the hotel pool. I was cool with that! The hotel was really fancy and the huge breakfast the next morning was delicious. Here is the view of the Observatory at Chichen Itza from the window in our room:

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The gates near our hotel opened early so we got to the ruins before any tour buses and had the whole place practically to ourselves. We made sure we had our sun hats, water to drink and our camera and went to meet our guide. Barrio has been a guide at archaeological sites all over Central America for the last 25 years and he told us all about the Mayans. Their human sacrifices, war strategies, ball games, calendar, religious beliefs and their building techniques. Only 4% of Chichen Itza has been excavated. The other 96% is still covered by the jungle.

The main pyramid was built so that on Solstice (longest day or shortest day) and Equinox (same length of day and night) the sun casts a shadow that makes it look like there are snakes crawling up and down the sides. There are four main sacred themes that were repeated on a lot of carvings on the buildings: jaguar (nighttime sky), eagle (daytime sky), snake (Mother Earth) and mask (mankind). At one special spot outside of the main pyramid we could clap and the echo sounded like an eagle's cry. It was pretty amazing!

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The ball court was a bit like a quidditch pitch. And all the snake carvings made us think of Harry Potter! Very cool!!

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By 10 am it was too hot in the sun for us and it was starting to get busy so we headed back for another swim in the pool!

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 09:00 Archived in Mexico Tagged ruins Comments (0)

Monarch Mariposa Reserve

Millions of butterflies, then millions of people, by Shona

sunny 22 °C

For the past few years our kids have hatched butterflies at school and been fascinated with the Monarch butterflies, and their multigenerational migration from where we live in Canada down to Mexico and back again. So, right from the initial planning stages of our trip it was near the top of the list of places to visit.

The story is quite remarkable! One generation of butterflies leaves Canada at the end of summer, flies thousands of kilometres south to overwinter in forests in the sanctuaries of the Monarch Mariposa Reserve in Mexico. The following spring, the group heads all the way back to their northern locations. Scientists have yet to figure out how they physically undertake such a long journey and how they find these locations when it was their long-dead great grandmothers who visited the previous year.

We were the first visitors to arrive at the reserve and the kids played on a 'retro' park set while we paid our admission and arranged for a guide. In the three minutes while we were doing so, Fraser decided to try some ninja stunt moves on the spinning merry-go-round and smashed his face. I am quite sure he broke his nose. It ended up bleeding for days, but he was a trooper and after a short cry he jumped into the back of a pickup truck with the rest of us for the bumpy ride up the first part of the mountain. Our driver was a lunatic and we were all soon laughing hysterically from being tossed around so much. Even Fraser :(

We hopped out of the pickup when the road ran out and hoofed up the rest of the mountain on foot. The trail had a mighty incline but the kids scampered up like it was flat terrain. I had to take a more leisurely pace but we all reached the summit eventually. Our guide located the roost of butterflies not far from where they had camped out the previous day. The kids (amazingly) sat in silence and watched the Monarchs begin to take flight as their bodies heated up as the cresting sun warmed up the sky. After 45 minutes another guided group of tourists caught up with us and the magic of the moment was lost. We quietly slipped down the mountain and granted the new group a few minutes of solitude with the Monarchs before the fast approaching hordes of tourists arrived.

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It was another four hour drive to our hotel in Mexico City and we all struggled to keep our eyes open. The next few days were spent wandering around seeing the sights. There was a huge park (bigger than Central Park) which enclosed a castle and a zoo where we (along with most of the 26 million city residents!) hung out for a day. The crowds just ended up being a bit too much for us as can be seen in these before and after photos from our peddle boat cruise. Ha, I guess there is sometimes a limit to how much time we can spend in close proximity. From here we fly to Merida in the Yucatan Peninsula where we will rent a car for a few days and see the archaeological sights.

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Posted by Salsa Sojourns 10:28 Archived in Mexico Tagged butterflies Comments (2)

A Few of my Favourite Things

Ice Cream, Punch Buggies & The Hobbit, by Fraser

sunny 24 °C

ICE CREAM:
Coco is one of my favourite flavours. It is what coconut is called in Mexico. Cappuccino is another one of the best. It is so yummy! We tried as many ice cream places as we could in Guanajuato. I like my ice cream in a cone, but when you get it in a cup here they give you two flavours. So, I like my ice cream in a cup too.

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PUNCH BUGGIES:
In case you don't know, Punch Buggies are VW Beetles. To play the very famous game, the first person that sees one driving by or parked tries to punch and yell: "Punch Buggy, No punch backs!" before anyone else can. Some people punch each other in the arm when they play, but we have to punch up into the air. But I still like to punch my sisters in the arm. Hee hee. There are so many Punch Buggies in Mexico! In Guanajuato, Ailsa and Mirren counted and there was a Punch Buggy for every 10 other kind of car. We were told that they were built in a factory here. Also, my dad said they don't rust like they do in Canada so they last longer.

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THE HOBBIT:
The movie. Part three. When we were passing through, we found a theatre in Mexico City that was showing the movie. In English with Spanish subtitles. My mom didn't know that Orcs could talk Spanish?!

Okay, we are going to bed now. Totally not fair.

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 19:13 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Christmas Day in Mexico

New Traditions, by Mirren

semi-overcast 19 °C

A week ago we went to the market and chose a piñata for Christmas morning. We bought each other small gifts at the market to put inside the piñata. We woke up on Christmas morning eager to open our little presents. It took so many hits before it showed some cracks. We were a bit frustrated by that point so we just ripped it open.

Since we are trying to travel with our backpacks we did not bring many extra things. We used actual socks for our Christmas stockings. Fraser found one that did not have a hole yet!

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We each got little toys and three little notes. One of them said we are going on a surprise adventure on Dec 26th! We also got tickets for the 1989 Taylor Swift Tour this summer. We are going with our friends, the McInnis family. I got new silver earrings and put them on right away!

We had fruit, Facetime'd family and had some quiet time to play with our new toys. We had nachos for Christmas lunch and headed out for a stroll through the town. We bought a few more little toys with our allowance money from the past few weeks.

We are making Shepherd's Pie for dinner, it doesn't have anything to do with the shepherds at Christmas... we just like Shepherd's pie!

It was a very different Christmas experience because there were only a few gifts each. The food was also different than what we usually have. But it was still good because we were all together.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Posted by Salsa Sojourns 20:10 Archived in Mexico Tagged christmas Comments (2)

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