ValladolidApril 16, 2017 in Mexico
With a fairly short 2hr 40 minute bus journey we arrived in the much smaller quaint city of Valladolid. Our hotel was thankfully only a 5 minute walk from the bus station, so we went dropped our belongings and got changed into swimwear keen to start the day.
We'd read and heard about two good cenotes only a few miles out of the city, collectively called the Dzitnup cenotes as they are opposite each other. We jumped in a taxi and shortly arrived.
Of course these were rather touristy, which seemed to be the case for many cenotes it seems, but this was a new level. A heavy entry price, an insistence of having a professional photo and request to hold a parrot. We hurried through declining and went to the first cenote. This one had stone steps and different viewing platforms on the way down as it was quite deep. But it was impressive. It was very large and almost perfectly round, with nice clear water and a large hole at the top where the light came in. It was quite busy with people but due to the size it didn't seem overly crowded thankfully. We got into the cool waters and swam to the deep end where there was no one else, it had lots of prutruding ledges where you could sit which we enjoyed.
We went over to the shallow area in the middle and there was a big pile of rock, which is clearly where the above hole had come from. There was a warning sign not to go behind there which was a little unnerving. At times cenotes can feel a little claustrophobic if you think of where you are... especially when there is ever only one entrance/exit. You just have to ignore it, like with any fear I suppose.
For the first time ever we felt a little chilly in this one as it's the coldest water yet, but still so refreshing in the Mexican heat. After awhile we decided to explore the second cenote. As we came up to the surface we spotted our nemesis...the coach tours pulling up in the car park. Eek no go away! No offence to those people, as of course we also occasionally do coach tours. The issue is they bring so many people at a time which can really ruin the atmosphere of places, especially things like cenotes which can only cope with so many people before it's unpleasant.
We were hopeful they'd go to the cenote we'd just been in first and we'd miss them!
Off we hurried to the second. This had a much narrower entrance where you had to duck your head to get through, as we walked down there must have been a power cut as it was pitch black. I froze in my spot as I couldn't see the steps. Thankfully a man almost immediately came down with a large light to guide the way. Before you knew it the cenote opened out and you could see a big pool of turquoise water. As well as lots of stalagmites and stalactites hanging from the ceiling which was very cool. I'd say this was almost more like a cave, but there was a small hole in the ceiling where light came through. We were there at the prime time around noon where the sun shines down in a thick clear beam into the water. That did look amazing.
Once in the water it was quite dark until you swam into the sun spotlight and it was blinding! You couldn't see anything else around you and the water sparkled beneath you. It was very cool. At one point there was cloud cover which was good, as then I could look up to see the sky which I thought was quite magical.
Like all cenotes this one was full of blind black catfish. You see them in all cenotes as it's their prime living conditions, but as they are blind they occasionally bump into you or suck you. I found it cute but I think a lot of people would not.
We enjoyed this cenote in a completely different way than the last, and it's very interesting how different they can all be.
After awhile we'd had our fix and decided to leave. As we were still wet we decided to get a taxi straight to the final cenote we wanted to try. This one is right in the middle of Valladolid town which makes it very unique. So we figured as we're getting a taxi back why not stop there. On arrival this cenote had the real wow factor. It was almost half a cenote, with one half covered by a huge cave and the rest of the pool open air. Where the rock edge is, water falls over the edge into the pool creating two gentle waterfalls. The water was a perfect aquamarine and the rock sides where covered in fern foliage, making this a very attractive area. Again there was a fair amount of people yet plenty of room, as well as a fun friendly atmosphere. It felt like more of family locals spot that a tourist attraction, and that created a nice vibe. There are several different ledges around the pool which you can jump from, the tallest of which Phil very bravely jumped off. It was at least 10 metres and I'm very proud he did it. He had a lot of encouragement from the crowd and a big cheer as he landed. Truthfully not sure he liked it but all the same fun to try something at least once. We stayed here longer than the rest and enjoyed sitting on the algae covered rock 'seats' by the ledge and floating around in the water.
Except for our perfect Cuzama cenote, Cenote Zaci there in Valladolid was a lovely find.
We walked back to our hotel, showered and headed back out for an early dinner having skipped lunch through all our swimming adventures. We ended up in a lovely courtyard garden restaurant next to the main cathedral, and enjoyed one of our last meals listening to the bells ring. Before wandering back we made a complusory stop for a Marquesita and enjoyed the lovely energy every town square seems to hold in Mexico.
Suddenly it was Sunday and unbelievably our final day of our trip! We got up early, headed to the bus stop and made out way to the famous Chichen Itza Mayan sight. We'd arrived not long after opening time hoping to miss the heat and the crowds. Instantly as you walk in you are greeted by the highlight, the main image of the place, the Castillo (the large pyramid temple). I cannot deny it's beauty and has been heavily restored which gives you that awe factor, as you can see a clearer image of how it would have looked in it's hayday. Also the design is ingenius, the pyramid is a calender. The stairs on each side have 91 steps each; add the top platform and the total is 365, the number of days in a year. On each facade of the pyramid are 52 flat panels which are reminders of the 52 years of the Mayan calender. To top it off, during Spring and Autumn equinoxes, the way the light and shadow falls creates a series of triangles on the side of the north staircase, that mimic the creep of a serpent (there is a serpents head flanking the bottom of the staircase). How amazing would that be to see!?
From here we went round the rest of the site which we felt had many other impressive buildings that others miss. One area there was hardly any people that housed an observatory and a nunnery. Again with amazing designs, and the nunnery had some of the best preservation of carvings I've seen at any of the Mayan sites. These buildings look fantastic now, but I can't even imagine how incredible all Mayan temple complexes would have looked back then, painted and guilded. On this site was also a large ball court for their favourite game Pok Ta Pok. It's essentially a large court with two stone rings high on each side. Using only their hips or elbows players had to get a ball through it. The game seems impossible to be honest but obviously was do-able. Sadly the winners of the game would be the next human sacrifices (which was a big Mayan obsession). Talking of human sacrifices, next door was a large raised platform covered in carved skulls, again in eerily good condition. Here is where they would put out the decapitated heads from their sacrifices for the gods...nice!
By now it was creeping up to midday and although clearly busier in the main central plaza not as mad as I expected, although the heat was there and we were satisfied with what we saw. We understand why it's a wonder of the world, although we've also enjoyed other Mayan sites maybe more in different ways.
Anyway off we went to grab an ice cream and get the bus back to town. Once back we went straight to lunch and had Queso Especial.... a massive plate of melted cheese with some toppings on it. I swear I've must have put on weight in Mexico!
Once suitably stuffed we went back to the hotel for some much needed downtime. We swam in the pool, napped on a lounger and enjoyed reflecting on our experience.
We weren't feeling so well later on (too much cheese??) So we didn't bother with dinner, but just had an evening stroll seeing the city lit up at night and enjoying our last night out on the road.
With a small lie in the next morning, we hoped onto a bus for Cancun, then the airport, ready for a mammoth journey home having to fly via Mexico City.
By now we can only talk about what an incredable experience this has been, although now at the airport we can safely say we are also excited to go home.