Monday, September 7, 2009


If you take the second class bus to Coba at 7:10am, you may have to spend the 45 minute trip standing, swaying, nodding off and being the only tourist on the crowded bus full of locals. However, this is definitely the best time to go to the Coba ruins. When we arrived, the parking lot was empty and we were one of the first visitors to the site that morning. It was still moderately cool (high 70s) and peaceful. Caleb's sister Michaela and I ate our little picnic breakfast at the base of the first temple pyramid.

Coba was once a large Mayan civilization with over 50,000 inhabitants. Most of the site dates back to 400-1100AD. It's impossible to comprehend age like that. To view these amazing ruins surrounded by jungle and have their age actually sink in is very hard. I found it fascinating that these ruins were not open to the public until 1973 and that most of it's 6,000 structures are still coverd under centuries of jungle growth. There were no roads to this place until the early '70s. The current town of Coba didn't get electricity until the 1980's!

We rented bikes for 30 pesos and began to explore. It's a really lovely, slightly bumpy ride on wide jungle paths. Birds were singing and the air smelled rich. There are many great ruins to explore, but the one that blew us away and nearly made us catch our breath Nohoch Mul. It is a 140ft temple pyramid whose presence dwarfs everything else in it's surroundings. Rising out of the jungle like some great tower of Babel, this pyramid alone was worth the trip. And here is the most astounding thing - you can still climb this pyramid! It is trecherously steep, a bit crumbling and the only thing to grab in case you stumble is a two inch wide rope that hangs from the top and is draped to the bottom. Like climbing a huge set of stairs, we made it to the very top and Oh! what a view! We could see across the jungle for miles. And for miles all we could see was jungle. Green, and dense and stunning. A tiny indent in the trees indicated the town of Coba, but other than that, there were no other buildings, roads, or civlization in sight. It made me think about what this land was like, Pre-Colonial times, when it was just the Mayans and the jungle.

Michaela and I sat for a long time up there, at the top of the world, watching eagles soar around us. When we finally headed down the very steep steps, hoards of tourists on bikes and in pedicabs were flooding in. We visited a few more ruins and headed out as more busloads of tourist were unloading. I must say, we had the perfect experience at Coba. We got there early, avoided the crowds and the heat and had the place mostly to ourselves. We patted ourselves on the back for a job well done and then headed to a tiny restaurant for some grilled chicken.

The restaurant was no more than three plastic tables and chairs in a cement block porch. The mouthwatering smell of chicken cooking on their grill next to the road, stopped us in our tracks and drew us inside. We ordered, a little unsure of what we would get, but when our food arrived we were delighted. We each had half of a grilled and marinated chicken, beans, rice, cabbage and carrot salad, salsa and tortillas. Quite the feast. The tortilla factory was not more than ten feet away and our server, the owner, went over and bought us steaming hot, fresh tortillas.
I watched a very old Mayan woman with a bucket of maize, go into the tortilleria, dump the bucket into a grinder and scoop out armfuls of cornmeal dough.

1 comment:

Kate Larsen said...

The photos are striking and your story is like a sketch or drawing that shows us your experience.You decorated each scene of your day with wonderful words! Had I never gone I would have felt I had by just reading this. I'm so happy Michaela and you learned so much and had such a wonderful, wonderful time together!