Uxmal - The Yucatan

When I’d talked to Cole about the trip in the previous months and asked him where his interests lay he’d shared with me that he'd like to see some Mayan ruins and the black sand beaches of the Pacific Coast, so that was our goal.

The Mayan empire at its peak stretched from the Yucatan Peninsula south into present day Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. Temple cities are scattered throughout the jungle so finding ruins to explore is an easy feat. For our first set of ruins the obvious choice would have been Chichen Itza, but in the 23 years that had passed since I'd first made this trip things had changed in many ways. When I had ridden through this area in 95 I’d visited Chichen Itza and had climbed the great pyramid, El Castillo, something that one can no longer do. In fact the more people we talked to about Chichen Itza the less our desire was to visit it. One can obviously still visit the ruins, no government in their right mind would close down such a tourist cash cow, but things had become much more restricted as Chichen Itza had become a victim of its own popularity. A visitor can no longer climb El Castillo or many of the other ruins onsite and on top of that stories of vendors trying to flog there wares at every step made us turn to another set of ruins that had impressed me immensely in 95, Uxmal.

On the road to Uxmal

Uxmal lies around 60kms south of Merida and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was founded in AD 700 and at its peak had a population of around 25,000 inhabitants. The buildings at the site were constructed between AD 700 and 1000. Uxmal represents some of the finest architectural features of the Mayan era. I find all Mayan ruins of interest but what really impressed me about Uxmal the first time I visited was The Pyramid of the Soothsayer which dominates the ceremonial heart of Uxmal, as we'd passed on Chichen Itza I was hoping Cole would feel the same way so we loaded up the bike and off we went.


The ultimate stair climber

After paying the entrance fees, local and federal, we started up the path which very quickly brought us to The Pyramid of the Soothsayer. It was just as I remembered, only now visitors weren't allowed to climb it, ah well, still we took it in and traced around its base and admired it from different angles. It really is a different structure than Chitzen Itza, in fact the whole complex has a very different feel to it. Where Chichen Itza sprawls over fairly flat topography Uxmal resides in the Puuc region which consists of a chain of hills so each ruin sits at a different level relative to its neighbor which added a sense of depth. The site is also well forested which provided a fresh green backdrop to the reddish grey stone of the ruins. We wandered around, took some photos, met a couple of iguanas along the way and spotted a family of bats lodged in the header over the door to one of the ruins. It was an amazing experience and each time I queried Cole's thoughts his go-to answer was, "pretty impressive!" And Uxmal really is.

The view from above

After a full day on site we finally headed for the exit when one of the groundskeepers started rounding everyone up and ushering them to the exit. It had been an amazing day but it was time to head back to Merida and some more churros.