DESTINATION UXMAL VIa Merida, MEXICO.

OR GETTING TO THIS FAMOUS MAYAN SITE IN PUUL.

I’ve again written in my journal so straight from the horses mouth, on how I finally went from Tulum and to Uxmal via Merida.

Magnificent facade at the ‘Nunnery’

I’d packed up the flat earlier to leave it neat for the lady putting on new sheets etc. I had decided against eating the hard boiled eggs that I’d made the night before that I thought might bind me a bit as I had had rather a dodgy tummy and was trying to weigh out the pros and cons of eating anything at all. The bus journey is four hours and I didn’t want to stink up the loo. These are the things you have to consider while travelling by bus especially. Anyway new earphones in my bag I just made the bus. There was some confusion as to what time it was, my watch said an hour earlier than my phone. This would come back to haunt me as I changed my watch to the phone time, and got on the bus just on time.

Detail of the long frieze in the ‘Nunnery’ and a feathered serpent.

I was to sit next to a truly lovely German guy who was like minded so we had a fantastic conversation while he filled his boots with a vegan feast from his Tupperware box and spoke of many alternative theories of what’s happening in the world at present for me to ponder, and I did the same, giving both of us food for thought. It was all very positive and good vibes flowed. Then he showed me his home made mask and I nearly pissed myself laughing. He had fashioned what looked like a bit of kitchen roll with crude bits of what looked knicker elastic and showed the gap on either side where oxygen could flow freely thus keeping everyone happy. With the unruly frayed knots going in one eye he looked at me with serious face thus creasing me up yet again with terribly loud laughter startling all on the bus. He got off with his mate at Valladolid and and I missed him and can’t find his number, hoping he’ll contact me.

Drinking mojitos al fresco.

Coming into Merida had been a treat, a known territory and all that. Although the journey had been seamless I was very tired. I had booked the same hotel where I had broken my foot last time here falling from the bathroom step. God knows why I rebooked. [They bunged me into a room overlooking the street, claiming a big party had come in, which the guy said was very quiet with hardly any traffic, what a liar.]

Chicken parmesan with fabulous fresh veggies al dente, served with hot bread and aioli

I returned to the reception to organise where the bus went for Uxmal the next day. There was one at nine which was perfect as I had been concerned about Sunday service. I went to my favourite bistro 57 and had a burger for my very late lunch of burger and pomme frites and a couple of glasses of Merlot. This was also the place I had had my first tequila in Mexico so I had to go back.

Plaza Santa Lucia

I am now sitting in Plaza Santa Lucia supping a mojito in this lovely restaurant square with its twinkly lights, living the dream. I’ll hit the sack early as I have a big day tomorrow. [Much earlier than I thought]] The music system played ‘Easy like a Sunday morning’ and all my plans are tidily in place. I hope Kabah is also open for it seems nobody knows for sure and these web sites cannot be trusted. I’m not going to stress about it as very small things can trigger me at the moment. I’m now going to do some research on the details for a change before actually going and winging it till after my visit, occasionally listening in on tour guides when I hear something of interest.

Bad timing.

The next morning. Terrible nights sleep, so much noise from cars crashing over a loose manhole cover I thought I would go mad. Using all four pillows over my head made little difference. What a shame, and more misery was to come After finally falling asleep I woke just before my alarm at 7.30. It was still dark which I thought a little odd but undeterred I went down to a startled reception saying I was off to Uxmal but needed a new room as the noise had been terrible and flounced out into the street wondering how I would make it through the day. I also wondered why it was rather dark still at eight. As I walked through the main plaza to the bus station I glanced at my watch and it said seven but the town hall clock said six. Always have the wrong time these town hall clocks I smiled. Looking at the now 08.00 on my phone I had less time than I thought. Having fucked around with my watch the previous day I thought only trust the phone. Wrong!

I got to the station bought my ticket and went through to the lounge. At each port of call I was told it left at nine. I should have sussed it by then but the penny didn’t drop till the ticket inspector said to me that I still had two hours. My jaw dropped and we compared phones, yes indeed it was only 7a.m. I had got up at 5.30 and gone to bed at nine. FOR FUCK SAKES how had this happened? Ironically only the Mexican phone had been sat quietly in my bum bag reading the correct time.

The police that I asked where I could breakfast at what was six on a Sunday morning were right to look at me as if I were bonkers, as were all the startled people I came across until I rectified the problem. I wandered the streets now having to kill two hours and feeling like a bucket of shit ill prepared for Uxmal after all my splendid planning.

Top Tip: Don’t let these cock ups defeat you. I felt like forgetting the whole fucking thing and throwing myself to the ground crying and screaming. It is hard alone to recover from major body blows but you really have to hype yourself up again even if you do it walking around the streets in the early morning muttering to yourself, giving yourself a good dressing down. I know I can be scatty but the three different times on the three separate devices on my body had meant I had been left with only four hour kip and as we know sleep deprivation is a terrible thing. Do check local time and also if clocks are due to be put forward or back. Because I keep me English phone on airplane mode it became a defiant monster in my pocket. I am now back and have managed to do pretty much the same thing, I’m soooooo silly. I was very cross when I thought someone was hammering at what I thought was seven but actually was nine.

The road to uxmal.

This map shows how little of the site they allow you to see.

The bus ride after the drama was bland and only an hour and a half. On arrival we got to hear there was only one bus back and that was at three. Miss it and you were screwed. We got off the air conditioned bus into the blistering sun and all sort of followed each other in turns as there were no signs. Like headless chickens we ran in circles only finding out the entrance is in the car park. It’s a military process as you arrive. They grab any rucksacks (which I think they do in normal times too) and there is a one way system and a lot of it closed. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you have travelled so far to see it but I met a girl from Majorca and we had a good moan but also shared in the wonder of this place which indeed is very decorative and in good repair in comparison to some other sites I have visited. In spite of this I felt that maybe it was a bit too clean and maybe restoration had been over the top.

Magicians Pyramid.

You start at the massive pyramid straight in your face, The Pyramid of the Magician, and round the corner the Nunnery Quadrant with its huge courtyard with a splendid wall of intricate carved designs. Here is the famous lattice work, and friezes with their stone heads and fantastical double headed serpents in abundance. Figures of men tied with ropes and even the odd owl, and then the many geometrical motifs. No climbing up to see the stuff more closely sadly and you are herded around with the limitations of numbers and time allocation. You see Chaac the rain god with his big nose everywhere. He was their main god, as water was a big problem for this place, as there were no cenotes. So they depended on storing rainwater in huge cisterns called chultunes. Tortoises are featured on one building, ‘The house of the Tortugas’ a nod to those poor critters. This is because they recognised their suffering in times of drought too. I didn’t see one in sight so I couldn’t ask!

Sadly the House of the Doves, the South Temple, the North Long Building and House of the Birds along with a few others. It’s worth adding that the romantic names were given by the Spanish and what they were actually called is lost to us. Only the names of kings were found in glyphs on stone stelae.

Goal!

The ball court had been in a terrible state and so has been aggressively restored. The complete hook was removed and what you see is a replica. The ball courts in Coba are much better representations and in good nick. This game has always been related to mythical and cosmic aspects. The ball symbolized the movements of the stars in the sky and the players, in repeated occasions, symbolically staged the fight of the day against the night or the struggle of the deities of the underworld against the gods of heaven. They used a rubber ball and were only allowed to use knees, hips and arms to propel it so my pretending to kick a ball is very silly.

Chaac and that big old nose

Some History.

Smithsonian reports:

In pre-Hispanic times, on Maya religious holidays, a priest or ruler might ascend these stairs to pass through the gateway to a holy temple—or, as historian Jeff Kowalski writes in Encyclopedia of the Ancient Maya, “a cave portal to a sacred creation mountain.” Watching from the plaza below, the commoners may have seen a leader emerging from this ornate doorway as a manifestation of the planet Venus, or as the sun itself.

The House of the Tortugas. The semi circular stones represent the poles used to build the palapas and the slant above are the rush roofs.

Uxmal probably reached the height of its power in the 8th and 9th centuries under a ruler researchers call Lord Chac, known also as Chan Chak K’ak’nal Ajaw (his name reflects that of the Maya rain god, Chac). Ruling at the turn of the 10th century, Lord Chac appears to have commissioned construction on Uxmal buildings such as the House of the Governor, a titanic endeavor that would have required 1,200 workers laboring for 33 years to construct the palace and its large supporting platform. It has a two-headed jaguar throne on a platform in front, a carved lattice pattern symbolizing rulership and representations of Lord Chac’s rain god namesake. A sculpture of Lord Chac himself, surrounded by two-headed serpents, stands above the central doorway. Have a look at the slideshow below!

Kabah was closed. Travelling in the time of plague is indeed a challenge. I had my normal pray to the spirits there to lift us out from this terrible time. Considering it as I walked about, I realised everything always comes to an end when invaders come from other places.They squash the lives of the very people who made the things they so desired. Through jealous eyes they destroy and trample the great civilizations of the past, they hurt and try to erase their people. This cycle of evil is recognisable now.

Vista from the Nunnery Quadrant through a classic arch.

Having left with my new mate we found a bar and sat and had cold beers discussing life art and history. We felt cheated, we decided, for we were killing time before going to the bus stop for the one and only bus returning to Merida. We got a little drunk bewailing missing Kabah and staggered back to the stop for a clamato beer before travelling back silently, now already making plans for for later and the next day. Like ships passing in the night I said goodbye to Cynthia, my pal for the day, and walked back to my hotel and new room.

The magnificent ‘Governors’ house could be seen but not from the front as intended where it had a carving of a throne of double headed jaguar

I’ll take you to Coba next time as I missed it due to all the Uxmal stuff.

OVER AND OUT FROM AN EXHAUSTED REBECCA.

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