OR, FLYING FREE AGAIN JUST FOR THE DAY. MAKING DECISIONS AWAY FROM TULUM.
Been very unsure what to do next. Return to UK where my new house is finally ready, or go to Oaxaca or Veracruz. Both are far and really need to been part flight from either Merida or Chetumal. So I went for the second time yesterday to the french patisserie to work. It was a stroke of luck. Not only is Giles, who works there a like minded (we had a long political chat), but he came up with a site for me to visit that I’d never heard of, Ek Balam. The site of the pyramid of the angels. Thank god, a decent bit of nearby archaeology.
I woke early the next morning, and threw a tin of tuna, rye bread, cheese triangles and an apple in my bag. I had had a dreadful sleep but still was determined to get the 07.35 bus. I ran to the bank, of course the bloody ATM was close but I remembered another one over the road and luckily it was open. Trembling fingers grabbed the cash, and another jog back to the bus station to buy my ticket. I was just in time, so now I’m sitting on the bus to Valladolid and feeling very liberated doing what I do best, traveling towards the history and art.
As usual the trip was easy as I’m living next to bus station in Tulum and the taxi collectivo was around the corner when I got to Valladolid. About half hour drive then bliss, my favourite, finally doing something again, engaging my brain with history.
Ek Balam is a delightful place and is the proud owner of a pyramid with what look like angels on it. I went up a less challenging set of stairs at the beginning and saw the top of the much higher pyramid over the trees. No fucking way am I going up there I thought grimly.
It all starts with a very petite Petén arch into the complex. Then things go a bit mad as there’s a swirly kind of building which is a bit like a Mr Whippy, at the side of that a large tumbledown stone artifice with all types of cacti, trees, honeysuckle and creepers all over it, because of this strange mixture of artifices, you sort of loose your bearings until you get round the corner where the main plaza is.
Now forget about the mural painting, long gone in a museum no doubt, but do concentrate on what they call the twins and surrounding buildings which are compact but graceful. Even the ball court has what appear to be changing rooms at the back. I started to notice grey mottled butterflies well camouflaged on the walls fluttering about and when I crossed the main grass square some orange ones. As I walked up to the pyramid however a mass of bright lemon coloured ones joined the show and a magic stardust of fluttering colour was the beautiful spectacle. Apparently it’s butterfly season, well who would have guessed it! All this as I approached the pyramid with its statues of ‘angels’.
This preceded my act of bravery. At the pyramid I found that the angels were more than half way up sheer stairs. I had thought they were at the base and was horrified my vertigo kicked in sharply. Got halfway up my halfway terrace felt weak with fear as I sat on a narrow step. A guy sauntered down past me and I begged him to take some pics on my phone for me? I just couldn’t go the last bit. He did it for me and said he would send more of his to me in a very kind sorrowful voice. Younger people don’t get that you develop vertigo as you grow older, he will learn one day. I shuffled down again on my bum and went sit with a couple of wardens in the shade to have a look. Hmmmmmm. Didn’t want to be ungrateful but I felt no love had been put into theses pics. I tutted and grumbled to the slightly younger of these ancient wardens and said did he think I could do it, he said yes, just go nice and slowly and stop from time to time. I took off my shoes and did it dammit. I climbed up to those fucking angels with butterflies fluttering all around.
Top Tip: Shoes can sometimes become dangerous on these uneven steps and I feel going barefoot gives you more contact and spacial awareness using your feet and hands as sensorial ways of climbing and descending safely. You can also go down on your bum. It matters not a jot what people think, you are ballsier than them. The wardens applauded me when I got down and said I was very brave and that people who rushed fell. They have a lot of accidents with the smart arses.
I found a water well later on an unused path with a long forgotten prone stelae under a sad broken thatched hut. The circular stone platform with the hole in the middle like a big polo mint had a stucco lining although cenotes are plentiful in this area, a small mystery in a wonderful site. It’s always nice when you go off the beaten track and discover things, and seeing as only the centre of a lot of these sites have been excavated you can stumble across stuff that they uncovered then just forgot about.
I continued around the site and sat down at the base of the tree of life of the Mayans, the ceiba. I was grateful I had an apple as I had run out of water and was sweating profusely after my climb in the searing heat up the pyramid. I sucked the juice gratefully as I ate it as I felt totally dehydrated by then. It was time to go.
Top Tip: It doesn’t matter how much water you take it’s never another on these sites that radiate the heat and are mercilessly without shade. Fruit such as apples, watermelon, melon , pineapple etc in a sealed bags pre-cut if you prefer do the job and also give you a little nourishment. That apple was the best apple I ever tasted and reminded me I always used to carry juicy fruit that will give you a sugar boost too.
A girl who I shared the collectivo taxi with back was staying in Valladolid and we went to the main square to a small market food hall with cheap and pretty awful food but it was nice to chat about the various sites she had visited too, as she was an archaeologist, however her speciality was metals so she confessed that this possibly was out of her field of experience being it being stone and all that!
After lunch we had a walk and I could see the town was rather a rather cheap version of Merida and the same as many of these Spanish colonial towns in design, just rather a poor version, so I said I’d like to check the times of buses just in case. We did this and I saw I could get one straightaway rather than wait another two hours. I suddenly panicked at the prospect of staying one more minute there, and hustled to queue jump and got a ticket, running to the bus leaving that poor girl! She has my details so hopefully she’ll read this and laugh at the mad old bird who just needed to get back on the road having got the gist of that place.
Coming back the rain poured down but when Tulum came in sight the skies were blue and I knew what I was going to do. I was ready for my next adventure. Tulum was played out for me now. Pastures new and all that. The angels had cleared my confused mind and they had shown my the way forward.