My Maya trail adventure starts with a loud roar. ‘What was that?”
A jaguar, lady, God of War and Night Sun, listen…’
Another roar, closer this time, then another, I peer into the jungle, stumble on the stones but I see no Maya god. Only eager stallholders pretending to be jaguars to attract business.
I guess you have to expect this in Chichen Itza, the ‘mouth of the Itza’s sacred well’ and number one site for Cancun day trippers. But ignoring the Mexican hats and multicoloured rugs, I look up at Kukulcan, the awesome pyramid where at the spring equinox, an eerie zigzag shadow creeps down the steps as the Snake God visits the earth. I imagine the high priest at the top haranguing the 20,000 people assembled below, the offerings being prepared, the human sacrifice that might follow to bring back the god of rain.
The Maya trail sends shivers down my spine
Someone claps under the trees and it sounds like the squeak of a quetzal, the sacred bird. The echo sends shivers down my spine. Then we head for the mysterious sinkhole, the ‘womb of mother earth’ where 100 skeletons were discovered, and the game court where warriors had to throw a 3kg rubber ball through a high stone ring, without using hands or arms. In times of need, the lucky winner would be sacrificed, the ultimate privilege to appease the all-powerful deities. I can barely look at the frieze depicting the victorious scene.
‘No, culture’, says my guide,’ and they were such wonderful architects, astrologers, artists, traders. Like to buy something?’I glance at the ritual masks but I’m not tempted. A hammock perhaps? A gust of wind sends dust swirling through the air and I leave empty-handed. The cruise ship passengers have just arrived and it’s their turn to discover the largest archaeological site in Yucatan and the daunting mix of ancient Maya and more recent Toltec monuments.
Stopover on the Maya Trail
We overnight in Merida, a colourful town which flourished under the Spanish as they traded fibre from sisal plants, ‘the green gold of Yucatan’. Next morning we are off to Uxmal, an hour or so to the south, one of the Maya capitals until around 950 AD.
We learn that the Maya never had an empire, only isolated kingdoms which were often at war. But after Chichen, I find Uxmal truly refreshing with few visitors, no souvenirs beyond the gate and an unusual slightly rounded two-sided pyramid. It was built three times, as the name implies, by a Magician who tricked the king and usurped the throne… READ MORE of this Maya trail adventure article
Maya Trail magical moments article written by Travel Writer Solange Hando
Images on this page are copyright of Solange Hando