Just another old pile of stones?

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November 29th 2018
Published: November 29th 2018
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Ek Balam

This morning I have had an email to say that my mum has been taken to hospital during the night so before we do anything I need to make a few calls. The hospital inform me that mum has been discharged. It appears she is back home and OK.

We decide to take a short trip out to Ek Balam. It’s another archaeological site. We are tempted to say - oh no, not another one, but we are told it’s a good trip so off we go.

First we stop for breakfast in the covered food hall near the town square. Two food stalls are fighting for our custom so we take one each. My man has a glossy menu with photographs on it. Perfect! I want this, I say, pointing to two fried eggs. I don’t want this I say, pointing to all the extras that come with it...guacamole, beans, salad, etc. He is pointing to some bacon now. Do you want bacon, he is asking. Yes! So, just to be sure...I will have this (pointing at fried eggs photo), I will have this (pointing at bacon photo), I will not have this (pointing at everything else on the fried eggs photo). Yes, he understands. Back at the table Ian asks me what I have ordered. He smugly says that he has ordered fried eggs and sausage (I love sausages).

There is a shout from the serving hatch (it’s self service here). Ian’s collects his breakfast...it is scrambled egg with chiritzo mixed in...along with gautamole, beans and all the usual Mexican trimmings. I giggle. Apparently there were no photos on Ian’s menu. :-) There is another shout. This time it’s my breakfast. It is scrambled egg with bacon mixed in, along with gautamole, beans and all the usual Mexican trimmings. I am not giggling now. What was the point of those photos on the menu then?

We go to find a colectivo. We are the first to arrive so we sit on a wooden bench to wait two more passengers. Eventually we are full compliment and we are led off to our car which speeds off down the street.

We branch off the main road, and then again on to a single track road, There is some discussion between our driver and one of the other passengers. Suddenly, he does a seven point turn in the narrow road and then screeches off back in the other direction, almost taking a cyclist out on the way. It would appear that we took a wrong turning as we do reach the official entrance shortly. There is a sign in the road advising that drivers should observe the speed limit (40kph) - we have been doing 90-100kph!

Ek Balam dates from 700-1000AD, and has an unusual double perimeter defensive stone wall. Given that this site receives only a side mention in both of our guidebooks and is fairly small and compact, we are surprised at the entry fee of 211 pesos each - much more than any other site except Chichen Itza which was only marginally more expensive. We suppose they need funds for further restoration.

The entry trail through the jungle leads to the Spiral Palace. Most stepped platform pyramids are designed with each platform being slightly narrower than the previous one - this allows you to walk along each face, climbing slightly, so that after four faces you are one platform higher than when you started. As with many of the pyramids, the last construction was built over a smaller version, something that can be seen in the frontal set of steps - a section has not been restored, but has instead been excavated so that the original steps are visible more than one metre lower.

There are a number of other partially restored structures, and also some that are still covered in jungle. We head to view something marked on the plan through a dense section of vegetation, but are unable to see any sign of the structure - it was not until we were less than 10m from it that it was noticeable that there was a structure there, covered in a thick layer of earth with dense jungle growing from it!

At the furthest point of the site is the Tower - a 32m pyramid on a 160m wide platform. Built with steep and deep steps to the summit in the centre, it has a series of galleries either side. The steps and some of the galleries have been restored so that it is possible to climb to the top. The restored galleries now have thatched coverings to offer protection from the elements, and feature a huge jaguar mouth with giant teeth, stucco skulls and human figures. The view from the summit is stunning - we are above the top of the jungle and in most directions that is all we can see. However, looking over the site reveals just the tops of the other structures giving an ‘islands in the sea’ perspective.

It is obvious that the site is still being excavated, documented and analysed before limited restoration, presumably the reason for the high entrance fee.

We have to wait quite a while for our colectivo back to town. There need to be four passengers and we are only two. A single guy turns up and we agree to split the four person fare three ways rather than wait.

Back in Valladolid we get hopelessly lost again...what is it about this town? We accidentally find ourselves back at the hotel when we should have been in the town centre! We drop off our bags and have another stab at it. We need to visit the chemist, the bus station and also grab some lunch. We manage to do all three second time around.

Now it’s back to the room for a siesta. We have a big day tomorrow!

Additional photos below
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30th November 2018

Pictures great Gill!!!!

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