Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Mexico: Coba

The Great Pyramid

We are stopping at Coba en route for our final destination of this wonderful holiday - Tulum. It is a sprawling site where you car hire bicycles or ride on pedal cars to get about. Naturally we are walking.

Like Ek Balam it is located deep in the jungle and far from fully excavated.  It was at its peak in 800-100 AD is thought by archaeologists to have covered 70 sq miles and had a population of perhaps 40,000. We begin our walk noting several ruined structures in the trees. It is hard to imagine what they might be. Our guide thinks that Coba may turn out to eclipse Chichen-Itza in 20 or 30 years time.

After a while however we come to what is by now a readily identifiable structure: a ball court. One thisn which has now become apparent is that although all ball courts have a similar structure, the dimensions/proportions of the various components are not at all consistent. Was the game played in the same way? Or did each city have its own rules? Who can say?

One advantage of walking was that we were able to follow quieter trails (and not be at risk of being run over all the time). The picture below shows a road (or sacbe), now totally overgrown, but which reminds us that Mayan cities were linked by a network of roads.

As ever, there are a few reminders of the more barbaric side of Mayan civilisation.

We emerged from the paths through the jungle to pass the bike park and encounter this rather fine structure, presumably a temple.

Our guide immediately leads us off piste through the jungle on a narrow path to a rather overgrown lake. Is it a centote? I am not sure, but it has a wonderfully mysterious feel to it.

Returning to the main path, we head to the Great Pyramid. It is Nohoch Mul in Maya, which means Big Mound - Great Pyramid may be less accurate, but sounds more impressive. We climb carefully up the rather battered steps and reach the summit at 42m, the highest we have climbed. This is the view: basically 100% jungle in all directions.

We had a nice chat at the top with a Dutch couple who had come here by bus from Tulum. Astonishingly, to us anyway, they hadn't even heard of Chichen-Itza.

Getting down was a bit more challenging and a fixed rope had helpfully been provided running up the centre of the pyramid. We observed a few people climbing down backwards clinging to the rope.

The other advantage of walking was that it was possible to spot a certin number of butterlies, generally perched on a sunny leaf in the otherwise shady path edges.

Conditions: hot and pretty clear.

Rating: five stars. I have to say that climbing the pyramids, especially this one was one of the great highlights of our trip.

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