Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Mexico: Ek Balam

The Acropolis

We are on an outing from Valladolid to see the ruins of Ek Balam, a Mayan city which reached its peak in the 8th century AD and was then abandoned.

We walk along a track from the main car park, passing a couple of half naked young men with their skins painted, presumably in the style of a Mayan warrior. On the way back we realised that their game was posing for photos with tourists.

The entrance to the archaeological site involves passing through three massively thick walls to a small gateway.

The gate is an attractive structure, with, unusually, entrances on four sides.

We emerge between buildings into a wide grassy space with buildings on three sides. To the left are twin temples (known officially as Structure 17 or The Twins).

We climb a similar structure (the Oval Palace) at right-angles to the twin temples and are rewarded by a fine view over the site as whole. The Acropolis can be seen above the trees.

A grassy knoll to the right has this small building on top.

We head through the trees and climb the Acropolis, an impressive 32m high (7m more than El Castillo at Chichen-Itza, but not as much as Coba [42m] or Calakmul [45m]).

About two thirds of the way up, hidden under palm frond covers is this fantastic structure, only recently uncovered. It is believed to be the tomb of an important king named Ukit Kan Le'k Tok. There is remarkable stone carving and the analogy of a mouth is carried to extreme lengths with the monstrous lower teeth projecting forwards.

There is even some rather Egyptian-looking wall painting on the side of the door.

At the top we look back towards the Twins and the Oval Palace and all we can see is a sea of forest. It is the same for as far as the eye can see in all directions.

It is a bit more challenging coming down than it was going up.

Returning to the entrance, we pass the inevitable ball court.

Conditions: hot and sunny.

Rating: Five stars. A quiet and very interesting site. The tomb of the king was a fantastic highlight.

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