After Cancun, a local bus takes us to Valladolid. As we imagined the city tourism is more focused on discovering and visiting than Cancun. It is easier to get off the beaten track. Few Americans here, most tourists are French or Italian. The city is close to the main sites as the famous archaeological site of Chichen Itza. It is with bicycles rented from an antique dealer that we explore the surroundings. The bikes are worthy of those used by our grandparents, but we find them an old-fashioned charm despite my doubts of being able to go far with them. I must say that pedaling with only one leg per 35°C is not an easy thing (a pedal was blocked).
It took us a good supply of water on our bikes to make the little 7 km that separated us from the 2 cenotes we wanted to visit. The cenotes are sinkholes. They are formed by a collapse of land on the surface of a network of caves and rivers. The Yucatan region regularly sees newly discovered cenotes and an extensive mapping work takes place1. The region is home to one of the largest underground river networks in the world.
We spend our day in these magical places. Their mysterious, quasi-mystical atmosphere explains certain Mayan’s beliefs. In particular the Maya believed they were a means of communication with the gods of the underworld.
The next day we move in “colectivo”. The colectivos are halfway between the taxi and the bus. It is a kind of very convenient shared taxi. For the price of a bus ticket a mini-van takes you to your destination with as many people as it can charge. The atmosphere is good.
We go until the archaeological Maya site of Ek Balam at 30km from Valladolid. I had the secret hope to be able to meet archeology students. Unfortunately we are informed that there are no projects currently. The visit is interesting. Compared to other ruins like Chichen Itza the open area is not gigantic but I prefer this kind of intimate places. Unlike in Chichen Itza it is possible to climb to the top of an acropolis of 31 meters which gives us a breathtaking panorama. A vertigo that was both horizontal and vertical.
Another cenote is next to the ruins of Ek Balam. A couple leaves and we are alone in the world in this place, enjoying the fresh water a long time. We are surrounded by trees and multicolored birds sometimes plunge to seize a fish. This will be part of the unique moments of the journey.
The heat combined with our intensive rhythm of visits is tiring and we go to bed every night exhausted. Especially as the city of Valladolid itself offers so many opportunities for visits that we seize like:
A local market
Another cenote in the city center and the convent of San Bernardino de Siena to do preferably on Sunday morning to enjoy the enchanting chants of the local choir. Some evenings it is possible to see a light show on its facade with the history of Yucatan (in Spanish around 9pm and in English around 9:30 pm).
But also the outdoor ball every Sunday night in front of the town hall as in most cities of Yucatan.
Unfortunately our stay in Valladolid is coming to an end. 4 days here are not too many, we could have stayed longer. For our last day here we will offer to ourself the luxury of an excursion to Rio Lagartos in the north of Valladolid to observe the local fauna. Yes, my biologist’s soul wakes up …
1 MAPPING FLOODED CAVES FROM ABOVE: SURFACE KARST INVENTORY OF THEYUCATAN PENINSULA. 2007 National Cave and Karst Management Symposium. Patricia A. Beddows, Melissa R. Hendrickson, Kirstin H. Webster and Simon M. Kras.