The Ohio University group was fortunate enough to visit three legendary and breathtaking Mayan sites. First was the city of Ek Balam, which was discovered less than 20 years ago and is still covered in a large amount of vegetation. It’s difficult to imagine the ruins of an ancient civilization hidden in the jungle for thousands of years until its uncovering in 1994. Imagine being the one who uncovered it.
The past two weekends in Mexico have provided me with an unforgettable cultural experience during a visit to three historic places and a dream vacation to Cancun with my mom, only to return to Merida during Carnaval – the largest celebration of the year.
All 45 of us were allowed to climb to the top of the main pyramid, which offered an incredible view of the surrounding tropical forest. And for some reason, walking down the steep and narrow stairs is exceptionally more difficult than climbing up them. Another observation – Mayans were known for being of the short stature, but the steps to every pyramid we’ve visited are each more than one foot high making it hard to picture how they were able to trek up and down them all day.
Our next visit was to a naturally made swimming hole (for lack of a better term), in Spanish called los cenotes, which are located all around the Yucatan. They are made by land that has sunk below ground level that now holds a large body of water and acts as an underground river system. The one we visited is called Ik Kil and has a modernized touch to it with a stone staircase leading to a platform about 20 feet above the water. I jumped off twice. There were several brave students who dove and flipped into the water, but I preferred the pencil approach.
The last stop of the day was to one of the seven manmade wonders of the world, Chichen Itza. Hosting more than one thousand visitors every day, the famous ruins of the ancient Mayan city remain preserved with the help of strict limitations from climbing on any of the structures. Fortunately, they did not damper anyone’s spirit but amount of people trying to sell us miniature pyramids and handmade blankets did provide a bit of an annoyance.
After spending the perfect Saturday visiting well-known cultural and historical sites, I could not have been more excited to spend the next weekend with my mom in Cancun. Many people, especially Yucatecos, believe that the popular tourist spot is more American than Mexican, and I would have to agree. In some ways it was a nice vacation from school, but I can honestly say that not hearing any Spanish all weekend struck a strange cord with me. Staying in an elegant resort with my Mom for three nights did not.
Considering all the cities and sites I have visited since my arrival in Mexico, Merida’s Carnaval (Carnival) definitely wins the most enjoyable and engaging activity of the trip so far. A large section of a main street is closed for a week every year in order to host one of the largest celebrations in the country. People from every corner the world come to Merida to hear the music, watch the parades and enjoy the atmosphere. Even though the streets were packed and the lines for the bathroom were long, Carnaval will be one of my favorite memories of Merida.