Day 28: The many steps of Coba

Mon, 10th September 2012

Nohoch Mul - Big Mound!There is only so much that can be done by public transport and so today we decided to hire a car (£35 for the day) to visit Coba some 40km away from Tulum, which had been recommended by our hotel owner. She is anti gringo trips, especially as you do not get to see the “true” Mexico and also they cost a lot. Our little red hire car was so memorable we can’t remember the make or model and we took no photos of it.

The first thing we wanted to see in Coba was the Mayan ruins before the coach trips arrived. However by the time we has eaten breakfast and sorted the car hire, time was marching on.Round temple Although three coaches were already there when we arrived, it was not crowded as the ruins cover a vast area. The main attraction Nohoch Mul (big hill) is a 1.5km walk from the entrance along tree covered paths.There are many ruins to see on the way, including a ball park with stone rings like basketball (or quidditch?) hoops and this round temple. This was much more what we were expecting from Mayan ruins and really was very impressive.

Traffic jam of taxi tricyclesIf you do not feel like walking there are bikes available for hire or you can take a taxi tricycle. They cunningly wait close to the ruins to talk tired tourists into a ride back to the entrance. As we are in training for the Inca Trail this cop out is not an option either of us will succumb to!

We also climbed the 42m worth of steps of Nohoch Mul  in the heat of the day. This  was hard work but good for calves and core body strength and the view from the top was absolutely stunning. You could see for miles over the tree tops to the lake in the distance. You can see why the Mayans  chose this place to build.

Hoop for the 'Juego de Pelota' - Quidditch anyone?It is difficult to know which of the many photos to include here. This picture is from the Juego de Pelota, the ‘courts’ for the ball game played by the Mayans – it looked like a mix of real tennis, basketball and quidditch. We  spent nearly three hours wondering around all the ruins and must have walked 5 or 6km, as well as climbed the steps to the top.

The entrance fee was the same as yesterday’s ruins at Tulum but this was much better value for money.

After lunch it was time for a swim. There are three cenotes close to Coba which had told us to go to, so off we went following signs down the potholed road, not sure what lay ahead. After paying our 70 pesos each (£3.50) we continued down an unmade road avoiding yet more potholes (just what hire cars are good at!). We stopped by  cardboard sign marked parking and were told to shower before swimming, but could not see anywhere to swim. Looking more closely, we spotted a circular wooden staircase into a hole in the ground.

amazing stalagtitesAfter about 60 steps down we found an underground lake with floodlighting and a group of Mexicans jumping in off a 12 foot diving platform. Fortunately, there were steps down to the water and you didn’t need to do be quite so brave! The water was cold but very welcome after the heat of the day. All around were stalactites and other rock formations and all in all, it was quite a surreal experience.

cold dipThe second cenote was also about 60 steps underground but smaller and we were the only people swimming. It was quite eerie hearing the delayed sound as the water displaced by my swimming lapped against the rocks. The ruins and the cenotes are quite different to anything we have ever experienced before which made it yet another amazing day.

As we had the car until morning we drove the 4km or so, from Tulum Centro (where we were staying) t0 Tulum Playa for supper. We ate at a beach-side Italian restaurant recommended in our guide book. The food was again brilliant and my fish was so moist and tender (the diet is not going well but at least we had walked a fair way this morning to earn It).

The couple on the next table were off along the beach to go turtle spotting as the eggs were hatching and the little ones heading for the sea. Not for us tonight. We decided it was time to head back to our hotel as the roads again seemed full of police as well as cyclists with no lights and other hazards we would rather avoid.

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