When in Tulum, you must visit Mayan ruins. In fact, I think it’s against the law if you don’t.
So as law-abiding gringos, we duly set out today to visit Coba, the ruins of which date back to the Classic Period (AD 600–900) of Mesoamerican civilization. There’s a lot of fascinating history surrounding the origins and development of Coba that you can read about on Wikipedia, but today its main attraction is clambering up the 120 stone steps of Nohoch Mul, the tallest temple pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula.
So climb we did. Together with about 50 other law-abiding gringos. From the photo, you can see us, our sweating, brightly clad human bodies dotting the steps like candy sprinkles.
The views from the top are expansive: flat jungle in all directions, though with a pair of binoculars you can just make out a lone zip line that cuts across a crocodile-infested lagoon in the distance. Looked like fun to me, but Frank has a fear of wire cable, so that adventure was quickly nixed.
Most of the tourists eschew the mile-plus ramble around the site, choosing instead to either rent bikes or sit on comfy padded benches with wheels that are powered by furiously pedaling guides. We walked, eavesdropping on the tours we were too cheap to buy ourselves, and reading the descriptive plaques displayed at the various pyramids, altars and stelae. Oddly enough, there wasn’t much color on what, exactly the altars were used for. So I looked it up:
“The Mayan religion was polytheistic, consisting mostly of nature gods. These gods were supposedly nourished by human blood. Because of this, the Mayans often participated in ritual bloodletting, mutilating themselves as a sacrifice to the gods. They also sacrificed animals and even other humans … These individuals would be placed upon a Mayan altar, and their hearts would be ripped out by a priest.”
Well. All I can say is that those priests must’ve had mighty strong hands. I tried to rip out my own heart when I got back to our hotel room, and got nowhere. I then attempted to rip out Frank’s heart, and all I got was a fistful of chest hair.
Tomorrow, we visit the walled fortress in Tulum, the third most visited ruins in Mexico. According to my research, at one time the Maya there were followers of the “Talking Cross” cult.
Chattering sticks? Count me in.