After leaving Dzitnup Cave we headed north to the Mayan ruins of Ek’ Balam. The guidebook said they were interesting, wondrous, amazing, blah, blah… but all Kerri wanted to do was conquer one of these massive pre-Columbian Mayan pyramids before leaving the Yucatan. Since Ek’ Balam was kind of on the way to Cancun, give or take 50 km, and had a stone structure taller than the massive El Castillo at Chichen Itza, we were going to check it out.
After pulling into the parking lot, in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, we were immediately targeted by a large group of Mexican children who wanted to guide us to a parking spot, and most likely want a small fee for their service. Since the large parking lot was mostly empty I decided I could figure out where to park without their assistance and chose a spot away from the children. Once we got the doors open they surrounded us and started to show us pieces of paper with their names written on it and gesturing that they would watch the car… for a fee. I think they wanted us to remember their names so we knew who to tip when we returned. Or maybe they just learned how to write their names and were so proud that they had to show every tourist that came around.
After gathering our standard “exploring Mayan ruins gear” (camera, water bottles, granola bars, sunscreen, bug spray, hats, guidebook) we made our way towards the building to pay our admission fee. We found it odd that at every historical site that we had visited in Mexico, not one gave out or sold information or maps about the place we were visiting. Without our guidebook, we would not have known what anything was or where to go within the sites.
After a short hike down a dusty trail we came to the Mayan ruins of Ek’ Balam. One thing that we immediately noticed about Ek’ Balam was that you could actually climb on, in, over, and through pretty much every stone structure at the site. At most of the other ruins we had visited you were only allowed to go on a couple of structures, if at all. The other nice thing that made this site different from the other ones was how close together all of the structures were to each other. Instead of looking at one structure and then going on a long hike through the jungle to look at the next, it was all right there enclosed by a stone defensive wall. Kudos go out to the Mayans for building such a tourist friendly site.
After climbing on the smaller structures we made our way to the massive Acropolis; 480 feet across, 180 feet wide, and 96 feet tall. Unlike the pyramid at Coba, this structure had no guide rope along the steep steps that led to the top. I decided I would stay at the bottom while Kerri and Sydney planned to climb to the top. The steps were so steep that you could reach out with your hands to steady yourself as you climbed the pyramid. But because of the heat of the mid-day sun, the steps were a bit too hot for Sydney and she decided she was going to come back down and wait with me.
After awhile, Kerri returned safely to the bottom with a smile on her face. She had made it to the top. Mission accomplished!
Back at the car we were immediately confronted by the “children of the parking lot” hoping for their fee for watching our car. Unfortunately, I only had 2 pesos on me, about 20 cents, which I gave to the kids. The look on their faces showed serious disappointment and made me feel a bit sorry for them. I tried telling them that I had no more money, and they slowly wandered off looking sad. As I was putting our gear away in the trunk I realized that we had a good supply of granola bars and other snacks left. I turned around and shouted to the children to come back. I asked them if they were hungry and they smiled and held out their hands. This brought all of the “children of the parking lot” over to surround me hoping to get a treat. Since we were leaving the next day and would not be bringing the food back with us, I gave them all a granola bar or snack. They looked happy and wandered off to eat their treats in the shade.