Old Chichen Itza
Horseback ride to the old ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan Mexico
Journey back to "Old Chichén"
Just south of the main ruins of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, Mexico are the seldom seen temple ruins of old chichén, an area relatively few people know exists let alone visits on a journey here. In mid April we were graciously invited to tour this mysterious part of Chichen Itza by our new friend at the Mayaland hotel, Quincy. The hotel generously donates lodging to the archaeologists who are excavating the site and Quincy can arrange the only horseback tour to old chichén.
This is an easy 2-3 hour tour where you ride a short distance on groomed jungle trails, then dismount to explore overgrown pyramid mounds and a landscape of cut limestone blocks from toppled Mayan temples. Many of these blocks have been labeled by the archaeologist and turned face down to protect heavily carved sides. Others stand upright staring endlessly across time to all who visit. I sense a certain power seeing temples like this, in their natural state, and perhaps they are more authentic as the remains of an ancient civilization. Regardless, they are not to be missed if you have the time to visit here.
Things get started once Sylvestre (below with his white mare Madonna) arrives with the horses. The tour starts from the Mayaland grounds and arrives at the ruins after a leisuely 20 minute ride.
Along the way you'll see countless species of trees and plants, and this colony of leaf cutter ants (below). No problem to be sure, just watch where you stand. These guys can strip entire trees of their leaves.
(below) This is one of the high temple pyramids which has been reduced to a pile of rocks and dirt, the original structure torn apart for centuries by the roots of trees.
Kay stands partially up the side of this mound like so many early explorers must have before her.
One cannot help but marvel at the size of this mound and wonder what its original purpose could have been. Many Mayan ruin mounds were once finely sculpted buildings or pyramid temples, faced with carved limestone, often containing internal passages. Most are thought to have been built in reverence to specific Mayan deities or to commemorate momentous events. Others were used as observatories to the stars and planets. The Maya had an amazingly accurate knowledge of the cosmos. The calendar they used is actually more accurate then the one we use today.
(below) Fallen blocks from ruined temples are scattered across the landscape
Surreal serpent heads with faces in their mouths and skulls- all these had significance
More serpents and faces- the archaeologists' task is to determine the placement of the stones
The task of organizing begins with recording original locations, then collecting related pieces.
(below) Partially up a hillside this part of a wall remains
A rectangular block has detailed carving
Another intact wall fragment hints at what must have stood before on this mound
Facing stones of finer buildings were exactly cut
Excavation of a buried internal passage in a mound
Ghostly sentinels of the past- these column statues stand near the main plaza excavation
At the time of our visit to Old Chichén a large part of the site was undergoing a major restoration under the supervision of INAH archaeologists. In the main plaza there are several intact buildings with carved exteriors and at least two examples of cisterns, the underground reservoirs the Maya used to trap rainwater. This part of the ruins is sheduled to re-open in the future. Our trip was wonderful and definitely off the beaten path.