Editor’s Note: Today’s blog is one more from Louise Mullen with her review of the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins on her recent Disney Fantasy Cruise. Thank you Louise!
We disembarked the ship at Costa Maya, Mexico via a 5-10 minute walk on a fairly long pier. We showed our room key in order to enter the town. It was another short walk past the shops and a left hand turn around the corner where we gathered and were ushered to the buses. There were at least four buses to take people to the Ruins from the Fantasy. Our bus was very clean and the air conditioning felt good. One of the other buses had all sorts of problems with the A/C where it was so bad they ended up going back to the pickup spot and had to offload and board a different bus.
Our tour guide, Arteno was very funny, but had a strong accent. That was not a huge problem, as I understood most of what he said. The real problem was with the PA system on the bus. Probably the first six sets of seats could hear what Arteno said. Unfortunately, we sat about the twelfth row back, just opposite the back exit door on the bus. I caught about one word in three and at some point I blocked out what our guide was saying. However, the people in the front of the bus were laughing quite often.
The one hour bus trip was uneventful. The scenery is what I would describe as thin forest, scrubby and rather arid fields, and a few rural farm houses mixed between. It was mostly a forgettable bus ride, but the road was decent and they were in the process of building two more lanes. I found that hard to believe because there seemed to be very little traffic. Our bus was the first one in the parking lot at the Ruins. By the time we had finished our 75 minute tour, it occurred to me why they were building more lanes on the main road inland from Costa Maya. The parking lot was stacked full with tour buses, more were pulling in. The Ruins are a popular destination, not only for tourists from ships at Costa Maya, but also there were many Mexican bus services with local groups.
Arteno was a very good guide for this excursion. He gave us a lot of interesting information at each of our stops on the walking tour. He kept us informed as to how much time we had for picture taking at each stop, usually fifteen minutes. He also kept us together by the use of a type of whistle. It was not a very loud whistle it just had a very unique sound to it. It was good he did that because he was short in stature and with so many tour groups in a relatively small area, a few times I lost sight of him and once I found myself going with people not in our tour group! So he found a way to keep the people in his group together and on time with very little effort.
When we arrived at the site we could tell it had rained and the humidity was high. Our first stop was the gift shop and restrooms. Be warned, they are third world restrooms. You would never want to “rest” in there and feel free to bring your own antibacterial wipes, gel, or soap. Walking the wide jungle paths was not difficult. You had to watch where you walked because the trees have shallow roots and some of the paths were made with loose rocks. The roots snaked across the ground and you could trip easily. When we went, there were no mosquitoes, just a few flies. I thought it odd they referred to the Ruins as being in a jungle when there were few bugs. A friend of ours said she had gone to Chacchoben years ago and the mosquitoes were terrible. I guess the aliens ate them all.
There are two main visible buildings, or temples at the Chacchoben Ruins. They were built as perfectly square and as precise as the Pyramids in Egypt. We first viewed three sides and then walked the jungle path to the fourth side. Arteno showed us the site of the altar. This is where the high priest could speak to thousands of people without shouting. The acoustics were such that in a normal voice one could be heard a football field away. That was before the jungle grew up and swallowed the Ruins. They were rather recently discovered and the jungle was cleared out so people could see the temples.
We were told of underground paths that lead from this building to the second main temple building at the site. Some of these paths lead to nowhere and possibly were uncompleted. Some have fallen in, or are too dangerous to navigate through, I cannot remember which. The tour did not go underground. There was limited access to how high we were allowed to climb upon the buildings in order to take pictures.
Ancient Alien Theorists have strong beliefs regarding the connection between aliens from other planets and the Mayan people of the past. Mayans believed there were connections between the heavens, the earth, and the underworld. They placed altars where they felt the connections between the three were the strongest. They studied the stars and solar activities for centuries. They built temples in such precise locations that at the spring and autumn solstices the sun would rise at the indentations built at the temple’s tops. The Mayan calendar is more precise than our calendar with leap year could ever hope to be.
The Mayans held human sacrifices on their altars. It pretty much started when they were going through years of drought and the crops were getting increasingly scarce year after year. At first, they started sacrificing prisoners of war. They decided the gods were still not happy, so they started sacrificing the peasant people. The droughts continued despite the sacrifices and it got so bad that even children were not spared from being victims of the rituals. This fact is probably something that is left out of the tours for families. We were on the adult only tour.
We walked the path toward the second building. To see this you had to climb very steep steps up to that temple. No hand rails, 18-24” high steps on an uneven surface. It was a tough on people with foot, ankle, hip or knee problems. But at the top of those stairs the plateau opened up. To the left, there was a small building looking out over a grand mountain vista. The main temple stood to the right. At times the sun peeked in and out and there was a point when the sun shone on the temple in such a way that it was truly was an awe-inspiring sight. It made the whole area look so surreal, so beautiful, the views were majestic and ancient all rolled up into one.
The tour ended back at the gift shop and restroom area. By that time the parking lot was jammed. Arteno passed out bottles of water, which we all needed. Even a winter day in mid December gets quite hot and humid at the Chacchoben Ruins. I would have hated to see what it felt like in the summer. It rained on the bus ride back to the shopping area of Costa Maya. It seemed quiet on the ride back to the port as people were lost in their own thoughts. I would very much like to go back to Chacchoben Ruins. It was an affordable excursion and well worth the price considering the overall experience.