I was keen to go back to the town where I studied several years ago and see what had changed, show James around, remember good memories and create some new ones. It hasn’t changed that much, and my friend (and now translation colleague) Mike and I had a lot of fun walking around and pointing out our old haunts to James and Dan. It still felt familiar, although the nice house we stayed in was in a different part of town.
Mérida is a great base for exploring around the Yucatan, and we did just that, with day trips to the ruins of Uxmal, the nearby colonial town of Izamal, and the cenote at Dzibilchaltun. The Yucatan is an area of Mexico that still has a significant indigenous population, and I actually studied a course on Yucatec Maya when I was here the first time; it was a fascinating way to see another aspect of this beautiful area and its history.
Izamal is a colonial-looking town with buildings the colour of egg-yolks lining nearly every street. We spent a lovely hot day there and rented bikes to cycle around and see more of the town. There was even the site of a ruined pyramid we were able to climb up, and although it paled in comparison to other, more restored ruins in Yucatan, it gave us a lovely vantage point over the town.
Dzibilchaltun is the first Mayan ruin I ever saw, way back in 2006. It is special because of the alignment of the Temple of the Seven Dolls, which has a doorway built to align precisely with the rising sun of the equinox; a sight to behold (although I never have). It is also the site of one of Yucatan’s many cenotes – freshwater sinholes in the limestone that makes up a huge part of the flat landscape here. They vary in size and beauty, from murky pondlike areas to enormous, very deep, beautiful clear pools. The one at Dzibi was somewhere between the two – clear water, teeming with fish, but a little slimy on the rocks and one where you have to be able to swim – the water is extremely deep and the Maya used to throw offerings into the depths during their ceremonies. We didn’t find any skeletons however, although Mike was rather unimpressed at the fish.