Cobá – Maya ruins in a jungle

2 April

Between the ancient site of Tulum and the ancient site of Chichen Itza, we stopped at the ancient site of Cobá. This site is set in jungle and just a small part of it is uncovered for tourists.

There are all sorts of ways to get around – walk, cycle or have someone do the hard work in a three-wheeler tricycle.

We opted for walking and managed a few kilometres between the major sites.

What is remarkable about this site is the white roads, called sacbeoobs which radiate out from it, connecting other preHispanic settlements. The most notable is Sacbé 1 which is 100km long and reaches the site of Yaxuná near Chichen Itza. It appears these road were built between 600 and 800AD when Cobá civilisation was at its height.

So much history from these Mayan sites was lost when the Spaniards over ran this area.

We first learned about the ball game here. The Cobá group of ruins had a well preserved site. A rubber ball was used in a court that was open at each end and had sloping side walls. Each wall had a stone ring set into it. The idea was to pass the ball through the ring. The ball could be kicked or moved with the body, but not with the hands. The game represented a ritual where the looser would be sacrificed. Pretty brutal.

Another group, a short walk along a lovely shaded path, was the Nohoch Mul group. The main feature of this group was a tall pyramid. We took the challenge to climb it’s very steep steps. I didn’t dare look down, either on my way up and down again, it was simply too steep and frightening to contemplate. Plenty of people were bottom riding the descent.

A rather well proportioned American lady who needed a walking stick managed a very slow ascent and then descent. There is no way you could chicken out after watching her effort!

The view from the top was over a massive jungle area with a few lower pyramids peeping through the canopy.

This was was our first venture into a tropical jungle in the Americas, and the twisted vines and roots were amazing.

Further along the path was the Conjunto pinturas or painted buildings. Very little remains of the painting, but we were told that all the Mayan ceremonial buildings were brightly painted. Red was a favourite colour.

The last group of ruins was the Macanxoc group which had a great number of steles illustrating symbols of various chiefs.

The jungle certainly hasn’t taken over in the same way as Angkor Wat.

It was a hot walk through the forest and we were very pleased to find a small restaurant where we enjoyed real Mexican tacos and lemonade before driving on to Chichen Itza.