From Merida Mexico
Day 6 - Thursday, February 8, 2018. After a quick morning breakfast of pastries, sweet mango fruit juice, and the gigantic ugly but very delicious mandarin orange, it was time to be tourists. There are many Mayan pyramids in Mexico, and today we are going to visit the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula.
Colectivo from Merida to Coba
The original plan was to catch a colectivo to the little town of Coba to see the ruins of an ancient Mayan city of 60,000 inhabitants. There are remnants of many stone buildings including the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan. Unfortunately, we had trouble finding the colectivo stand because our map seemed to indicate that it was on the main street. In reality, it was around the corner on a side street. By the time we figured this out, the colectivo had taken off. A taxi driver offered to take us for $200 Pesos ($10.44 USD) one way, which was twice as much as a colectivo. I declined. I knew that the ADO autobus had service to Coba. What I didn't realize was the bus schedule. We took a chance and walked to the ADO autobus station. Fortunately, a bus was leaving in just 15 minutes and returning in the afternoon. We bought two round-trip tickets for peanuts $402 Pesos ($21 USD) and boarded the bus. Again, the ADO autobuses are top notch, and they play mostly American "B" movies on board dubbed in Spanish. Of course, the words don't sync well with the lips, but that only adds to the experience. (Note. The movie plays for all. Bring headphones if you'd rather listen to something else.)
Coba is a tiny village that only caters to the business of tourism at the ruins. The town of Coba is primarily one horseshoe-shaped town square with restaurants, shops, and a prominent entryway to the ruins of Coba. The fee is $70 Pesos ($3.65 USD) and well worth the price. The entire Coba ruins are spread out over several kilometers of ancient Mayan roads called sacbes that are still in use today. A sacbe is about 15 feet wide, worn smooth, and paved with white limestone for night visibility. Coba is the hub where sacbes radiate out to other major cities like Chichen Itza, Tulum and the agricultural areas to the south.
Coba also has the unique distinction of being home to a couple of lakes, a rarity in the Yucatan where all water is underground. I had read that these are swimmable lakes, but we couldn't find a beach area and wanted most of our time to explore the ruins.
Navigating the Coba Ruins
There are three main ruin-sites at Coba separated by a few kilometers of sacbes, and many smaller ruins along the way. We walked our way around the ruins, but there are bikes to rent, or you could ride your way around on a Mayan-taxi bike ride which seemed to be the most popular choice. https://youtu.be/oUJEnNaMdP4.
Tour Guides for Coba Mexico
Dave and I don't usually hire tour guides since Dave like to take the just-the-right photo of everything which takes forever. That said, I would highly recommend hiring a certified guide for around $10 USD. The larger sites have several guides waiting at the entrance that speak a variety of languages so you can pick the one that works for you. For more details on how to hire tour guides in Mexico, go to https://travelyucatan.com/maya-ruin-site-guides/. )
Mayan Ball Courts at Coba Ruins
The first group of ruins included the El Tempo Pyramid and its well-preserved ancient ball courts. The Coba Ruins is so extensive that there are two ball courts in two different areas of the ruins. For the history buffs that want to know more about the ball game, check out The Ball Game of Mesoamerica https://www.ancient.eu/article/604/the-ball-game-of-mesoamerica/
Nohach Mul Pyramid
The were many smaller Mayan ruins in Coba Mexico, and it was the third group of ruins that blew us away. We rounded a curve to an opening in the jungle to see the Nohoch Mul pyramid, the highest Mayan pyramid in the Yucatan peninsula and the second tallest Mayan pyramid in the world. Tourists are still allowed to climb the 120 steps to the top for a panoramic jungle view. Climbing the 120 steps is not an easy task, but if you're not in a hurry, everyone can reach the peak. The 120 stone steps are wide, steep, and slippery. The Mayans were short-statured, yet all of the steps we have seen so far are wide and steep. They must have climbed the steps using all four limbs, which many of the more squeamish tourists are still doing. Once on top, at 42 meters, equivalent to a 15-story building, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the dense green jungle.
The ADO bus service gave us three hours to roam the ruins before reboarding — three hours for exploring what Coba has to offer turned out to be perfect. We did try unsuccessfully to find the swimming area on the nearby lake before boarding the bus. Admittedly, we were too tired and so ready for tacos in Tulum to give the search much effort.
It was late afternoon when the ADO bus dropped us off at the Tulum bus station, and just in time to discover Barb's highly recommended El Aserdero restaurant. (https://www.facebook.com/El-Asadero-130005150345820/.)
El Aserdero is a family owned and operated business. We ordered one plate of beef tacos to split, and it was nothing short of the best beef tacos we have enjoyed yet. Gourmet tacos might sound like an oxymoron but not in this case. The tender grilled beefsteak strips piled high on the plate with 20 hot tortillas and top with any one of the four best sauces ever to put on beef (or anything for that matter) just sizzled Yucatan beef taco with every bite. Full, tired and satisfied we wandered the streets a bit more before retiring early.