"No, we are totally booked for tonight…sorry", was the answer I did not want to hear! Our pondering decision to stay one more night in Bacalar was made for us. So we packed up our gear, loaded the bikes and headed into the jungle.
We are only 11 kilometers from the border of Belize when we make a right turn and head back into the center of Mexico. We have one last ruin to view, the ancient Maya city of Calakmul. This important Maya site played a key role in the history of this region for over twelve centuries. The massive structures are set deep in the tropical forest of the Tierras Bajas of Southern Mexico, making it more difficult to visit. Because the site was not rediscovered until 1931 and experienced minimal activity until 1993 the authenticity of the site is very high. The hour long windy potholed paved/dirt road off the main highway is tedious and steamy, but, it is well worth trip in. After parking and another two kilometer hike in through the dense jungle over a very slippery moist mossy clay packed ground Calakmul appears before your eyes. The well preserved structures, some towering high above the sodden forest canopy peer into neighboring Guatemala, vividly capture and transport you back in time to what must have been an amazing bustling Maya city. Calakmul culturally dominated from the mid 500's to the late 600's AD. Maya power was gradually moving north into the Yucatan and by 900 AD, Calakmul was no longer a city of influence. A very short period of prominence for such an impressive city! Even so Calakmul City did continue to thrive and survive over the next 12 centuries with the last inhabitants in the area, known as cehaches, descendants of the inhabitants of Calakmul. When the Spanish conquered the area in the 1530's Calakmul was found to be completely abandoned. Calakmul contains the largest amount of stelae, in their original place. Stelae are up right stone or slab structures with an inscribed and or sculptured surface used as a monument or commemorative tablet in front of a building, kind of an ancient building marker or directory. To me, the slabs look very Stonhenge like! Excavation and exploration is ongoing unearthing impressive tombs, some considered to be royal, along with ritual ceramic vessels, a variety of rich ornaments and a large quantity of jade masks.
Walking the two kilometers into the site in our boots and riding pants was slow, hot and cumbersome to say the least. The jungle surrounding us alive with monkey squabbles and howls, screeching birds, and large vibrant butterflies. The jungle banter distracted us from the positively moist, drippy, clammy, and overheating we were experiencing. I wore my camelback filled with electrolytes and Kev carried water. It was truly a life saver. Not much climbing was done today, although Kev climbed to the top of the tallest structure to view Guatemala and the surrounding structures…it almost killed him but it was worth it. While he climbed, I sat in the shade below listening to the monkeys and watching cutter ants caring jagged pieces of freshly snipped foliage across the earth the foliage many times larger than themselves, it occurred to me that these ancient Maya civilizations with such achievements reminded me of a gigantic ant colony. Both capable of amazing strength, structure, and sacrifice!
Calakmul was truly a pleasurable and an uninterrupted individual experience. There were no vendors, tour guides or swarms of bodies, in fact we only saw 2 people there! We did see…monkeys swinging with playful ease in the jungle canopy above us, some caring babies on their backs. Several pausing on branches to watch our next moves. Vibrant almost peacock like colored Ocellated Turkey with their chicks, cross our paths while riding in…but the peace to resistance was the sightings of two Jaguars. One cat slowly crossed the road in front of us, about 10 kilometers in, while we were entering Calakmul and one cat zoomed across the road, tail completely extended while we were exiting the reserve….WOW, you just don't see that everyday!