After having experienced such exceptional connection to the Maya in wild Cobá, imposing Chichén Itzá, stormy and healing Tulum and unspoiled Ek Balam . . . I had no real plans. I started asking around in Valladolid where to head next and was also using Lonely Planet’s guide book to México which mentioned the RUTA PUUC, a route that takes you to several Mayan cities/ruins all fairly close to each other. On the Ruta Puuc UXMAL looked like a good starting point and I picked IZAMAL, or ITZMAL in Mayan, as the halfway point between Valladolid and Uxmal to spend one day/night over. I was visiting all these parts of the Yucatán during “off season” but I didn’t mind it one bit. Towns were even quieter than normal. I was much more reflective and with less distractions my experiences felt so Spiritual, Magical even. I had scribbled Izamal in my notes prior to my trip too, recommended by my Tía Lily for its beauty, nearly an entire town painted in bright yellows like the Sun. From the ADO bus station I was to ride about 2 hours to arrive at “THE DEW FROM THE HEAVENS”, the meaning in Mayan. The original Mayan city, ITZMAL, was made up of Maya who were once the Itza people.
IZTMAL gets its name after the Maya god ITZAMNÁ, or the “supreme creator of all things/creador supremo de todas cosas”.
The city had a great Maya priest named Zamná who would channel the diety Itzamná. Soon they transformed this into an extremely holy place in the Mayan Empire as early as the 4th century. Zamná also is credited for bringing MAIZ (corn) and CACAO (the heavenly plant from which we get XOCOLATL/chocolate). This great priest taught the people about agriculture and medicine, connecting them to the magic in Plants. . . For instance, he discovered HENEQUÉN, more commonly known today as the AGAVE PLANT (producer of a natural sweetener similar to honey) which the Maya used to make fabric. This Mayan city prospered for more than 10 centuries but ultimately clashes with the Maya of Chichén Itzá and Mayapán are thought to have brought about the downfall of Iztmal Maya. When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century this place was practically abandoned, giving the Spanish full reign to move in and begin building their usual Catholic buildings for pedagogy and conversions of locals.
So a quick recap:
IZAMAL = IZTMAL (in Mayan times), as old as the 4th Century
An important leader and great Priest named Zamná was greatly responsible for the prosperity of this city
Zamná also brought MAIZ and CACAO (2 things modern Mexicans cant live without) and discovered HENEQUÉN for clothes/fabric
Fighting caused the near abandonment of the city. Only 2,500 Maya had remained when the Spanish arrived in 1549
The Spanish swooped in and furthered their cause of Religion and Colonization
I booked a nice hotel/B&B called Macan Ché, whose positive reviews online me llamaron la atención. They were not wrong. The hotel was so cozy and beautiful and I absolutely loved the Mayan paintings and touches in the decor in my room. Also the relaxing atmosphere that I had been enjoying in Valladolid carried over into my one night stay in Izamal too. It’s always nice to treat yourself after staying many nights in hostels; I was completely satisfied with my decision. . . It wasn’t expensive either and being a B&B meant the breakfast was included (a meal I can confirm was to my satisfaction). After quickly setting my things, I asked the hotel workers for the most recommended sights. I wanted so badly to go forth and see all the SUNSHINE in the city and in the architecture (remember all the city was painted the color of the SUN). They told me of the Monastery, which has special fame because Pope John Paul II once visited and held mass there. I likely would go check it out, but I was most interested in 3 archeological sites that were concentrated in the center of the city. Everything was walking distance so I set out on foot, but CHA’AC decided to shake things up a bit. He set the mood, flash rains and thunder too. . . I wasn’t prepared in the slightest. Made getting around a bit more difficult. I ended up going to the Monastery first to retreat from the rain for a bit.
At least stormy weather makes for gorgeous moments like this/ Por lo tanto el tiempo malo nos da tiempos hermosos como estos
So the Monastery is not without its controversy because it was built atop PAP HOL CHAC, the original Mayan Pyramid which just so happened to be the largest one in the city. With more than 150 stairs to the top, this pyramid was very important to the Maya of IZTMAL. . . But the Spanish knew precisely what they were doing. You destroy/tear down/demolish and then rebuild something CATHOLIC on top until the centuries and passing of time make people forget what was once there. I’m glad that now we have the ability to visit holy Mayan sites and even know something of the history of the ones that are no longer, like the one that is below the Monastery/Convento de San Antonio de Padua. The sad history that came with colonization does not diminish the beauty of the golden-colored religious structures, iconic to the city of Izamal. At least I can rejoice in the fact that they did not succeed in fully wiping out the memory and history of these Maya of Iztmal.
Rained out, my evening was limited to returning to the hotel and dining. The pyramids were all closed by the time the rain had ceased. The good news, I planned out the next leg of my trip over dinner and decided on leaving Izamal in the morning. My guide that would drive me to the Ruta Puuc was hired (with help from the staff at Macan Ché) and would be picking me up around 9am. So my only real exploring the next day would have to happen EARLY! I chose to visit before 7am the pyramid that was going to connect me to SOL’s Energy: KINICH KAK MOO. KIN means SOL/SUN in Maya. Kinich Kak Moo is the biggest of the three pyramids found in the very center of Izamal, though there are about 12 in total. It’s one of the biggest pyramids in all of México (con 100 escalones/with 100 stairs to climb) and it’s the only one that I have ever gotten to visit completely unbothered. I didn’t have a guide. I didn’t have any other tourists around. I was COMPLETELY ALONE/SOLA. . . Well, that’s a lie. I was escorted by some locals, these two dogs. They saw me climbing this hill and making my own path up the platform at the very bottom and decided to show me the way. I love dogs. I was kinda thrilled. They seemed not older than a year, both full of energy and a playful attitude, especially the brown one. They showed me to the base of the pyramid and when I arrived and looked up at it, I got somewhat emotional. Believe me when I say these pictures don’t do justice to what you feel when you are standing there, the sheer size of it, the energy and memories this place (sacred place) carries. It was so nice to be on this journey of self, this SOULA journey. I was grateful. So without much thinking, I started the climb. . .
As you can see by the photos my new friends followed me, and followed me all the way up. They made me nervous because as I was so carefully taking each step, they on the other hand ran with reckless abandon up the stone steps and then proceeded to stare down at me like a challenge. There were parts where the steps were almost completely ruined or falling apart and I’d have to improvise, skip over/climb big or high stones jutting out. Also important to note, not a soul was around if I was to fall and injure myself. FUCK!
But a little adventure never hurt anyone who had set the right intention and blessed their trip.
I climbed to the top and was therefore rewarded with epic views here in the Yucatán, a complete 360 degrees. I saw jungle and the town of Izamal. . . as far as my eyes could see everything was in perfect harmony that morning. Clouds or not, the morning was already much more than I had expected. How at peace I was. How did they always know precisely where to build, where one would feel the most and be able to also honor those energies, those natural energies like SOL? Maya, you never cease to amaze me! Now a funny anecdote. I had come all this way, all this way up the pyramid with the intention to meditate, to appreciate the present moment there atop the Yucatán, once again taller than the tallest trees. Freer too than the woman I was just two weeks earlier. So as I placed a small towel on the ground in the center of the pyramid, closed my eyes, and began taking my first deep breaths, **inhale deep, hold for a moment, release, ahhhh, & REPEAT! Should have been so simple if it weren’t for my two new friends. The dogs were not having it. They began biting my towel, biting my clothes, throwing themselves half on top of me, wanting to FULL ON PLAY! On the top of such a serene and perfect space for meditation? Really?! Probably somewhere I’d never experience again in the same way, with that air of novelty. I tried to Om them away for just a few minutes, closing my eyes again and asking them to let me be for a little bit. Ommmmmmmmmmmm! They were not having it. I couldn’t help but feel annoyed and also felt like my main purpose of being up there had been spoiled a bit, not finding the tranquility nor being able to meditate for more than 2 minutes (if you even can call 2 minutes with your eyes closed Meditation). So I gave up, surrendered to both the doggies and the moment, and as if he knew I needed it, SOL made his appearance. The mostly cloudy skies of Izamal had now different tints, golden tints from the Sun. It was in these moments looking out at the beauty in 360 degrees all around me that I knew I was truly in a state of MEDITATION, completely in the present moment, loving my journey and feeling grateful for all the blessings I had experienced in 9 days of travel throughout the Yucatán.
GRACIAS KIN. GRACIAS SOL. THANKS SUN for reaffirming that I was living my purpose.
Rejuvenated in that early morning, I said my goodbyes and descended. I realized when I was walking down a big hill lower than the pyramid that I had entered from an unofficial side entrance, where I had climbed rogue and to get to the pyramid faster, but I didn’t realize KINICH KAK MOO was likely not open at such an early hour (before 7am). So grateful for that morning of connection, Universe was looking out.
***** One more thing Izamal had given me was A MOMENT OF COMPLETE SYNCHRONICITY. . . in the hotel during my only night at dinner. An American couple who were living in Mérida but staying a few days in IZAMAL saw me alone at my table reading my guide book and making notes. They started asking me questions about my travels so far, like where I had been and where I was headed. I told them the places I had loved and yet as far as I knew, after Izamal I was doing the Ruta Puuc but hadn’t thought much more about where I was headed (or sleeping for that matter next). I picked their brains a little about their favorite spots in the area/the Yucatán. At this point I had just 4 or 5 days left of my two-week SOULA TRIP throughout MÉXICO LINDO. They provided a lot of advice, even to the point of insisting that I make my way down to CHIAPAS to see epic PALENQUE and the Mayan Ruins that are surrounded by so much jungle. I had heard Chiapas mentioned many times already in just over a week that I’d been in Mexico. Even on my flight the girl sitting next to me was from Cancun and she raved about her honeymoon spent in Chiapas and said I should go if I could. All along, I kept telling people that I didn’t think I’d have time to go so far down south. Maybe on the next trip, I’d say. I mean, look at a map of México, the country is ENORMOUS. I certainly didn’t want to fly, so I would have to bus it if wanted to get all the way south.
But every couple of days someone would talk to me about CHIAPAS. . . how many times do we not listen to the signs that are clear and true, like the ones whispered to us by strangers in our path? How many more signs did I need to get my Ass down south?
Chiapas was the place that changed my heart and made me come ALIVE [again] . . .Finally!!! But that’s a story that will unfold in the next 5-10 México Blog Posts. I hope you stick with me. I have so much more to share. For all the México Posts, just click here: VAMOS!!!