13 APRIL (Sunday)
We walked back to the site in the morning, ready for a full day of explorations. When you get far enough past the front admissions gate to see anything, the first thing you see is the magnificent Pyramid of the Magician (also called the Pyramid of the Dwarf, or House of the Dwarf). It is fully restored, and was the only pyramid that we saw during our trip that had rounded sides (it has an oval base).
The Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal has an oval base. Note the person on the steps for a sense of scale. The stairs on the side that is out of view were twice as steep an angle.
Climbing the steps in front of us made me more than a little nervous, and I was not embarrassed to take advantage of the large chain that ran up its steep slope. These steps were the steepest I had seen yet, but they were nothing compared with the steps on the opposite side of the pyramid. This side went down into a courtyard bordered on one the far side by the Nunnery Quadrangle. I was determined to climb every large pyramid that I could (and I did), but I wouldn't have wanted to climb those particular steps, which seemed twice as steep as the ones I'd just climbed. At the top of the pyramid we explored the upper temple and took numerous photos of the rest of the site laid out before us. We also talked with a young lady who was waiting for her brother to come up the steep side (which he eventually did).
Here I am taking a break near the top of the pyramid. The rusted chain that runs from top to bottom (for the safety of the climbers) is within reach.
One of the main things you'll notice about Uxmal, especially near the main buildings, is that the air is always full of birds. These brown birds, about the size of an American starling, have nests in the rooms of the Quadrangle and in other places in the ruins. You can actually hear a constant sound of them flying and chirping. Luckily for us the birds were there (though we heard one idiot curse their presence), for, like the bats of Tikal, they kept the mosquito population down to a bare minimum. The fact that there were so many of them proved that there was a lot of insects to eat there. I saw very few mosquitoes myself, as it was the very end of the dry season (great timing), and the few that approached left us alone because of our treated clothing and bug-repellent sunscreen.
At the top of the pyramid I stand and lean against the temple while I pan across the jungle with my camcorder. You get a great view looking down on the site's other ruins from here.
I seemed to sweat more at Uxmal than I had at other sites, but it also seemed to be more of a dry heat. We saw as much as we could see until lunchtime, and then decided to take a rest from the heat. We returned to the hotel for lunch, then took the car and headed for the Puuc sites. We wanted to see these lesser sites that day, which was Sunday, because the Yucatan Mayan sites are usually free on Sunday. After a short drive we arrived at Kabah, which is split in two by the highway that leads to it. Kabah is well worth exploring, especially to see the wall of Chac masks on the Codz Poop building. On the other side of the highway (past the parking lot) is a huge Mayan pyramid, but it is so overgrown and so dilapidated that it is hardly recognizable as such. Down the path there was a classic Mayan arch standing over the sacbe (ancient walkway), but it looked out of place, as it was fully restored, but there was nothing else near it.
Back on the road we arrived at the site of Sayil. The small house that served as an admissions desk had a front yard full of chickens and turkeys, running around freely on the path and through the trees. Sayil reminded me somewhat of Tikal in that its notable buildings were usually at the end of a long path through the trees. These paths had a small sign at their beginning, but you were always left wondering if you were headed in the right direction, and if so, how much farther was it going to be.
The Palace at Sayil is its most important feature, and it is very distinctive when viewed from the front. Its three stories and columned entryways reminded one of a Greco-Roman palace, and it was very impressive. I climbed to the top, from which I could see out for a fair distance over the trees. Then, it was time to hurry off to the next site.
The three-storied Palace at Sayil. (See the person in white by the front stairs for scale.)
It was now the late afternoon, and by the time we got to the next site of Labna, we only had about 45 minutes left before they closed for the day. We rushed through the site, but were still able to see everything that we wanted before the guard came along and told us it was time to go.
Labna is known for its famous arch, which was very nice. However, I also enjoyed seeing its palace (where we found a huge iguana) and a temple called El Mirador, which had an exterior piece of stonework that showed a man's head coming out of a snake's mouth.
I'm standing in the gateway of the Labna arch, which is the only restored structure in this area of the site. Originally this gate would have been only a part of a much larger wall or building.
We got back to the car rather pleased with ourselves, as we had gotten into four Mayan sites in one day, all for free. That was eight admission fees saved. We could have also done the nearby Puuc site of Xlapak if we'd left Uxmal a little earlier, but I don't think we missed that much there. We drove on back to the villa thinking about everything that we had seen that day. We had dinner at the villa, but I was probably to tired to remember anything about it.