The adventure has a bewitching fragrance… And go off her couch, watching Indiana Jones retrieve a relic in the middle of the jungle at the risk of her life or Lara Croft jump from ruin to ruin to unravel the mystery of a lost civilization: it’s exciting! And that’s exactly the impression I got when I entered this black hole, in the belly of the earth in cenote Ek Balam.
One of my best memories in my travels.
What is a cenote? I will resist the temptation to give you a master class that alone would take the size of a relatively long article. And as I promised you I would no longer drown under 4000-word articles… I resist!
But still, to give you the context of this beautiful day, I have to tell you “a little” about the cenotes.
Cenote is a deep natural well or sinkhole, found mainly in Central America, formed by the collapse of limestone, partially or completely filled with water.
Cenotes are particularly abundant in the south-eastern region of Mexico, with more than 10,000 in the Yucatan Peninsula.
If they were once considered sacred places (link with the underworld and place of ceremony), these natural swimming pools of a crystal blue are today places of bathing and adventure!
Like Ek Balam’s cenote, reputedly the largest on the Yucatan Peninsula.
At The Heart Of The Cenote Ek Balam
Arriving on the site, I discover with surprise infrastructure worthy of a holiday center. It is far from my images of wild jungle: small welcome shed, changing locker room, restaurant area Tourists arrive in small groups, crossing each other without mixing. As all this seems well organized!
The jersey threaded, we finally get to the hole of the cenote. A platform has been set up to abseil down to the cool waters of Ek Balam, 26 metres below.
Always going to embark on this kind of adventure! On the edge of the abyss, I am equipped with a harness and gloves. “It’s very easy, you’ll see!” Half reassured, I place my feet on the edge, my body above the void.
With a trembling hand, I let out a few centimetres of rope in order to begin my descent. Like Lara Croft entering an ancient city covered by the earth, I discover the décor of this cenote. From my point of view, its 60 meters in diameter seems gigantic to me. It’s so dark in the distance. And yet, A few meters under me, I see sparkling blue water.
Ek Balam: More Than Just A Cenote
Ek Balam does not only refer to this: it is also the name of a Mayan archaeological site, located 30 km north of Valladolid and 2 km from the cenote of the same name.
In the Mayan language of Yucatan, “eek’ balam” means black jaguar (ek “black,” balam “jaguar”).
This city, which dates back to 300 years bc. J.C., was once a very rich Mayan capital. It covers about 12 km2 and consists of a sacred central space where the elite resided, protected by walls.
Ek Balam, unknown to the general public, is nevertheless considered one of the most impressive archaeological sites of the Yucatan Peninsula. And I understand why: the decorations of its monumental main pyramid are worth a visit!