April 19: Our day off, Mayan ruins, bats and more…by Tanja

Today was our day off. While the villagers had their day of rest during Sunday, we had planned on visiting the Maya pyramid ruins in Calakmul in the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve. The start was at 6 am, and we tiredly climbed out of our hammocks, to go to the meeting point in front of one the little shops in the village. And there we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Vaiting for the taxis at El 20 / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015
Waiting for the taxis at El 20 / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015

After about 2 hours, the taxis we were waiting for came, one by one, and we could start our journey towards Xpujil, where we were going to eat breakfast.

In Xpujil we got some baguettes, some of us also bought some ice creams, but because it was so hot, the ice creams melted faster than they could be eaten. So when the ice creams were finished half of them were in our bellies and half were melted puddles on the ground. After breakfast we continued towards the Mayan pyramids.

Along the way we had to change from taxis to minibuses, which were allowed to drive inside the area where the pyramids are. We drove through the jungle, for what seemed a very long time, before we came to a little hut in the forest. The little hut was the reception for the actual ruin area, and there were also toilets near the reception hut. The toilets were a sight to see also, they were separating dry toilets, the kind that we had been thinking they could have in the village. The experience was not very pleasant in these toilets though, which is a pity, because I think the user experience plays an important role in the attitude towards dry toilets. These toilets were smelly and dirty, and lacked a couple of essential things, like toilet paper.

The walk to the ruins was about 1 km through the forest. I tried to get a glimpse of a jaguar, but I didn’t see any. Maybe that was for the best J We saw a lot of different kinds of ruins in the forest, and we climbed to the top of the pyramids. Some of us had the energy to climb onto many pyramids while others were happy to get on top of one. The day was extremely hot, 38 degrees I remember someone saying, which made the climbing even tougher. At one of the pyramids we filmed a short film that was added to the ALM 2015 video. It was amazing seeing all the ruins, and wondering what the people who lived there were like, what they thought about, what they dreamed about, what they feared.

View on top of a pyramid / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015
View on top of a pyramid / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015
View to another pyramid / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015
View to another pyramid / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015
The team at the base of a pyramid / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015
The team at the base of a pyramid / photo © Jan Ahlstedt/ALM 2015

After we had climbed the pyramids, we returned to the reception hut, shared a whole watermelon, climbed on board the minibuses and drove to a Mayan museum.

At the Mayan museum, we just had time to look around really quick, because it closed shortly after we arrived. There was a lot of replicas of old things found in the Mayan towns, and also descriptions of the animals in the area.

From the Mayan museum we first travelled out of the pyramid area, then changed to taxis and went to our next destination; the bat cave!

The bat cave is about 100 m deep on the mountainside a bit outside of Xpujil. When the sun is about to set, the bats wake up and fly out from the cave to start their fruit hunt in the night. The sight was quite amazing, there where thousands and thousands of bats that came flying from the cave.

After the bat cave we took the taxi to Xpujil, ate dinner at a taco place and returned to El 20. Even though it was quite late we still had a short lesson when we came back. Elina held a presentation on dry toilets and explained what exactly they are and how they work. I have to admit, I think I fell asleep a couple of times, sitting on my chair, and so did someone else. The day had just been so long and we had gotten up so early. After the dry toilet presentation we finally got to go to bed. Laying down in the hammock while it slowly rocked sent us all quickly to sleep.

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