the stairs up the main pyramid in Ek Balam

Ek Balam is an impressive Maya archaeological site, and former major Mayan city, north of Valladolid. Its main structure  is a 32 meter high pyramid, with 106 steps: I know, because this one you are allowed to climb – which may be part of its tourist attraction.

And a tourist attraction it is. We were, once again, early to beat the crowds, but by nine there were already plenty people on site. Who all paid the pretty steep entrance ticket of in total over 500 pesos per person, well over 30 US$, made up by several agencies, federal and state, who all want to have a share of the pie. A far cry from the 75 pesos we had to pay in the Rio Bec area, where we were often the only visitors.

the entrance arch, stand alone

lesser temples around the South Court, also climable

the obligatory ball court, same at every site

But Ek Balam was worth every penny. It is a fairly compact site. Yet, it contains quite a few buildings in addition to the main pyramid. There is an entrance arch, a round palace, a ball court and several temples. I will spare you the details of Late Preclassic to Postclassic, with its demise as major centre in the Late Classic period, save to say that the place had been occupied from perhaps 500-600 BC to 1100 AD.

As said, the most spectacular structure is the main pyramid, or acropolis, and not only because of its stairs. On the sides at the base remnants of the Maya hieroglyphs can be deciphered, and about half way up is the burial chamber of one of its prime rulers, called Ukit Kan Lek Tok. The entrance of the chamber is decorated with a range of friezes, and with sculptures of several figures; I don’t know all the details – and if I would have known, I would have forgotten, by now -, but it is pretty impressive, given that this is all mostly original, not restored.

By the time we left, it was a lot busier at the entrance of the site, even more tourists then when we arrived; so we did manage to beat the real crowds!

the base of the main pyramid, a sizable structure

Mayan hieroglyphs on the outside pyramid wall

the main burial chamber, the outside full of decorations and statues

one of the secondary burial chambers, decorated

one of the prominent statues

and one of the tiny ones, above the door

looking down the stairs, a rare moment without anybody

and the view from above, across to the South Court

On the way to Rio Lagartos, our next destination, we briefly stopped in Kilik, another small town, where somehow lots of horses and their riders had congregated. As it turned out, they were preparing for the last day of their fiesta, which included a trip with about forty horses through the countryside, before lots of dancing in the evening. The horses were beautifully harnessed, with special saddles, reigns and all the paraphernalia necessary; the riders less so, mostly boots and a Stetson, with the exception of one of the amazons, who probably went for the beauty contest, next to her visibly proud father.

horses are being brought to Kilik for the grand local

riders and horses, mostly out of the sun, preparing for the trip

one of the amazones, and she knows it

and they get them young!

saddle and stirrups

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