During our Easter holidays staying at Hacienda Dzibikak, we were a little spoilt for choice when it came to deciding on how to while away our time. Should we swim in a sacred cenote? Marvel at flamingos gathered at a nature reserve? Boogie on down to a white sand beach with our boogie board? Or simply swing back into a hammock and recharge in the luxurious tropical hacienda.
One morning we set off out to Indian Jones our way around the ancient Maya city of Uxmal. Just one hour from Merida, the complex of Uxmal offers a wondrous and easy day trip to those with kids, as well as those without. Considering we were visiting during the school holidays, the queue to the UNESCO World Heritage Site was short, and once we had our tickets punched we were away from other visitors and were away with our imagination.
Suddenly, we found ourselves standing in front of the 100-foot 'Pyramid of the Magician', spellbound. Dusted with enchanting legends, the miraculous pyramid is said to have been constructed by a magician-god, Itzamna, in one night. The entire city was built in alignment with the positions of the planets, and the stairwell of the pyramid is oriented to face the setting of the summer solstice sun. The mysticism of the 'Pyramid of the Magician' combined with its physical heft, its dominance, commands you to acknowledge its stature, its importance as the Uxmal ceremonial centre. It demands you to bear the weight of its history. Maya.
It was somewhat surprising that this incredible pyramid, the tallest structure of this Maya city, was the first ancient building of the complex to greet our eyes and souls, but Uxmal is so much more than this one magnificent pyramid. The 'Nunnery', the Spaniardised name for the fascinating area, was used as a school for training priests, shamans, mathematicians, astronomers and healers. Each building in the quadrangle presents ornate facades, each unique in its artwork. The 'Palace of the Governor' provided a respite from the glaring sun as we were drawn to study the bold carvings only to sit in the cool enclaves in the company of some like-minded iguanas.
As talk from the youngsters started to move off of Mayan friezes and on to the topic of freezing chocolate, we decided to move towards 'The Great Pyramid'. The children, worn out, sat by some rocks 'iguana-watching'. The adults, in turn, climbed to the top of 'The Great Pyramid' to inhale deeply, whether through exhaustion or through inspiration, and to revere the panoramic, tree-horizoned views. The Maya built pyramids to serve as temples and tombs, to honour gods and royalty. Today, these stunning structures continue to serve, they are our stepping stones, leading us steeply to ancient heavens, guiding us to honour an ancient people. Maya.
Directly across the road from the Uxmal archeological site is Choco-Story, a museum of chocolate. This was why the kids had been talking of freezing chocolate. After the pyramids, we promised, we'd enjoy a cooling chocolate drink. Where better to indulge in a dark drink, designed for the gods, than in a museum dedicated to telling the story of cacao bean, from pod to artesanal sweet treats? A museum within walking distance to a Mayan temple, possibly, devoted to the gods the drink was destined for? A museum in the land which introduced xocoatl, chocolate, to the world? We were definitely in the right place!
The chocolate frio was divinely delicious. It was rich, thick, dark and cool. It was perfect. Were we expecting anything less? We took our drinks down the cacao bean trail. The design of the museum/eco-park leads you down paths through tropical flora and fauna to reach a 'maya hut' filled with interesting and interactive displays. The kids loved it, as did the adults. The hut where chocolate was prepared using ancient recipes was a highlight, though the hot concoction itself was very bitter tasting. I choose to prepare mine with the achiote spice, just as the Maya would have after the use of human blood was banned by the Spanish colonialists. The kids choose to add cinnamon to theirs.
Something that really caught my attention and made me giggle was the Victorian hot chocolate cup collection, complete with porcelain moustache guards to keep those whiskers chocolate free. Hipster friends, there's an idea for you!
Peckish, we headed a few kilometres south to British-owned restaurant, 'The Pickled Onion', which was recommended to us by our British hacienda owner. The restaurant was warmly decorated and the food was delicious. It made the perfect restoration stop for tourists visiting not only Uxmal, but also the other Mayan sites closeby.
Exhausted and completely satisfied, it was time to take the traffic-free road back north to rest well at the handsome hacienda. Another exceptional day in the Yucatan.