From Campeche we continued our journey into the jungle - our destination was the small settlement called Xpujil, which is the easiest base for exploring the ruins of Calakmul. Although we had already seen lots of Mayan ruins, we were still drawn to Calakmul due to its location in the middle of the Biosphere Reserve in the jungle, so there is a great chance of seeing wildlife as well. The bus ride from Campeche to Xpujil took around 4 hours. As far as I could see, we were the only foreigners in the bus and also the only people to get off at Xpujil. A lone taxi driver pounced on us offering a ride to our hostel (no thanks, it's about two minutes' walk) as well as his services as a driver and a guide for the following day to visit Calakmul and other ruins in the area. As you do need a driver in any case - it is about 60 kilometres away and there is no public transport - we went ahead and booked the eager driver for the price of 1200 pesos per person. It was not dirt cheap, but on the other hand with this price we got a private driver and guide for the whole day as well as packed lunch, water and other refreshments.
|A jungle turkey|
|The best picture we managed to get of a howler monkey|
Aamulla lähdettiin matkaan reippaina ennen klo 7, koska aamuisin eläimet ovat virkeimmillään ja silloin on paras mahdollisuus nähdä niitä. Ensin kävimme pienellä patikkareissulla laguunan ympäri, jossa näkyi ensinnäkin todella paljon moskiitoja (muista hyttysmyrkky!) mutta myös eri lintuja ja sekä möly- että hämähäkkiapinoita. Mölyapinat pitivät ihan uskomatonta mekkalaa - olen nähnyt ja kuullut niitä toki luontodokumenteissa, mutta on ihan eri asia nähdä ja kokea se ihan livenä viidakon keskellä. Kylmät väreet menivät selkäpiitä pitkin ja iho meni kananlihalle sitä showta katsellessa ja kuunnellessa! Hämähäkkiapinoita näkyi parissakin paikassa, ne ovat sitten vikkeliä veijareita roikkuessaan puista ihan miten sattui.
|Ya toucan to me?|
We were picked up bright and early before 7 am, as the morning is when the animals are at their most active and that's the best time to view them. First we did a little hike around a lagoon where we could see first of all masses and masses of mosquitoes (do bring repellent!) but also lots of birds and both howler monkeys and spider monkeys. The howler monkeys were just absolutely amazing - sure, I had seen and heard them in nature documentaries, but to experience it all live in the middle of the jungle is a different thing altogether. That incredible noise that they can make echoing all around you... I got chills and my skin went all goose-bumpy! We also saw spider monkeys in a couple of places, they are impressive in their agility.
|A fox in Calakmul|
Calakmulin maya-rauniot ovat myös todella vaikuttavat, myös siitäkin syystä että ihmismassat loistavat poissaolollaan. Muistan lukeneeni, että Chichen Itzassa käy noin 4000 vierailijaa päivässä, kun Calakmulissa luku on 60 ihmisen tienoilla. Ero oli kyllä huomattava! Alue on ihan valtava ja siellä viettää helposti 3 - 4 tuntia kävellen ympäriinsä. Joillain alueilla olimme ihan kolmestaan oppaamme kanssa, toisissa paikoissa näkyi sentään muitakin vierailijoita. Täälläkin pääsi kiipeilemään monien pyramidien huipulle, myös 45-metrisen pyramidin, joka on toiseksi korkein koskaan löydetyistä mayojen pyramideista. Kiipesimme parin pyramidin huipulle, mutta jätimme kolmannen pyramidin kiipeämättä, kun tukahduttava kuumuus painoi jo vanhoissa luissa. Oli myös todella hyvä kulkea oppaan kanssa, koska sillä tavoin raunioista sai paljon enemmän irti kuin niitä omin päin katsellessa.
We were also really impressed by the ruins of Calakmul, made all the better for the absolute lack of crowds. I remember reading somewhere that while in Chichen Itza there are around 4 000 visitors a day, in Calakmul that figure is more like 60 people. You could definitely feel the difference! The area of Calakmul is vast and you can easily spend 3 - 4 hours walking around. In some places it was just the three of us, in others there were a few more people. Also here it is possible to climb several pyramids, including the 45-metre one which is the second highest Maya pyramid ever discovered. After climbing a couple of them we decided against climbing the third one as the suffocating heat tired us out. It was really good having a guide as well, as this way we got much more out of the ruins than going around by ourselves.
|Climbing yet another Mayan pyramid...|
To finish the day off, we headed to a bat cave around sunset as this is the time they will leave the cave to go feeding and according to our guide this was a great spectacle. He told us there are "entre tres y cuatro millones" bats in the cave and I momentarily confused the words "miles" and "millones" in Spanish, thinking that there are about 4000 bats. We were sitting by the cliff edge, looking down at the cave entrance where the bats started to fly out from. And then some - and then some - and then some more... at some point, amazed by the seemingly infinite number of animals flying out it suddenly hit me, that the guide had said there are about 3 - 4 MILLION bats in the cave, not thousands. I must say it was an incredible sight, I have never seen anything like it. The tiny bats were filling the air, flying so close to us that at times I felt their little wings on my face. Unfortunately we didn't manage to get any decent pictures of this spectacle, as the tiny bats flying around in the dusk at incredible speed didn't stop to pose for us.
The following day we did a shorter trip of a couple of hours with the same guide visiting the other ruins close to Xpujil: Hormiguerra, Chicana, Rio Beca and Xpujil. All these sites were considerably smaller than Calakmul, so they were easily visited in about half an hour in each place, but all of them were different from one another and interesting in their own way. The area of Calakmul is an amazing place to visit, I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in history or nature!