The Choco Story museum is made up of a series of traditional Maya huts, each one containing exhibits that lead us through the history of chocolate and its role in Maya society. The shallow soil of the Yucatán Peninsula isn't great for growing cacao trees, but the beans were often traded and were quite valuable - probably because they're so tasty. We learned that the Maya drank a lot of hot chocolate as part of their many ceremonies, spicing it up with some chili and even adding some natural red colouring so that it looked like blood - they did appreciate a good human sacrifice! In one of the huts we had the chance try out the original Maya recipe, while having a chat with local guy who turned out to be a big Oasis fan.
That place was paradise. Similarly to the chocolate museum, the Pickled Onion is made up of a collection of traditional Maya huts, all set within beautifully kept grounds. Lots of plants and trees provide much needed shade from the crazy Mexican sun, and the small pool provided somewhere to cool off after a long day of hiking ruins. The restaurant was also amazing and we were quick to head there for an ice cold beer and some chimichangas as soon as we had dumped our stuff in our very own hut. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing outside in hammocks, while sipping on some cocktails.
First up was the main event: Uxmal. With its densely packed together pyramids, courtyards, palaces, archways and ball courts, and amazing views over the Yucatán jungle, Uxmal emerged as our favourite archaeological site of the entire trip! Since we made it to the site just after 9am, we had the site almost completely to ourselves, making for a truly amazing experience.
As the sun reached its zenith, and the temperature climbed to 39°C we decided to head for some caves for shelter. In particular, the Grutas de Loltún. Our drive to the caves took us along the actual Ruta Puuc (Puuc Route), along which a large number of small Maya ruins can be found, some of which we returned to later in the day. The route itself is slightly narrow road with many potholes and jungle creeping in from either side. And there were signs warning us of jaguars... although we didn't see any. Again, Elizabeth was a little bit disappointed.
After a slightly confusing drive, we stumbled across the caves and hurried in as a tour was about to begin. Descending down some steps into the caves brought instant relief. As our guide pointed out, it was as if the caves were air conditioned. They were also pretty stunning.
Massive boulders lay in some parts of the cave, the result of the ceiling collapsing when the (possibly) dinosaur-killing meteor hit the peninsula roughly 66 million years ago. This was reassuring; barring a catastrophic astrological event we could be confident that no such boulders would be falling on our heads!
Our guide was great, telling us all about how ancient people used the cave as shelter, how the Pre-Hispanic Maya used it for ceremonies, and how, during the Caste War of the 19th century, Maya used the caves to hide from the Spanish.
Both sites were almost completely deserted. We were free to explore the grounds by ourselves. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend the end of the day, even as the sun continued to beat down on us. The intricate ornamentation of the buildings at these sites are representative of the Puuc architectural style, and can also be seen adorning the buildings at Uxmal. Lots of faces with long curved noses (representing the rain god Chaac), stylized representations of huts, and rows of X's and pillars seemed to be common features of these structures.
From Kabah, we made our way back to the Pickled Onion for another evening of cocktails by the pool, and delicious Mexican food. It was a busy day, filled with some unforgettable experiences. We'd thoroughly recommend people to visit this region of the Yucatán Peninsula!
In case you missed the other blog post about our trip, you can it here:
Yucatán Road Trip: 2 Days in Valladolid
And the next one can be found here:
Yucatán Road Trip: 3 Days in Tulum
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Yucatán and would recommend it to everyone, so we have created a guide for anyone who is looking to do a road trip around the Yucatán Peninsula! Check it out, and spread the word about this remarkable road trip destination: YUCATÁN ROAD TRIP GUIDE
And you can check out the travel video of our trip below: