There is something about renting bicycles whilst travelling that makes me chuckle, as you never quite know what you are going to get. The size might be vaguely suitable, you might get some sort of brakes, and if you are really lucky you might actually be able to use more than one of the gears. Cycle and maintenance are two words that are rarely seen together, and I have seen chains in this town that are rustier than a ship's anchor, but with the only aim being to travel from A to B in less time than walking, then anything will do!
We hadn't seen any rain on this trip so far, but if we were going to encounter any, it may as well have been on the day that we visited our first cenote (pronounced se-no-tay). I will elaborate in the next post, but for now just imagine a big natural well that is large enough to swim in.
We had heard that Valladolid was not as firmly on the tourist trail as other towns in the area, so we made this our base, and the man who rented us two contraptions with wheels told us about a couple of lesser known cenotes, so off we pedalled with our swimwear and towels. Some cenotes get crowded, but we were very lucky to start with Cenote Oxman, which only had two or three other people in it and was typical of what we had expected to see - beautifully clear turquoise water and tree roots dangling freely from above.
I wasn't expecting to be surrounded by little fish nibbling the dead skin from my feet and torso. Don't pay high prices for this, just come here and get a free fish spa!
After the first one, it is tempting to think that they are all the same, but we soon discovered that this isn't the case at all. Some are underground, sometimes only discovered after building on top of them. Some have only small openings, such as Cenote X-kekén where we watched the colony of bats leaving at dusk. Some are isolated, whilst others are connected with hundreds of miles of tunnels. Some have a crude swing hanging from a tree for entertainment, and others have entire theme parks built around them. There is something for everyone, and if you don't like one, you can get back on the squeaky bike and look for another.
Valladolid is also conveniently close to the most famous and heavily visited of the Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá. Since so much of the jungle has been cleared, it's easier here to imagine the scale of this once grand city, complete with its own cenote which was used for throwing in the odd young boy as a sacrifice. There are many fascinating facts about the pyramid, such as the number of steps and levels being used as a Mayan calendar, but during the two annual equinoxes, something incredible happens. The sun strikes off the corner of the monument casting a series of triangular shadows against the balustrade, creating the illusion of a feathered serpent crawling down the steps. Now that would be worth coming back for!