After walking around the sun-drenched ruins at Chichen Itza, our tour group ate lunch at a restaurant outside the park. Lunch was a buffet of fresh fruit, tamales, rice, beans, chicken, and one of my favorite Mexican dishes, cochinita pibil. The latter is the Yucatecan version of slow-cooked, shredded pork. It is delicious even when it is not the best version of itself.
Once our stomachs were full, we shopped for souvenirs at a bazaar of Mexican-made items. The line at the register was long and because of that Stephanie and I were the last ones on the bus; a few minutes after our scheduled three o’clock departure time. Yes, we got razzed by Carlos for being late.
Then it was a short bus ride to the Ik-Kil Cenote. What’s a “cenote?” A sinkhole filled with groundwater. There are hundreds of them throughout the Yucatan peninsula. These natural wonders provided fresh water for the Maya.
The Ik-Kil Cenote is round, a seemingly perfect circle, located over 80 feet below the ground. The top is surrounded by thick vegetation, the hung over the hole.
After waiting in line to rent a storage locker, you change into your bathing suit, put your clothes and personal belongings in the locker, shower, then walk down the slippery stone steps to the water. There is no elevator, so climbing down (and back up) is only for the most able-bodied.
We were warned that the water was very cold. There is a set of ladders for climbing into the water and a set of ladders for climbing out of the water, I opted to not climb in. I thought, if it’s cold, then I might as well jump in. I chose the second highest point and jumped in.
Here I am leaping off the platform into the water.
It was cold but not freezing cold. After several hours in the Yucatan heat, it felt refreshing and invigorating to swim and tread in the clear water.
You could see all the fish swimming below you. You could try to reach out and touch them, but they would swim away just as you moved your hand.
The view from the water up at the sky is stunning.
Stephanie and I swam a bit. Then we got out and went up to the platforms and leaped off at the same time. We were so excited to be jumping into and swimming in that crisp, cool water, underground. We swam away from where most of the other people were congregating near the ladders, and towards the center of the sinkhole. We kissed in the water, relishing the long moment of exhilaration.
I really didn’t want to leave the water. Can you tell?
This not-wanting-to-leave also made us, once again, the last people on the bus. I changed in the men’s locker room and waited outside the women’s locker room for my wife. I waited. And waited some more. Looking at my phone, seeing that it was getting closer to 4pm (the time Carlos told us all that the bus was leaving to return to Cancun) and then 4pm, wondering what was taking my wife so long.
Turns out my wife and had changed into her clothes and gone straight to the bus. She came back to get me after realizing I was probably waiting for her.
We arrived at the bus a few minutes after four. With a smile, Carlos said, “You guys are always last!”
To float in that water for just one more minute….