Journey to Muyil

Nestled in the Yucatán peninsula, close enough to Tulum but far away from the tourist crowd, Muyil is a little known but wonderfully enchanting Maya site. Called Chunyaxché by the locals, Muyil is believed to have been an important trading post and an inland seaport whose origins date back to 300 B.C.

We took a path not traveled by the typical tourist: we arrived via the ancient waterways the Maya themselves used, on a small boat led by a Mayan guide.  It took a full three hours, longer perhaps this way, but we had made a day of it and were in no rush.  Every turn of the canal opened up new and wondrous sights for us: crystal green waters, schools of curious fish, overhanging mangroves, and always, always the thrilling chance we'd see a crocodile.  And we did, but for a fleeting moment as the rugged armor of his back broke the surface of the water.

And on our way back, our journey was blessed by a trio of dolphins performing a few leaps for us in the setting sun...

~ Birgitte Rasine

Click on the images below to see the larger views.

A white heron welcomes us to the beginning of our journey
A last glimpse of Western civilization before we turn off into the world of the Maya
The intrepid producer, feeling much more at home here than at a computer screen
Our guide weaves us through a maze of ancient canals and waterways
We glide along the translucent, aquamarine waters of the canals bordered by lush mangroves
Another turn in the canal… and with each turn, you hold your breath wondering what new sight or scenery will unfold before you
Closer now to the lagoon that borders Muyil.  The foliage thickens…
... but instead of the lagoon we come upon a lone structure.  Our guide tells us this was an ancient Mayan jail.
The Maya would deliver their convicts here and leave them to fend for themselves, to survive in the middle of the wilderness.
Detail in the façade of the jail.  This was not a customs checkpoint as some writings suggest, our guide explains.
At last, the breathtaking Muyil lagoon.  We cross in what sems like a few moments and dock on the other side.
On the way to the main Muyil site, we see numerous Maya carvings in the stones that border the footpath.
We walk past a peaceful, bucolic scene with a Maya family home
Entryway to a pyramid in Plaza de la Entrada (Entrance Plaza) that is still only half-excavated
A chamber at the top of Temple 8 (Structure 9K-1)
The side wall of Temple 8, with a tree growing right through the ruins
El Castillo, the largest structure in Muyil.  Archaeologists believe the Maya worshipped the goddess Ixchel here.
A low-angle view of the imposing upper section of El Castillo, partially damaged by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988.
The boardwalk back to Muyil Lagoon. Here, we stopped to look at a “ojo de agua” ("eye of water"), a natural freshwater spring.
Striking, verdant palm leaves purposely obscure our path as we head back, breathing a reminder of the Maya into our souls
Our guide, Pancho, heading back toward our boat to ready the return trip… which we were in no hurry to embark upon!
Another small Maya jail, now nearly forgotten and nearly submerged by higher water levels, as we emerge from the ancient canals
Cenotes of the heavens reflect the cenotes of Earth… (see next slide)
Looking straight into the mouth of a cenote, an underwater cave of which thousands dot the Yucatán peninsula.
A blessed farewell message from Nature herself… a trio of dolphins followed our boat as the sun set over the bay.