Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Adventure 5/50 : Swimming in a cenote!

Just returned from a long weekend to celebrate Wil's birthday at Chichen Itza -- about which more later! We hadn't had a lot of things we wanted to do, apart from visit the ruins (that's Wonder of the World 4/7, thankyouverymuch), see the sound and light show, and swim in a cenote.

A cenote (pronounced "seh-NO-teh) is a deep limestone sinkhole, usually with a pool in the bottom. Several are found around the Yucatan, and the location of the main temple complex at Chichen Itza is aligned with two key cenotes which would have provided water to the residents. I like to swim, and, hey, cenotes look cool....

Cenote Ik Kil is located really close to the Chichen Itza ruins, and is a frequent stop for the hordes of bus tourists on day trips from Cancun. It makes sense; it's the perfect way to cool off after a hot wander around the ruins. But we just took a taxi from our hotel in the morning (after our sunrise tour) and essentially had the place to ourselves.

This caused its own minor challenge. We arrived just as the gates opened, bought our tickets, and went into the complex, which also contains a restaurant, cottages, the obligatory gift shop, changing rooms, showers, and lockers.

But we didn't see much of that -- we saw a sign that said "Cenote Entrance" and walked in that direction, and, suddenly, this:


The water level is about 85 feet down, and the pool is apparently about 120 feet deep. We didn't need to be warned off with the "people diving from this level will be reported to the authorities" sign... but there is something super tempting about it, and the Red Bull Cliff Diving Series has held competitions there at least twice:

Dean Treml/Red Bull Cliff Diving - Sacha Kutsenko of the Ukraine dives from the 27.25 meter platform during the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series at Ik Kil cenote on April 9th 2011.
After gaping at the sinkhole, we continued around the edge, and came to a set of stairs leading down. We looked at them, and the "Cuidado: Piso Mojado" signs in a little group, and started heading down.

The deeper we went, the more it looked like a medieval castle... or at least the stairs down to the dungeon.

We kept saying, "I guess the changing rooms are at the bottom?" and such, though it didn't seem likely. And we kept going.

We occasionally had a glimpse through the rock to the cenote, where we could see a few other people already there.

Finally, the path leveled out, and we expected to see the changing rooms... or lockers?

But the tunnel opened up and.... 

There was a couple taking photographs, and 3 or 4 guys in the water. And not much else. So we decided to just strip off, move our towels, sandals, and little backpack to a corner. And just get in.

Here's one thing I learned while I was trying to take pictures ... you're really not buoyant at all in fresh water. And to keep afloat, you really had to keep kicking the whole time. So my photos are all a bit hurried and blurry... like this attempted shot of the little hole in the "roof":

some shots looking up at the vines hanging down the edges of the cenote...

Wil swimming -- a surprisingly crisp action shot, this:

... and another shot up to the roof.

We swam a few lengths back and forth, rested on the rope that stretches across the pool, and eyed the platform where bolder souls than us leap in.

As we paddled around, a few other people came down and joined us... though more seemed to just want to take pictures. Eventually we climbed up the big ladders, grabbed our things, and took some final photos from the edge.

Then we climbed back up the stairs, noticing that the "wet floor" signs had been moved, and realizing that perhaps we shouldn't have walked past them earlier... and then we saw the long line of lockers, showers, and the entrances to the changing rooms. Oops.

So we slunk in, feeling a little sheepish, changed out of our wet suits, and then came out and sat in the sun for a bit before going back out to the gate and getting a taxi back to Mayaland. Our entire visit -- including a poke through the gift shop -- was under 90 minutes, which seemed like plenty of time.

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