Yucatan Peninsula Stories and Tips

Santa Rosa Xlapac and Ezbná

When we left the main road from the Puuc Route heading south, following the sign for Santa Rosa Xlapac, we knew it was going to be bumpy -- the guidebook said the road had deteriorated in the four years since it had been built. What we didn't know was how far it was possible for a road to deteriorate in four years. There were stretches where it was gone entirely, just dirt -- or mud. Others were almost worse, with just enough pavement to form a lattice of potholes. And then there were some good stretches -- with fallen trees on them.

But it was a beautiful drive. Yellow flowers bubbled over the edges of the roads, and birds, birds, birds -- herons flapping brown up out of the marshes, swifts, swallows, woodpeckers, hordes of the glossy black-blue birds that are everywhere in the Yucatan, vultures, and one flash of a mot-mot. And then, after a bouncy hour and a scattering of miserable tin huts with solar panels, the site itself, beautifully tended, with a lovely flower garden at the entrance. We were the first people there since 2:30pm the previous day, and those 2:30 visitors were the second in a week. Not surprising, given the road, but a shame, given the buildings -- great tall ones, one of which had two climbable interior staircases. The best buildings were covered with "Do not photograph" signs -- apparently because they don't want the in-progress restorations documented. When the restorations are done, though, these buildings are going to be spectacular--large square-topped pyramids with very steep sides.

The buildings at Santa Rosa Xlapac are carved with wonderful zigzags--none of the Chac-Mool hooked noses from further north, but elaborate geometrical carvings around doorways.

It was utterly peaceful there. It was too late in the day for many birds, but we got a few, plus lots of very leaf-like brown toads and one pretty snake.

It took us an hour to get back to the main road, so by the time we got to Ezbná, it was only forty minutes before closing. It's very different from Xlapac, both because it had a crowd of Mexican families visiting and because it's on another scale--the Acropolis there is enormous. Emphasized by the mowed lawns, it towers up like a baseball stadium or Mussolini's Typewriter in Rome. (Undaunted by its size, a very cute 2-year-old girl kept starting to climb up it; rather than heading her off, her parents helped her keep going -- very charming.) In a courtyard near the Acropolis are, remarkably, actual surviving stucco sculptures: giant red masks of the cross-eyed Sun God, protected by palm roofs from the elements.

We made the long haul that night to Escarcega; we got in late, but the drive is doable.

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