Don Gama has always been an explorer. I know this, because he told me, and also because I can tell that he’s exploring now, as his hands grip the wheels of a vintage Land Rover, rolling across the wide, rocky landscapes of southern Yucatán. Gama and his colleagues all speak Yucatec Maya, like the generations before them. They continue the tradition of working the red dirt of the “Puuc,” the southern part of the state, where hills rise up out of the landscape and the water level sinks deep into the earth.
For me, the value of any given tour rests in the quality of the guide, and within minutes, I know that Gama is world-class. He has so many things to explain: the yellow-feathered bird flying above us, the diverse, tropical fruits growing in rows along the plantation, and the history that begins before Christ and continues to be made today.
On our first stop, Gama parks the Land Rover underneath the towering, wooden look-out tower. As I climb to the top, the structure sways like a cruise ship rocking back and forth with the waves on the ocean: solidly, rhythmically. I feel like a bird, perched on a palm tree, and from the top I spy the three main structures of the monumental archaeological site, Uxmal.
Looking out, I begin to understand the dimensions of the enormous empire of Uxmal. Undoubtedly, the population sprawled out from the city center, creating a metropolis with miles and miles of suburbs. I make out some formations of rocks, which are ancient Maya houses turning 1,000 years old underneath my feet.
On the rocky route to an abandoned hacienda, Gama unwinds the details about how Uxmal’s first archaeologists lived here, and of the rebel uprising during the Caste War (“Guerra de Castas”). The war was sparked when the indigenous people (who were living under the rule of Spanish conquerors) fought to take back their lands. The hacienda was ritually destroyed in the late 1800s, and now it twists into engulfing tree trunks, creating a fantastical set, inviting me to consider the power that nature has over humanity.
Gama teaches me to crush a “lima” leaf in my sweaty palms, and the citrus zing fills all of the space between us. I smile as I bounce in the back seat of the Land Rover, tasting a fresh orange slice bloom in my mouth, grateful to be in the heart of Mayaland.
Pro-tip: Add the option for the “Maya breakfast” to your tour, pack along binoculars, and combine your Land Rover tour with a visit to the archaeological site of Uxmal for a deeper travel experience.
Mayaland Adventures Vintage Car Experiences: www.mayalandadventures.com
Mayaland Tours (México): www.mayalandtours.com
Mayaland Resorts (Chichén Itzá & Uxmal): www.mayaland.com
Gray Line Yucatán: www.graylineyucatan.com
Tel. 01 (800) 719 5465
Editorial by Amanda Strickland
Photos by LoboLuna Producciones for Yucatán Today
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Read about this area:
- Ruta Puuc
- Day Trip in Yucatán: The Puuc Route
- Day Trip: Loltun Caves and Uxmal
- Maya Myth: The Dwarf of Uxmal
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