I stop to catch my breath, carefully bringing myself to rest on my knees with my fingers tightly gripping a clump of grass stubbornly growing on the weathered, rough surface of the stones. The only surface I can get a firm hold on. “Please oh please don’t let me fall!” I think as I glance behind me down the 70 feet of steep uneven steps I’ve just scaled and then hurriedly look back to the top of the temple as a rush of dizziness makes me painfully aware of my fear of heights. “This was a bad idea!” I whimper to Matt as he starts to pass me, continuing to climb the remaining 68 feet to the top.
“You’re fine”, he promises, “We’ve got to hurry, babe.” Not knowing when we’d get the chance to come back here, we’d rented a car for the day and planned a route to hit as many Mayan ruins as we could. Coba is only our second ruin and we’re rushing through it so we’ll have time to drive the half hour to Tulum before dark. Spurred on by my love of ruins and the immediate injury to my pride at the sight of a mother and her 5-year-old son easily making their way up while I cling to the side, I raise myself up and continue my crouched climb leaning forward and keeping my eyes fixed only on the stones in front of me. I push faster afraid to look down or to the side and as I finally reach the last step I rush forward onto the small plateau flooded with relief at being able to put some distance between myself and the edges of the temple.
Out of breath from the hurried climbing I turn around and am struck with a silly grin, finally looking to see the view everyone was climbing towards. “Matt, Look! You can see EVERYTHING!” He’d told me the Yucatan peninsula was flat, but I had no idea a place could be so flat. Standing on the top of Nohoch Mul the tallest temple on the peninsula we could see jungle and trees stretching on forever with the occasional stone structure peeking out, tiny from so far away – other temples. I can see why this was reserved for the priests—those near to the gods—it’s a breathtaking thing to feel so close to the heavens while your feet are still connected to an earthly place.
I walk towards the edge where Matt is resting to snap a photo of him and he jerks backward like he’s about to tumble off the side frantically grabbing nearby rocks. Screaming and suddenly gripped by fear as I look down the full 138 feet I grab for his shirt as he breaks down laughing, flashing me his most mischievous grin. “DON’T!” I snap at him, relieved but still highly un-amused like a cat grabbed by the tail. Ever persistent he stands up and puts his arm around my shoulder resting his head against mine for a second as we survey the sweeping peninsula, “Come on babe, we’ve got to go—Tulum.” His smiling yet contrite looks mollify me for the moment and I take a deep breath and final look before hurrying back down the steep sides of the temple, down to the earth and trees and roots.