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Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

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How's the View Up There?

Climbing the 91 steps of the gargantuan pyramid at Chichen Itza is no easy task.

Climbing El Castillo

Climbing up the steep incline of El Castillo's 91 steps is no easy task. Even those who are comfortable with heights are intimidated at the base. It is almost as if you are climbing a ladder, the steps are so steep and narrow.

I admit it, I climbed using all four limbs. I also had to climb with feet pointed sideways, due to the shallow width of each step. I know my feet are big, but they're not that big.

And if you think going up looks hard...

Ames descending El Castillo

...imagine going down. Staring down at the descent from the top of the stairs is like nothing I've ever encountered. It basically looked like the steepest slide you've ever seen on someone's sick, twisted idea of a children's playground. "I'm supposed to go down that?!"

But go down I did. And it was actually kind of easy, considering I did it on my behind. Step by step. Lame, I admit, but what can I say? That's me in the picture above.

View of the sacrificial temple from the top of El Castillo

Sacrificial Temple from El Castillo

The panoramic view of Chichen Itza and the surrounding jungle of the Yucatan makes the climb well worth the work. Not for the faint of heart, though, that's for sure. The Maya didn't include railings at the top, just a sacrificial altar. We know where their priorities were. (*grin*)

Above you see the temple used for important ritual sacrifices. At the top of the temple sits a "Chac Mool," or sculpture of a man reclining with a plate held between his chest and knees. It is upon this stone plate that the hearts and heads of victims would be placed as offerings.

The thousand columns

The thousand columns

At the base of the sacrificial temple (I believe it was called the Temple of the Warriors, or something like that), one can see the thousand columns. If memory serves, these were meant to represent the might of the Mayan-Toltec armies, with their famed and feared eagle and jaguar warriors.