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In Search of El Dos: Lost City in Puerto Morelos

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

By Guest Author Jeff Sharpe

Anticipating an upcoming trip to Puerto Morelos, I’d been scouring YouTube for relevant videos. For anyone who remembers PM before it wasn’t even mentioned in guide books to the area, especially pre-internet, it is amazing how much information is out there, especially how many “we discovered this great little place” videos there are. But knowing that, I was still shocked when I saw a video on YouTube by RickRack Travels titled “Searching for THE LOST CITY, El Dos, Puerto Morelos, Mexico”

I couldn’t believe it, because many years ago I also went searching for some ruins I had seen on one map, and one map alone; “El Dos”! I was a bit sad to see it publicly displayed as over the years I’ve come to cherish that little adventure. In our own little way we were exploring, and with a little luck we were able to find some ruins. Were the ruins we found El Dos? I can’t say. We always referred to it as El Dos, but the ruins we were taken to were no where near the one map reference I had was, and no ruins were mentioned on any map near where we had found them! Even to this day, I have seen no ruins marked on any map near where we were. For that reason I have edited out certain names and places that would make it obvious to find them. The following is an account of my “In Search of the Lost City of El Dos” from 1996.

As a child I was fascinated by ruins. Somewhere I had checked out a library book, which explored the Mayan ruins of Mexico and Central America. In high school a popular book was Erich Von Daniken's “Chariots of the Gods”, which explored the idea of ancient space travelers visiting earth and helping humans develop and build monuments. One of the things featured in the book was “The Spaceman”; an idealized King ascending to heaven surrounded by Mayan religious symbolism carved on a huge stone sarcophagus lid buried deep into a pyramid at Palenque Mexico. In van Daniken's view this was “obviously” an astronaut as he appeared in a reclining position as astronauts do today when they lift off. Even the crowded symbols he was surrounded by were surely the mechanisms of a modern spaceship. Years later I would find myself alone at Palenque, looking at a board which covered the stairway leading down into that sarcophagus. No one else around, what do I do? I opened the lid, and with my flashlight, I went down into the pyramid, no permission, no guide, but I was exploring!

Even the Mayan glyphs had not been deciphered until only recently, which only added to the mysterious ancient Maya.

I read Incidents of Travel by John Lloyd Stephens. Written in the 1850s*** he was one of the first explorers to reintroduce these mysterious Mayan jungle ruins to the public. Not only was it a great travel adventure story, it contained beautiful intriguing illustrations of the ruins by a man named Frederick Catherwood. So in my late 20’s when I found myself able to travel outside of the country for the first time, but with a limited budget, I naturally chose Mexico and in particular the Mayan ruins in Yucatan Peninsula as the place to go, and well, it didn’t hurt that the coast is full of gorgeous tropical beaches! Over the next few years I would go back to the Mayan world every chance I got, visiting most of the major sites and any that I could get to in between.

In the early 1990s’ a friend of ours had been spending his winters in a town called Puerto Morelos, Mexico. He highly recommended we go visit, as it was a beautiful place to snorkel and relax, and as a bonus, it was a great place to explore the Mayan ruins. Over the years that was our base as we enjoyed the beaches of Quintana Roo, the Mexican state along the coast, and into neighboring states of Yucatan and even Campeche, the three states that make up the Yucatan Peninsula. Also, as an avid reader and book collector of among many things the Mayan world, I began picking books here and there that had anything to do with the ancient Maya. So it was when I bought a used travel book of the area, that I noticed something I had not seen on any maps before, not far from Puerto Morelos was a ruin called El Dos. That’s funny, I thought. I’ve seen lots of maps of ruins but had not seen an El Dos or any ruins in that area. The more I looked the more intriguing it became because no other maps that I found had El Dos on them.

In April of 1996, my wife and my cousin and his girlfriend were going to Puerto Morelos, and my cousin and I were going to take a day and see if we could go find El Dos.

The journey begins.

We turned onto the highway, which I hoped would lead us to the enigmatic ruins of El Dos. It lay before us like a long gray ribbon stretching off into the distance, with shades of green on both sides and blue sky above. The road started out asphalt, but got rougher and crumblier as we went further from the Colonia of Puerto Morelos. That road, now called “Ruta de los Cenotes” back then was completely free of houses, cars and people.

We drove on not knowing what to expect. Would there be a sign? Would we see the ruins from the road? We saw nothing. At one point there was a hand painted sign, nailed crooked on a tree with "cenote" written on it, so on we went. At one point far ahead, we saw a figure standing on the side of the road. From a distance it looked like it could've been an alien, but as we got closer it turned out to be a boy wearing a full bee keepers hat with dark netting down to his shoulders. We pulled up and asked him if he knew of any ruins in the area. He just kept replying "no se" "no se". I asked in my best Spanish. I asked him slowly, each time all I got was a "no se" "Man, my Spanish must really suck" I said to Barry, and we drove on. Or maybe he wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, especially two lost gringos. Gringos perdido! No, my Spanish did suck.

At times the road became a dirt path with an occasional bulge where a pothole had formed so the cars had to go around the side to pass. It reminded me of the bulge on a snake that just ate a big meal. Eventually we came to a town, Leona Vicario I presumed, as there were no signs. "Wow, we're way off" I said in frustration.

The town of Leona Vicario had in former times been a center of the chicle industry, There are some accounts of the lawlessness surrounding the place when the chicleros would come in from the selva with their chicle and be flush with money. It appeared dead now though. The empty streets surrounding the empty square had no signs of life, not even the standard dog asleep on the curb that you see so often in small Yucatan villages. However, off the square, there was a small bright yellow tienda with a large Pepsi sign over the entrance. It was open and a kid was standing in the doorway. I pulled our econo rental car up to the store and we got out.

As I got out and stretched, I noticed a boy on a bicycle leaning up against the curb at the front of the store, licking a sucker. Usually, (back then) if you want to find someplace, anywhere in the world, ask a kid, so I thought I would give it a shot. I said hello and casually asked if he knew of any ruins in the area? He stopped licking his sucker and looked at me with shock and horror! He went from being just a kid on a bike observing, to being confronted by, oh my God… a lost gringo! Gringos perdido! Quickly adjusting the sucker in his mouth for flight, he put both hands on his handle bars and zoomed off, obviously terrified or shocked or otherwise freaked out! Barry and I looked at each other and shrugged. heading to the Pepsi store.

Above the doorway was a large Pepsi sign covering the entire length of the entrance. Painted over the bright yellow on each side of the entrance was the Pepsi logo at least 5 feet high. As we entered the Pepsi store I notice the cabinet of the counter was also painted all Pepsi. In fact there were Pepsi signs all over the walls. Even the Pepsi refrigerators had Pepsi stickers on them. The kid moved behind the Pepsi counter. After exchanging greetings I decided to order, what else? A Pepsi! So I ask for a Pepsi. "No hay" he said shaking his head solemnly. "No Pepsi?" I asked, amazed, being surrounded by a Pepsi sales rep's dream store. "Nooo, no Pepsi" he said sadly. "Agua?" I asked. "Noooo, no agua" he said in the same dolorous tone. As it turned out, not only did the Pepsi store not have any Pepsi, the store had nothing for sale! Upon closer inspection the Pepsi coolers had nothing in them, in fact there wasn't any electricity. I sort of wondered why they were open at all, and they appeared to be the only store open in the town, but hey, we're on an expedition, we're tranquilo.

I did ask him about the ruins, already knowing what he would say, and of course he had never heard of the ruins we were looking for. He did point out the ruins outside of town, marked on the road, but that didn't conform to my single map reference. "Adios!" we said and stood at the car, wondering what to do next. As we were about to get into the car, we noticed an old man with a cane, slowly hobbling toward us from across the street. He began yelling something at us which I couldn't understand. He stopped and shook his cane at us, yelling! We were baffled, yet didn't want to get beat up by an old guy with a cane. "We better get out of here" I said as we jumped in the car and pulled out. In the rearview mirror I could see the old guy still yelling shaking his cane. "What was that about" Barry and I wondered. I noticed the pastel colored houses and wanted to get a pic of the town so I pulled over and took a photo. Even though we were half a block away, the old man had turned in our direction and was hobbling after us! "That was surreal!" Barry exclaimed and I agreed. What a strange little town!

But we still needed to find El Dos. As we drove out of town, we saw a man riding a bicycle with a machete hanging by his side. We pulled over and asked him if he knew of the ruins, "Si, Si" he said, seeming happy to be of assistance, and he told us to go about **km back the way we had come, on the ** side. After the strange welcome we had received back in LV it was nice to talk to a friendly person. Barry had a great idea, clear the trip counter on the odometer so we know when we hit ** km.

Back on the long gray road, but with the occasional blotches of red earth, and the flora lusher than nearer the coast. On the left (north) we pass an archaeological sign, too close to Leona Vicario to be the ever increasingly fabled lost city of El Dos.

As we counted down the km counter and neared the ** km mark, there was....nothing! No signs, no paths that would indicate anything unusual, just a lusher greener forest. Just as we were wondering if the El Dos Expedition would end in failure, a figure suddenly jumped out at us in front of the road waving his arms. We had to stop, either that or run him over.

"Ola amigos!" he said and explained that his car was broke down and would we give him a ride somewhere up the road? He needed to get a battery and bring it back to his car which was dead down a path. He was kind of a large guy maybe in his late 20's. It seemed like a strange place to have your car die, down a path unseen out here in the middle of nowhere, and we wondered what the hell was up with that, but I waived for him to hop in the back.

Central Vallarta was hardly a town by any stretch of the imagination, but a group of houses with a large radio tower and building near it surround by lush forest. He had us turn onto the small road, not much more than a path really, toward the village. Just as we neared the tower our passenger waved out the window at a man in an navy blue SUV, with Policia written across it. We stopped as they talked hurriedly and he indicated he wanted to go back to where his car was. "Sure, why not?" I thought to myself, nothing else was happening, but I have to admit, Barry and I gave each other quizzical looks. The Policia vehicle followed us. Barry and I looked at each other. I’m sure we were both thinking the same thing. We pick up a stranger in the middle of nowhere, now we are being followed to who knows where, by Mexican police! Going back to nowhere, where anything could happen.

Not far from Cento Vallarta, back on the road, we came to a path barely big enough for a car to go down. "This way" he said, "Huh?" I exclaimed. This path had big rocks and just getting over the initial bump would be a challenge. " No problem no problem" he said in english.. "What the hell" I said and creeped over the bump. " Thump...scraaaape" went the Tsuru rental car, visions of oil flowing out of a punctured oil pan dancing across my mind, and the guy at the rental car counter in Cancun airport happily racking up the costs while he tallies my bill for the repairs, but we made it and moved on. As it turned out we only went about 35 more feet of bone jarring bumps when I could see a car blocking our path and we had to stop. Ominously, the Police SUV was behind us blocking our exit path. Our path of escape if need be. We all get out of the car. Barry and I wondering what strange twist the El Dos Expedition had taken.

Here we were on a dead end on a dirt path blocked by a dead car, in a dense jungle with a stranger in distress, the oldest story in the book, and now a Mexican Police cruiser blocking any retreat. Everyone whose ever been to Mexico has been warned to avoid the police, even if you are the victim of a crime. The fate of the El Dos Expedition hung in the balance!

Looking in the side mirror I could see a man get out of the police SUV. He wasn’t wearing a police uniform, and had on high rubber boots, Wellingtons. He was kind of short and wiry, and looked as though he was made of pretty tough stuff. We also got out of the car and he nodded at us. He went around to the passenger side of his vehicle and came back carrying a battery. Hmmmm…maybe we weren’t going to get rolled after all. He took the battery to our new found amigo. They talked for a minute, no doubt him wondering who the hell we were. It was obvious he wasn’t all too happy with our amigo, and left him while he put the battery in his car.

He came over to us and I introduced Barry and myself. His name was ***, (I’ve *** his name just in case he would get in trouble for any reason for taking us there) then I asked him the question I had been asking everyone lately. “Do you know where the ruins are?” I asked. It sucked that my Spanish wasn’t at a conversational level, because he began talking and I was only able to pick up maybe 25% of what he was saying. He said he might be able to take us, and paused again. He said something about the area where the ruins were, is under control of the military, but as a *** *** he could get in but warned about “Bacas y toros!” “Bacas y toros?” I questioned. ”Si, bacas y toros” he replied. Our amigo then lifted his head up from under the hood of the car, where he had been hooking up the battery *** brought, and said rather menacingly “Bacas y toros!” and laughed a sort of menacing laugh, as if we were crazy to want to go there. I thought I knew what toros were, bulls, I believed, but not sure what bacas meant. (pronounce ba kas) I asked him what bacas were, and he replied; ”insectivos”. *** then said something to the effect that since we had helped his nephew, he would take us there for $5 US, a piece. Barry and I consulted and quickly said yes.

After dropping off ***’s police vehicle at C. Vallarta, where he showed us around a bit, we got back in the car and he had us drive to *** Cenote, or *** in Mayan, which is how he referred to it. The path through the woods to the cenote became so rocky we had to stop the car dead in it’s tracks, turn it off, and walk the rest of the way. After a 10 minutes or so of hiking we came to a rocky clearing. Apparently the cenote was in the process of being developed into a tourist attraction...slowly developed it would seem. There were a couple thatched huts and over to the right was a cenote. There was a bit of a surreal moment, again, when as we were walking up, there was a toothless old man sitting at a table in a palapa with no walls. *** had gone off to get something and the old man, who had a big spoon in his hand, and a big bowl of what looked like mush or Cream of Wheat or something, began exclaiming something at us as we stood by and waited for *** to return. It was in Spanish and seemed to be all gibberish. *** ignored him completely, but he yelled and banged his spoon on the table. Barry and I, now used to not getting the welcome wagon out here in the backwoods of Quintana Roo, just followed his lead and ignored this other angry old man as well.

*** then asked us if we would like to use the bathroom. I was somewhat confused, and he repeated his question, motioning us to follow him. It seemed a strange question to be asking. I had never been asked this in Spanish, and thought it was my faulty Spanish haunting me again, especially as we were out here in the middle of nowhere “Here we go” I thought to myself, but all was revealed as he led us over to an “ecologico sanitorio”. He had built it himself he explained. It was very nice. Basically a raised outhouse, palapa style, with steps leading up to the business section. As there is very little soil to build a septic type system here, he had to raise the outhouse and must’ve had some filtering or composting system underneath. He had us walk up the steps to go inside. He was very proud as he showed it to us, and I have to say, it really was a nice piece of workmanship. There was no paper, but in its place a bucket of sawdust. For a moment I tried to imagine using sawdust, but quickly let the thought leave me as we politely declined his invitation, and gave him sincere compliments on the ecologico sanitorio.

He took us over to the cenote. It was a beautiful emerald green, and as the sunlight shown over it, it produced shades of different green, blue, and emerald colors! Thankfully I had my snorkel kit in the car and we decided we would go for a swim when we got back.

*** mentioned that we could walk to the ruins from there, but it would be much easier to drive, so we started back to the car. On the way back to the car, he pointed out interesting plants, much of which was lost on both of us with our lack of Spanish. We then backed out through the path, scraping the car on some rocks, and he had us drive a ways west, until we came to yet another small path, barely visible to the untrained eye, and we turned off onto the path. After scraping the oil pan yet again we were forced to stop by the rocks and we got out. *** continued to point out interesting plants, and we began to see some small piles of rocks that he said were “ruinas”, and I’m sure they were. One large enough to maybe be a small platform. After maybe a quarter of a mile we came to a clearing. There was a slight rise in the rocky landscape and atop of that was a fence topped with barbed wire, and a sort of makeshift gate, really just one end of the fencing connected by a latch to a post. Watch out for toros, *** warned us, and scanned the area searching for them before he opened the gate just enough for us to squeeze in without getting snagged.

I did detect the odor of manure, but there didn’t seem to be any toros in sight. *** was very cautious at first, looking this way and that, ready to bolt back behind the fence if need be. We came out onto a scrubby brown grassy area, strewn here and there with large white piles of limestone rocks. Even to my untrained eye I could tell that the piles of rock weren’t there randomly. This appeared to be the ruins of s small community, both ancient and modern.

The first identifiable ruin we came to was a square platform. It was very basic. I couldn’t see any specific carvings on it, or even simple architectural flourishes, but I have seen enough platforms to recognize it as such. An interesting thing about it, was that on one side someone had built a corral against it, using one side as the back of it. The corral was made of large sticks or branches lashed together, well built. There was a lead into what looked like a bug bath. Looking back I wish I would’ve studied the platform better, to see if it had steps, but it was also surrounded by growth, and had some fairly thick bushes on top of it.

There were other groups of stones, some may have been remains of the traditional Mayan house, with it’s oval stone wall, or who knows what. I think much of the stone had been reused, so if there were more easily identifiable structures they were long gone, used to build other things. I am reminded of that saying about Rome, or what I vaguely remember it to be that “What the Barbarians didn’t destroy, the Barberini did” or something like that, in other words, later generations used the stones of ancient Rome to build their modern city. So it probably was here. If you were out here working a cattle ranch and needed some rocks to build a structure, and there is a big pile right there, of course they would use them.

*** led us along the south side of the clearing, where the path was somewhat clear, to a large clump of trees. He walked around a bit, looking for an opening, and then took his machete and hacked here and there to reveal the ruins of a fairly straight up pyramid. Not the broad Mexican style, but the steeper type you would find at Tikal or even closer at some of the Rio Bec sites, but broad enough that it was climbable. For our climb up the ruin.

Our guide, chopped a path through the thick vegetation with his machete. He kept warning us about "bacas", but with my poor Spanish I didn't understand what he meant, that is, until I nearly walked right into a branch with a swarm of bee's! "AH AH AH AH AH....BACAS! he shouted. They were swarming on a branch about chest high. Small, maybe smaller than a honeybee here in Indiana, but obviously very dangerous judging by his warnings. Phew, I breathed a sigh of relief. It would completely suck to get stung by bunch of bees, but even worse out here in the middle of nowhere.

Finally after some climbing and ***’s excellent machete work, we got to the top after maybe 70 ft, more or less. The platform at the top was maybe 12' x 12'. It is always amazing at how much work went into these Mayan buildings for such small space on top. There was a depression in the center where it looked like someone had dug a pit. *** said that a long time ago a group of French people had dug and found a small idol. I asked how big was the idol, and he cupped his hands to show it would fit into both palms of his hands. He also said we were only the 4th group of Europeans to climb this pyramid! (We are not Europeans, but I think he was being polite and didn’t want to call us gringos.) I expressed my astonishment and he claimed it was true. As he was the *** of the *** ***, this area was under his jurisdiction, and no one was allowed here! The Mexican Military had taken over the site and didn't allow people on it. "Cool!' I said "We're only the 4th group of gringos to climb this pyramid!" I translated to Barry. We were both like “Awesome!” I felt lucky that we had found the one person who was able to get us to these ruins.

Barry had already established that *** preferred his American cigarettes, Marlboro's, to ***'s Mexican brand. *** even held up his Mexican pack and frowned. So Barry gave him one to smoke and a few more for the road which he happily accepted. *** and Berry relaxed for a smoke atop the pyramid of the Lost City of El Dos. They stood, as the small area had no place to sit.

*** had never heard of the ruinas being referred to as “El Dos”, and shrugged his shoulders when I asked him. He also didn't know any name for them, except maybe *** the Mayan name of the nearby cenote.

As *** and Barry smoked and talked, I snapped a few pictures. The pyramid was built on what appeared to be a ledge of land, and it held a commanding view over the forest, and could also have been seen for miles depending on the growth of the forest. I try to imagine what the ruins would've looked like in their prime. I imagine the forest would've been cut back dramatically at most sites. Also the buildings were whitewashed and painted as we know, so the facades that had gods and monsters on them must've been incredible. Who knows what sort of images were painted on the outsides as well. You can get a pretty good idea from the surviving murals on the insides other ruins.

I had *** point out the direction of *** cenote, which I thought must’ve been close. *** pointed not too far away, but seemed to think it was a far walk, and said something about it being too difficult.

I noticed just to I guess was the south side of the pyramid, that there were some other structures clearly visible. One with some kind of tower coming right out of the forest!

It was a nice view from up there, various shades of green with the a splattering of color from some flowering tree tops off into the horizon in all directions. . There appeared to be a steep drop off on the south side of the pyramid as if it had been built upon a shelf of land. Interesting landscape! I was interested that some of the ruins are built on commanding landscapes. If you go to Tikal, you’ll find that the Central Plaza is built on such a ledge of land, although larger. The back of the North Acropolis at Tikal is very steep with a large drop below. I wondered if the Maya had used this pyramid as a signal tower. I could easily imagine that similar towers from the coast to the inland, set up at the proper distance, could be used for that purpose. There were some ruins near Leona Vicario which may have been visible if a fire was lit on top. Or maybe it was a temple. I would guess that it is a days walk from the coast and maybe part of the trade or pilgrimage traffic. I have seen references of Puerto Morelos being a jumping off point to pilgrimage to Cozumel. All amateurish speculation of course.

I have to mention ***’s machete technique. He didn’t just hack wildly at the brush, he chose carefully but quickly which branch to hack, obviously from a lifetime of experience. His machete was sharp as well. One flick and the offending branch would fall. He might point out something on a tree, using his machete as a pointer. He was a wealth of information about the “selva”, but unfortunately I could only understand a small part of what he was saying.

After we rested we headed back down. Stopping to scrape off tics that were all over our shoes and had gotten onto our legs, hundreds of little red buggers! Barry had some bug spray in his pack and we scraped and sprayed. I asked *** if we could go around to the of the pyramid, because I was intrigued by the ledge it was sitting on and thought maybe that was the front, which might have some decorations or something interesting on it, but he said it was too difficult and I took him at his word.

There was a rocky field covered in waist high grass and scrub. Here and there were mounds of rocks, what appeared to be ruins of small structures. Again we walked by the one ancient platform which had been reused as one side of a wood corral where cattle could be funneled into a bug bath. This might explain the "toros" around as Jose had been warning us about. At one point this must've been a working rancho. Later at about 100 yards there were the ruins of a more modern traditional Maya oval shaped house.

We walked along the western edge of the clearing. There were a few more ruined or destroyed structures, small piles of rubble really, sticking up conspicuously. The whole cleared area was maybe a few acres, but surely there was more beyond the clearing.

As we approached the northeast edge of the cleared area we came to an abandoned Mayan house. Built with the traditional oval, but with the frame part in somewhat of a square on top of the oval. I walked inside and saw that whoever had lived here had left quite quickly it seemed.

About 30 or so feet in from of this house was a ledge. *** took us around the edge of that and from what I could tell, it was an ancient dried up cenote. An enchanting grotto! There was a nice wide path or ramp leading down into it, and we headed down the ramp leading into the ancient cenote. The path was large enough for a small wagon or car, so surely it was man made. It would be interesting to find out if it was recent or ancient. The area inside this old cenote or grotto was at least 50 feet wide, more or less circular from what I could see. It sort of reminded me of the shape of the Sacred Well at Chichen Itza, but much smaller and without water. As it was covered and surrounded by large trees, it was shady inside. The quiet beauty and stillness gave it an enchanting feel. The walls were covered in a philodendron type vine that is a house plant in the U.S., but I had never seen such massive examples of it. It covered the walls and went up into the trees, giving a sense of being in a dark green tropical garden. I looked up and sitting on a branch in the tree was a big fat vulture! Normally you see them gliding in the air and don’t appreciate their size, but this sucker had to be 30 lbs and as big as a medium sized dog. He just sat there as if too fat to fly, watching us. Probably contemplating us for dinner.

*** showed us the entrance to a cave. It was nearly covered in the philodendron type vines. But I could stoop down and get into it. I looked for my flashlight and damn if I had left it back at our condo! So almost crawling in, I had enough light just to see around me. The cave opened up to a small area that I could stand up in but directly in front of me was a clean white stucco entrance, still in good shape, forming sort of an arch. I moved through that, but it was too dark to see anything. I suspect this was a modern addition, as it was still white and there was a house right on the rim of the cenote. Perhaps the cave was used for storage or something, as I didn’t have my flashlight I wouldn’t be able to tell. Barry and *** chose not to follow me into the cave. I was bummed about not penetrating it further, because I knew caves were sacred to the Maya, and having done some spelunking in the past, I wasn’t afraid at all of going deeper. Maybe someday I thought. I came back out and had Barry take a picture of me at the cave entrance, and I took a picture of him.

We then walked along the walls and sure enough there was water. The rancheros had built a small concrete or stucco wall to keep the water in, forming a trough only a little above ground level. The ramp was probably used to bring the cattle down for water, and it gave the philodendrons a good drinking source. Whether because it was a grotto with lush vegetation and a cave, or because we had finally found El Dos and it’s ruins, there was a different vibe to the grotto, somewhat mysterious. Maybe it was the yet to be explored cave, or the stillness of being in an enclosed area, whatever, there was a feeling that there was something there. I got the same feeling wanting to go on the other side of the pyramid. Perhaps it is just curiosity. That which drives us to want to go around the next bend or over the next hill.

I couldn’t help but thinking, that as the Maya would throw sacred objects into the well at Chichen Itza, that the bottom of this dried up cenote would be a great place to excavate. I was guessing it was probably the water source for this small ancient Mayan town, perhaps when it was filled with water, as the other cenote is too far away, but apparently was a steady source for the rancho.

*** began to take us back out of the grotto. He asked us if we wanted to go back to the cenote and we said ya. On the way back he kept pointing out plants of interest and even cut off a vine from which we drank some water from. He pointed out chicle sap marks on the trees where once chicleros had collected the sap. He whacked at one tree to show us how it was done, and white sap trickled out. We touched it with our fingers, and it reminded me of milkweed sap. I asked him about the chicleros, if they were as wild as their reputation. He said some were his friends, and yes some did get in trouble after drinking and doing drugs. He made us each a hat out of palms fronds, which our wives got a kick out of when we got back. Sadly I wished I understood Spanish better as I could only comprehend a part of what he was saying. I’m sure he was a wealth of information about this area. He seemed to enjoy talking though, even knowing we didn’t understand all of what he was saying.

We got back to the car, thankfully without running into any toros, and went back to the cenote. He went and pulled up a bucket of water out of the cenote that was tied to a rope, and made us wash off the bug spray we had sprayed on our legs to kill the tics, before we could jump in the cenote. The swim and snorkel there was beautiful. The emerald green of the water was crystal clear below the surface. I saw a few fish but not many. The water was refreshing though and it was wonderful to swim after the hot sweaty hike. Especially amidst the beautiful color of the clear water and in such enchanting surroundings.

Did we find the lost city of El Dos? I don’t think so, but for lack of anything else to call it, I always think of it as El Dos. Recent LIDAR scans of the Mayan world are finding thousands of structures all over the Yucatan region, way more than anyone realized. I suspect this area was heavily populated back then, and there must be hundreds if not thousands of ruins in the area that only the *** of the region know about. I suspect there are others who have been there since 1996, when we were fortunate enough to see it. The area is developing so fast that surely someone knows about it. I just hope development doesn’t harm it.

Whether we found El Dos, or some other lesser known ruins, it was a great little adventure. In my mind it ranks up there with my first trip to Tikal or Palenque. In it’s own way, it was the adventure and the odd luck we had in stopping to help someone with their stranded car, leading us to meet maybe one of the only people locally who could take us there without trespassing, and the strange incident in Leona Vicario. We would never have seen the path to the ruins, let alone attempt to drive the car down the path or even walk as far as we did in the forest to get there, or let ourselves into a barbed wired rancho. We could’ve easily walked right past the ruined pyramid without a clue it was there, if it hadn’t been for ***. We just would’ve driven back to Puerto Morelos that day and the mystery would still be there. But it did happen and we did find some ruins of substance. I hope it gets the archaeological attention it deserves.

Thank you Jeff Sharpe for sharing this amazing story with us!

By Guest author Jeff Sharpe

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