Cancun, Mexico


We were almost done with our breakfast at the resort when someone with a Grayline Tours shirt appeared with a clipboard on hand. I know he´s the guy sent to pick us up today for the Chichen Itza tour. I'm impressed, Grayline´s really on time even if it's a holiday, today being Mexico's National Day! Viva Mexico! Viva Grayline!

Everyone joining this tour had to meet at La Isla Shopping Village, at one of the tourist shops there to collect our "tickets" for the tour. I guess they just really want us to linger there while waiting for the bus hoping we might buy souvenirs.

By 9 a.m., we were on our the way, with Javier driving the small bus and Santos guiding us today, speaking intermittently between English and Spanish. We stopped at a market selling Mexican handicrafts but like our earlier stop at La Isla Shopping Village, I felt this is just a way to trap tourists into buying souvenirs. I don´t object to it of course as this is meant to help the local economy. However, there really was nothing that caught my fancy.

We arrived at the site via the private entrance of Mayaland Hotel, the lobby of which overlooks El Caracol Observatory, one of the ruins spread around the area. It is mid-day, the sun is fierce even in the shade. For fear of being roasted, I slathered myself with sunblock.

Santos had to divide the group: he´s leading the Spanish-speaking among the tour participants while he endorsed us to Pepe, our English guide within the ruins.

First on the agenda was the brooding apparition of El Castillo right in front of us. Its pyramidal shape with steep stairs leading to the top dominates the vast clearing fringed with the thick forest. Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed to climb the stairs anymore, most probably to protect the stones from foot traffic.

As I squinted looking at El Castillo with the mid-day sun intensely roasting us, I began to imagine virginal beauties being sacrificed by high priests up there. I wonder how much blood seeped through the crags of those stones.

We moved on to the Ball Court, an ancient playground for Mayan athletes where lives where also sacrified at the end of a major match. Pepe theorized that players who ended up being sacrificed actually felt honored losing their lives in order to be closer to the Mayan gods.
After passing by the Tzompantli, Pepe took us for another walk that led us to the Ossuary and the El Caracol Observatory. He told us that more archaelogical work are being done in this area. Mounds of earth within the forests are actually awaiting to be excavated.

Pepe encouraged us to explore the area more as he winded up his guided tour with the group. Indeed, we found out that past El Caracol observatory were more ruins: The Nunnery, The Church and the House of Hidden Writing. Then there's still the vast group of the Thousand Columns and the Temple of the Warriors adjacent to El Castillo.

However, Neil and I were too hungry for independent exploration that we went straight to Mayaland Hotel where buffet lunch was waiting for us. While feasting on local cuisine, Mexican dancers entertained us with what seem like their version of Pandanggo sa Ilaw: cans of beer instead of candles.

Having recharged ourselves, we decided to hit the remaining sites which included a foray into the Sacred Cenote, a huge sinkhole where Mayan offerings were thrown. I dread to imagine human offerings drowning to their deaths down there.

It's been a long, hot day and just as we were walking back towards the Mayaland Hotel to meet our group for the return trip to Cancun, the heavens opened up to a downpour, sending all of us scampering and seeking refuge at souvenir shops. This is part of Mexico's wonder, you could get wet from sweating because of the heat or because of sudden cloudbursts. Viva Mexico!

1 comment:

  1. loved chichen itza! we missed el caracol though because we took too much time in the ball court ;-)


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