April 18, 2016

MEXICO DIARIES PART 3: Chichen Itza

Emboldened by the success of my first drive overseas on a Mexican freeway, we wanted to take on the 243 kilometer route to Chichen Itza next, the most important archaeological zone in Yucatan and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The concierge, all 4 of them, weren’t as confident and did their charming best to encourage us to take the tour bus instead for the 3 hour ride.

We conceded as the route isn’t as straightforward as Tulum. Joining the bus tour is also cheaper and more convenient as we could do away with the navigation which we aren’t particularly good at anyway and just enjoy the pretty sights speeding past as soon as my bonamine has taken effect.

The bus, already half filled with tourists, picked us up at our hotel in the morning of our 4th day and whisked us along scenic well paved back roads with heavy greenery on either side. At some point, we passed some agave plantations, the plant from which the tequila is made.

Our guide, alternating between Spanish and excellent English with a charming accent is passionate about the Mayan history and culture. I planned to sleep on the way but he was entertaining and shared just the right amount of interesting facts and information delivered with a great sense of humor that kept me awake all through the drive.



The only downside of the tour for me is the blatant commercialism. We stopped at a center that sells, I must admit, good quality Mexican trinkets. The sellers weren’t persistent actually and doesn’t really bother you with hard sell but I guess my disappointment stemmed from the fact that the place was hyped to be a community of descendant of the Mayan tribe and we even took the longer 4 hour course to see them. I might have expected a still slightly ancient village, an unrealistic expectation, maybe, but the area was already too modern and too commercial. Note that sellers were also present within the grounds of Chichen Itza itself and are a bit determined. This might be the only time where I didn’t enjoy shopping.



A buffet lunch was included in the tour and we were further entertained by a folk dance and local music. Drinks are not included though and kind of compulsory. This is where we had the most expensive soda, $7 for 2 bottles of Pepsi. Kind of highway robbery ha ha.


When we finally got to Chichen Itza, we separated from the group and toured it on our own. The place is huge and be prepared for throngs of tourists! It is the largest of the archaeological cities of the pre-Columbian Maya civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula and one of Mexico's most visited destinations. It was also hailed as one of the new seven wonders of the world, and rightly so.





And because it was already past 2 PM when we got there, it was HOT and shade was an issue. We bought $5 sombreros and slathered up on high SPF sunscreen and mosquito repellent. We are from the tropics and used to warm weather but we learned quickly not to underestimate the Mexican sun. Kimbee had weird tan lines on her face from her shades to show for weeks after.





You can no longer climb the pyramid but it is breathtaking! A physics marvel and an engineering genius. We probably spent a couple of hours exploring and admiring the ruins but you can easily spend a full day here particularly with the help of a guide.
I don’t have the words to even begin to describe its magnificence and it really is far more imposing than what the photos can capture although we couldn’t stop snapping them. You have to see Chichen Itza at least once in your life! The Mayans are credited to have made significant advances in mathematics and astronomy, including the use of the zero and developed a complex calendar system based on 365 days and were able to predict eclipses.




After Chitchen, we drove to the nearby Ik-kil cenote and the cool shady temps in the area is glorious after the intense midday heat. Cenotes are natural sinkholes resulting from the collapse of the limestone bedrock exposing the groundwater underneath that has formed over time. It has a wide cavern that is open to the sky letting in a beautiful spotlight on the water and vines that drops down from the opening.

I wanted to jump in but it was said to be 130 feet and my 5 foot couldn’t swim frame kind of chickened out so we contentedly watched on the sidelines. Big fat drops of rain soon begun to drop in sheets and we took that as a sign to end the long full day and sprinted back on the bus.



On our last day, we earned ourselves a few more hours at the beach until before lunch time and before going to the airport. Our flight back to the US was at 4 PM. The ride was eventful as the driver kept circling the zona and letting passengers on before dropping them to the bus station. I worried that we will miss our flight. The American couple with us were far more vocal about their annoyance because the trip was cutting it too close for them to miss their flight. I felt bad for the driver at the receiving end of some quite harsh dialogues because he was just following orders and his clip board but I also understand the stress that the couple are going through. We breathed a sigh of relief when we see the aeroporto sign looming in front of us but still blocked by a slow moving thick traffic. So near yet so far!

Fujifilm XA1, Fujifilm XE1
Fujifilm 27mm, Fujifilm 18-55mm, Samyang 12mm

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