Because we had bought the tickets to Chichen Itza today I actually got up at an appropriate (see: ungodly) hour to make sure to catch the bus. And this means waking up at 0700.
Which okay, I don’t know how my cousins do it because the are already awake and at the gym by what I can only assume is 0600.
We managed to get out of the house on time this time – and even though it takes about 30 minutes to get to the bus station, we had time to spare to take our three-hour ride into Chichen Itza.
They say that Coba is bigger and better. Although I have no qualms about Chichen Itza.
Although this too is a tourist paradise – and they charge twice to get in; it is totally worth it. Once is the entrance price from the government, and of course foreigners pay a higher fee than Mexicans. To which I know that next time bring the SUPER expired passport for a 3 dollar discount. The second time they charge for INAH – Institution National de Antropologia e Historia. These are the people who are doing more of the restoration work at the site.
Chichen Itza was not discovered until there were airplanes in the sky, and the jungle had taken over everything. By now the areas are all cleared and grassy and incredibly well maintained, but I cannot imagine the work that it was to get to this jungle in the Yucatan.
And where the Mayas got all the stone for their temples is another question that I still do not have answered. Because there are easily 20 some temples that dwarf the human size at this site alone.
Chichen Itza dates from 900-1200 AD, so I guess in the scheme of things it’s a relatively new site – that for whatever reason you can come up with was abandoned one day in its entirety.
Drought? Flood? Plague? Virus? Conquerors? We will never know unless someone has a time machine.
The stones are all white washed now and they don’t let you climb near or into the temples but they say that inside the chambers there are still paintings and murals with blues and reds of warriors and jaguars.
How many snakes there must have been at the time I am not sure because everything everywhere is in homage to Kukulkan. Or Queztalcoatl – who are the same god but of different peoples.
Big snakes winding around the temples and around the site, intertwining with their mouths open and tongues sticking out. They must have really respected and feared the snake, although why it was feathered, I am not sure
(So many questions!!)
Well when we got there is was oppressively hot – with more than 100% humidity, and we got some good shots with the midday sun even as the sweat is dripping down your spine and into your brow.
But then in the span of 15 minutes the weather changes completely, and the downpour begins. The sort of rainstorm that comes only from the jungle and Hollywood movies that lasts for about an hour.
And while everyone scurried for shelter, my aunt and I had our umbrella and hats content to walk in the rain because it is another kind of magical.
The best part was when we got to the cenote sagrado – or sinkhole – the place where they would make sacrifices to Kukulkan. They would weigh the sacrifices down with jewels and gold and toss them into this giant sinkhole – naturally occurring at 60m wide – and let them drown.
The rain coming down into this sinkhole and the jungle all around it was magical because it was quiet and so very green and alive. They say that there are over 10,000 sinkholes across the Yucatan, and the amazing part about it is that all of them are the same temperature and fresh water. (I really would have liked to go swimming in it, but alas everything is cordoned off)
The whole of Chichen Itza is a giant market place and while the vendors are calling “Almost Free” “10 pesos” “5 pesos if you speak Spanish” I would heckle them back saying that I was looking for something free or no dice.
And with the rain it was the special “rain offers”. But I guess a young man must have taking a liking to my heckling, because I was giving it back to them after a while, and he said that right there in the middle of the pouring rain I would get something free, and it was there that I got my little souvenir.
It’s a little ceramic frog – my little rain frog – that the guy says bring good luck. I know exactly where I will put her when I get home on my patio. I might even paint it before such a time.
My aunt says that I am something else, because here they don’t let you get anything for free unless it is from their cold dead fingers. I’m actually pleased with my little frog, even if it’s not the most glamorous, because it was there in the middle of the jungle and the rain that she came to me. Good luck indeed.
The other impressive and really magical thing that I was absolutely caught up in was the sound of the birds calling to one another once the rain let up a bit. I made many a video of the rain falling on the leaves, and the birds calling to one another and I think even the drum sounds of the vendor comes out. It is the sort of quiet magical noise that one doesn’t hear often.
I guess this is the benefit of braving the rain while everyone else seeks shelter.
Tropical birds make the best noises, especially against a backdrop of rainstorms.
The other impressive thing outside of the giant temple – which I am sure was the one the airplanes flying overhead found – was the ball court. This thing is massive and the tiny hoops some 10 meters in the air that the players had to use their hips to get a point.
My aunt says that the victors offered their blood to the gods, but I am pretty sure that in this warrior society – for there are reliefs of warriors everywhere – that the losers were the ones who went to the cenote.
They say that from the cenote saguado there was enough gems pulled from there to give a fair few to most of the museums of the world. This means that there was many a sacrifice – most likely to keep the people in line.
Chichen Itza is a big enough place that it takes about three hours to tour the whole thing and take pictures of the greenery everywhere. I cannot fathom how much of an effort it must be to clean and maintain the site because it is absolutely beautiful. Or even the initial effort because just as surely as it was abandoned, the jungle reclaimed what was hers to begin with.
The grand pyramid has been mostly resorted, for it is the first thing visitors see, and absolutely immense. There are serpents winding down the staircase, and the corners of the layered pyramid during the equinox line up with the serpent heads at the bottom for a most incredible sight.
The people were astronomical types as well for there is even something of a obervatory – or what we believe it to be anyways. The shadow of the snake on the solstice helps confirm this.
I left Chichen Itza with more questions than answers, and some 200 pictures of which I will have to sort through for the best ones to share here.
The pictures are all in one way or another, forthcoming, I promise – perhaps tomorrow when I have more time.
The six hours on the bus have left my knees feeling a bit sore – and if it werent for the rain I would have gone out for an evening jog.
I am not sure what tomorrow brings, but it should be interesting, and there is always the beach to fall back on.
(Oh the inhumanity!)