We had to get up bright and early for our full day tour out to Chichen Itzac. Our shuttle driver from the airport said that many English speakers couldn’t say it right and kept calling it Chicken Pizza. Sadly this got stuck in ours heads and we had to keep correcting ourselves. It’s Chichen Itza!
We got picked up at our the resort at 7:20am but it took another hour to pick up others from other resorts and then meet at a central spot only to change to another bus. Our bus, #11, was part of the premier package. It had some added perks as well as, you probably guessed it, more alcohol!
We set off west inland towards our first stop, the Grand Cenote Hubiku. Our guide, Sergio entertained us on the journey. He provided commentary on the surrounding areas and the history of the Mayans. He taught us that Cancun is Mayan for Snakes (Can) Nest (Cun). The name “Mayan” actually means “no more”. Reason for this is that it is what the indigenous people said to the Spanish when they kept asking them where the gold was. This part of Mexico, known as the Yucatan, came from similar origins. The Spanish kept asking them what the area was called. Yucatan was the response, which translated meant, “I don’t understand what you are saying”.
After getting fed some sandwiches, homemade cookies, juice and coffee we made it to Hubiko Cenote, located in a Mayan reserve. A cenote is a sinkhole formed from rain water sinking through the water.
Before seeing the cenote, however, Daryl had his priorities and so our first stop was the Tequila Museum. Museum might have been a little bit of a stretch though. Just a short, 2 min tour of how Tequila is made.
Tequila plant. (or Blue Agave)
We then had a tasting which included three types of regular Tequila (New, 11 Months, and 3 Years) and nine flavoured tequilas. Daryl tried them all while Amy chose a select view. Flavours included Kiwi, Peanut Butter, Almond, Pomegranate, Cherry, Chocolate, and Coffee.
We ended up buying 2 bottles of Tequila. One is 1L 3 year tequila in a orange bottle shaped like the root of tequila plant, and the other one is a coffee flavoured one.
Daryl was very happy with his purchases.
It was then time to check out the cenote. (With some lovely flowers along the way) The water was very clear and green although you still couldn’t see the bottom. You can swim if you want but the water is very cold. The cenote’s were also believed to be used for sacrificial purposes by the Mayans.
We had a quick Mayan lunch which included a slow cooked pork wrapped in banana leaf (in a ground oven). Delicious! Some Mayan dancers entertained us while we ate. (With bottles on their heads)
We hit the road again. Not right away, however. We had to wait 15 minutes as one family was late getting back to the bus. The mother and son got kicked off and had to take a later bus when the father showed up. We really appreciated this gesture. Respected everyone else’s time.
On the way to Chichen Itza Sergio opened a special bottle of liquor and got us all to try it. (He showed us how to drink it first). It was a good tactic as they then had bottles for sale customized with a picture of each group and when they visited.
At last, We arrived at Chichen Itza and met up with our English tour guide. He is a Mayan, born in the Yucatan and raised in LA. He returned after University to devote his life to Mayan History. He was very knowledgeable and spoke very very slow. The main structure and the most photographed is El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulkan. What can be seen from the outside actually conceals an older temple buried below the current one. The temple has a number of mathematical and astrological links. The northwest corner of the pyramid, only on the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, casts triangular shadows against the north stairs evoking the appearance of a serpent. (There is a head of a snake at the base of the stairs). We were couple of weeks early, or it would be great to see it. It is a very popular tourist spot with up to 7,000 visitors per day. We lucked out and went a day without many people.
One impressive thing about the El Castillo is the echo produced from a clap, that of the chirp of a sacred quetzal bird. (It’s tail feathers believed to be more precious than gold to the Mayans). The chirped echo is produced from the step which have a short tread length and high riser.
Tourists used to be able to climb to the top as well as go inside and see the inner ruins but these were both closed off in 2006. This was due to a combination of graffiti. erosion of the steps, and finally a woman falling to her death. (Apparently an ambulance was on permanent stand-by when people were able to climb and was used more often than anyone would have liked).
The great ball court is not far from El Castillo. It is the the largest and best preserved ball court in Mesoamerica (of the thirteen identified). The court is 168m long and 70m wide. The walls on the sides are over 8m high and have a slight incline. In doing so if you clap you will hear it echo 7 times. 7 being an extremely important number to the Mayans.
The game itself involved the use of a rubber ball which the players would either bounce off their hips or a stick. The captain of the team would stand near the ring (goal) and he was the only one able to score. It was believed that the captain of the winning team would decapitate the captain of the losing team as a human sacrifice. (Although some accounts believe it might be the other way around. Not a very fun prize if you ask me)
There were a number of other ruins as well around Chichen Itza. One of the other more famous structures was the was the Temple of the Warriors. Once again there is another temple underneath. It is believed that a large number of human sacrifices were performed at this temple in order to appease the gods and ruler.
That look like tic tac toe…..
On our way back, we stopped a town called Valladolid. The town was redone like Colonial time, although underneath it is still made of Mayan stone.
The next day we took it easy. enjoyed sunshine by the beach in our usual canopy. Reading, sleeping, and blogging.
And then rain, lots of rain in the afternoon.