Trip to the Mayan Lands

When we had been to Tlaquepaque, we saw the Mayan Calendar and other Mayan arts displayed and obviously I bought one for my souvenir. That is when I was introduced to this place called Chichen-Itza (remember not Chicken Itza… Chichen Itza.. trust me, people misspell it a lot) and how these were the Mayan places and has the prominent Mayan temples and pyramids still in place and restored. That was enough to get me excited and I decided to make a trip to this place which is in the east coast of Mexico (Me-hi-co). I was supposed to be there on the last weekend of my stay but due to the unavailability of the tickets, I had to prepone my trip to the current weekend so as to not miss the trip to this place, which has found its way in the new 7 world wonders.  I got my tickets done, tours booked and ready to go.
Cancun-Playa Del Carmen
I had to choice of Cancun or Merida for my flight and chose Cancun as I had booked a hotel in Playa del Carmen, 2 blocks from the beach. Merida is more inland and very dry area. The flight was late by half an hour or so during take off and almost an hour late when landing. During the flight, I saw almost 2 or 3 very high mountains which looked like yester year Volcanoes. They were very very huge and towered above the clouds visible from the flight. It was exciting to see them actually. There were more mountains within an hours flight from Guadalajara (Gwa-dala-hara) but not much when you cross them. I guess when you cross Merida, you enter the flat surface. While nearing Cancun, I saw that the whole land was almost flat , with greener patches around having roads connecting very distant places which felt like white patch lands, and no mountains or rivers anywhere nearby. Then we crossed a bay area sort of thing to actually land in Cancun. In Cancun, I was almost the only person who was subjected to checks by the officials, and they held me for almost 15-20 mins asking every details and where I was from and they were surprised when I said that I was from India. After that answer the following conversation happened, “Does your husband live here in Cancun?” (Oh!! What the heck…) “Nope. I came here for Chichen Itza”. “Oh.. Chichen Itza. Hmm.. Have a good trip..”. “Gracias”. I came out, took the ADO bus to Playa Del Carmen (almost an hour from Cancun Aeropuerto) for 110 Mxn.  They dropped me @ Playa Del Carmen ADO Bus station @ 8.45 pm and since I wasn’t sure of the hotel location and it was very dark outside, so I took the taxi for 25 Mxn to my hotel 2 blocks away.
Chichen Itza
The next day, my tour was supposed to start by 7.45 am and I reached the Gran Porto Real Hotel for my bus pickup. This hotel was an all inclusive hotel with a private beach , and other sports.. It was grand. Almost around 8.10 am I got my pick up van (who inevitably spelt my name wrong) and we went to get others so that we can be grouped in a bus. Thankfully in the other place, there was a gang of three women, two of them Australians (What is with the Australians and me.. Remember I had two Aussies along with me on my trip to Grand Canyon too..) and their friend who is a Mexican on the maternal side (she was my official translator) but lived in U.S . Later around 9 am or so we boarded out bus to Chichen Itza with our Guide who spoke both Spanish and English very well (along with Mayan language, which was his mother tongue)

The first place we stopped around was Valledolid (Va-ye-do-lid) which was a very small mexican town on the way to Chichen Itza. There was this church which was built using the stones from Chichen Itza. This town was a very important commercial place which helped in the development of Chichen Itza.  It was very small and was probably 4-5 blocks in size and then again travelled along the flat surface to a place near the Chichen Itza. In order to help the Mayans and the natives of Chichen Itza earn their living, Government has allotted specific places to have markets where they can sell their stuff to tourists. So almost all the tours that happen stops in any of their market of their choice. We spent around 1 hour there because it had too much stuff to check and buy (a good trap though J ). They make you a silver pendant with your name written in Mayan language with the border of your choice (you can have signs of fortune/knowledge/protection or combination around your name) . It was cool and they even accept credit cards (even though the network is really really slow). It’s almost a 2.5 hr journey from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza inlands. And it was terribly hot. Again after almost 1 hour we stopped for lunch @ 1 pm (this was part of the tour). This was a typical Mexican place amidst of a very small town in between. It was a buffet lunch and they had good options for vegetarians too. It was very nice. I liked the taco’s, the tortilla (tor-ti-ya) , fried beans, Mexican rice (just like the kerala rice) and nice desserts.  They also had some entertainment from the typical mayan families, who performed their dances for us. It was good. And people sitting near to me (from U.S ) were surprised to see that I was the lone Indian there and were enquiring about my trip. They were also surprised by my choice of drink.. the Jamaican (ha-mai-can)  flavored water . After the sumptuous meal , it was time to visit the pyramids. The guide warned us about the humidity and its effect on us.

 It was almost 2 pm when we had been there and you just cannot imagine how hot it was. We entered the Chichen Itza pyramid park (it was surrounded by the forest kind of trees that you cannot imagine what you would see inside). We separated into two groups, one with a Spanish guide and the other with the English guide (who came with us in the bus). He was a very nice guy, old and very informative. He had been part of the archaeological group there and had more insights to it. He does these tours very rarely say once a week or twice a month or so it seems. When he led us into the park in the entrance of the pyramids… it was .. what to say.. AWESOME!!!  To see it in pictures is one thing .. and to see it live before your eyes. It was Divine. It was very huge and magnificient….and we were pouring sweat.  We had to occasionally take place in the trees around so that he could explain us the intricate details of the pyramid. Like the following details
  1. The uniqueness of the number of steps and the temple above the steps
  2. The five symbols on the top of the temple above
  3. The reason of having the 9 layers on each side of the steps with three step rectangle in it (all the above three represents the solar and lunar calendar of mayans)
  4. The acoustical characteristics of the pyramid.. If you stand in the front of the steps and clap you will hear the echo which sounds like a bird and then you stand a little away from the steps and then clap, the sound of the bird still is audible to people before the pyramid, but not to the people standing away from the steps. We heard it live.. It was amazing how they could use these techniques when no technology was in place.
  5. Why only two of the sides of the pyramid was restored and other two sides were left as is
  6. How the pyramid forms the perfect circle and the impact of Equinox on the pyramids
  7. Why they stopped the climbing of the stairs of the pyramid since 2005 and how much damage has already been done etc etc etc.. I guess you can learn more from the internet if you browse, but to see them in person is really something people.

There was one thing which the guide said which puzzled me though. He said, Mayans invented the concept of Zero. I remember studying that Indian’s invented it.  As and when the guide explained us the rituals and the beliefs of the Mayans, I felt that there were more like us in ancient times. Was there a possibility that there were two different civilizations which believed in the same thing (for e.g the belief of Solar and lunar cycles, the belief in God and having no Devil) Really intriguing. He also said how the Mayans believed in duality (man – woman, life – death, sun – moon etc..) they believed that moon was the feminine part and hence the moon’s cycle around the earth has the same days as the woman’s gestational period.. That was a very interesting observation. I never heard of that before or atleast thought of that similarity. Wow.. Mayans believed that Sun was the life giver and they prayed the Sun god. Everything for them revolved around the Sun.
We saw the great ball court there and the guide explained how the players used to hit the ball with their hips and the captains should try to score a goal by hitting the ball in the circle. Whoever scored first was the winner and the ball court in Chichen Itza is the biggest of all in the Mayan Civilization. The team which won in their respective places which were much smaller, like the ones in Coba etc, finally got to play here in Chichen Itza and the winning Captain offered himself to be sacrificed to enable him to join the gods. It was an honor for them to win and secure a place in the upper world. There were no human sacrifices that happened as depicted by many it seems. It was a voluntary thing for people, who took pride in offering the gods some of their blood (it can be a baby, virgin, a captain ..depends on the ritual) In this case, once the captain’s head was beheaded, it was stuck to a wooden rod and was placed in a mantel made for it specially and was there for Sun god. Once it became a skull (as a natural process), it was given back to the family who believed it as their god.
We could also see the circular columns which were built by them to count months and which were in perfect geometry too. It was really really amazing to see these. All these were built without the use of Iron or any other metal. All these areas were built with pure limestone available in that area. Seems like they found another pyramid inside of a the main pyramid, but when they tried to dig from the outside an d get in , it started to collapse, so no more excavations of any sort is allowed there by UNESCO.  It was also expected that there was a bigger temple which was either demolished or built over by Aztecs who conquered the Mayans and had their own set of Gods. They had lot of Gods and sub gods (like in Hinduism) whom they prayed.
It took almost 3 hours to see the place and understand each of them. You really have to have enough energy and may be 2 bottles of water to get you around the pyramid and the nearby temples.  Its very very humid here. Even though it rained cats and dogs in between, we were still sweating. It is also very sad that people who sell the crafts flock this place even inside the park and keep pestering you to buy things (just like we see in Mamallapuram or Hampi etc). The guide was saying that these people cause more damage to the structures there and hence the government is planning to use the military to evacuate them from there.
Also there used to be quite a lot of crowd during the equinox when the Sun almost creates a snake like shadow which looks like its crawling from above to the ground. Once he had explained the structures for almost 1.5 hours or so, he let us explore on our own. We found a few Iguanas which started coming out in more numbers slowly as it got hotter. There were also wells near by which was earlier used by the Mayans to store the rain water for their use. There are no rivers in this area remember. They had only Cenotes (Si-no-thes) which means underground well, which had fresh water in them and these were the ones used for their drinking purposes. Even now some of the Cenotes are still available but protected.
After what felt like a lifetime there, we proceeded to our bus as per our schedule @ 4.45 pm. Remember my official translator ? She was left behind because we couldn’t find here on time and the other place we had to go would close by 5.45 pm. So the Spanish guide stayed back to bring her there and we went ahead. It was a place called Ik-Kil (place of the winds) where they had a beautiful underground swimming place of natural water. This was a sort of a Cenote (not a divine one) . Naturally I didn’t get into the water and had my cup of Coffee and enjoyed the place. In all these places, there were birds chirping around and it was secluded and serene that it calms your nerves.
Oh  I was done with my trip.. I did what I came for here. I was there in Chichen Itza , watching the pyramid and said a small prayer and now I am ready to go back if I had to.  It was really amazing how travelling esp. travelling to places like these can give you immense satisfaction. Thank you God.  Again another trip of a Life time. I am not sure if I will come here again, but I am happy I did this trip.
Back to Playa del Carmen
We started our way back @ around 6.30 pm and reached our hotel by 9 pm again. And I went straight to bed I had to get ready for my Tulum and Coba trip the next day.
In whole the trip to Chichen Itza was a very very informative and a divine one. I felt like I had to learn a lot of things in life yet, other than my programming language. I wish I had another life to do that J
I should thank my friend who suggested this to me and I am glad I did this.
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