Today we take a trip to Chichen Itza and get to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Chichen Itza is a paramount Maya Temple Complex and ancient city in the Yucatan in Mexico. Chichen Itza was one of the biggest and most important Maya cities of its time between 600AD and 1200AD meaning "At the mouth of the well of the Itza". We got up early around 6:45am to leave by 7:30am for the adventure of the day.
Chichen Itza - Temple of Kukulkan
Trip To Chichen Itza
We got there right when they opened and were one of the first 10 people to enter. It cost us nearly 20 USD and immediately we realized the commercial aspect of this site. We entered the main complex which is neatly manicured, without a cloud in the sky. It was beautiful. This site isn't the biggest, and the pyramid isn't the biggest, but it is one of the most restored Mayan sites around, and one of the most prolific. We went directly to the main pyramid, the Temple of Kukulkan. Also called "El Castillo" by the Spanish Conquistadores, this is an impressive pyramid! There is the feathered serpent (Kukulkan) that runs down both sides of the stairs. And the overall condition of the pyramid is immaculate.
El Castillo - Temple of Kukulkan
Each of the pyramid's four sides has 91 steps which, when added together and including the temple platform on top as the final step, produces a total of 365 steps. On the spring and autumn equinoxes, the afternoon sunlight casts a shadow on the pyramid's main stairway causing seven isosceles triangles to form and create a shadow that imitates the body of a 120 foot long snake that creeps down the stairs until it joins Kukulkan's serpent head at the bottom of the stairway. We didn't hang out long enough to see if we could see anything happen like this. We were there a few days before the Autumn equinox and hear you can sort of see it at this time. One of the most interesting things about the pyramid was that you could stand at the bottom of the stairs and clap your hands loudly. This caused an acoustical effect that sounded like the chirp of a Quetzal Bird. It was interesting how the Maya knew how to do this including the celestial alignment of the building for casting shadows.
Temple Of The Warriors
Exploring The Grounds
We walked around took pictures, and saw them working on a new archeological site near the base of the main pyramid. I was surprised to see them mixing cement and pasting stones making me wonder if any of what we are seeing is actually what it looked like when the Maya lived here. There were no archeologists, just laborers hauling rock from a rock pile 100 feet away, and mixing cement and they appeared to be constructing a wall. At Chichen Itza, you cannot get anywhere near any of the ruins, you can't climb, touch, or sit on anything because it's roped off. This was a disappointment. Apparently a woman from San Diego fell from the main temple and died forcing the government to shut them down for safety's sake. I was at least hoping we could climb and explore something. But it was nice having the place to ourselves, and the temperature was comfortable too. Very enjoyable, but we both agreed we liked Uxmal better. More is sometimes less, and less is sometimes more. Chichen Itza with all its hype was definitely less impressive architecturally than Uxmal, and the not being able to walk around structures gave it a large museum feel rather than an archeological site.
Hawkers and Vendors
Suddenly from every part of the woods come men and women carrying loads of stuff on their backs... the vendors and hawkers!
By 10:30am the place was absolutely littered with people selling trinkets, and basically garbage everywhere! People were coming up to us trying to sell, and peddle their wares, not taking NO for an answer. It got very annoying and luckily by about 10-11 am we were done seeing what we wanted to see and left. I personally started getting very annoyed by the pushy salespeople, hounding me for a sale and it really detracted from the special sense of sacred antiquity that we felt the day before at the other sites. (which didn't have a single person trying to sell me something or even a stand) Before leaving, we walked around amidst the constant followers of hawkers and saw the ancient ball court, by far the most impressive, largest and best preserved Mayan ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. We also walked around and saw the Temple of the Warriors, Group of a Thousand Columns, Palace of Ahau Balam Kauil, and El Caracol (the snail) which is the observatory.
The Sacred Cenote
The Sacred Cenote
We did see the sacred Cenote and actually got to see a wild Quetzal bird near the cenote which was amazing. They are fairly rare. . (cenotes are natural sinkholes that are unique to this area of the world) These things are massive!!!!! 2-300 feet across, and hundreds of feet deep. This is where the Maya got water and the only place in a semi-arid environment. There is a rainy season, however ALL the sites have what is called a Chaac. Chaac is the name of the Maya rain god who strikes the clouds with his lightning bolt and produces thunder and rain. There are massive amounts of them on just about every temple and can be characterized by the elephant like trunk two eyes, and mouth. This was their rain god, and it is obvious that the Maya depended greatly on the Cenotes, and the fresh spring water they held. This made me wonder how people in Southern Mexico knew anything about elephants? We walked around the cenote then left Chichen Itza because it was just getting too crowded and the heat of the day was getting oppressive. We liked our trip to Chichen Itza, but were a bit disappointed with the commercial aspects, and inability to interact with the sites.
Ik Kil Cenote
Ik Kil Cenote
On our way out-of-town from our trip to Chichen Itza, we stopped by a cenote to go swimming called Ik Kil. Ik Kil (Ikkil) which means "Sacred Blue Cenote" was on the main road back to Cancun and a popular place to stop for tour buses. The entrance fee was 7 dollars. And well worth it! This place was breathtakingly beautiful. We got in our swimsuits, and took the stairs to the bottom of the cenote. This cenote was very tourist friendly, with a lot of construction and cement work to make it what it is. There were mangrove roots that came down from top of the cenote to the water that looked like vines. You are prohibited to touch the roots of the trees due to the fact it kills them.
There was a platform about 5 meters or 25 feet high that people were jumping off into the water. Shelly went first and jumped right off feet first. I then went up and decided to dive off. WHAT A RUSH!!! The water was warm, and beautiful. Shelly then dove in head first too. It was absolutely refreshing and beautiful to swim in the greenish-blue waters looking up at the sun rays coming down from the hole above us. We headed back to Cancun and decided on the way we would switch things up and go to Playa Del Carmen.
Out For The Night In Playa Del Carmen
Playa Del Carmen
We didn't have a hotel in Playa Del Carmen, and stopped in a resort's parking lot and leached their internet to book a room for two nights at a place called the Maya Bric Hotel. We had no idea where it was and kept driving around the town looking for the street it was on. We already had a long hot day and around 7pm and dark. We finally realized that the hotel was on what is called the peatonal, which means walking street. It's a street with shops, and restaurants, and nightlife, that has no cars, just walking. IT WAS PERFECT!!! Not the best room, but for 50 dollars a night it was a great location and had a small pool in a center courtyard. Our manager of the hotel is a 20 something hippie from Sweden named Yurij (yuri) and felt at home here.
We love Playa Del Carmen and the walking street. This place is incredible! Very progressive, beautiful, beach community without all the hustle and bustle of Cancun. That night we walked the peatonal, went into some shops then decided to get something to eat. We finally ate at a place called the Blue Lobster. I got a rib eye steak and lobster, and Shelly got beef tenderloin and scallops. We sat at a two person table right on a side road from the peatonal, it unforgettable. Great ambiance, and delicious food! There were some clubs nearby and we ended up at the Blue Parrot dancing and meeting people from all walks of life from all over the world until about 5am! At 1am there were 6 fire dancers who put on a show which was great. We walked along the beach by an almost full moonlight, reflecting on long day of almost 24 hours. It was a day to remember where we did more in a day then some do in a week.
Out For The Night In Playa Del Carmen
Change In Perspective
Our trip to Chichen Itza and exploring and seeing places we have never seen, doing things we have never done, in places we have never been, is magical. This is the first time we have really been able to get out and take part in the culture of the world together. We are learning that this is a lifestyle that we enjoy. We feel alive and happy. We are starting to change the way we feel about ourselves and the world we live in. Here we are in Mexico seeing ancient pyramids, interacting with culture and learning history. There was a moment when eating at the Blue Lobster that we just looked at each other and said "this is for real".
We are realizing that there is more to life than just what we have been living. We came to Central America to change the way we looked at life and we are realizing that we are open for change and we are loving the ability to live life on our terms. Our trip to Chichen Itza however annoying, was also had an amazing feeling of antiquity. Along with Uxmal and Merida where we already saw so many places that are awe inspiring. It opens our mind to wondering how life must have been for the Maya and with a little imagination you can almost see them walking around with their daily life. We can't wait to see more of Central America and continue this adventure.