Our little trip had started out with quite some organisational hassle the day before. We had to organise ourselves a car and checked several rentals in town – in the end, we found a decent one on 10th street between 2nd and 4th – Ado car hire. The organisational hassle actually had to do with our credit card and the fact that I had – uhmmm – “misplaced” the PIN. That really didn’t help us with getting a car. After a lot of talking and gesturing we finally agreed to pay the caution in cash and pay the rental fee a day later. This actually turned out to be really good.
The rest of the day we spent chilling at the beach again – but as we were quite late all the good beach chairs had already been taken at Kool’s and we moved a bit further to Mamita’s beach club in Playa. The service there couldn’t really match that of the previous day at Kools – maybe it was just the waiter, but it was all a bit lacklustre. Anyway we enjoyed ourselves with swimming, beach walking, tanning and relaxing... I am we deserved it , right?
For the evening we had planned something exotic – after our American intermezzo the night before with Superbowl we felt like some real traditional food. I had read some great reviews of a place a bit further out in the local areas of town and we were planning to test it. It was worth the effort. El Fogon was absolutely terrific, really good food to decent prices. Almost felt like a Greek “taverna”, fluorescent lamps and plastic chairs – the the food was divine, seriously.
The next day – Chichen Itza! We wanted to beat the crowds and so really made an effort to get up at the break of dawn. Driving here didn’t pose any problem...sure, you need to watch out for those “Toppes” – speed bumps – which are ever so often right on the motorway, but that you got used to pretty fast. Roads were quite good and with quite good I mean almost better than Belgian motorways. Taking the toll road towards Merida paid out: hardly any traffic, relaxed driving all the way.
And so here we are – 10:40 "at the mouth of the well of the Itza" The local Maya salesmen and women just got out of their hammocks and are starting to build up their stands with pots, masks, clothing and what have you. Everything still looks a bit sleepy, the handful of tourists almost disappear in the hugeness of the site.
A curious thing you will notice straight away upon entering the archaeological site are the strange sounds of Jaguars or Puma’s which seemed to be hiding in the underwood of the local flora. At first you might get a bit nervous, but it quickly resolves to be a “marketing trick” of the local sales representatives trying to court your attention. In scale of annoyance this comes pretty close to the constant “clapping of hands" which supposedly illustrates the awesome acoustics of the complete site. In fact the only really relevant place for this clapping is the famous ball court which due to its close construction and high walls resonates normal sounds across the length of a complete football field.
Feathered Serpents, temple ruins and Lara Croft’s cousin...
The site in itself is just breath-taking, especially without the usual crowds. The temple of Kukulkan (The Maya name of “Quetzalcoatl”) or “el Castillo” as it is often called as well, lies majestically in the centre of the main plaza. Around the Spring and Autumn equinox, the corner of the structure casts apparently a shadow in the shape of a feathered serpent – along the west side of the north staircase. This seems to be quite a cool phenomenon and had significant spiritual relevance. The spectacle is re-enacted every night at the sound and light show. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed onto the temple itself anymore, which had still been possible on my first visit of the site.
Amidst the ruins, the temple of the warriors, the caracol and the group of thousand column Georgia felt like the young (and of course more beautiful) cousin of Lara Croft – with jungle pants and hiking boots on the trail of the of lost Maya treasures! One of the most remarkable buildings on site is El Caracol (“the snail”) so named for its stone spiral staircase inside. the structure looks totally different to the rest of the surrounding temples and structures and it’s assumed to have been some kind of observatory with openings aligned to certain star constellations like that of Venus.
We had plenty of fun and took some amazing photos.
Between 12:00 and 13:00 the bus groups appeared and the place ran quickly full – it was time to leave and we headed for Valladolid.
Valladolid – care for a snack amigos?
Valladolid is a pretty sleepy town – at by the time we arrived all shops had closed for siesta. We had a quick tour of its main sites like its cathedral San Gervasio, its old market place, the main square and the surrounding blocks before we hit a local restaurant for a quick snack and a drink. Well, suffice to say that the ‘small’ snack ended up to be a full size Mayan specialty meal with Sopa di lima, poc chuc, conchinita pibil, pollo ticul and various other delicacies. What a great experience – well fed we got back on the road home to Playa del Carmen.