Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cancun and Chichen Itza

After telling the church it was time to visit my friend, Kerry, in Cancun. I had some vacation left so used a week and scheduled a trip. After a rough start--I missed a flight in Dallas and had to stay overnight--I arrived on May 10. It was warm and sunny.

Kerry and a friend of his, Ricardo, met me at the airport. After dropping my stuff at his condo they took me to a small restaurant under a bull ring. Kerry said they had the best lamb tacos in town. He is probably right--they were terrific.

Back at the condo we planned our next few days. We had to budget time more carefully since I had lost a day in Dallas. We decided to head for Merida the next day, stopping at the ruins of the Mayan temple(s) at Chichen Itza. In the Mayan tongue, Chichen Itza means "the mouth of the well of the Itza," Itza being the name of the Mayan tribe who lived there.

I crashed on the couch and slept like a rock, with a strong breeze from the ocean keeping me comfortable.

Some years ago I had visited the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha in Belize. They were impressive. First discovered in 1963, Altun Ha is not nearly as well excavated or restored as Chichen Itza (1842). The tallest of the structures at Altun is about 55 feet. It would be dwarfed by the Kukulcan pyramid at Chichen Itza which rises more than 80 feet. I looked forward to seeing the site. As you can see from the photos below (taken with Kerry's I-phone) I was not to be disappointed.

The pyramid of Kukulcan

Another view of Kukulcan

The site covers just a bit less than six (!) square miles. Below are just a few of the other structures.

The last photo is of the sacred well, or cenote. It is about 60 feet from the top of the well to the water and the water is about 65 feet deep. With no surface rivers in most, if not all of Mexico, cenotes are an important source of water.

En route to Chichen Itza we stopped and had lunch in the town square of Valladolid and exchanged dollars for pesos. After Chichen Itza we headed for Merida (May-ree-deh).

Our trip began in Cancun in the NE. We took Hwy 180--an excellent road--to Valladolid, detoured slightly to Chichen Itza and then rejoined 180 to Merida in the NW part of the Yucatan.

Kerry, who amazed me with how well he speaks Spanish, told me I would have to re-program my vowel sounds. In Spanish vowels are not pronounced  Ay Eee eye Oh yoU, but rather eh, ay, eee, oh ooo. At least that is my best approximation. To learn how to really say them click here.

I also began to learn Mexican road signs. Long ago on a mountain road outside San Jose, Costa Rica I had learned the most important sign--Peligro. It means Danger. Of course I learned the hard way! The first time I saw the sign, I reached for my handy Spanish-to-English handbook and was sent flying almost into the back seat when the road dropped off about a foot. I'm not likely to forget that one!

Kerry told me that there was another sign in Mexico nearly as important as Peligro: Tope (toe-pay). A tope is a Mexican traffic control device we know as the speed bump. (In Jamaica, by the way, they are called, "sleeping policemen.")

In Mexico a tope may appear anywhere--even in the highway! Some are huge and steep. Some are mid-sized--and some aren't too bad. You can't always tell by the sign which size it is, so you had better slow down or get your teeth rattled--and maybe the car springs broken into the bargain. You quickly learn to watch the brake lights of the guy ahead of you. If he brakes, you had better brake, too.

One thing about topes--no one drives at autobahn speeds. Self preservation won't allow it. Plus, they save a lot of money on traffic police, radar and stop lights. Verrrry efficient!

Next time: Merida, the oldest church in the New World and more road signs.

No comments:

Post a Comment