Pyramids and Playas . . . .

21 Sep

I’m not sure which is more of a challenge – doing the trip, writing the blog – or remembering what we’ve done.

Anyway, up at 4am to catch the bus to Chichen Itza – a second class bus but still better than greyhound.  The bus dumpedus by the side of the highway at 7:30 for a walk to Chichen Itza, which is probably the more impressive of the Mayan sites.

In fact, Chichen Itza is a combination Toltec (from the north) and Mayan site, evidence of a fusion between the two (not, it seems, a conquest).  The Toltecs brought a bloodier form of sacrifice with them, although the Maya weren’t exactly without their cruelty – it seems they chose drowning rather than beheading…

The pyramids here are amazing – designed according to the Mayan calendar, there are 365 steps (4*91 + 1) for the days of the year, 18 relief panels on each side (for the 18 20 day months of the Mayan year.

The Mayans worshipped Chaac, their rain god- rain being so important to them on the poor soil of the Yucatan… and the Toltecs brought Quetzelcoatl, the sun god.  Worship to both is found on the Chichen Itza pyramids.

The architecture is truly beautiful – intertwined serpents climb and descend the pyramids, while twice a year an amazing optical illusion makes a serpent of fire appear to ascend the staircase


The ball court is huge – teams of 7 players would compete to hurl their ball of rubber through the ring high above the ground.. The bas-relief panels show that one of the team captains was decapitated at the end – but the jury is still out on whether it was the captain of the losing team (as a punishment) or the winning team (as a reward) – the ways of the Maya are not necessarily our ways.

We walked the grounds in the early morning heat (yes, really – that hot) .  .  It may be that I had already received what I needed from the Maya, or it may be – as our tour guide agreed – that the spirit and energy of the Maya is no longer as strong at Chichen Itza… but I felt strangely dissatisfied when I thought back to my profound experience at Palenque.

Chaac the rain god in the older Mayan part of Chichen Itza

And then, the final leg of the journey into Playa del Carmen – a crazy holiday town with a white crushed shell beach, and sea the colour of crushed-raspberry syrup.. A beautiful end to the holiday.  We rushed into the sea to cool off… and, finally, to stop.  No more buses.  No more taxis.  No more collectivos.  Just.. Time to relax.

Playa is a great town – full of craporiums selling all sorts of artisanal trinkets (and the obligatory football shirts and ‘Playa del Carmen’ T shirts, dive shops and nice restaurant – with wandering mariachi players and scary men dressed as Mayan rulers.  At night the beach comes alive, lit by candles in paper bags, with daring fire shows and live music … the same band plays smooth reggae on the beach and heavy metal on the main drag later on… and then chilled tunes into the early hours of the morning.

We took a boat out to the reef off the Playa shore – since Hurricane Wilma (the naughty girl) has torn up the reef off Cozumel – beautiful fish, and the girls each got their own little shoal of followers swimming with them to match their T-shirts – Jess picked up a little shoal of bright yellow fish, Ellie had a group of off white fish while Sarah’s were bright white.  I’d worn a check shirt, and had no fish following me at all.  Humph!

And then down time.  Time to reflect, to realise just what has changed in my life over the last few weeks – how, at a very deep level, I am not the same being that I was.  Goodbyes to new friends. Planning the next leg of the trip.  Stay in Playa?  Go off to Cozumel?  Head down to Belize?  Or off to Cuba?  Decisions, decisions……


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