Last Friday, I decided to pay for one excursion in Cozumel, Mexico to the Mayan ruins in Chichen Itza. I had heard that, of all the ruins in that area...these were the best. So, to prepare for the 2 1/2 hour bus ride in each direction (that part alone stopped many of the kids from signing up), I packed one of my room pillows, my camera, and some snacks and got on the shuttle to the port.
What I didn't pack was sunglasses (because I don't own any), so after looking at this picture of me squinting into the blazing sun with the gorgeous beach behind me, I decided to "add" them in with my photo editing program. I wish I could have done that there...
I was a bit concerned that our bus might be more of a M*A*S*H-style vehicle, complete with ragtag locals and their various farm animals...so I rushed from the boat to the bus and, thankfully, was relieved to find a modern air-conditioned transport waiting...plus a complimentary boxed lunch of a packet of tuna (that always smells great in a confined space on a long, hot drive), fruit cup (those who were tardy did not get fruitcup), muffin, nuts, cookie and a juice pack. I also managed not to buy anything at the various curio stands along the way.
Enjoyable (although I didn't want to chance the tuna...so I left that hermetically sealed under my seat).
So, we all did our best to stay awake while Carlos, our extra-perky tour guide, decided to entertain us with tidbits of history about the ruins and the people of Mexico. Thankfully, he started to notice that most of us were fading fast, so he let us chill and knock out until we got to the site.
We got there about 3:45 pm (and the site closed at 5) and were told that we would all be walking around as a group (uggh!) getting a history lesson about the ruins and the people who built them. However, if any of us wanted to walk around on our own...we could, as long as we let them know and got back to the bus by 5. So, the moment that we got inside and I took the picture below, I let them know that my sweaty cankles and I would be dashing off.
And dash off, I did.
Blah, blah, blah history...I've only got an hour to take photos of acres of old rocks and monuments while trying to dodge busloads of lollygagging tourists standing in groups all around the ruins and the sun is on its way down!
I'll let Wikipedia give you (as it did me) some of the historical highlights of this ancient Mayan civilization...
Dominating the center of Chichén is the Temple of Kukulkan, often referred to as "El Castillo" (the castle). This step pyramid has a ground plan of square terraces with stairways up each of the four sides to the temple on top. On the Spring and Autumn equinox, at the rising and setting of the sun, the corner of the structure casts a shadow in the shape of a plumed serpent. the shadows from the corner tiers slither down the northern side of the pyramid with the sun's movement to the serpent's head at the base.
It's a very impressive structue and it took all of my willpower (and several security guards) to keep me from running up to the top of it and taking photos.
Archaeologists have identified several courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichén, but the Great Ball Court is by far the most impressive. It is the largest ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. The imposing walls are 12 metres (39 ft) high, and in the center, high up on each of the long walls, are rings carved with intertwining serpents.
At the base of the high interior walls are slanted benches with sculpted panels of teams of ball players. In one panel, one of the players has been decapitated and from the wound emits seven streams of blood; six become wriggling serpents and the center becomes a winding plant.
Players being decapitated and bleeding wounds that become wriggling serpents...I probably would have avoided sports back then too and stuck with the Mayan Glee Club. No historical evidence of head-lopping for them amongst the ruins.
The Temple of the Warriors complex consists of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns depicting warriors. This complex is analogous to Temple B at the Toltec capital of Tula, and indicates some form of cultural contact between the two regions.
Unlike the Greeks or the Italians, the Mayans opted not to sculpt life-like stone replicas of their great warriors. Instead, they erected almost 1,000 columns to honor them. I have a feeling that the allure of that wore off quickly for warriors honored after row three or four...
"Great...you're column 562, 52nd row, left-center near the shashuku bush. Like we're gonna be able to get your grandmother to walk all the way over there to do a fourteen hour carving of you in front of it."
Plus, a giant stone pillar hardly fits inside your standard Ikea trophy case.
Overall, the ruins were pretty amazing and you really do get to appreciate the craftsmanship and hard work that some of the earlier civilations put into constructing their cities. They weren't just throwing together a quick strip-mall to house the new Quiznos...they had to lug tons of stone and sand around on their backs to create ginormous temples and courts for sporting events and the art of decapitation.
I would never have survived in that time.
Speaking of old ruins, as we were leaving, I noticed that Elton John would be doing a performance there on the grounds in May. I'm sure "The Bitch is Back" will sound amazing as it echoes off of the crumbling stone walls amidst the fabulous light show.
Unfortunately, we couldn't stay that long...so we dragged ourselves back onto the bus and slept our way back to the port later that evening.
Because we didn't get back to the ship until 9:30, we missed the special guest performer, Roseanne Barr. I saw clips of her on the room TV and she was her usual rambling self. Thankfully, she didn't break into song at any point. We'd already suffered one death on the ship...I'm sure the Royal Caribbean insurance company did what they could to prevent her from causing another.
As tired as I was after the excursion that day...there was no rest to be had. The biggest party on the ship was about to begin, The Atlantis White Party, and I had to shower the ruins and fruitcup remnants off of me and head out for the extravagant array of mini-costumes, the frenetic light show, and the boom boom boom of the DJ that awaited me on the top deck above.
Thankfully...my skin and, especially, my backside are about as white as they come.
So, my costume, although a bit wrinkled and six pack-free, was ready to go.
Those pictures are coming on Monday...