Thursday, February 20, 2014

In the Land of Ruins (the Mayan Ruins, not the Cruise Ship!)

The following day we pulled into port in Progresso which is a beautiful beachfront city on the Yucatan peninsula.

Getting off the boat in Progresso

Yes, cruise ships are the leading cause of vacation lung cancer, yick.

Although it is not as famous of a city as Cozumel or Cancun, it is very close to the famous Mayan ruin UNESCO site, Chichen Itza (or as our anti-any-other-language-besides-English co-patriots pronounce it: "chicken pizza").  Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities and the ruins are the ones you would recognize by that great huge pyramid above top which the Mayan ruler would cut off virgins' heads and watch their skulls barrel to the ground (or so the story goes,  no one knows the complete history of the Mayan culture for sure because the Spanish Catholics took over and burned all their books...but  for sure there were some human sacrifices performed here,  as evidenced by the abundant collection of human bones found nearby).

So Chichen Itza is about 2.5 hours from Progresso and you can get on a guided tour bus for $90 per person, spend 5 hours in the car and 45 minutes there with the other 1.2 million tourists who visit there a year.  Or you can spend half the amount of money, drive 20 minutes on a tour bus, to spend 4 hours on a smaller, less famous Mayan ruin, Dzibilchaltun.

We get on the bus to Dzibilchaltun, and are very excited that both of our tour guides are actually Mayan.  They were very funny.  The one guy opened up the tour speaking Spanish.  The all-American crowd tensed up.  One lovely American chimed in with "hey, buddy I think you are on the wrong bus!!"  No matter where you are in the world, everyone must speak American in front of Americans (duh!).  But the bus driver laughs because, of course, he knows all Americans only speak English and that they all get mad when you don't know this fact, and he continued on with his schpeal in English.  He was of Mayan decent, but he did not speak the Mayan language.    His mother never taught him because she wanted him to be fluent in Spanish and not to be discriminated against because he had a Mayan accent.   Don't ask him why the Mayans disappeared.  They did not disappear, they abandoned their cultural centers, but there are plenty of Mayan descendants living and breathing in the world today. His tour guide coworker only spoke Mayan.  We thought that was pretty cool.  Later in the trip he started speaking English also (joke #2).

We were on the bus to the ruins and Jose was explaining about the birthmark that all Mayans are born with on the base of their spinal cord near their tail bone, called the Mongolian Spot.  In the middle of him discussing how the Mongolian spot is an example of how the Mayans are a pure and ancient species of humans and how the more pure-bred you are the longer the spot lasts (it usually disappears by the time of puberty, but if you are only a quarter Mayan it might disappear by the time you are 2 years old)...the bus breaks down.

We pull over to the side of the road in the middle of no where Mexico.  I fear that in choosing the cheapest tour that I have made the wrong choice and wonder how the Chichen Itzans are doing on their bus ride.  The bus driver, the "Mayan-speaking" tour guide, and two other tour people get off the bus and start tinkering away at the engine.  Jose is still on the microphone in front of an ever increasingly impatient American crowd and starts to tell us about the animals around here... iguanas!  panthers!  After 15-20 minutes or so the engine rumbles to life and we are back on our way.   Catastrophe avoided... or perhaps planned?  Either way the crowd is relieved that they do not have to sue Carnival cruise lines for the awful tour recommendation and we are on our way.  After speaking English, Americans second favorite thing is complaining and suing.

We make it to the ruins and are let loose to explore.  Another major advantage of picking the second rate/less famous tour, is that if it is not a UNESCO world famous, crazily protected site, you can climb all over it...  And we did.  While walking around we heard some others tourists discussing the Mayans saying  "ya know, I believe they were reasonably intelligent.." He had a very similar accent to some bum Trevor and I once overheard at a bar discussing how "chap stick comes from oil wells."

Mayan ruins!

Ruins ruins everywhere

The Temple of the Seven Dolls in the distance where archaeologists found little carvings of seven disfigured dolls

stadium seating, excellent acoustics

And in the middle, we shall put a Catholic Church... Err wait,  that came later

The sinkhole where the Mayans likely got their freshwater

Playing goddess

Scouring the overgrown ball field

The ball field

interesting tree growing pea/bean-like pods

The Mexican jungle

Escaping the tourists

There's a cool bird in this shot.  Can youspot it?

Temple ruins

This is what Mayans wore to the temple

some weird beehive inside the Temple

pretty epiphyte (a plant that grows on another plant)

Our favorite tree

check out the roots on her!

Climbing the pyramid, Mayan style, just like they did some thousands of years ago

view from the top

The road to the temple

Temple of the Seven Dolls.  On the vernal equinox, the sun rises so that it shines directly through the middle window of the temple.
The freshwater sinkhole called Cenote Xlakah is thought to be where the Mayans got their freshwater (makes sense).  It is up to 150 feet deep in the deepest area and is thought to be connected to the ocean although the divers could not get through far enough to prove it.  You can go swimming in it.  We just put our feet in and we received a lovely little pedicure from the native sardines who enjoy a healthy all-you-can-eat lunch in the form of tourists' dead skin cells.  It tickled.

These fish pedicures go for $100 in NYC.  In Mexico, they are free!

They liked Trevor's feet a lot better than mine:

They liked Trevor much better than me, although I can't say I am that offended...
Look closely to the right of Trevor's right foot.  Whatever he's growing down there, the sardines were loving!

mine, not so much....not that offended

Hard to tell in the photo, but there is a Coca Cola stand on the left selling Cokes and a Pepsi stand on the right selling Pepsis seemingly out in the middle of no where.

Progresso beach

Our boat in the distance

beer bottle washed up on the beach

some cool black birds hovering down the coast

A man selling I don't know what out of I don't know what

The walls of the parking lot and the walls of lots of neighborhood homes had broken beer bottles glued to the top of the wall, perhaps to keep people from climbing over?  or birds from resting and pooping?  Either way, was very resourceful.

Here comes fun.  This guys was with a group of cougars who when a Mexican guitar player came down the bus aisle asking for tips after he played a few songs, refused to tip him and instead said "I'm not giving him a tip, I'll give him a tip if you give me a CERVEZA!  Hey!  Where's the Cer-Ve-ZAs!!?"  Guess who's boat he's on?

I didn't catch it at the perfect angle but there was a pelican flying with the bus right outside the window.

Back to the boat...


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