El Castillo at Chichen Itza
The Toltecs had constructed a smaller pyramid and the Mayans suggested that they build another one on top of it, befitting the Sun God. The Spaniards called the temple the Castle because they thought it looked like one.
10 to 13 May 2014 Saturday through Tuesday. Even by my standards, the ten day whirlwind through Peru and Bolivia was exceptionally fast paced. We were ready for a rest. As explained in my planning blog at Planning our Pre-Colombian Civilizations Trip
, due to a lack of frequent flyer miles to fly directly from La Paz to Denver we were "forced" to take a break in Mexico, and where better than the beach and cultural location of Cancun, with the Mayan Yucatan within easy reach.
As it was off season in Cancun, we booked four nights at the Marriott CasaMagna Resort at a very reasonable price...I've paid more for a two star motel. When we checked in the receptionist apologetically told us that the hotel was fully booked and that they had upgraded us from a garden view to a beach front room...on the first floor with the beach right outside our patio/balcony. He told us that unfortunately the room only had double beds instead of a king bed, and would that be ok? They must be used to having many honeymooners stay here rather and older couples married for over forty years. If only we encountered more such misfortunes!
The property is
self contained, with Thai, Japanese, Argentinian restaurants, and an American sports bar, but no Mexican...for that we would have to go a mile down the road. We didn't go an inch down the road, and even passed up the McDonald's restaurant on the other side of the highway. Our first morning, Saturday, we treated ourselves to the buffet breakfast which had everything imaginable, including Japanese food. We ordered a la carte after that. Our large late morning breakfasts would usually carry us over to an early dinner. We ate our evening meals at the Thai restaurant.
The hotel has a gift shop with beach accessories and snacks, and medicine that I needed for my cold...we had brought our own Immodium to take care of that issue as Montezuma's Revenge caught up with us on Sunday.
Besides the beach just outside our room, there is a large warm water pool with poolside bar and a large hot tub. There I met the mayor of a Colombian metropolis with more than a million citizens. We discussed the differences between city governance between his city and mine where I am a member of the city council.
The beach is white...I
mean really white as opposed to that yellow (or golden) that many resorts claim to be white. I like soft white sand. The water is turquoise...the color in the pictures is real. The wind really blows up the waves, making it dangerous to swim as indicated by the red flags every so often along the beach. Linda enjoys walking the beach to find seashells, but there were only broken pieces. Thatched cabanas provide protection from the sun, which I took advantage of. However, Linda had missed a few spots when she sprayed the suntan lotion on me, and the sun reflected off the sand still resulted in an interesting arrangement of red spots on my body.
We only left the property and the adjacent J W Marriott property once in four days...a tour to Chichen Itza on Monday. We decided against a tour of Tulum as the only days the tour went during our stay was on our last day, and it wouldn't get back before we needed to be at the airport. We will have to save that for another visit. This turned out to be fortuitous as we had to cancel our Chichen Itza tour scheduled for
Sunday and reschedule to Monday due to the aforementioned MR.
Our good luck with weather continued...imagine two weeks in South and Central America with no rain during the day except from the our one hour layover in Bogota, which didn't impact our touring. We had strong winds on Saturday and an evening thunderstorm on Sunday. That evening I sat in the lounge of the JW watching the storm approach from the sea, seeing the rain pelt the surface as it got closer and closer. Meanwhile, a baseball game on TV reflected on the rain splattered window; a bit disconcerting as the players ran in the opposite directions due to it being a mirror image. So our walk on the beach was delayed to Monday evening. A full moon reflected off the waves and lit the sand enough for Linda to find some intact seashells.
As mentioned above, we were finally felt well enough on Monday to visit Chichen Itza. The bus picked us up about 7:30 am and collected a few more tourists before heading first to a cenote where those who wished could swim. We didn't wish to. Cenotes are large sink holes filled with water. This
was followed by a buffet lunch where we finally got a taste of local Mexican food and saw traditional dancing.
Finally, we were at Chichen Itza...in the heat of the day. Our guide took us for a 90 minute tour explaining the history of the place...Mayans arrived about 400 AD. The Toltecs arrived in 1000 AD and the two lived peacefully together even after they collectively destroyed the environment in 1240. Desperate times called for desperate measures so human sacrifices on a "voluntary" basis were instituted. Four years of good rainfall followed, leading to the logical fallacy that correlation proves causation...it doesn't. When the rains stopped in 1245, continued human sacrifices didn't work, so everyone moved away.
We saw the pyramid with the laid back human figure which serve as an alter where the hearts were placed and the Sacred Cenote where virgins were drowned as another form of human sacrifice. We also saw the playing field where only priests played with a hard rubber ball, the object of which was to get the ball through a stone hoop. The most important object, however, was to win as the loosing teams captain was sacrificed on the spot. At
least the priests also had to face the possibility of sacrifice. Every temple was roped off so no one was allowed to climb the steps, not that we wanted to.
Our guide expressed her pride in Chichen Itza having been chosen as one of the Seven New Wonders of the World. She listed them. I didn't tell her that I would have placed Angkor Wat above Chichen Itza on the list. I have reservations about Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio although the setting is incredible. I agree that Machu Picchu, which we visited a week earlier, deserved its place on the list. I only have two to go...the Taj Mahal and Christ the Redeemer, but I'm not putting them on my bucket list as I find the list to be totally arbitrary and politically motivated to boot. Nevertheless, Chichen Itza was worth the visit.
The time there was exceptionally hot and humid. Tourist would quickly move from shade to shade. We were happy to be back on the air conditioned bus which left at 4:15 pm and returned us to our hotel by 7 pm. We immediately had Thai food; just satay and mangoes and sticky rice
for dessert. It was nothing like the M & SR in Thailand.
Our last day, Tuesday, we relaxed around the hotel and pool as we got a late checkout for 2 pm. I had a massage from 1 to 1:50 hoping for a quick shower before checking out. However, there was only a dribble of brown water from the shower. I was able to wash my hair, which the masseuse had oiled, in the sink, but the rest of the massage lotion stayed on the rest of me until I got home.
A shuttle bus took us to the airport at 3 pm for our flight home at 5:30 pm. Our daughter picked us up at the Denver airport, and commented "What's that flowery smell?" We arrived home at 11 pm, with 8 inches of snow on the ground. And my cold turned into walking pneumonia. We should have stayed in Cancun for a few more days!
In lieu of a wrap up blog I will give my overall impressions here. I'm glad that I arranged the trip through a travel agent as all logistics was taken care of, and tour guides accompanied us every step of
the way. Having always been an independent traveler, I have come to understand the efficiency this brings to travel. Peru was definitely my favorite country. Both Cusco and Machu Picchu should be on everyone's bucket list. Peruvian food is also better than the other countries...we will seek out a Peruvian restaurant here in Colorado and buy a Peruvian cookbook we so we can relive our time there as we loved the food so much. What little we saw of Bolivia is not enough to form a complete judgement, but what we did see was blah, other than our guide Juan and our friend Tara, who were great! No need to return to Panama. Cancun...our accommodations and the beach were top of the list as far as beach resorts go. We could get used to that! So until our next trip, adios.
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