Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chichen Itza Revisited

Last week when the boss asked me to visit Chichen Itza yet again, I must admit my first reaction was a big heavy sigh. Don't get me wrong, I love adventures and new things, but Chichen is not a "new" thing to me, been there, done that, got the t-shirt (literally). It's a long trip and with my "blues", it just seemed a daunting task. I promptly gave myself a giant kick in the ass for being such an ungrateful lump and forced a "hurrah!", reminding myself that when one is down, one must do something, anything to bring one's self up again.

Saturday dawned and I was up and out the door before the roosters crowed. (Ok, no roosters in my hood, but you get the point, too damned early). I met up with the gang from the office for the "fam trip" (for those not in the tourism industry, a "fam trip" means "familiarization", tour providers showing off their wares to those of us who will be selling them). We hopped on the luxury bus and settled in for the long drive. I perked myself up with a few coffees and enjoyed the chat from my absolute favourite guide, Delio. He was my guide at Chichen twice before and once at Tulum, he knows his stuff inside and out and shares history with a light touch and a passion that makes "old rocks" fascinating.

The Nunnery

Now, this is a personal blog that sometimes resembles a travel blog, but since I'll be giving the "sales pitch" blog for work, I figure I'll just keep this personal. Don't worry, no long winded rambles about the mathematics of the site or the ancient history, just my own personal reflections based on a number of visits.

The "new" ball court under reconstruction

At the risk of sounding "hippy dippy", I find the place magical. Mysterious. A feeling deep inside my gut that I am standing on the sacred ground. When my feet hit the site, I feel a surge of power inside. (Are we feeling hippy dippy yet?) I've read complaints from tourists about the vendors on the site, but honestly, I really don't even notice them, my attention is totally on the experience of being in the same place where thousands walked thousands of years ago. The tale of the Spanish coming and destroying the site breaks my heart and can almost bring me to tears. I can only imagine how the Maya felt when their lives were ripped from them and their treasures carted away. I can hear the cheers when I am in the ball court and the speeches of the kings when in front of the pyramid. I don't feel sadness when next to the Sacred Cenote where innocents were sacrificed, I feel their great pride in doing what they felt best for their people. I simply feel the power deep down in the soil, an energy that is hard to describe. (Oh yeah, we're deep in hippy dippylandia now).

Honey? What's the best Chichen souvenir?
Ceremonial knife, colourful plate or giant penis?

I have my favourite places within Chichen Itza. The Nunnery with its gaping hole left by an explorer and his dynamite as he searched for treasure. The Church with its intricate and amazingly detailed carvings. The Skull Rack and its rows and rows of severed heads representing the winners of the ball game who were sacrificed to the gods. The "new" ball court which is under reconstruction and changes each time I see it. The Observatory and the incredibly advanced minds it represents.

The beautiful "church" with its incredible carvings

And so I passed my day, though unfortunately the time at Chichen Itza was too short. We made a stop in Vallodolid to visit the convent (lightning did not strike me down, my heathen soul was spared), a divine Yucatecan lunch and a quick stop at Cenote Zaci. Then back on the bus for the long drive home, ending my fourteen hour day back in the bright lights, big city of Cancun. I'm hoping to return to Chichen Itza for the spring equinox in March, I'd love to witness the serpent of light descending the pyramid and have time to properly roam the grounds on my own. I was glad to be reminded that no matter how many times I visit, Chichen Itza still has magic to share and I look forward to that hippy dippy feeling again.


St. Dickeybird said...

It's probably my favourite place in Mexico (so far). I definitely know that feeling where you can forget the vendors.

Scott Bulger Photography said...

Glad that you had a good time. It is indeed a magical and mystical place.

Steve Cotton said...

As you know I am not very impressed with the place. The larger sites always seem to take on a Disneyland aspect that completely sublimates the lives of the people who once lived there. Give me any of the small Puuc sites. They have a human scale. That may be why I live in a fishing village rather than a big city.

Barb said...

I totally understand the magical feeling and sensing the spirits of those who were there before us. I felt it in Tulum and Uxmal, the only 2 ruins I've been to.

Calypso said...

Those giant dice circa the giant penis are special. I have to wonder who that would visit the ruins might decide they need to get that stuff while they are there? Weird marketing!

Kelly said...

This post really makes me want to visit Chichen Itza again. I enjoyed it the first time I went (which was my first visit to Mexico) but it was in July and it was so hot that I thought I might die. So it was hard to really appreciate everything, but I still got that feeling of being in a sacred space.

I think I'll put it on the list for a winter visit to Mexico : )

CancunCanuck said...

Dickeybird- I think it's important to forget the vendors, the history and importance of the site should outweigh any modern intrusions. (Though I am grateful for bottled water, haha!)

Scott- Thanks, I agree. I was disappointed in the very short time we had there with this particular tour, I felt very rushed, practically running from structure to structure. Need to return to take my time with the photos, I'm surprised they're not all a big blur! :D (Thanks again for the advice).

Steve- I understand what you are saying, but if all you see is the "Disney", then you are really missing out. I too like the less-visited sites, but Chichen has a power that the smaller sites do not. I guess I have been fortunate to visit a few times and not come in the crowded front gate (this past weekend was actually the first time I saw that front gate!). I have been able to be there early morning before the crowds, late afternoon after they leave and at night as well. I stayed overnight at the Mayaland Hotel (on the grounds of Chichen, was first a place for the early archaeologists to stay) and was able to find a peace away from the Disney noise. I think it's worth a revisit during off-hours, close your eyes and meditate on what the site really means. You may find the power yourself. :)

Barb- I have yet to visit Uxmal, but I do love Tulum, if only for the spectacular views! Coba was pretty special too, you can still climb the pyramid. My next ruins trips should be to Ek Balam, can't wait to check it off my list!

Calypso- The dice are actually domino sets (makes a little more sense in that it's a popular game in Mexico). But yes, I see what you're saying. "What souvenir should be bring back for Aunt Marge?".... :D

Kelly- Oh ugh!! Chichen in July, yikes! That is killer. Definitely HOT and humid, stifling in fact! For sure check back in cooler months to be able to enjoy without your brain melting! :D

Anonymous said...

I have ony visited Tulum and Coba but got the same spiritual. hippy dippy vibes form those two sites.
And WTH is with the penis? Isla Gringo posted photos I think at the fair of penis shot glasses. I have seen the penis pipes on Isla. Next time I go somewhere touristy in the US I think I will ask a shop owner if they have ever thought of selling penis trinkets and trash to tourist.

Dr George Leddick said...

Note to self-- someone needs a few melodic roosters for an Xmas present.

ElleCancun said...

I love Chichen Itza. I recommend it over and over again as I find it so fascinating. Like you said, when I am standing in a spot I just look around and imagine what it used to be.

I've not been nearly as many times as you...LOL :)

Gabo said...

so... you took the ceremonial knife home...

CancunCanuck said...

Gabo, I may have brought home some souvenirs, but the secret is in what I took! :D

D is for Dengue, Depression and Dread

I'm currently sitting in my Cancun apartment, staving off the Covid 19 panic and using all my Jungle Kelly powers to maintain my cal...