“There are only two temperatures here… hot and hotter, so stay hydrated,” said the tour guide as he shoved little corona bottles in the hands of the tourists getting off the bus to see the archaic mayan pyramids of Chitzen Itza. I’m half embarrassed to admit that I was on that bus, since the 4 hour drive from our resort to the archeological site was just too much of an endeavor for two New York natives in a foreign country to pursue. Thus, we opted into the comfortable, lunch included, tour bus. I debated momentarily if the corona would add to my already lethargic state, but then said “fuck it” and chugged it down. Mayan ruins here we come!
Resorts aren’t usually my thing, but when my twin sister and travel companion of late, desperately yelled out “I NEED SUN!” in response to my resistance to a resort vacation, memories of New York city winter flooded back. I’ve managed to avoid 3 consecutive, wet, bone cold, dirt covered, snowy winters and wouldn’t even know how to endure one anymore, so I sympathized with her frenzied need for sunshine. Also, I’ve never been one to turn down a travel opportunity and see the beautiful sea.
Alexis and I seem to quickly gain a reputation amongst the staff on the resort, 1) because of the delegate balance of my nice approachable demeanor and Alexis’ rambunctious aggressive one and 2) for being the restless young ladies trying to find ways off the humdrum family resort. My suggestion was a day at Chichén Itzá and the Ik Kil Cenote and Alexis was a night out dancing in Playa del Carmen. We decided to do both.
The ride up to Chichén Itzá was for me more enlightening than the pyramids themselves. As we passed road side huts one after another, you can see the personality in each. They sold anything from fruit to relics. Dreamcatchers hung from the tarp covered roofs, reminding us of the native connection between Mexico and the rest of North America. They told unspoken stories of portability and the need to easily dissemble for the long motorcycle rides back to the village inland from the lucrative tourism of the coast. Despite being so near the coast, there were no palm trees, neither were there the iconic cacti or agave plants that’s synonymous with Mexico.
I tuned in and out of the tour guide’s rehearsed speech of facts as he passed along sheets of mayan hieroglyphics and explained a complex number and month/seasonal system that would impress today’s mathematicians. What was most impressive was his ability to effortlessly switch back and forth from perfect English to Spanish in one sentence, “if you look to the left, si se mira a la izquierda, you’ll see, verá, the colonial town of Valladolid, la ciudad colonial de Valladolid.”
The Ik Kil Cenote, after a long day at the pyramids, was a welcomed sight and certainly the highlight of the trip. “Cenote” means “sinkhole” or a natural pit resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. The groundwater is often deep, but tranquil, refreshing, and full of marine life. It is canopied by surrounding rock with a peephole for sunbeams. As you moved to the outer edges, toward the lime stained walls, the darker it became and images of large underwater creatures waiting to pull you down into the abyss entered my mind. Being in a natural pool gave me an adrenaline rush and I almost believed the tour guide when he said that the water had powers to make you look 10 years younger.
Mexico’s iconic culture was under-appreciated on the resort. I found life and wisdom in its natural world and the generous history of the Yucatan peninsula.