Memories of August 10, 2016 – Wednesday morning was here – time to catch the bus to Chichén Itzá with about 50 other tourists. We boarded our very comfortable air conditioned coach and headed off through the Mexican countryside. The ride was pleasant, expertly navigated by our driver, Francisco. Our personable tour guide, Felipe was assisted by the efficient Jesus. Felipe made a point of pronouncing Jesus’ name with a hard “jee” sound, rather than the Spanish “hay” sound. Funny guy – little joke for the American turistas. After a light breakfast of Mexican pastries and orange juice, Felipe passed out name tags to each of us with his name on them. This was a bit confusing until he explained that, when we arrived at Chichén Itzá, there would be dozens of similar buses and, should we become separated from our group, we could be reunited more easily by knowing that we belong on Felipe’s bus. Ah, ha – made sense. Today, we are all Felipe.
About 25 minutes out of Chichén Itzá, we made a stop at a rambling gift shop filled with room after room of local artisan-made items. As we wandered, Scott and I were both attracted to a fire-glazed black pitcher. Scott did a quick peso-to-dollar conversion and determined that the price was a whopping…$12.00. Well, there was no question that little beauty was going home with us. As we made our way toward the front to checkout, we passed a display of Mexican vanilla. I was thrilled to discover that a liter of the “good stuff” cost only $8.00 American dollars. Thrilled with our finds, we hurried back to the bus with seconds to spare before it headed off the the ruins.
Right off the bus, Chichén Itzá looks like any amusement park entrance. Throngs of people milled about. Jesus offered us a sunbrella; we would be glad to have taken it at several points under the midday sun. With my “special needs” knees, the pace of the tour was uncomfortably fast at times. I fell behind on the path entering the grounds, but once we caught up to the place where our group had assembled, I was awestruck by the view of El Castillo, the massive pyramid. Once we’d received our initial briefing from Felipe, we had some time to wander the ruins. At several key locations, we assembled again for more information and history – and for refills on water. Despite there being more walking than my knees could enjoy, the rest of me was thrilled for the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins.
On the way back to the resort, we stopped at a phenomenal place for lunch. It was a combination nature park and buffet restaurant – an oasis of a sort in the middle of the Mexico wilderness. We were greeted with a shot of a local green tea that was supposed to have amazing health benefits. It was delicious but I have no idea what it was called. The restaurant was prepared to accommodate our tour group. The food was excellent and abundant. As we strolled through the grounds on our way back to the bus, we were awed by the array of native flora and fauna. Certainly nothing like the “middle America” landscape to which we’re accustomed. So exotic! Felipe showed us waaaayyyy up in a tree an avocado growing – easily grapefruit-sized. When we remarked at how much larger it was than avocados we get in the U.S., he divulged that they keep the big ones and export the smaller ones. Good for them!
There was still more on this day of adventure! A visit to Ik kil Cenote was also on the agenda! For those of you who, like me prior to this day don’t know what a cenote is, here’s a definition from Wikipedia:
A cenote (English: /sᵻˈnoʊti/ or /sɛˈnoʊteɪ/; American Spanish: [seˈnote]) is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath.
The walk from the parking lot to the cenote was enough for me on that very hot day. An opportunity to descend to water level and swim in the cenote was offered. Not really being water lovers, we opted to watch from above. It was lush and jungle-like here. It was heartening to hear the excited screams and splashing from the divers and swimmers below.
The route back to the resort passed through several small villages, providing a little glimpse of life on a Wednesday afternoon in this hot, desolate area of the world. Many small homes, tiny shops and old cars lined the narrow road through town; life seemed simple there. Hard, yes. Meager, yes. But definitely uncomplicated, the likes of which I sometimes long for. A silly, romantic notion…I know.
Back at the resort, my knees were burning but so was my imagination for having spent the day in such an amazing place on earth. Upon returning to our room, I was delighted to discover an elephant towel sculpture upon our bed, beside a heart fashioned from rose petals. How did they know I love elephants?