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Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Over the past 30 years, we have traveled to Mexico more times than I can remember.  Exploring from the northwestern cactus and desert of the Baja region and Sea of Cortez to the beach resort of Puerto Vallarta bordering the Pacific to the historic and artsy city of San Miguel de Allende in the the center of the country to the community of Xcalak bordering the Caribbean Sea and Belize.  Our first trip to this part of the world, decades ago, was a get away for some snorkeling on Cozumel, and a ferry trip to the mainland to visit the Mayan ruins at Tulum located along the Yucatan Peninsula.

Arriving in this region again, on the heel of our trip to the Turks and Caicos, our first couple of days
Serpent at the steps of El Castillo
were greeted with cloudy skies and intermittent rains.  Even though this area is popular for snorkeling, diving and fishing, the weather wasn't cooperating, but with Alan still recovering from an overexposure to sun on our last trip, the clouds were perfect.  Literally dozens of ruins dot the Yucatan, but we had never made it to one of the most famous sites, Chichen Itza.  Taking advantage of the overcast, and slightly cooler days, we headed over to ruins.  Traveling on the toll road instead of the free roads was going to trim 30-60 minutes off our travel time, so we took off with no thought of having sufficient pesos to pay for the trip.  Arriving at our first toll booth an hour or so later, Alan handed over a credit card, the woman handed it back, no credit cards were accepted.  A man working near the gate saw our dilemma.  Offering to sell us pesos at 10 for a dollar (the rate at our hotel was 14 to 1), we were able to continue on to the ruins.

As a World Heritage site, this ruin has over one million visitors a year.  Normally the ruins would be 
inundated with visitors, but rains had apparently thinned out the crowds.  Heavy rains stopped upon our arrival, and didn't resume until after our departure, so our timing was impeccable.  Wandering the grounds was exhausting, and eye opening.  Mayan culture was brilliant, but in many ways violent.  In the Pre-Colombian era, human sacrifices were common as a ritual to "feed" the Mayan deities.  The Temple of Skulls displays rows of carved skulls of the
 sacrifices, in addition to the skulls of players on the losing team of the Mayan ball game.

El Castillo
El Castillo pyramid, located in the center of the main plaza, was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the world in 2007.  Dates on the building of this ruin is uncertain, but it emerged as a major city around 700 A.D., with the civilization declining somewhere between 1000 and 1250 A.D., depending on which history you read.  The ruins were surrounded by numerous vendors, selling everything from jewelry to masks to whistles which sound like the roar of a jaguar.  The occasional sound of the jaguar in the background, and the scarcity of visitors, made it easier to reflect back on the people that once lived here. 
Temple of the Large Table

Mayan ball field, the largest in the Americas--545 ft. by 223 ft.

Mayan ball hoop


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