Okay, so after yesterday´s post was some laying about. I tried to find the starting point of the bus tour but failed. Either not the right place or I expect things to be on time, which is not per se the way the world works.
I had food I can´t identify. It was good, but all I know is it was the #8. Forgive me, but I saw a Chilli´s and I think I may know where tonight´s meal is. I would just kill for a big burger now. But I´m skipping ahead.
Last night was some sort of big dance festival thing downtown. I wasn´t really sure what to expect, but it could have been straight out of Zorro. Men in white suits, panama hats and some sort of funky sandals with heels, and ladies with white dresses covered in embroidered white flowers, also in high heels and with enough make-up to satisfy any American teenage daughter´s wildest dreams. But lest I detract from the dancing… wow… I mean… wow… The dances got wilder and wilder. Early in the show they danced with bottles on their head. That was just to warm us up for what was to come later, a full tray full of glasses and bottles. I think I got one decent shot of that. You have to see to believe it, but you´ll have to wait for that. There was also a may pole… yes… a may pole, or whatever they call it here, covered in flowers and ribbons. And the dancers weaved in and amongst each other winding their different colored ribbons together. And what could top that? Reversing the dance and un-winding them perfectly…. they did this over and over… Definitely a mind blower and worth the fact it started over half an hour ¨late¨ – which I´m slowly grasping is a state of mind.
After that was bed as I had grand plans, I tell you GRAND plans today of catching the 6:30am bus to Chichen Itza. I hear a few of you snickering out there. I know what you´re thinking, and unfortunately, you´re entirely correct that I was nowhere near the bus station a good mile from my Hostel at 6:30am. Try… oh…. 8am…. that´s close right? See it´s all a state of mind.
Having missed the first class bus I´d hoped for, I settled on a second class bus. Getting a bus here at all.. eek! I mean, the station is the most confusing thing ever, and I previously awarded that title to the train station in Naples, Italy. Nope, not close. Lines all over the place, no clue what they are for, and the place was definitely aimed only (and fairly) at the Spanish speaking public. But having maneuvered through all this, I discovered that I was better off taking the second class bus as it would get me there before the next first class. The second class bus back home we would call a local, meaning it stops anywhere it can to pick up passengers. I´ve had one Grayhound experience back home and this did not compare.
On one hand, this was one of the nicest buses ever. If I had to kill two hours, the air con splendor of this bus and the reclining seats were where I´d have chosen. As I waited for my bus in the second class lounge with no AC, I seriously began to fear what the next two hours had in store, but the bus was just lovely. But in the course of the ride, I definitely saw how the other three quarters of the earth live…. I don´t entirely have words for what I saw… Dilapidated homes, shacks that were more screen than concrete block, I lost count of the number of old huts that had their straw roofs replaced with rusty tin. It was humbling to say the least. Among the buses passengers, we stopped once for a man with piles of shiney new tin roofing which went into the luggage hold and a little old lady with flowers. I never saw the man get off (and the bus didn´t finish it´s run in Chichen Itza) so no clue where his home might have been, but I did see the little old lady exit. This was at a stop outside of a cemetery, where one supposes she had family. It was an interesting sight to say the least, like Miami and New Orleans had merged, the most decript mauseoleums all painted in bright, hot pastels. Despite the intense middle class guilt, it was something I wouldn´t trade. The bus would stop in little towns I´ll never see again and little old men would jump on the bus loaded with baskets of food I feared to trust.
And finally, we arrived at Chichen Itza. Aside from the guides I´d seen get on the bus along the way, everyone else off there were gringos. So, I paid my $9 entrance and decided to do Chichen Itza solo, no guide. I figured I was going to be enjoying some time with those ruins and my camera and I could make do reading the lovely English plaques and my lonely planet guide. Considering what a death march it must have been for people with guides, I have to say I´m glad for my choice. Chichen Itza was a little jarring, too. First, I was finally getting used to pesos and the exchange rate and darned fi they kept referring to everything as dollars, but MOST of the time, they really meant pesos…. so confusing… And all throughout the site, you were pummeled by locals selling things. Incredible little masks, carvings, trinkets, etc. And they would all yell “one dollar, one dollar!” I had already made my couple of purchases in the gift shop, so I was afraid to ask if they really meant one dollar (10 pesos) or if the meant one peso… which is well, like a dime, I guess… I haven´t bothered with any of the currency that translates into less than a dollar.. just too confusing… But boy were they everywhere, men, women, children, all out trying to sell to the tourists. Having seen so much of the living conditions along the way, one could imagine too well, why. I even had one guy offer me a lovely carving for my watch… my two year old nothing special wal-mart watch that I only wear on trips (anyone who knows me knows I hate watches, this one hangs from belt loops). I digress… that was Chichen Itza… The spectacle is more than just the ancient and incredible pyramids, the giant ball courts where the losers really lost (their lives) and wonder after wonder of the ancient Americas.
Near the end, I stopped for my umpteenth bottle of water at this little gift shop. I happened to end up sitting with a couple from Canada. We exchanged itineraries, etc. They had come from Cancun (Chichen Itza is somewhere between Merida and Cancun). They considered Georgia exotic and longed to go to Savannah some day. True to most people traveling, they want to see somewhere I live near and have never been (well, the interstate through there at night once, which I don´t really count).
I never made it to the largest Cenote at Chichen Itza. The cenotes are common on the peninsula and are giant natural sinkholes from which the Maya got water and ascribed a spiritual meaning. The only good thing about a guide would have been seeing that. As it was, I got confused and lost track of which direction it was. By that time, it was mid afternoon and my body had quite enough. I had seen all the structures and the second biggest cenote, I didn´t need a hole in the ground to make my day complete.
I stumbled back to the main entrance and got my ticket back. True to form for the day, I just missed the first class bus and took a second class bus back. Wandered back through mostly the same path I came in. Now exhausted tho, and I kept nodding off. for those who don´t know, my dad was a high school coach for years and I spent my early years on buses. As it is, they make me sleepy, but that extra exhaustion was it. I only woke up because they kept coming to check on tickets… sheesh! I had my ticket checked once on the way to Chichen and at least 4 times on the way back.
On my way back, I stopped by a travel agency recommended by Lonely Planet and Thursday am booked on a bus tour with guide and all for Uxmal and Kabul, more maya sites. I figured I´d take it easy on myself at least one day. The bus will even pick me up from Nomadas where I´m staying. $35 well spent…
Tomorrow, the plan is to get up to Celestsun and take in the ocean views and the Flamingos. No clue what else is on tonight, but we´ll see. Maybe exhaustion style sleep after dinner…