|We left Caye Caulker by water taxi for a smooth "quick" ride to Chetumaal, Mexico via San Pedro, Ambergis Caye, Belize, to pass through Belizian emigration. In Chetumal first dogs sniffed our hand luggage then our checked luggage then we lined up to enter Mexico. We arrived at 11a...and left at 1p. So much for an easy drive to Playa del Carmen! We took a taxi for the 5 hour ride....$120 USD?...expensive but expedient.
In Playa del Carmen we took a room by the bus station, cheap and divey...clean and with hot water....and very quiet. We found Playa del Carmen very touristy with huge resorts, fancy hotels, huge shopping malls.
Where is the real Mexico? We had an excellent Mexican meal outdoors on a pedestrian-only street. Walked along the beach through a shopping mall and back to our room.
The next a.m. after a healthy breakfast, we caught the ADO tourist class bus to Cancun airport. Here we waited 1 1/2 hours for Sixt to pick us up to go to the car rental place. Oh Sixt after 2 great rental experiences did you let us down! No GPS! And no we can't download 'google maps' without data! Maps Me? Maybe. Their GPS's were due to arrive Friday!
So out on the road these 2 internet illiterate seniors attempted to find our way to...what was the village called? Piste? We found it!
Piste is a small village with hotels, restaurants and tourist shops. There only to service the ruins.
We booked into the Chicken Itza Hotel....NICE...with a pool in the courtyard, restaurants that no one seemed to eat in till breakfast. Our room opened onto the courtyard.
We booked a Sunrise Tour. Abel picked us up at 4.30a, drove us to the Mayaland Hotel close to the East Gate and after coffee led us into the park. We didn't know we were passing by parts of the ruins. By Kukulcan Pyramid he stopped. He shone his light on the partially restored pyramid. Wow! Not as big or old as Tikal but still amazing. For pics we went to the west side. Abel projected our images onto the pyramid. On the south side he showed us Kukulcan...the snake. He explained the Mayan calendar while showing us with flashlights what he was talking about.
We looked up....way up....and in the sky saw a satellite train....pairs of satellites following one another across the sky. Neat! There must have been hundreds all lined up playing follow the leader. Totally unexpected.
We went next to the Wall of Skulls. Here through more photography tricks, pics taken and explanations...a warning to all who enter "Don't mess with us!" The skulls are carved rock and very detailed. The Aztecs used real skulls...the Maya did not.
We went to the Platform of Venus...not a sacrificial platform but a platform for performing rites...equinoxes. It is decorated with snakes holding human skulls.
Next was the Warriors Temple....and the Thousand Columns...Behind the columns stands the Temple of Chac Mool...the rain god. At the solstices the sun rises through the columns above Chac Mool's head. When it is dry, precious stones, relics and jade were offered to Chac Mool. Sometimes burnt ancestors ' bones were offered....or so we were told.
We discussed the Jaguar Temple, went on to the Ball Court. Again Abel tried to dispel the legends taught. He believes the Ball Court was used for ceremonies....healing ceremonies. The ball symbolized the sun. In carvings along the wall he can pick out a healing ceremony...and make it look and sound plausible. His teachings are so different.....but "plucking the heart out" sells.
After another photography trick...panning, two flashlights and 2 images...the sky had visibly lightened. We took our position...closest to the Kukulcan Temple...and awaited the sun. It was after 6.30a. Abel again showed us pictures and explained more of the Mayan history. We learned about the Toltecs ousted by the Aztecs, invading Chicken Itza.
At 6.45a the sun peeked over the horizon between Chac Mool's Temple and Kukulcan's Pyramid. We watched as it slowly gained altitude. It had rained yesterday, our corn would grow today.
It was not quite 7a when Abel said farewell. We were free to explore...and there was so much more.
We went first to see Sagrada Xenote....a round deep circle of rock with murky water in the bottom. Then to have a close look at those columns. More ruins were further away. Gord opted not to explore further. We found the path we had arrived from...we had been first in the park. We discovered there were paths leading off to other pyramids, xenotes and relics.
The Mayaland Hotel has beautiful gardens, an outdoor diningroom...and a view of the Observatory from the front steps. 3500 pesos includes site entrance and entrance to a planetarium. It is a good deal.
We found our car where we had left it, went back to the hotel, had breakfast and then back to bed. We awakened at 11a, left at 12 noon and drove to Merida.
Merida is hot and humid. We are staying at the Merida Caribe in Central Merida. An English bus tour showed us many churches...including a Mormon church...lots of Spanish and French colonial mansions...
Some have sold for 7 million USD several years ago. Some are empty, some are single family dwellings while others have been renovated to stores and apartments.
We saw Mayan statues and fountains, statues dedicated to Spanish conquistadors and statesmen.
Explanations in English were short and long in Spanish.
The bus was enclosed....hard to take pics but...
After, we had an excellent 'comfort' food dinner. After a short walk...we saw the Teatro and the Palacio de Musica with its ever-changing lights, explored 2 of the many churches and went gratefully to bed.