2012 & The Ancient Mayan city Of Chichen Itza

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
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Trip End Dec 20, 2010


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Flag of Mexico  ,
Tuesday, October 9, 2007

We trundled around for an hour in the dark trying to find a bus termina as the City woke up around us. We grabbed a coffee and smashed it to Chichen Itza (Mayan for ¨Mouth of The Well¨)where we shared the ruins early morning with only a couple of people. Magnificent! I got in trouble for taking a photo of baby monkey with the temple. We returned to the front gate to source an English speaking guide and hooked up with a cute little man named Arnesto, the guy was 78 years old and fit as a fiddle and shared his wealth of knowledge about the Mayan culture, calendar and various structures on the site.

Chichen Itza was a centre of pilgrimage for the ancient Maya for over 1,000 years. The sacred cenote (a large natural well or limestone sink hole) was holy to the ancient Rain God "Chac".
Back in the day the ruler of the Toltec people of central Mexico came here, and with his Maya allies made Chichen Itza the most powerful city in the Yucatan. The ruler called himself "Kukulcan", the name of the Mesoamerican Feathered Serpent deity (also known as "Quetzalcoatl") and the site became a centre of worship for that god as well. More buildings were built here in a mixture of Maya and Toltec styles. It´s history and it´s chronology are the subjects of much debate and the fate of its people a puzzle that archaeologists continue to theorize about as excavations continue. The whole site was originally covered in thick jungle and we could just imagine the work it would take to painstakingly uncover the temples. It seemed to be very much a ceremonial site. Around 1250 a.c the city was abandoned for reasons not understood. 

Sculptures of the Feathered Serpents run down the sides of the northern staircase, and are set off by shadows from the corner tiers on the Spring and Fall equinox, this demonstrates the descending of the feathered serpent to earth, in a light and shadow phenomenon in which the serpent appears to slither down the steps. The main pyramid rises up 30 metres from the earth. There is another pyramid built inside the temple. At the time we couldn't access this one or climb the steps of it to get a closer look in.  The numbers of its different measurements relate to digits in the maya solar calendar-  for example, 91 steps on 4 sides, or 364; plus the platform, 365, the number of days in a year. The five adornments on each side of the temple are 5x4, or 20, the number of days in a Maya month

Another interesting structure for me was the music podium where the Mayas had placed limestone pillars standing on end that they would hit with a stick to create different tones. This was on top of a stage which also looked like the place where the head honcho would stand over the people and speak.There were also carvings of serpents, aquatic animals and jaguars. The Mayans believed that their whole city was originally under water. It appears the Mayans were fairly vicious as they supposedly kept slaves. The rain god was king to them. We also saw a sauna steam room area with a fire area used for purification, fertility statues and a mass grave marked with skull heads carved into the walls where the Maya were buried in layers on top of each other.


There is a ball court which has warlike symbols carved into it's walls. Our guide told us about a game they played here similar to a mix between soccer and basketball which was played using the knee, shoulder and hips There are massive spectator podiums where the commoners would watch and throne type areas where the noble ones sat. There were two tiny hoops which it looked impossible to score a goal through. The winner only had to score one goal and then he got the honour of having his head cut off as the ultimate praise and sacrifice. Not a very nice trophy. His soul would be immortal though. The holes looked more like some kind of astronomy measurement devices for keeping track of the moon and locating stars.

Our guide had some strange stories incuding one about the Mayans purifying cross-eyed virgins with incense and dose them up with magic mushrooms before sacrificing them to the gods by covering them with heavy jewels and gems and throwing them into a large cenote (underground limestone sinkhole) near the temple. When scuba divers explored the water of the cenote they found many jewels and bones of women and mutilated children.

It was interesting to note that there's a whole network of roads linking the ruins all over the country and many sites yet to be excavated still covered in the dense jungle.

We took a cab to Balankenche cave network which was an important Mayan ceremonial space found in 1959. The cave network is 6km long and is where a large selection of ancient pottery and idols may be seen still in the original positions where they were left in Pre-Columbian times. Our cab driver waited for us as we had missed the last tour of the caves for the day and we were allowed to explore the caves alone, Mayan relics and all. There were lots of tiny bats flying and hanging from the ceiling, many formations made from stalagmites and stalactites which were lit extensively and ceramic pots shaped as warrior masks and little instruments. There was beautiful music of drumming being played through little speakers. This was an excellent experience to have without all the tourists. At the end of the walk was a large "Ceiba", a sacred tree which resembled the tree of life and had formed from the stalagmites and tites in a circular room. There were many pots around its base that were left where they were found. The energy in here was amazing and this was one of the most intense feelings of sacred space i have ever felt.

By the time we left the site there was a tourist frenzy in full swing. We cabbed it back to the Chichen Itza site where we had stored our packs and caught a second class afternoon bus to Valladolid, a colonial town of many churches.

 We ate longaniza al carbon which is a charcoal broiled venison sausage with a rich aroma and comitos de pueroso, a pork dish and vegetable soup, two Yucatan specialties of the region. Us two amigos were Mexico stylin.
 
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