Get your kicks... from Chitchen Itz...

Trip Start Apr 29, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Mexico  ,
Monday, January 29, 2007

Chapter I: If you're impressed and you know it...

My clap's 1000 clones zigzag their way across the Grand Ball Court towards the Temple of Venus at the speed of sound. The call of birds surrounds me, consumes me: the echoes, the echoes of echoes, imprinting themselves on my mind and resonates in my ear long after the birdsong has finally stopped - or did it ever stop? Such are the acoustics of Chitchen Itza's Ball Court, I lower the volume of my thoughts so as to keep them discreet. Chitchen Itza is quiet this January morning, the masses of tour groups yet to descend on this, the most grand and celebrated of all Mayan ruins. Above my echoing contemplations protrudes a ring; a hoop - for Quidditch no doubt - beyond it, in the distance, the all powerful pyramid El Castillo, bathing in the harsh Yucatan sun, without sunscreen, relaxing before it is again required to play the star in the Chitchen Itza light extravaganza of the devil of the death later in the evening. It's quiet this January morning. All too quiet. Uncomfortably quiet. Ominously quiet...

"So - Pedro - are there actually 1000 columns in the Plaza of 1000 Columns, or is it just a name?"
Pedro's sigh can be felt hundreds of metres away as he deals with what is seemingly a common question from America. Chitchen Itza is a different place late morning - the earth vibrating as the tour coaches roll into the archaeological zone - the happiest people being the masses of touts all waiting to sell their "$1 - 10 pesos" souvenirs; the call of the birds overpowered, overshadowed, overwhelmed by a cacophony of North American accents. Late on this January morning, it's not so quiet - in fact, it's overrun by tour guide umbrellas, wood-carving selling touts and tourists yelling their own name at a wall. But Chitchen Itza, the most grand and celebrated of Mayan ruins, remains awesome and inspiring, beautiful and fascinating, withstanding this massive tourist barrage of which I am a part, despite the fact that it may be missing a column or two...

More than a millenium after its construction, Chitchen Itza still dominates. It is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive complexes of ruins I've visited - and for so many reasons. The outstanding acoustic design - coz echoing shit is cool; the fact that they played old-school ball - and the fact that the losing team used to get sacrified to the Gods; the architecture and their knowledge of astronomy - and most of all - the fact that on the spring and autumn equinoxes, the morning and afternoon light casts a pattern of a serpent ascending and descending the walls of El Castillo. Now that's cool. Fucking cool.

The last ancient ruin of my trip has not disappointed. But not only has it not disappointed, but it has renewed that fascination and intrigue of mystical ancient ruins that had, of late started to suffer...

Ancient ruins? Brilliant...

Chapter II: Of the Devil of the Death from Valladolid

As I swam at the gateway of hell, I started contemplating what pure evil underworld creatures may be lurking (coz that's what underworld creatures do - lurk) in the 60 metres of crystal water below me. You know that feeling when you're swimming in the ocean, or a pool, all on your own, and you get the feeling that something - like a shark or animal or whoever is 'it' in marco polo - is out to get you? Well, I've found that that feeling is much worse when the thing trying to get you is a pure evil underworld creature. But as I floated, peering up at the long, twisting vines and the beam of light direct from God, I was suddenly comforted by the fact that I was swimming at the gateway of hell. You see, if there's anything that years of network television has taught me, it's that where there's a gate to hell, there are vampires. And where there are vampires - there's Buffy. And so, in the unlikely, and now hopeful, event of an attack from a pure evil underworld creature, Buffy would appear and lend a hand - I, of course, could ahndle a couple of vampires on my own: I know karate - and after all of them had been vanquished, I would say "Buffy - what were you thinking with Freddie Prince Jr? Have you seen him act? We could have been so happy together..."

The mouth of hell opens all over the Yucatan peninsula in the form of 'cenotes' - underground sinkholes believed in Mayan religion to be the first level of the underworld. Cool story - i know... The actual, geographical explanation for the cenotes is also decent. here's the abridged version:
Meteor 64 million years ago = massive hole in the ground
erosion and shit
cracks under the limestone surface
The result is a spectaculer system of magnificent swimming holes under the each, each with pure crystal water; small fish brushing past your feet; birds zipping around the roof. oh - to swim at the gates of hell...

Chapter III - a late january morning

For the third day in a row, I'm woken by the loud prayers to Jesus from the gathering outside my hostel that buzz through the church's crackling speakers. It's fucking early. I smother my curses with my pillow, extremely sleep deprived, finding vague amusement from the thought that jesus is probably having the same thoughts as me. He's got to sleep sometime as well - surely. A realisation hits me before dawn on this late January morning: that it's late January. And that it's scarcely three weeks before I go hrough customs in Australia. But I'm sleep deprived - in fact, it's probably a bad dream. A nightmare. I roll over to sleep it off... Another prayer starts and the word 'Hay-zoos' lingers until I fall asleep...

Chapter IV - The Top 5

So, to the Top 5. Ruins. Ancient ruins. They've been an integral part of my trip. And now, as I leave Valladolid, unlikely that I will see another ruin for the rest of this trip, I reflect upon the best; the worst. Indeed, there have been a plethora of magnificent ruins - completely, ridiculously, unspeakable brilliant. But let's be honest - some of them have also been pretty average. Here is my assessment of the top 5 least impressive:

5. Kalamegden castle - Belgrade
4. Fez Fortress
3. Remains of the Beijing City wall
2. Tulum
1. Pukara - Tilcara

To the Beach. Playa del Carmen in fact...
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