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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Chichen Itza

I had to laugh when I saw this sign as I frequently stay at this hotel in the Interior of BC.  The bus from Valladolid  (with the ADO line you have the choice of first class) was very full and you are treated to mariachi music the whole way, so no napping there either.  It arrived at Chichen Itza late morning but I needed to find a hotel first and refresh so I ended up taking another cab (3 dollars US) to the little town of Chichen Itza where the first place I found was a Best Western!!  After changing clothes and a shower I headed back to explore along with the hundreds of tourists that flock there.  You  must take advantage of one of the guides which await you  if you want to learn about the place which is huge and divided into 3 areas; Old or pre classic Chichen,  Central which contains the observatory ( my favourite) and the North group which contains, the ball courts and  the Pyramid of Kukulkan with it's wonderful creeping serpent of the Equinox light! 
In Mayan belief the serpent symbolized movement and change. The Mayan understanding of the cosmos and of numbers  along with their calendar (called the long count) was profound and their lives, customs, poetry, art and buildings were bound up in the sacred mystery of time, the stars and  the seasons. Their entire lives were lived in sacred ritual.
 Chichen Itza  means " the mouth of the wizard's well."  Guides usually ask for 4000 pesos or 40 dollars  for up to four people and the tour takes a couple of hours.   I was lucky to get a guide who explained the spiritual aspect of the Mayan beliefs and the significance behind their symbols and numbers.  The wizard's well (chen) is a cenote at Chichen Itza where human bones have been found by archaeologist divers.  Blood rituals and finally human sacrifice played a large role in religious ceremony especially in the later period of the Maya.
At night there is a narrated light show that begins at dusk. Bring an umbrella as it sometimes rains. Lightening and thunder were added to my light show the night I was there.
I had a bit of serrendipitous good fortune too as when I arrived pre dusk there were few people on site and one of the  workers took me into the grand caracol (observatory) or "snail" (called so because of the shape) where the public is no longer allowed entrance. It has two outer doors and a circular corridor in the interior with two inner doors - something to do with the solstices and the four cardinal directions?   I placed my hand in greeting on the ancient  hand that is imprinted on the outer wall of the "snail"  and went inside. From there I watched the death of Kukulkan, the feathered serpent,  in the form of the setting sun who would be reborn in the morning.   The four cardinal points of east, west, north and south are in all Mayan buildings including their houses and are called bacabs. They  symbolize the four jaguars that held up the sky.
It was a dream come true for this amateur astronomer as this building captured my imagination when I was very young.  I tried to imagine Stephens and Catherwood coming out of the jungle and upon this for the first time in the 1800's.

Oh great Kukulkan

Ball courts

Merciless Chac Mool


The Snail

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Dream come true

inside the Caracol

 The witches well or cenote at chichen itza

and on to Merida where more adventures await.


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