Tuesday was the Chichen Itza tour that started at 9 am. After a leisurely Continental breakfast, we caught a tour bus that promptly stopped at the next hotel on the same block, took on a couple passengers, and changed drivers. The new driver took us to a travel agency “downtown.” Downtown Merida is just a narrow-streeted, tightly-packed grid of one-story stucco buildings. Again with the fascinating scrolled ironwork on the windows and doors. We waited for a few minutes at the travel agency for a different van and guide, and then we were on our way.
This guide also seemed convinced that Deborah and I had paid for everything except entrance to the site. I found this second mix-up both aggravating and ironic, given that the one thing Deborah and I actually wanted to do on either of those Merida tours was see the site. The rest–meals, entertainment, transport–was gravy. Naturally, we protested. The guide said his tour company would look into it, but for the immediate moment, we needed to buy entrance tickets once more.
The drive out to Chichen Itza was longer than the one to Uxmal (an hour and a half both ways, as opposed to an hour). I am glad we arrived early, because the sun only got hotter as the afternoon came, and the crowds at that site only got larger. The grounds were relatively empty when we arrived. We had a guide who sent the Spanish-speaking folks off with a colleague and gave us and a few other English speakers (including a young Israeli couple) an exclusively English language tour. On other tours, including Uxmal, the guide had to first say a short schpiel in Spanish, then repeated it in English, which sort of doubled the length of the tour.
Chichen Itza is the crown jewel of Yucatan archeological sites (it includes the pyramid featured in my icon). Unlike Uxmal (and like Teotihuacan), it is crowded with vendors pitching fake silver, colorfully-decorated wooden masks, ceramic skulls, and (on a Mayan site!) Aztec calendars. You get used to a lot of “Senora, Senora” while you’re trying to snap a photo of a Mayan glyph or a serpent sculpture. But they leave you alone if you say, “No, gracias.”
After viewing the site, we went to a restaurant for a lunch buffet. What’s interesting about the tour meals in the Yucatan is that none of them are, on the face of the, meals an American would call “Mexican.” But if you cut the meat off the chicken leg and throw it into a tortilla with salsa (which will be sitting incidentally on the table), suddenly, it is recognizably Mexican. But if you don’t, it’s just a chicken leg and a side salad, or something resembling potato salad spooned onto a baked tortilla shell.
Lunch was yummy any way you ate it. After lunch, we visited one of the famous Yucatan “sink holes” which is still an active swimming hole. It’s a pool of water deep in an open-air underground cave.
After another long ride back to Merida, Deborah and I tossed our sweaty selves into the hotel pool. Then we wandered the neighborhood of our hotel a bit, and returned for a bowl of tortilla soup and Chilean Merlot before hitting the hay. Also, we found a full refund for our two Merida tour site entrances waiting for us.
Today we have a few hours to pull ourselves together for the long flight to Lima.