If you’ve ever visited a wonder of the world, I’m sure you know how surreal it feels to be standing in front of it. For example, when I saw the Coliseum in Rome, I cried as I tried to fathom if the moment was real or not. But, when I visited Chichen Itza this past January, it was like a different world.
Usually when I travel I try to avoid tour guides mostly because it’s extra money I could use for something else. However, since I was traveling with Carnival and it was guaranteed that I wouldn’t be left behind if I stayed with their assigned guide, I decided to tag along.
I’m so glad I did.
We first took a bus from the port in Progresso through the pueblitos of Yucatan. Our tour guide whose name I have forgotten was of Mayan decent, so he had a lot of cool facts about his people. In fact, there is a large indigenous population in the Yucatan where people still speak the Mayan language, and there are even places where Spanish is not spoken at all. How incredible is that?
Aside from the rich history of the Mayan people, they left many things unknown – for example the way their pyramids align exactly with the summer and winter solstice or how the number of steps supposedly represent each of their gods. There were too many “coincidences” to be coincidences. I think it is safe to say that the Mayans were an advanced people and more people should know about their existence.
After trying to grasp all of the little details of the Mayan pyramids, all I wanted to do was sit on the grass, soak in the moment and appreciate my ability to see the creation of such incredible minds. However, we only had a small time slot, so the tour continued. We moved on to the recreational area of the ruins. By recreational I do not mean that we played games. I mean that we visited the “court”
where Mayan’s played a game in which the winner was to be sacrificed to the gods and it was a great honor to the victor. The game is known to go back thousands of years and after standing where those players stood, it was unbelievable that humans were able to use their bodies in the way they did – for example, the way to score points in the game was by using your hip to launch a stone ball through a small hoop high in the air. Along the walls were stories sculpted into the stone of the great victors and the great defeats.
Speaking of sculpting and stone, there is also a long wall of heads carved into it and each head represents a person who was sacrificed. It was an eerie feeling at first as I stood with my camera in hand knowingly taking pictures of what essentially represented death. However, after hearing about the Mayans, I knew it was a great honor to be on that wall.
After leaving the pyramids we took a quick trip to a Cenote (sink hole) a few minutes away. The Cenotes were sacred places for the Mayans (and yes human sacrifices were made there, too). They were thought to be the path to the spirit world, and after seeing their beauty (an understatement) I could see why.
People came from all over the world to swim in these sacred sink holes. Don’t get me wrong, the water was freezing, but when you’re surrounded by that view, the cold is far from your mind.
My experience in the Yucatan was amazing, and it is a place that I will visit again in my lifetime. There is so much history and culture that you cannot obtain it all in one tour. I yearn for places that make you question your existence and everything you know about the world, and this was one of those places. If you ever find yourself in Mexico, look deeper than the blue beaches and tequila. You won’t regret it!