Freitag, 26. Dezember 2008

En la calle solomente / On the road alone

"I've decided to travel on alone and after one night in my hammock at Chichen Itza, I am finally in Merida. I'm very well and like the city. I like Mexico, don't want to think about going home." (26.12.2008)


Pisté is a smallish town right next to Chichén Itza. One should think it flourishes with tourism, but the people here don't care about tourists. I happened to walk into a Christmas service and lingered for a while.
The first night alone wasn't exactly pleasant. Pisté was much colder than Tulúm. The fact that the young French couple that also stayed where I was had decided to test the strength of their new two-person hammock didn't help the sleep much either. I was up early the next morning to go to the ruins.

Chichén Itza

The great pyramid of Chichén Itza is really an ancient Mayan calendar with 364 steps. It comes with a second, smaller pyramid on the inside that used to be open to the public. Since the pyramid has become one of the seven new wonders of the world, visitors have to remain outside.

The steps create an echoe when you clap your hands in front of it. This way everyone gets fun out of going there, even if they don't care about the history.

Chichén Itza has the tourism industry that Pisté does not know. This is what tourists think Mexican art should look like and one wonders how much it was assimilated to Western stereotypes.

After the tourist buses from Cancún had arrived around noon, I couldn't wait to leave the ruins and continue my trip via bus to Mérida, the capital of Yucatan. On the way I met a Spanish couple and we helped each other find a room. I ended up at a backpacking place.

Mérida is a beautiful city heavily influenced by the Spanish conquistadores who tore down the original Maya buildings. Accordingly, there are lots of churches...

... and life evolves around the central public square. Around this square there are interesting chairs called "confidentiales". These S-shaped sitting facilities allow people to chat closely while at the same time creating a physical boundary.

At night time, Mérida turns into a giant party. People from cafés get up and start to dance and have fun. I met a couple of people from the Netherlands and the UK the second night and hung out with them. After cooking my own meal with "fresh" Mexican cheese and ham I had some trouble with my stomach though, so I decided to go to sleep early.


On that dame day in the morning I had taken a day trip to Uxmal, the last Mayan ruin on my list. It was interesting, because it was very different.

Most impressive (of actually all the pyramids) was the Pyramid of the Magician below. For some reason it bewitched me towering there in the jungle above the trees. It's irregularities were fascinating to me.

Like some of the other places, Uxmal is habitat to many many Iguanas. With the iguana up front, the pyramid of the Magician looks even more magical. I got a sense of "The Lost World!" Wonder who has been around for longer?

Isla Mujeres

Returning from my single escapades, I reuinted with my friends in Cancún and we went to spend the last night at Isla Mujeres. Evelyn and I visited a turtle farm walking through the sweltering heat. This and the halfcooked chicken soup I had for dinner was too much for my body and I got sick. Sick, sad and tired, we left the stage after our last intermezzo on the Isla and headed back home.


BUT the adventure wasn't quite over yet. After recovering a little from the sickness, Oleg and I snuck out of the airport in Dallas to see "Downtown" Dallas. Little did we know that "Main Street" was an incredible euphemism and wiped of all life. We took a little stroll and eventually ended up at the 6th floor museum where Kennedy was shot.

Mittwoch, 24. Dezember 2008

Into the heart of México

Tulúm ruins

Tulúm marked the turn of the journey. Here would begin a series of extreme Mayan ruin sighting...

The trick with these sights is to come early in the morning. At some point during late morning the day tour buses from Cancún arrive and by then you want to be out of the way.

The ruins in Tulúm are right by the ocean. This city was built during the post Classic Period for the higher classes and served as a trading post due to its geographical position. Here the first Spanish concistadores landed.

The site is mostly excavated and features smaller buildings and structures rather then the typical Mayan pyramids and temples.

We got out of the site just in time for the "trains" to arrive. A pathetic sight.

Of course, such an exhausting walk through the heat calls for new energy and what could refresh Mexicans more than some meat and a cool cerveza? Grilled chicken is the cheapest and one of the most delicious foods and it is prepared before your eyes at places like this along the streets. Vegetarians on the other hand have a hard stand in this meat driven country.

In the hope that my fellows would join me on the trip into the land, I left my stuff in tulúm and went to the ruins of Cobá in the jungle on a day trip.
In Cobá I was welcomed by the house lake's alligators that sunbath about 3 meters from the road/sidewalk in the shallow water.

The site itself is rather hidden. There are three different places with ruins all spread throughout the jungle. There are two kinds of trails that lead there. The large ones are used to bring tourists to the ruins in rikschas and on bikes and foot. The others are quite small and rather untreaded... and not recommended to walk on without a guide, as I was informed later.

Needless to say, I got a little lost. However, I found a little lagoon with interesting animals and saw all kinds of butterflies and crawling creatures that I would never have seen on the "elephant trail". One of them was this fellow, who seemed to enjoy the attention of the lens. Supposedly, my little friend's tail was poisonous as a Mexican doctor whom I shoed the pictures told me later.

Eventually I came upon one of the ruins and decided to take the more treaded path from then on. It brought me to one of the attractions, the ball game. In the ancient ball game two teams made of 7 players battled each other, trying to bring the ball through this loop. Historians believe that the captain of the winning team was honored by being sacrificed to the gods by decapitation.

Another attraction at Cobá is the big pyramid. With 44 meters in hight, it is the highest Mayan pyramid.

and it is quite a steep climb.
Of course it was no problem for me though, since my magical Indiana Jones straw hat gave me the power I needed.
The following day, we went on a snorcheling tour in the nearby Cenotes. Cenotes are caves that have filled with water.
The caves are home to fish and the incoming sunlight provides for beautiful colors in the water. The underground system is more than 70 miles long along the coast.
When I had finally gotten myself out of the wetsuit and started to feel like a human instead of a penguin, I got my bagpack and hopped on the bus to continue my travels by myself. My companions would stay in Tulúm to enjoy the white beach.