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Our Chitchen Itza is One of the Seven Wonders of the World!

Chitchen Itza from Free Image Society

Chitchen Itza from Free Image Society

Our Chitchen Itza is One of the Seven Wonders of the World!

We did it!  After some 90 million votes, Mexico’s Chichen Itza has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  Come see why!

July 7, 2007

Chitchen Itza has been voted one of the new Seven Wonders of the World!  Yupi!  Against really stiff competition, too.  Along with the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, and the Taj Mahal, Chitchen Itza has been recognized as one of the most significant, magical places on earth.

Here is the chapter on my first visit to Chitchen Itza, from “Wandering Magical Lands.”  This being life, I was dying with a stomach virus, but was still blown away by the experience.

“At Chichén-Itzá I had my first close-up view of cenotes, the collapsed caves of the Yucatan.  The entire peninsula is constructed of porous limestone, so riddled with caves and subterranean rivers that surface water almost immediately percolates into the earth.  The sparse rains disappear immediately through the Swiss cheese substrate to fill the reservoirs below.  Often these underground lakes grow to such proportions that the ceiling, lacking support, collapses under its own weight.  Deep, circular pits are created, revealing the still waters often a hundred feet below.

These sinkholes, or cenotes, are used today much as they were in the past, for both recreational and utilitarian purposes.  The Tolmec’s habit of tossing sacrifices over the edge, the remains of which have been found by the hundreds at the bottom of the cenote at Chichén, has presumably been curbed.  Evidently the victims were supplied a drug shortly before their plunge, numbing fear, pain, and the instinct for self-preservation.

I wondered where I could get some.  By this point, if some grizzled Indian stepped from behind a sacrificial altar and offered me some bitter leaves to chew, I may have taken him up on it.  My digestive tract was doing the conga.  Climbing steep pyramids in 90-degree heat in the blazing tropical sun is a challenge under the best of circumstances.  With diarrhea, dizzy spells and cold sweats, it was an experience I am unlikely to ever forget.

The large, central structure at Chichén-Itzá, the one that graces so many tourist brochures and post cards, is the pyramid of the Plumed Serpent.  Like many ancient structures, this one is aligned in accordance with astronomical laws.  Most notably, on the Spring and Fall equinoxes the corner tiers of the pyramid cast their shadows along the balustrade of the central staircase, forming the outline of an undulating serpent.

Although there were hoards of camera-clicking tourists on the day we visited, the isolated grandeur and general eeriness of the site was still much in evidence.

I went to the sun-baked base of the Plumed Serpent’s pyramid, and stood in line to climb the 62 interior stairs to the Altar of the Reclining Jaguar.  Many children fantasize about entering a pyramid–I certainly did–and no matter how nauseous I became, frying there in the Mexican sun, I was thrilled to climb up into that mystery-shrouded chamber and view the Jaguar’s Holy Altar.  I stood in line and psyched myself up, in between moans.  I watched the French and German tourists returning from the chamber through a low door at the head of the line, seeking signs of rapture and enlightenment on their faces.  They burst through the doorway bug eyed and gasping for breath.  Soaking in sweat, they looked as bad as I felt.

This might be a mistake.

My group, 12 brave explorers, finally ducked through the low entrance and bumped down a short corridor, our eyes slowly becoming accustomed to the dark.  Before I could make out the floor, the woman directly ahead of me rose straight up, sucked into the ceiling, and my feet bumped into a stair.

The air inside was hot and wet, and a steady stream of panting, sweating visitors had left the steep tunnel slimy and slick.  I had chills in the heat–that deathly, bloodless feeling just before a faint–and my hand slipped in the hot liquid covering the tunnel wall.  There was no air.  The uneven stone steps were narrow.  I couldn’t see anything in the dim light but the ample hips of the woman ahead of me, her grinding buns sweating a foot from my face.  Someone panted in my ear.

There was no stopping now.  Anyway, this was my chance to be buried deep inside a pyramid.

Finally, the ample behind in front of me stopped swaying, and with two steps more I emerged into an area the size of an elevator, crammed with eleven sweating people craning to see an incredibly anticlimactic carving of a jaguar fenced off a few feet away.  I thought I was at Plymouth Rock again.

I tumbled back down the stairs, bubbling through the exit like an unexpected hiccup.  I lay against an inclined slab for some minutes, basking in the sun like a lizard, dispelling the chill and squeezing the poisonous air from my lungs.

It was wonderful.  I had been inside a pyramid.

***

On the outside of the pyramid there are 91 remarkably steep steps up to the tiny room at the top (“Four time 91 equal 3 hunert 6 – 4, and room on top equal 3 – 6 – 5.  You see very well?”).

Clever, but there’s more.  The stairs are cleverly designed so that their extreme pitch cannot be discerned from ground level.  Only when you are half way up and turn around do you realize that you will need rappelling gear to get back down.  Those Toltecs were real kidders.

Everyone makes the climb–old people, fat people, we with spastic colons.  Athletes bravely jog a third of the way, act as if they have to tie their shoe laces, then crawl on their hands and knees to the top like the rest of us.

But after all is said and done, the stiff climb is worth it.  The surrounding Yucatan is very flat.  From the top of the pyramid the Toltecs could view all for miles around.  The only irregularities in the landscape are the observatory, the nunnery, the ball court, and several other buildings, now mostly reduced to mounds of unexplored rubble lying ruined under their cloak of vines and jungle trees.”

Congratulations, Chichen Itza!  Felicidades Mexico!

Dan and Omar

Chichen Itza Revisted

July 10, 2007

As proof that your emotions can be controlled by the state of your bowels, I recently posted a piece on my first visit to Chichen Itza which sounded like the experience was anticlimactic.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Chichen Itza is an incredible experience, and richly deserves its position as one of the world’s great wonders.  It’s just that I went with a raging stomach virus only to learn that ruins don’t come equipped with bathrooms.  My problems with Chichen Itza were all in my lower intestine.

As a matter of fact, I returned with my parents a few years later, and we had an incredible time.  Although the temperatures were in the low 100’s, we climbed up and down ruins, tunneled into the Altar of the Jaguar (which was much bigger and more impressive this time) and made neat discoveries like the wooden beams in some of the structures, hundreds and hundreds of years old.

We had taken a tour from Cancun, and the tour guide gave us a strict warning to be back at the bus on time—which for the folks is 15 minutes early and for the Mexicans 15 minutes late.  My step Dad Rich and I were just about to climb the big pyramid when he decided we wouldn’t have enough time before we had to get back to the bus.  So we raced out the front gate to wait a half hour for the tour guide and driver to show up.  We’ve regretted not making the sprint up the pyramid ever since, and vow to go back.

It’s worth it.

Dan and Omar

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Etiam pulvinar consectetur dolor sed malesuada. Ut convallis euismod dolor nec pretium. Nunc ut tristique massa.

Nam sodales mi vitae dolor ullamcorper et vulputate enim accumsan. Morbi orci magna, tincidunt vitae molestie nec, molestie at mi. Nulla nulla lorem, suscipit in posuere in, interdum non magna.