Chasing Chichan Itza

Found! Finally caught the last one in our quest to see the Seven Modern Wonders of the World!

We were really excited that morning as we took a quick tour of the charming city of Valladolid, but were really chomping at the bit to get moving toward the true destination of our trip (for us at least), the incredible Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.

For the first time the weather forecast called for a chance of rain, but apparently the Mayan Gods knew we were coming and blew in bright blue skies with scattered, puffy fair weather clouds for our grand entrance.

This is the best preserved Maya site on the Yucatan Peninsula. The impressive El Castillo, built around 800 AD is a perfect astronomical design with the four staircases facing exactly toward the cardinal directional points. Twice a year, at the equinoxes, thousands of visitors gather to watch as the sun creates an amazing optical illusion on the edge of the north stair; a legendary snake undulates down the staircase as the equinox unfolds.

The Mayan Super Bowl…

…was played in this space, the largest ball court in mesoamerica. The rings are still there at the center of each side wall. The king’s super box is at the upper right and the referees would be at the far corners. A good bet the King could overrule the refs on a controversial call. The game, with seven players on each side, could go on for hours or be over in a few minutes as the ball would just have to pass through the ring once to determine the losers, whose “captain” would be decapitated for his trip to the underworld.

You can see the ring and carvings of the players who at this time could use a basket on one hand (like in jai lai courts in Florida now) and a bat in the other. The last photo shows a decapitated “loser”.

Snakes, skulls, jaguars and eagles….

Cenote #1

After an authentic Mayan lunch with some semi-authentic entertainment, We headed off to a local cenote, Ik’kil, to cool off after an exciting and hot morning (around 90 degrees).

Cenotes are water-filled sink holes common in the Riviera Maya that are great for swimming, snorkeling in some more open spaces, and even made into waterparks for the entire family in some popular areas. Ours that day was literally a cave close to 100 rocky steps down (later up) on slippery rocks (forgot our water shoes). Beautifully cool, clean water with limestone stalactites and tree roots hanging from above, and a hole to the sky a hundred feet above. A refreshing and fun swim. We would later explore two more cenotes, more remote and very unique.

Relaxed and back in Valladolid, we went to explore the downtown and the square in front of the San Bernardino Convent and Church with stops for something like crepes/tortillas, freshly made, stuffed with savory and/or sweet “stuff”, good stuff; churros, fresh-hot from the fryer, hollowed out and stuffed with whatever you liked; and, fresh-steamed corn (not Jersey), but coated with just lime and salt, or jazzed up with a coat of mayonnaise topped with your choice of mild to hot chili powders, or slathered with a really firey habernero sauce. Really Ouch.

Some of us made this our dinner as we sat back and watched some local entertainment. Dancing with a tray of bottles and glasses on your head seemed to be a big deal in this part of the Yucatan.

A day to be treasured for Marsha and me. But, tomorrow promised to be almost as amazing as we tried to settle down our stomachs and minds for some needed sleep as our journey begins heading for the finale.

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9 Responses to Chasing Chichan Itza

  1. Nancy says:

    Enjoyed reading your blog. I’m looking at various tour companies to travel with. Do you recommend Smartours? Have you done any of their other tours?

  2. Thanks for your wonderful blog, Joel and Marsha! Loved the pics and laughed that you even got me checking out the corn prepping!

  3. patriciamariec
    patriciamariec says:

    Chichen Itzá looks amazing! Sounds like a wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Rhoda says:

    Hurray, you made it! Did it differently and I remember loving the trip a lifetime ago. Cheers! Rhoda

  5. The guy who wrote “The Dawn of Everything” thinks that the “losers” who lost their heads after the game, actually felt honored that they were being allowed to enter the underworld. Ummh. I’m guessing not so much.

    • jfdowshen says:

      We were told the same. So, the “losers” were the “winners”? Uh, very confusing, especially looking at the facial expressions of the decapitated? Some room for discussion I’d say.

  6. glthompson23 says:

    So glad we could experience this with you!

  7. hertzavis says:

    Congratulations on Chichen Itzá! Looks like a wonderful and fun trip.

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