Thursday, 26 February 2015

Ruins, ruins, ruins...: Tulum and Chichen Itza

After Tikal we were faced with the difficult decision of whether or not to go to Belize. Our plan at the beginning of the trip was to visit every country in Central America and we had been looking forward to snorkelling at the second largest barrier reef in the world. After much debate, we reviewed our budget and humbly accepted that Belize was more expensive than we could afford. Although we were very disappointed, we took consulation in the thought that we would be able to fly to Belize someday when we can afford to do it up right and then turned our determined gaze towards Mexico.

After another long day of travel we crossed our last border into Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. As we reflected on our border crossings over the past four months we were thankful to be done for a while as border crossing always take a fair bit of effort to navigate. Thankfully, this crossing was well laid out and we were the only ones crossing, marking this the easiest border on the trip. Our first destination was Tulum, where we were overwhelmed by the amount of tourism, even though we knew it was a hot spot for vacationers. We felt out of place and uncomfortable being a part of the majority for the first time and definitely experienced culture shock. We walked along the zona hotelera until we found a 'cheap' place on the beach where we grabbed ourselves a simple cabana. The colour of the water was remarkable as the turquoise and jade hues made it appear fake. Our plan was to snorkel here as we had heard it was well worth the financial investment, however the weather conditions conspired against us and we were sadly bound to land. We shrugged our shoulders at our misfortune and headed for the ruins of Tulum. Arriving at the gate we were greeted with something we had not seen at a ruin site yet, a lineup. The sheer mass of tourists was shocking and caused us to search for a way to ignore them. I found my distraction a few steps into the site, iguana's! They were everywhere, with many making their homes in and on the structures. Looking for Iguana's helped to keep our minds off the swarms of people and although we felt uncomfortable with the crowds it made us even more grateful for our time at Copan and Tikal. 

After a couple nights we carried on to see the remarkable Chichen Itza. We stayed at an old hotel that was overrun with dogs and cats and had most likely seen its heyday in the 70's. The silver lining for us though was that it was walking distance to the Ruins. Learning from our experience at Tulum we made sure to be at the gates when they opened to avoid some of the crowds. In order to do so we settled for convenience store breakfast that included a hot dog, yogurt and cookies. Walking into the centre of the site our jaws dropped at the grandure of El Castillo. The early morning light cast stunning shadows over the perfect structure, taking our breath away. We proceeded from there to the largest Mayan ball court in existence. Although the court was enormous Travis and I were able to stand on opposite sides and carry a conversation as if we were standing side by side. Within 2.5 hours we had soaked in everything Chichen Itza had to offer and turned towards the exit. As we made our way through incoming crowds we laughed to ourselves at all the vendors hawking their wares. Their sales tactics consisted of them offering their products for "almost free". Once away from the oppressive crowds we began the 2.5 km walk back to our hotel satisfied with our time at one of the seven man made wonders of the world (our first).


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