Thursday, March 18, 2010

Change of Pace

I decided to take a tour. To see Maya ruins. When I got on the ferry yesterday at 6:30 am, I realized I had not travelled that fast for over a week. My maximum speed, I bet, was 4 kilometres per hour during that entire week. Perhaps slower, coming back from the beach.

We were picked up by a van from the ferry terminal and went into Cancun. This is officially the first time that I have been through Cancun - most of my familiarity is to and from the bus station. Our transfer took us to a place in the Hotel Zone. This reminded me of a conversation that I had with a woman from Germany a few days ago; her plan was to go to Cancun because her guide book says that if you go to the Yucatan and not go to Cancun, it is like going to Egypt and not going to the pyramids.

What I was thinking was that the woman would do better by actually going to see this pyramids.

Technically, the structures are not pyramids since they are built one platform at a time. This is what I learned on the tour. They are temples. Of course, those Spaniards had all their own ideas of what to call things.

The bus was full! Once we started, I found out that a majority of the passengers were on their way to Xcaret . (You will have to see me in person to pronounce that one.) This place has many, many things to do - water things. I am seeing it as a Disneyland time.

Which seemed like the best choice because that morning, it started raining. This was the first rainy day since I arrived here. Once we dropped off the fun seekers, we set off for the ruins. Up to the point where we turned on the highway, I didn´t know where we were going first. Coba is in the jungle, set between five lakes, though we only saw one - when we were driving in. As we arrived in Coba, the rain stopped. It remained overcast while we were there but walking and climbing creates enough heat without the sun, so in a way, it was a perfect weather day.

Our tour guides explained the structures, and gave a thorough historical view of when Coba was built. There are basically 3 periods when the Maya did all of their building - The Pre-Classic, Classic and Post-Classic periods. Coba was built during the Pre-Classic period. What is significant about this site is that it has the tallest structure in the Yucatan, and the second tallest in Mexico. That temple is taller than the one at Chichen Itza, which gets a lot of attention because of its size. They do not allow people to climb the temple at Chichen Itza anymore (safety reasons) but they still allow people to climb the one at Coba. This is one of the reasons that I chose this tour.

I didn´t climb it. Mainly because what goes up must come down. And those buildings are some kinda steep. We also had limited time because of the tour, and much of that time was spent walking to the structure - 2 kilometres. Who on earth thought of that? I did, however, have some of the experience of climbing some of the stairs. My new friends that I met on the tour, Wendy and Paul, took my photo so I have documentation.

Our next agenda item was our lunch (included in the tour); Mexican buffet. Sounds like those two words don´t fit in one sentence, but there we were. Salad, chicken, pork, more chicken, rice, beans, and limone sopa (lime soup) which doesn´t even begin to describe the wonderful taste. A broth soup with chicken, veggies, and a piece of lime. Here they call green citrus fruit - lemons or limones in Spanish. And after a while, you kinda want them in everything.

Back in the bus, and some reshuffling of people which ended in the front seat empty. So I moved forward and got the road experience. A long ride to Tulum - perhaps an hour. Tulum is a Maya site which is on the ocean, so with its spectacular view of that green-blue ocean, it is a very popular spot. This site was constructed during the Post Classic period. (Chichen Itza was constructed during the Classic period - though from my studies, I think the old part of the city was constructed during the Pre-Classic.)

The walk into the entrance was .8 kilometres, and we had to hurry because our time was limited. All the ruins close at 5 pm. Tulum could easily have a day to view - I got a strong sense that hanging out there would be a most pleasant experience. Tulum is from the work for "walled city," for its stone structure all around the place.

What I found out about the building of Maya structures is that they created their own "cement" which was a combination of limestone, honey, and other ingredients which have created a solid mass that has lasted longer than any of the current cement.

Back to the bus (.8 kilometres) and I was so ready to be done walking. "What do you think we have walked today?" I asked Paul and Wendy. He said, "Oh, about 139 kilometres." It sounded like the description of the size of fish on a day out in the boat. I agreed!

The bus ride from Tulum to Cancun is in reality a different experience than you might guess. I saw the sign for 114 kilometres, and we were travelling at 100 km/hour. Sounds like about an hour. Though the road is straight, much is happening. Like going through Playa del Carmen, and slowing down to almost stopping to go over ¨"topes." Speed bumps. Speed bumps in the middle of the highway.

We were back at the ferry terminal at 8:00 pm - 13 hours after we began. Very impressive and fun day!

Wendy and Paul are also staying on Isla Mujeres so we had dinner together once we got off the ferry. I had coconut shrimp with mango chutney. The shrimp are coated in a thick batter with long-shred coconut.

I was on my way home as I passed by George´s bar. Mike and Laurie (from my hotel) were there celebrating St. Paddy´s Day with corned beef and potatoes. They invited me inside, and that is how I ended up having a green pina colada for a night cap.

I got into my room at 11:45 pm.

Which is what provided the impetus for today´s beach day!

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