On my second morning of being sober, the girls and I decided to do something cultural and check out Chichen Itza. Our jolly, chubby guide gave us a lecture on Mayan culture (who know that the Mayan language is the 5th most spoken language in North America?) and the history of Chichen Itza, and then offered some tips on shopping. Our first stop was a tiny Mayan Village, where I bought a genuine gold and silver, handmade necklace with my initials in hieroglyphics on the pendant. A real, genuine souvenir! A few weeks later, Lottie spotted a girl wearing the exact same one (although with different initials, I’m sure).
Lottie: “Where did you get that?!”
Our first stop was for a dip in a cenote, a sinkhole. Steep, stone steps leading underground brought us to the well. The area was shrouded by jungle foliage and hidden deep underground, but the dramatic effect of it all was overshadowed by the groups of tourists all clustered around its edge, snapping pictures and just generally getting in the way. I had to fight my way to the ladder descending into the water. I had no idea how deep the water was, which was cool and creepy and exciting all at the same time. People were jumping from the cliff overhead, and long vines dangled from the opening. I kept envisioning skeletal hands reaching up from the bottom and grabbing my ankles.
We stopped for a dinner buffet at a strange little tourism centre in the middle of nowhere. Entertainment was provided b y some of the unhappiest dancers I have ever seen. I’m not saying they weren’t talented because they were dancing around with platters of dishes and bottles of tequila balanced on their heads, but I don’t think I saw a crack of smile the entire time. I tipped them anyway, hoping to brighten their day.
Finally, we reached Chichen Itza. Two words: tourist trap. However, the site is so large that it barely matters how many nimrods are floating around, particularly nimrods wearing face masks in fear of H1N1 who would remove them occasionally to wipe their faces or talk to their friends. Anyway, heeding the advice of the travel guide, I dodged all the vendors trying to force their wares on me, including a 3 year old, toothless, clumsy little girl who sauntered over to me holding an embroidered napkin.
“Nawww, bitch!” I said, and sent her back to her mother.
Anyway, we were led around the Temple of the Warriors, a ruin that extends far into the jungle although you can only see a portion of it, to the centerpiece of it all: El Castillo, a monstrous pyramid dominating the complex. The group was told to crowd together, and following the example of our guide, we clapped a rhythm that eerily resembled the squawking of a bird. This effect with 25,000 people would have been amazing. I would do anything to be there during the equinoxes, to see the diamond-back snake slithering down the face. Unfortunately, we were unable to climb the structure, even though I was dying to at least creep inside the opening at the top. I probably would have melted into a pool of Candice on the steps anyway; I had never been so hot in my life. Even my eyeballs were sweating.
Our last stop was the ball field, where a private game was played by athletes who would have to get a heavy rubber ball through a hoop using only knees, elbows, or hips, all while wearing heavy armour. Ummm, can you say IMPOSSIBLE?
Despite the sweltering heat, I enjoyed the trip and the history offered to us by the guide. I won’t bother to recount it all, mostly because I’ve forgotten and also because Chichen Itza isn’t exactly an untouched tourist destination. But you know what? Screw original experiences. Some things are just friggen worth seeing, plain and simple.