Mexican Holiday

August 2003

(Click on a picture for more detail)

Funny how Alan and I had never discussed our mutual interest in Native American cultures. The idea of climbing thousand-year-old pyramids, in the midst of savage jungles, just wasn't part of our shared realities. Somehow, the subject of visiting Mexico came up and from there we ran with grand delusions of visiting every town and ruin that could be thought of as having the slightest bit of archeological interest.

Two weeks was about the extent of our available travel time which somewhat limited our geographical scope. Since it was high summer and undoubtably very hot in Mexico, we decided that ruins near beaches and water had a greater appeal. The Yucatan Peninsula seemed to fit the bill nicely and, off we went.

Mexico City


Since we had to make a stop in Mexico City, in order to get to the Yucatan, we decided that it would be remiss on our parts not to give that city a cursory pillaging. Neither of us had ever ever been to a city of 15 million people. Douglas Adam's description of the universe as being “mind boggelingly huge” was certainly apropos to our perception of Mexico City. We were delighted to find that it had a well developed municipal transit system which enabled us to get around easily, making efficient use of our 3 day lay over. We could have easily spent weeks or months exploring more of this universe; the Zocalo with its governmental palaces, the museums, the plazas and parks, the Cathedral Metropolitana, the Zona Rosa where the partying was intense, and the beautiful friendly people.

Cathedral Metropolitana (Pg. 2) On the Way
Museo Anthropologia (pg. 1) Museo Anthropologia (Pg. 2)
Museo Anthropologia (Pg. 3) Museo Anthropologia (Pg. 4)

Mexican Riviera


The heat of the blazing sun and the aquatic quality of the atmosphere assailed us upon debarking from the plane in Cancun nearly knocking us to our knees.

The shuttle from the airport to downtown Cancun passed by dozens of 5 star hotels like the Marriott Cancun, the Hilton Cancun, the This Cancun, and the That Cancun, and of course the Other Cancun. It was like arriving in “plasticville”. They were lined up, one after another, each seeking to out do the other with splendor. Mile after mile was littered with these encroachments. We were horrorfied. What had we unwittingly done? To our partial relief, our Internet-arranged accommodations were at a lovely hotel nestled in the middle of town, away from the most obnoxious concentration of abominations.

We wandered through Cancun, in the state of Quintana Roo, partaking in feasts and festivities in the many colorful restaurants, clubs, and outdoor markets. We discovered magical beaches where the sands were white, the water was amazingly warm, and the people were friendly and eager to make our acquaintance.

We decided to explore the possibility of renting a motorcycle to facilitate our Yucatan explorations rather than dealing with the constrictions of tourist infested tour buses with their preset itineraries. Our inquiries lead us to a motorcycle rental agency which could provide us with sports bikes, dune buggies, or Harleys. We decided that crotch rockets would be to uncomfortable for wandering through hundreds of miles of jungle on Mexican country roads. Dune buggies just didn't seem to fit the bill. We had hoped to find a nice reliable, comfortable rice burner but to our chagrin Harleys seemed to be the only practical choice. After ferocious haggling, we chose the least objectionable flame decaled Sportster and were on our way.


It was fortunate that we dedicated the next few days to acclimating ourselves to the new beast as it developed an aversion to us and lost all of its clutching abilities. Returning it to the rental center without a functional clutch took some skill and nerve. They decided that it could not be repaired on the premises and exchanged it for a more tamed, less flashy alternative. We soon discovered that the replacement Sportster, with its disfunctional turn signals and improperly mounted brake lights, was very sluggish for several minutes after first starting, regardless of whether it had been sitting over night, or simply parked for a hour. We also discovered that comfort was not one of its endearing qualities. As its personality became known to us we decided to name her "La Puecita Falsa" (The cheating little sow)


So began our adventures of beaches, jungles, cenotes, ruins, and encounters in the Yucatan.

Two "Blondes", a Hog and a Steaming Jungle


We left Cancun, in the state of Quintana Roo, on a rented Harley Davidson Sportster for a two day trip to Chichen Itza, deep in the jungles of the state of Yucatan. Our goal was to see the Mayan ruins which are among the 4 most spectacular examples of Mayan architecture still in existence. However, we did not bank upon La Puercita Falsa's interventions into our well laid plans.


We took the back roads into the jungle, rather than the boring toll highway, and were richly rewarded with wonderful sights and fun experiences. Chichen Itza is 200 miles from Cancun and the little two-lane road we took was populated with many villages whose people were wondrously amazed and curious about the two gringos who were passing through.

One of the gringos, not only had his head, neck, arms, and legs painted (tattooed) with fanciful designs, but also had much metal (piercings) in his face, which was the source of much wonder and speculation, all of which was tendered with great good will and genuine curiosity.


We stopped in one village and found a small park to relax in. Shortly after enthroning ourselves upon conveniently situated logs, we became aware that we were not alone. There was a group of 7 or 8 children, ranging in age from 6 to 10, who had to investigate the strange apparitions which had manifested in their territory. They approached carefully but with little fear and much respect, seating themselves as a group, directly in front of us. They simply looked at us, quietly speculating amongst themselves as to the nature of their visitors. One especially bold young boy actually stood and addressed us, though we were unable to understand him. We simply smiled and acted as non-threatening as we could so as not to spook them.

They continued to simply sit and quietly appraise us the entire time that we were there, making very little noise while chatting minimally amongst themselves. It was such a rich encounter that we both felt privileged to have been acknowledged and approached by these wonderful little people. We left much richer for the experience.

La Puercita greeted us upon our return, expressing her disdain for this ill thought out adventure that we were dragging her into by simply dropping her shifting mechanism upon the road. Not being easily dissuaded and certainly not being intimidated by her actions, we simply found a small rock with which to re-install the mechanism and continued on our way with little regard for her protests.


We continued upon the road through many villages, each of which had extremely pronounced speed bumps to assure that traffic could not endanger the natives. Hitting these bumps at a speed exceeding 5 miles per hour could be devastating. La Puercita was less than amused by this, but kept her protests down to simply jarring our spines, cramping our legs, and reshaping our posteriors at every opportunity.

We continued upon our journey with little regard to La Puercita's building rage, meeting many people, eating wonderful food, gaining steadily on Chichen Itza. We were amazed by the ferocious heat and unbelievable humidity which was steadily increasing with every mile, some of which was undoubtedly due to La Puercita's building rage and resentment at being dragged through the scalding swamp like environs of the jungle, carting upon her back 2 totally inconsiderate gringos.

At one especially large town, 10 speed bumps long, we stopped for breakfast, which was ordered ad hoc as there was no menu. We had ham and cheese omelets with beans and rice, which was very good. After paying the 32 pesos ($3.20) for the entire feast we went out to placate La Puercita, who was impatiently awaiting our return, and continued on with our journey.

We finally reached Chichen Itza at 5:30 PM to find that it had just closed for the day in order to prepare for the nightly light show which was scheduled to start at 8:00 PM. We decided to find a hotel and freshen up in preparation for the much anticipated show. The glimpse of the grounds encompassing Chichen Itza somewhat cooled our enthusiasm, what with the very modern looking concession stands and flashy gate. However, having come all this way, we were not about to miss our chance of seeing these much touted ruins.

We found a nice hotel 4 miles from the ruins and stabled La Puercita so that she also would be fresh and eager to attend the evening's entertainments. The hotel had a very nice swimming pool with a simulated coral reef in it. There were few people there, as the tourist season had already ended. We shared the place with only a few others. We had dinner at the hotel, as there was little time to go out exploring if we intended to freshen up and get to the show on time. The "chicken itza" meal was OK though it would have been much better without the instant potatoes and the Uncle Ben's rice.


After dinner we went out to greet La Puercita and go to the show. La Puercita was not amused at being awakened abruptly from her nap and simply refused to open her eyes regardless of our protestations, beggings, or threats. Absolutely no lights! We rushed back to the office to find that the hotel shuttle had already left and that there was little or no time left to call a cab. We resolved ourselves to our situation and decided to go explore the town of Piste, (on foot of course) since La Puercita refused to light our way.

Off we went, in the dark, in the jungle, on a little back road with no shoulder, to pillage the wonders of Piste, some 4 miles away. Approximately 3/4 of the way there, a taxi (Mexico is riddled with them, no matter how far from civilization you get) picked us up and drove us to Piste; a 6 bump town. It took us very little time to explore the wonders of Piste, as we seemed to be the main attraction there, so we found yet another cab and returned to the hotel and spent the remainder of the evening in the pool listening to the frogs and monkeys.

The next morning we found La Puercita in a snit, still without lights, so we called the Harley rental and were told that it was probably just a fuse which could be fixed in Valladolid upon our return from Chichen Itza. We checked out and saddled the belligerent Puercita, and went off to the ruins.

The ruins looked no more promising than they had the day earlier, but we needed the break in order to allow our posteriors to reshape themselves after La Puercita's predations upon them. We paid our admissions, got our maps, got some coffee, (the restaurant proudly served Nescafe, which we found less than amusing or satisfying) and prepared to see the Chichen Itza amusements.

The ruins looked no more promising than they had the day earlier,

yuc84-sm.jpgEl Castillo

We walked into the grounds and cleared a grove of trees to confront a huge, most impressive, awe-inspiring structure the biggest pyramid in the Chichen Itza complex. Our jaws made little noise when they hit the ground. It was not until several seconds into our confrontation that were able to start processing the wonder that was assaulting our senses. It was simply HUGE, magnificent, and powerful. It got even better, for upon recuperating sufficiently to approach this behemoth, we discovered that it was built upon yet another pyramid. That pyramid could be accessed through an opening at the base. We were able to climb not only the outer, but also the inner pyramid, in order to further behold its glory.

From the TOP of El Castillo From the TOP & Within El Castillo


What else could Chichen Itza present us with after this marvel? Chichen Itza had an answer for that as well. There were buildings upon buildings, each captivating in their own unique manner. There were HUGE cenotes (wells) that could have been small lakes. There were ball courts, and temples. There was an observatory, a nunnery, enormous caterpillars and tarantulas.


Chichen Itza (Pg. 4) Chichen Itza (Pg. 5)
Chichen Itza (Pg. 6) Chichen Itza (Pg. 7)
Chichen Itza (Pg. 8) Chichen Itza (Pg. 9)
Chichen Itza (Pg. 10) The Cenotes of Chichen Itza (Pg. 11)
Chichen Itza (Pg. 12)  

Wonder upon wonder after wonder. While walking around the grounds, which were not sullied in any way by paved foot paths and concession stands or even fences, the sky decided to let loose the tons of water which we had here-to-for been breathing, in a display of lightning and thunder which totally added and fit into our experience. The gods were making their opinions known and punctuating them with a deluge of rain that might have rivaled Niagara at its best.

Chichen Itza cannot be properly described, it has to be experienced.

By the time we finished exploring the 2.5 square mile complex of buildings and grounds, it was yet again approaching dark. We had to give serious thought to returning to the hotel to spend yet another night, which meant that we could catch the hotel shuttle and see the Chichen Itza light show after all. Off we went, back to the hotel where we more carefully ordered a more satisfying, though not unforgettable dinner. We made plans for the morrow, and spent more time in the pool to escape the oppressive heat. The sun was so hot that day that we actually sunburned through our clothing. It was voracious.


Since La Puercita was still being belligerently reluctant to light our journey, we took the hotel shuttle to the Chichen Itza light show. The show was not spectacular, but had the quality of an inspiring church service. It was most tastefully done, with Spanish narration. We left with a marvelous feeling of peace and serenity.

Back at the hotel, we determined that we would go to Valladolid to care for our Puercita. It would have been a waste of time to simply return to Cancun, when in Valladolid there was a small road leading southwest to Coba where there were yet more pyramids to see. We could then proceed to Tulum for the night, regardless of whether or not we were successful in circumventing La Puercita's protests.

It turned out well that we had planned for a contingency, as La Puercita's will was not about to be so easily circumvented. Fuses did not, in any way, resolve the matter. We purchased more clothing, having left with only enough for an overnight stay, and off we went down a small side road to Coba.

The Wonders of Coba (Pg. 1) The Wonders of Coba (Pg. 2)
The Wonders of Coba (Pg. 3)  

Puercita was not amused and assured herself that we were aware of her displeasure as she redoubled her efforts to annihilate our posterior nether regions and rattle our bones mercilessly. We quite ignored her predations and complaints and blithely made our way to Coba where the pyramids and ruins were interesting but in no way as impressive as the majesty of Chichen Itza. We were once again treated to a display of the wrath of the gods, which manifested in yet another rainstorm complete with spectacular light and sound displays. When the performance was near its end, we once again wrestled La Puercita into submission and drove on to Tulum, which turned out to be an Italian 12 bump town.


In Tulum we found the charming though overpriced Hotel L'Hotelito with a thatched roof, a two-man army cot, bath facilities, and mosquitos a-plenty.


The next morning we resigned ourselves to returning to Cancun in order to return La Puercita to her native grounds to appease her distemper. Along the way we stopped at a lost-paradise-like well, the Cenote Cristalino, for a swim. The cenote was surrounded by lush tropical foliage as well as a number of rather large, non-aggressive lizards.


The water was cool and refreshing, especially in the fierce man eating sun. Once done there, we barely convinced La Puercita to continue the journey on to Cancun, with a short stop at a charming 20 bump community called Playa del Carmen for lunch, lovely souvenirs, and fun sights.

We finally got back to Cancun, returned La Puercita to her keepers, terminating our contract and arranging for some rebate, and for the first time in 4 days we could actually look forward to going somewhere without the threat of punishment being administered to our fragile and, by now, tenderized rumps.


Our hotel staff was most pleased to see us returned, as they had been quite worried about us. We spent the next few days simply recuperating from La Puercita Falsa's predations upon our posterior regions while re-acquainting ourselves with El Baño de el Diablo, whose constant rumblings, disgruntled gurglings, and occasional harsh indigestive grunts caused us to remember La Puercita Falsa with a certain retrospective fondness.

Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres


Since the beaches of the Mexican Riviera were so glorious, we thought that snorkeling off the coast of Isla Mujeres might be great fun. When I learned that Alan had never been scuba diving, I insisted that we should, ignoring his concerns of being bait off of the imagined shark infested shores of Isla Mujeres. I assured him, based upon my own diving experiences, that scuba diving was like traveling into another dimension. Finally, after much persuasion, He put aide his terror of being consumed by stray sharks and agreed to give it a try, though somewhat apprehensively.

Off we went Isla Mujeres. We walked through the village looking for reputable looking diving shops. We found a very nice cafe on the main street where our waiter recommended his cousin's diving outfit.

We made our way to the shop where we asked many questions, paid our dues, and found ourselves in a golf cart heading off to some aquatic park where we were to meet Alan's instructor.

She turned out to be a younger Belgian woman who gave us verbal instructions, told us about the equipment, then took us out to the reefs for our dive. Alan found that he could keep his terrors at bay by simply swimming from visual feast to graphic panorama and that it not only was great fun but also incredibly relaxing. There were all sorts of colorful tropical fish, manta rays, starfish, and endless varieties of exotic reef life about us.

After surfacing Alan wanted to descend again, however, I could not be persuaded to dive again as we were soon scheduled to board our separate return plane flights and experience has taught me not to mix diving and flying as it plays painful havoc with the sinuses.

Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres (Pg. 1) Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres (Pg. 2)
Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres (Pg. 3) Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres (Pg. 4)
Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres (Pg. 5) Scuba Diving off Isla Mujeres (Pg. 6)

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