The Meaning Of The Ritual

“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”

-Neil Armstrong

I occupied my sole day in Cancun with a trip to the Mayan ruins, ‘Chichen Itza’. It was without doubt the most fascinating historical site I’ve visited.

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I was persuaded by a convincing sales man at the airport to book a tour for $50 to the site. It was most definitely money well spent. We had a local tour guide explaining the history behind the ruins. Above you can see the Mayan temple. The acoustics are designed much like the ancient amphitheatres, in that sound echoes through the chamber at the top of the structure and is projected out over a large distance.

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The mural above is supposedly one of the pieces of evidence supporting the theory that the ‘pyramids’ were built by aliens. According to supporters of the theory the image is of an alien in an astronaut’s mask with a clear breathing device. Hmm…I’m not so sure!

Our guide also explained the Mayan calendar to us, based on the cycles of the moon and sun, it is actually more accurate than the current calender we use today as does not need the added ‘leap’ year. It was also very interesting to learn that the ‘dooms day’ theory was brought about by a Mayan carving of the date ‘21.12.12’, the end of a cycle of the Mayan calender; the day when the planet’s would become aligned and the universe would complete a ‘cycle’.

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This shot is actually a very close up snippet of a large wall of skull carvings, designed to commemorate the Mayan dead. The heads of enemies would also have been displayed proudly on this stand.

The ruins of the ‘military’ building (of which I will post a photo once my internet picks up again) displayed a statue of a man at the top of the steps. Our guide explained to us that it was here that enemies were brought to be sacrificed to the gods. The warriors themselves did not have permission to kill. They would dress up in Jaguar-skin costumes and hold the man’s hands and feet to the statue. A priest, dressed as an eagle, would then use a special implement to swiftly remove the man’s heart, within the fourteen seconds before it ceases to live, therefore literally holding a beating heart in his hands before the gods.

We also went into the very well preserved remains of the Mayan sports arena. I was amazed to discover how informative the Disney film ‘The Road To Eldorado’ is! The sport described, where the opposing teams need to hit a ball through a small vertical stone hoop on the side walls of the arena, is actually part of the film! The ‘court’ was so well preserved that I could practically see the ancient Mayans playing the game there. Aside from entertainment, the game was even used in place of wars, to solve conflict, with the conquered side loosing the game along with their heads!

 

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A brief pause from the Anthropology lesson to talk about the wildlife:The ruins were covered with these iguanas! Unfortunately they were pretty skittish so not particularly easy to photograph.

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Here is a very large (with a circumference around the size of the base of the temple) natural well where the Mayans would throw sacrifices of gold and human lives to the gods. When it was eventually excavated they found tons and tons of Mayan gold and around 90 skeletons in the down there!

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Cancun itself was much like a little slice of Las Vegas in Mexico. It certainly was extremely Americanised! Large hotels, bright lights and extravagant decoration greeted me on the drive in. Of course, my shuttle carried on past these fantastic hotels to the dingy side of town. However, I enjoyed the change, I must admit, to the extreme poverty of Bolivia.

This morning I meet the second tour group that I will be with until the end of April. Surprisingly there are a large number of retired couples which I wasn’t really expecting! We hopped on a bus down to ‘Playa Del Carmen’ another, equally Americanised, Mexican city. As an example of the extent of the westernisation, I popped over to the nearby ‘Walmart’ to buy a snorkle-mask. In the morning a few of us headed out to the coastal Mayan ruins of ‘Tulum’ which, although spectacular, I felt had been rather over-rated in that there were even larger swarms of tourists than at Chichen Itza. What did make Tulum very special, however, was the back drop of the incredibly blue Caribbean sea.

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Having Wings

In Good Hands

 Wherever night falls

 The earth is always

 There to catch it.

-Roger McGough

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My last night in South America did not pass particularly smoothly. Two girls in the group were getting the same early morning flight as me so we decided to share a room in the hotel. However when we came down to meet everyone at reception we discovered that they had already left so ended up wandering around La Paz for two hours trying to find them in order to say goodbye! Bye some miracle we did eventually stumble across them but it was a bit of a nightmare in one of the most reknowned paces for crime targeted at tourists in the dark and rain!

After three hours sleep I embarked on my bizarre day of flights: Firstly flying to Lima then El Salvador, Guatemala then finally Mexico City with absolutely no room for error; one of the connections was only 25 minutes long! As you could imagine I was highly dubious that this erratic series was going to flow smoothly, but miraculously I arrived in Mexico city last night in one peace AND, far exceeding my expectations, with my luggage! Hallelujah!

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Flying over the beautiful snow-capped Andes.

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Flying in over Mexico city was fantastically exciting. Had to get a shot out of the window but this doesn’t quite capture the city’s competition with the stars as much as I would have liked!

My flight to Cancun leaves this afternoon so on arriving, I headed straight over to the airport Hilton where Mum had kindly booked for me to stay for a night as a treat (and also to avoid the highly dangerous city!) It was such a fantastic surprise! I was so excited at the unprecedented luxury that I was running around the room taking photos of the king sized bed and complimentary shampoos.

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Refreshed by the best nights sleep I’ve had since I left home (thanks Mum!) I headed out into the city the following morning. My airport ‘authorised’ taxi was extortionately expensive. Apparently there are a large number of assaults occurring in ‘non-official’ taxis so the airport get away with charging an arm and a leg. My taxi back in a local perfectly reasonable-looking taxi cost a quarter of the price. Anyway, I went to the main plaza which is the third largest city square in the world. Unfortunately it had large marquees set up in it completely ruining any photo opportunity. The cathedral was particularly stunning, whetting my appetite for the historical sites to come on my trip!

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