March 03, 2005

WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN

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The pyramid at Chichen Itza.

I'm not very comfortable with heights. But when I heard that this will be the last year that people will be allowed to climb the pyramid, what else could I do but go to the top? Don't believe me? Here's proof:

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The view over the top of the jungle was breathtaking. That is, the view took my breath away after I managed to catch my breath from climbing the 91 steps to the top. Can you tell that it was very hot at Chichen Itza? It actually felt cooler on the top of the pyramid than on the ground.

What goes up must come down:

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Allegra and her friend were much more confident than I, who chose to do as our tour guide recommended, and take those first 10 or 20 steps sitting down:

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Scott couldn't resist taking such a totally ridiculous shot of me.

This was our best day of vacation yet. The drive from our hotel on the coast in Cancun inland to the Chichen Itza was two-and-a-half hours, one way. Our visit to Tulum had just whetted my appetite to see more Mayan ruins, so I signed us up for the tour last night. Then I wondered whether I had done the right thing. Would Allegra and her friend enjoy 5 hours on the bus? Would they be happier playing on the beach at the hotel, or in the hotel swimming pool? I encouraged them to pack Travel Yahtzee (a gift from Auntie Shirley), books, their CD players. Scott brought a novel. I brought band-aids, Lomotil, kleenex, insect repellent, sunscreen, bananas, bottled water . . . oh, and some knitting. I discovered, rummaging through my suitcase last night, that I had brought along the sock I am designing for Jennie. Well, here was the perfect thing to knit on for 5 hours, if I wasn't going to knit on that Fair Isle project. After all, if I got stuck or finished Sock #1, I could always start Sock #2 -- no way would I run out of knitting today. And I am pleased to report that I got several inches knitted on the sock.

After our trip to Key West in January, our advice to travellers would be to get off the beaten path. It is very hard to get off the beaten path in Cancun, as its sole reason for being is to draw tourists.

I won't claim that our trip to Chichen Itza was off the beaten path. It is a tourist draw. But driving two-and-a-half hours down a plain two-lane road to get there, going past Mayan villages consisting of wooden, thatch-roofed huts with no electricity was a glimpse into a not-so-touristy Mexico. Our tour bus's itinerary included a stop at a Mayan cooperative where handmade goods are sold. (We bought hammocks and some silver jewelery, as well as some ice cream.) Then our tour of Chichen Itza, which was even more fascinating than Tulum, and included seeing the ruins of the ball field, the temples, a marketplace, and more. And, on the way back, a stop at a rustic little restaurant for a late lunch. We ate roast pork tacos, fixed in the Mayan way -- delicious and highly edible. Oh, and the fresh papaya and watermelon were also sweeter than what we ever get at home.

(A note about our diet, here. Scott and I both have had digestive difficulties and have become very tentative about what we eat and drink here. Traveling with children is always interesting, though. My mother always had a rule for her children when we traveled: We had to have at least one glass of milk each day. Usually on trips I enforce this rule on my kids, too. Well, our first full day in Mexico, I ordered glasses of milk for Allegra and her friend. The glasses that the waiter brought were huge, far larger than what I would serve at home; both girls took a sip or two and declared that it tasted funny. Since I'd already joined the "frequent flushers club," I couldn't see insisting that they drink the milk -- I would trust their instincts. So it's been Coca Cola and Fanta for them ever since. The girls have had French fries, watermelon, and ice cream for every meal -- oh, and a sweet roll for breakfast each day -- and they haven't had a bit of the troubles Scott and I have had. C'est la vie.)

We ate our lunch on a pavilion under a thatched roof. The food was served buffet style. While we were eating, the rain began to fall. An absolute downpour all during the two-and-a-half-hour ride back to the hotel, including thunder and lightning. It had rained, and rained hard, all day in Cancun -- so we would not have been able to enjoy the beach, had we stayed at our hotel. So we truly enjoyed a very satisfying day -- and how often do travel plans turn out so well?

Posted by Karen at March 3, 2005 07:48 PM
Comments

What a fun trip! You look completely relaxed and happy. (jealous!)

Posted by: Ann at March 4, 2005 02:59 PM

Ann, I was ready to go home on our second and third days here, feeling like so many things here in Mexico were so bizarrely different from our expectations. After a week, we are more acclimated. You could say I earned the right to look relaxed in the photos. :-)

Today we fly home, and I regret we don't have a few more days to spend on the beach.

Posted by: Karen at March 4, 2005 04:38 PM

What great photos Karen, you really have earned the right to look that happy and relaxed. I guess if I want to climb the pyramids, I better get planning!

Posted by: Angela at March 7, 2005 10:40 PM