Day 11: Chichen Itza and Piste - Grampies' Road to Ruins - CycleBlaze

January 14, 2018

Day 11: Chichen Itza and Piste

Photos are all there now - captions too!

 

The hotel Dolores Alba is beautiful and the staff is sweet, but the restaurant is just a little weak and there is no supplementary food (not even coffee or hot water, or cold water) food around. So we showed up at the posted 7 a.m. breakfast time really hungry, to find the staff not yet ready. Sort of soon enough they did come up with an offer of coffee or tea, but not Dodie's requested hot chocolate.  At first they said they had none, but later came around with an offer of some for 60 pesos.  60 pesos can and did later buy a whole meal for us in Piste!

Breakfast was then a bit of fruit, some bread, and some omelette. Again, enough to stay alive but you would not want to have to cycle far on it.

Breakfast - just enough to stay alive on
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Next, they had advertised an available shuttle to the ruins at 8 a.m. But at that time they said it was just us  and they would have to wait until more people wanted to go. So we flounced off, grabbed our bikes and locks, and made our own way down the road.

Taking the turn off 180, we made our way down to the archeological site. We went for the main entrance, although there was a shorter back way, through the "hotel zone".  We locked our bikes using one cable lock and one chain lock, right beside the bikes of the Belgians. We noticed that like us they had Abus German locks - in their case one chain and one of those accordion flat bar arrangements. We did all this, but in no way have we felt the slightest threat here - to our bikes, personally, from pick pockets, or any other thing.

Chichen Itza main entrance
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The admission price was 242 pesos each - $17 Canadian.  That felt a little steep, but this is a major world site. Paying by credit card they had a complicated two part procedure  for some mysterious reason, and this was followed by a lot of ticket printing and then ticket scanning and ticket punching. Ok, whatever.

There is no denying that there are two spectacular categories of things at Chichen Itza. The first to actually hit you is the phenomenal number of souvenir vendors, and the exciting colourful quality of their wares. There is lots to say and think about all their procedures, their goods, their lives, and skills.

Second is the huge, six square kilometer ancient site, with its pyramids and temples, carvings and ball courts, and astrological observatory.

I guess there is also a final general category - the crowds, that started as moderate numbers and grew to a river of people  at the entrance that was hard to even cross by midday.

To cover these three streams of consciousness, I will put up photos more or less in the order we ran into things, and through the captions try to explain what it was all about.

We locked our bikes beside those of the Belgian couple, noting that their locks were about the same as ours.
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If you paid by credit card they created two tickets each, paid for with two transactions on the credit card. No idea why.
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If you can read this, it has good information about the ancient history of Chichen Itza
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 After passing by the first 1000 craft vendors we came to the main pyramid - the pyramid of Kulkulcan. This is the iconic structure of the site, and it stands in the middle of a large clear field.  Around the field is located six other zippy installations - the ball court, Temple of the Bearded Man, Temple of the Skulls, Temple of the Warriors, etc. Beyond all this is the Court of a Thousand Columns, the Mercado, and many others. You really need a guidebook and a week to begin to absorb it.

To find your way from one major section to another, it works to follow the lines of vendor stalls, with their colourful blankets, dresses, masks, and other carvings. There really is a big variety of quite nice stuff, and some carvers can be seen making masks or plaques on site. As you pass each stall, the owner will say "Look, just one dollar", or any one of a dozen such greetings, in Spanish or English. If you pass four in a row, you will trigger each one in turn. They are just like motion sensor machines. At each and every one I will say "oh, hi" or "looks nice"  or any one of a dozen such replies.  If another human being addresses me, I am just too strongly programmed to ignore them. However you can not say more, or you would make no forward progress at all.

When we arrived, dozens and dozens of vendors were martialling their stuff and carrying it on site. From there, they had to set up tables and carefully unpack each item. Each was wrapped in paper and had been carefully stowed. Then it was a matter of putting them all out in an orderly way on the tables. From our own experience at craft fairs, we know just how much of a bug this is. To do it daily is aaarrgh!
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You want to get your stuff out fast, so as not to miss any sales.
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We used our Tilley type hats. A hat is a real necessity for a northerner. This was one option, anyway.
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Carved walking sticks would be an artful alternative to Dodie's trekking poles, but not foldable!
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These masks have authentic Mayan themes and are locally made.
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The pyramid of Kukulkan - the main, iconic sight of Chichen Itza
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On the other side of this structure (Temple of the Jaguars) is the ball court - easily as big as a football field and with temples at either end.
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Jaguar gargoyle on the temple
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Carving detail on the Jaguar temple
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The ball court
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Temple of the Bearded Man
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This wall of skulls is reflected in all sorts of skulls and skeletons among the craft goods.
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Just follow the rows of crafters to find the next sight.
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There are many lovely dresses like this on offer
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The colourful blankets - like the one we got.
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This cenote provided water to the city
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This is part of a huge square edged by columns. The columns used to support roofing.
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More and more columns, all straighter and more accurately spaced that we could ever do at home!
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A wall faced with carvings
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Detail of some of the facing
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A goofy jaguar?
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Seemingly the location of an ancient Mayan OXXO store?
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Like with some Egyptian pyramids, the stone facing has come off in spots
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These percussion instruments would be great for kids. But we have no real way to carry them.
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A carver at work.
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There were at least 18 main structures to figure out.
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The sun and moon motif in the plaque is very common, as is of course the jaguar.
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Each and every one of the pieces had been carefully wrapped and carried on site, then unwrapped and placed on the tables. What a lot of work!
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Another carver. They seem to work without a pattern and with just the tools you see here.
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The astronomical observatory. It had doors or windows every 45 degrees, I guess to nail down which way you were looking.
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The "Iglesia"
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The Nunnery
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This is what the experts see above the door of the Nunnery
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My photo of that door.
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When we had finally walked past and tried to understand all 18 major buildings, we were back at the entrance. This was now jammed with a veritable river of people flowing in.  I left Dodie in the book shop and tried to cross to a snack bar. It was hard work! The snack bar had some fries that looked good, but at about $5, no sale. Similarly, the on site restaurant had approximately double prices. I knew this because they had people standing in front with tablets with which you could peruse the menu.

The tourists have truly arrived now
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Just crossing through these people was not easy.
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We went and got our bikes - totally untouched - and headed out toward Piste, the town a couple of kilometers distant. We needed to find food for now, and food for the long ride planned for tomorrow.  But before we had really left the near vicinity of Chichen Itza we came to a fairly large and quite empty restaurant called the Palapa. The waiter showed us the printed menu, and clearly these were normal prices. So we just parked our bikes happily to one side of our table and settled in.

We both ordered the same chicken dish, which we thought would be a very modest 80 pesos. It was by far the yummiest roast chicken we ever remember! It came with really lots of tortillas too. We went berserk with two large cokes, but the bill (la cuenta) was still just 140 pesos ($10) total. Right on!

We rode into Piste, a medium small town. Though it looks dusty and haphazard, we are now really getting the hang of this, and found groceries, drug stores, fruit stores, all readily at hand. So we liked Piste. Even better, we found a bakery! They had what they called French bread (Pan Frances) - 5 pesos each, but in reality small and quite weak. Even so, we saw that they open at 6, so we will be back tomorrow.If we are able to also get some kind of cheese at OXXO, things may be approaching what I consider a real breakfast.

One other delight in Piste was a restaurant BBQing chicken out front. It smelled great, but of course we had already eaten. So 'pollo asado' cooked out front is still on my want list.

We also passed by a baseball game in progress. It was in a large walled enclosure, and had excited loudspeaker play by play. Many people were seated in the stands, while others watched from gaps in the wall. I joined those in the gaps, and was surprised by the speed of the pitches and power of the hits. I really have little experience with baseball.

At the wonderful, uncrowded "Palapa" restaurant, on the way to Piste
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Best chicken ever
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Cars parked 2 km out from Chichen Itza
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Study in pineapples, in Piste
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We stocked up on lots of great stuff here
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Piste
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The church in Piste
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The bakery in Piste
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"French" (Frances) bread at the panaderia.
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"Pan Dulce" is pretty fluffy and weak, but they love it here.
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That's 5 pesos - .20 Euros - for a small baguette
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Cooking "pollo asado" by the roadside, in Piste.
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These baseballs players were seriously good.
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We retraced our tracks past Chichen Itza, noting the parked cars extending 2 km out from the site. Back in our room, we did some planning about tomorrow, when we will try a long ride to Izamal, on the way to Merida by a bit of a back way.

Izamal itself is an interesting place. As the days tick by we are enjoying Yucatan more and more - the food, the sights, the cenotes, the people, even the weather (except at mid day).  We are eager to see what Izamal will have to offer!

Today's ride: 20 km (12 miles)
Total: 452 km (281 miles)

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Sue PriceHope the ride goes well!
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1 year ago
Jacquie GaudetWow! Your experience of Chichén Itzá is very different that what I remember from 1983. I don't recall any souvenir or other stalls and I'm not sure there were any visitor services at all.

I was most interested in visiting this site and its cenote (the main reason I went to Mexico) because, as a teenager, I read every book I could find by Richard Halliburton. In "His Story of His Life's Adventures," which is mostly a collection of his letters to his parents, you find the following from July 1928:

"The ruins at Chichen-Itza grew on me. They're so extraordinary and so bursting with romantic history. The Mayas' form of sacrifice when they needed rain was to throw maidens into the Sacred Well to appease the rain god who dwelt at the bottom of it... I got the idea that it would be interesting to jump in myself, imagining that I was a warrior selected to jump as the bride was cast in... I jumped. It was a thrill as I was dropping into the silent water. The only inconvenience was getting out."

There's more, in his book "New Worlds to Conquer." He jumped in a second time to rescue his boots that he'd had to leave on a ledge near the bottom to climb out. However, this time his leap was recorded by a photographer.

Jacquie
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1 year ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesYikes, such a different experience. As you can see from the photos, both visitors and vendors swarm all over the site, and the cenote is not accessible for jumping in to. If you return to Chichén Itzá it will have to be with all new objectives, unfortunately.

p.s. How did you get those accents so nicely into your message?
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1 year ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Steve Miller/GrampiesI'm using a Mac! Hold down the key and you get a selection of options. At work, where I use a Windows machine, it's not as easy.
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1 year ago