• Home
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Print
  • Art
  • Photos
  • Live
  • Features
  • About
  • Sale
  •  

    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Mexico Part 5

    Monday, October 2, 2017
    Chichen Itza, Mexico

    The El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    The El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    This morning, the wi-fi was still not working at the Hostel Tunich Naj and I had work to do, so I packed up and moved a half mile north to the Hostel La Candelaria, a really popular backpacker spot with a dimly-lit homespun feel. Every single time I passed by the reception desk, someone was checking in. In fact, in the evening, I overheard the receptionist tell another guest that the place was almost full. Considering the fact that it’s low season right now, I’d hate to imagine that hostel in high season. It must be a total madhouse. Getting a late start at 1:45 pm, I boarded an Oriente bus and rode it close to an hour west to another complex of Mayan temple ruins called Chichen Itza.

    The Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    The Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    A shrine at the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    A shrine at the Great Ball Court at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    “Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people in Tinúm, Yucatán, Mexico. It was a major focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands from the Late Classic period (600–900 AD) through the Terminal Classic period (800–900 AD) and on into the early portion of the Post-Classic period (900–1200 AD). Chichen Itza was one of the largest Maya cities, and may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. These styles are reminiscent of those seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles of the Northern Maya lowlands. Boasting an estimated 1.4 million tourists per year, Chichen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico.”–Wikipedia

    The Skull Platform at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    The Skull Platform at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    After ponying up the considerable entry fee of $15, I schlepped past a slew of souvenir stalls, finally emerging from the jungle out into the wide-open temple zone. The amount of tour bus groups ambling around the grounds was just comical. Although the sky was overcast, I was happy that it wasn’t raining like it had been earlier. My first stop was the Great Ball Court, which is “the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica. It measures 168 by 70 meters (551 by 230 feet). The parallel platforms flanking the main playing area are each 95 meters (312 feet) long. The walls of these platforms stand 8 meters (26 feet) high; set high up in the centre of each of these walls are rings carved with intertwined feathered serpents.

    A detail of the Skull Platform at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    A detail of the Skull Platform at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    The Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    The Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    “At the base of the high interior walls are slanted benches with sculpted panels of teams of ball players. In one panel, one of the players has been decapitated; the wound emits streams of blood in the form of wriggling snakes.”–Wikipedia. Interestingly, the deceptively simple architecture provided up to a full seven echoes whenever one of the guides emitted a shrill whistle or handclap right in the center near one of the side walls. Some guides got their whole group of a dozen or more people to clap repeatedly in unison, which sounded really strange.

    The Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    The Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    Since there wasn’t much time left before the place closed at 5:00 pm, I had to take a quick look-see at some of the smaller temples, including awesome ones like the Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars, which possibly represented the warrior caste, and is covered with carvings of eagles and jaguars clutching human hearts. Another, the Skull Platform, was originally used to exhibit the skulls of enemies and sacrificed prisoners, and is completely festooned with fanciful carvings of human skulls. Of course, who could ignore the stunning centerpiece, El Castillo, which “stands about 30 meters (98 feet) high with a six-meter (20 feet) high temple upon the summit. Inside the temple chamber is a Chac Mool statue and a throne in the shape of Jaguar, painted red and with spots made of inlaid jade.

    The Group of a Thousand Columns at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
    The Group of a Thousand Columns at Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.

    An Oriente bus in Valladolid, Mexico.
    An Oriente bus in Valladolid, Mexico.

    “The sides of the pyramid are approximately 55.3 meters (181 feet) wide at the base, and rise at an angle of 53°, although that varies slightly for each side. The talud walls of each terrace slant at an angle of between 72° and 74°. At the base of the balustrades of the northeastern staircase are carved heads of a serpent. In the late afternoon of the spring and autumn equinoxes, the northwest corner of the pyramid casts a series of triangular shadows against the western balustrade on the north side that evokes the appearance of a serpent wriggling down the staircase. Some scholars have suggested it is a representation of the feathered serpent god, Kukulkan.”–Wikipedia

    A gourmet wet veggie burrito at Candelitas in Valladolid, Mexico.
    A gourmet wet veggie burrito at Candelitas in Valladolid, Mexico.

    Next up was the Temple of the Warriors, which “consists of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of carved columns depicting warriors.”–Wikipedia. My last stop of the day was the adjacent Group of a Thousand Columns, which consist of a series of exposed columns, although when the city was inhabited, they supported an extensive roof system. By this point, it was almost closing time, so after admiring the awe-inspiring El Castillo for a few more minutes, I headed for the exit to buy a ticket for the last bus back to Valladolid.

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *