Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Piper

This is the pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza in Mexico. I was in Mexico from December 12th-19th, and visited the pyramid on December 15th. I really enjoyed the visit to Chichen Itza, though it was quite hot there. I would change only one part of the experience. We were approached by a nonstop stream of hawkers and vendors trying to sell Mayan goods, "One dollar, almost free, cheaper than Walmart." It's OK to have vendors at the gates to the grounds and even at tables on the walkways leading to the ruins. It would be nice, however, to be able to wander the ruins without this constant interruption.

Oddly enough, I kind of miss the ubiquitous hordes of vendors found all over the Mayan Riviera. Yes, they could be annoying, but they certainly were accomodating. If you were looking for something that a vendor didn't have, they'd find a vendor who had it, if they could. And the prices WERE low. I was looking at silver jewelry in Target today, and the prices seemed so very high after the prices in the markets in Playa del Carmen and Cancun.

Shopping in Pesos is a little bit overwhelming, since the US dollar is worth so much more than the Peso. At the time of our visit, 1000 Pesos was worth something like 77 US Dollars. I can only imagine how dramatic the difference would be if the US Dollar were robust right now!

On the way to the ruins, our tour stopped at a cenote - a sink hole fed by an underground water source. This cenote was in a cave and was well below ground level. There were roots hanging down into the cenote from several stories up. Here is a picture taken at the cenote:

As you can see, tourists are allowed to swim in the cenote. I did not, but my fiancee did. He reported that the water was warm, not cold as one might expect. It is asked that you rinse off in a shower before going into the cenote if you are wearing sunscreen, since it might jeopardize the fish, plants, etc. found there. I had applied gobs of waterproof sunscreen before the trip left in the morning (I'm fair - OK pale - and I burn without tanning), so I decided not to swim.

Below is my favorite part of the whole vacation: the vast pool at the resort where we stayed. You couldn't see the entire pool from any one spot. We usually camped out by this end of the pool, near one of the the swim-up bars. We spent pretty much the whole day at the pool on the16th and again on the 18th. It's hard to see in this night shot, but the palm trees, huts and umbrellas around the pool made it quite comfortable even during the hottest part of the day. The beach was nearby, as well, but my camera never made it down there.

Good thing we had a nice, relaxing day on the 18th. Travel misery set in on the 19th, as we tried to return to New Jersey during an unprecedented December blizzard. We were delayed getting out of Cancun, and our flight from Ft. Lauterdale to Atlantic City was cancelled. We were scheduled onto the same flight 24 hours later (9:20 pm on the 20th). THAT flight was delayed several times, as well, and we finally flew out of Ft. Laut at 3:30 AM.

We spent 27 hours at Motel Hell in Ft. Lauterdale. As soon as we saw our rooms, we went out. I had 2 cosmopolitans and a shot of tequila with my dinner at the outdoor Irish Bar up the block. Hey, at least we were dining al fresco while everyone back home was shoveling snow!

It's REALLY rare for me to drink that much, but I was hoping to soften the impact of the seedy room. After dinner, we went across the street to the CVS. We bought snug sacs and super-huge towels to put on the beds (there were two couples and two rooms) so that we wouldn't have to touch the sheets. We also bought Lysol, and we gave each of the rooms a good spray down. I bought Deep Woods Off and put some on, just in case. I sprayed the outside of my luggage, too.

When we finally flew into AC, we had to dig the cars out of the snow. We had no gloves, mind you, and we hadn't worn our warmest coats, either. We drove out of the airport as the sun was rising at 7 AM on Monday, December 21st. We had to dig our way into the driveway when we got home. Then we had to go back out to pick the dogs up from the kennel. After that, we slept the day away. Going to work was not an option. I would have been asleep at my desk all day.

I was only back at work for 2 days before my next holiday began. With furlough days (unpaid leave days required of NJ employees to help balance the budget), personal days, holidays and weekends, I've been off since Christmas Eve. Tomorrow I have to go back to work, and the next few weeks (maybe the next few months) are going to be hard. Time to pay the piper.

Here are a few random photos from the trip:

An air plant in it's natural environment, camped out on the branch of a tree.

This tree was growing at the edge of the jungle just off of the balcony of our suite.

Mayan Muttley at Chichen Itza.