Is Chichen Itza the heart of Mayaland?

An early morning coffee stop, and we were off on our road trip in search of Chichen Itza. We hired a rental car to travel away from the Yucutan peninsula and toward inland Mexico, very excited to visit the Chichen Itza ruins! The heart of sacred Mayaland, one of the Seven Wonders of the world and a UNESCO world heritage site! I was so excited to learn interesting facts about the Mayan people, explore a cenote- which is a sacred ceremonial site rich in history and of course explore amazing ruins. Before we could search through this magnificent site, there was one problem we didn’t think of… the tolls! Before entering Mayaland we had to cross a toll booth and pay cash in order to progress further on our journey. What we didn’t consider is actually getting out Mexican pesos before we left so that we had cash to pay the toll. Turns out they didn’t accept card nor American money. This put us in a little pickle… and certainly made me nervous as we were forced to park on the side of the road. The security guards were are armed and the language barrier made it difficult to communicate what we wanted. I sat in the car while I waited for my companion to sort it out, while he was doing that another car pulled up next to us and out got a man with his machete that he then proceeded to polish. I will state that yes, I overreacted, but given the circumstances I think a lot of people would have. In my head the security had called this man up to come by and sort us out because we weren’t paying the toll and were easy gringo targets… I thought this is it, this is where I will die. You hear stories of tourists getting killed while travelling and I thought that was going to be me… I am silently thinking these thoughts to myself, imagining my parents getting notified that I have been macheted to death in Mexico while on the way to Chichen Itza…Okay yes that was a drastic over reaction especially considering how nice the people are in Mexico. Turns out the machete man wandered off and had nothing to do with our situation and we were able to exchange some cash with an American man travelling with his wife. We paid our toll and proceeded on our way. We had the car tunes going and beautiful views of the Mexican countryside. It was a typical road trip, if only I had brought snacks…

Pulled over at the toll booth

So the situation with Corona virus ( I am sure you have heard about it- if not, what rock have you been living under!) had started to ramp up around the world at this point with word of Italy closing down and potential for Australia to start imposing travel restrictions, I was starting to get nervous. Little did I know that was not what I had to be nervous about… we were quickly running out of fuel and by that, I mean the fuel gauge was on empty and we were miles from the next petrol station. All thoughts of Corona virus faded into the distance as I contemplated how we were going to push the car in this hot weather and get both the car and ourselves to safety. I am always be the first to sign up for an adventure, but this was quite the adrenalin rush… Fortunately, we did make it to a petrol station in time, well sort of. What we did do is miss the turn off then reverse several miles back down the road in order to get to the petrol station but hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. With a full tank, map in hand, we continued on our way to Chichen Itza.

The photos do not do this place justice! What an absolutely phenomenal piece of architecture. Not only was the whole complex huge but the actual pyramid was ginormous. The markings and carvings were beautiful, the Mayan language was certainly an art form and expressive. Walking around the perimeter of the complex we saw many stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs where every store owner had “made it himself, it was his own work”. Funny how every single hawker made the exact same souvenir. At one point we did pass a store owner that was actually carving the souvenir himself, a beautiful wooden carving, he sold many like this in the shape of jaguars and other local animals. We passed a large open field with walls on either side and at the top of both walls were two small rings, they reminded me of the rings in quidditch, except there was just one. The Mayans used to play a sport where they had to get a rubber ball through the ring but they weren’t allowed to use their hands, instead using their hips, chest or legs to push the ball around. This seemed like it would be quite a painful sport and in fact there were some injuries from it. Walking around further there was a large statue of what resembled a snake but was actually a feathered serpent, mentioned many times in Mayan history and quite a revered creature. Nothing compared to the pyramid though, the photos cannot do it justice compared to seeing it in person but it was just marvellous. The stairs in the middle that lead up to the top count 365, one for each day of the year. The Mayans constructed all of their architecture in relation to the stars. There is even an observatory on this site which allowed the Mayans to closely follow the progression of Venus. The position of Venus in the night sky corresponded to the correct times to plant and sow crops where their main crop was corn. How the Mayans actually worked all this out is a mystery, but I guess back in those days there was no artificial light so the night sky would have been bright and beautiful. The Mayan people would have had a lot of time to observe the night sky, making relations with positions of the stars and the time of the year. Chichen Itza is a wonderful site to behold and a true reflection of the great culture that is the Mayan people. Exactly how the Mayans ceased to exist here is still a mystery, some sources say drought or disease, other say war but in truth nobody knows exactly. Seeing this site in person, I cannot imagine they would have left willingly, this would have been a beautiful city in its time. 

Store owner carving a souvenir

I left Chichen Itza feeling inspired by the lost Mayan culture and in awe of the great civilisation that once inhabited this place. This definitely felt like the heart of Mayaland, the Mayan people took great care in the natural world and their understanding of science and mathematics is marvelling. With the inner peace bought about by feeling humbled and small in your place in the world, we headed off to Tulum, another site of Mayan ruins and a place of spirituality. The drive there was incredible, the evening light was streaming through the forest and we passed locals going about their evening business, giving me a window into the Mexican culture and lifestyle.

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