Day three: Chichen Itza (April 5)

We completed the 542 nautical miles from Fort Lauderdale to Mexico’s largest (of three) island, Cozumel, just before sunrise. It is situated off the east coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, ancient home to Mayan and later Toltec Indians.

Dan and I were second guessing our decision to take the eight hour tour to the ruins of Chichen Itza, on the mainland, because we had to be up, fed, and rallying for our tour by 7:00 which is not pretty when you are living on cruise time. Being suckers for USESCO World Heritage sites, we went for it. We didn’t find out until later that these particular ruins are also listed as one of the New7Wonders of the world, so woo hoo for us.

First there was the issue of the 12 miles of water between Cozumel and the mainland. We took a very bumpy 45 minute boat ride, one that made us very happy we had drugged up (Dramamine) just in case. Sure enough, more than a few of our fellow passengers made good use of the handy little blue bags that were passed out. From the boat we boarded a small van and headed inland on a brand new toll road. The land was as flat as a tortilla and smothered in vegetation. It looked like the jungle but with a really low canopy. Our fabulous guide explained that the vegetation exists on a thin layer of topsoil situated on top of a limestone base. Our ride was a little over an hour and a half.

Chichan Itza, a sacred as well as urban center, passed its prime, was eventually abandoned, and fell to ruin well over 600 years ago. What we saw are the results of excavations that started in 1841.

The Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, stood prominently in the center of things and caught our eye first. It has 365 steep steps—one for each day of the year. The preservationists decided to take stones from two sides to mend the other two sides, so half of the pyramid-looking temple appears to be in perfect shape and the other half looks a bit like rubble. Until earlier this year tourists could climb all over the ruins, but now there are barriers keeping people back a short distance.

Our guide took us to a huge, natural ceremonial well that was used for live sacrifices. Archaeologists have found bones of adults and children as well as the jewelry and other precious objects worn in the victims’ final hours. Speaking of untimely deaths, there is also a huge structure used for human sacrifices that did not involve drowning. Our guide described the practice of removing the heart of the victim and putting it on a special ceremonial table called a Chac Mool. It all sort of gave us the shivers.

Chichén Itzá’s huge ball field, the largest known in the Americas, was fascinating too. It measures 554 feet long and 231 feet wide. The object was to get a 12-pound solid rubber ball through one of two stone rings set high into the 27 foot tall side walls. The scoring rings were not set high like a basketball hoop, but high as in are-you-kidding-me? Considering the players could not use their hands or feet, it seems basically impossible to score, but apparently they did. Being huge fans of premature death, the captain of the winning team of special ritual games was promptly beheaded. A huge honor.

Dan and I really enjoyed our short stay at the ruins and were thrilled to have the guide throwing facts at us left and right and explaining things. After two hours our little group got sack lunches, boarded the van, and headed back to the boat on the toll road just as we had come. The guide pointed out numerous narrow rope ladders strung across the highway that he explained had been put there so monkeys could cross in complete safety. We had a bumpy boat ride back to Cozumel and got back to the ship just in time to clean up and meet the junior Mongeons for cocktails. They had opted for a slower day, so we had a good time comparing notes and sharing pictures.

Listening to vocalist Jesse Hamilton Jr. was a very enjoyable way to end our day. His versatility pretty much guaranteed he had something for everyone.


4 thoughts on “Day three: Chichen Itza (April 5)

  1. Lesson learned—I am going to the big attraction if I get another chance ☺

    Matt Mongeon | Senior Business Analyst
    PMP, ITIL Foundation, RCV, OSA, SOA
    Technology Team – Cox California
    5159 Federal Blvd., San Diego, CA 92105
    • 619.266.5675 (ex. 55675) |( 619.822.4661 | •


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s