My wife must really love me. More about that, later.
We got an email from the Chichen Itza tour people, right at 5:00 PM Sunday night, with the new pick up time, as well as a higher rate for the transport. It increased $20. Oh, well. At that point, we were almost hoping they wouldn’t pick us up from this location, but they would, and the time was only ten minutes earlier than the previous time.
So up we got at 6:00 AM Monday morning. And down we went (or rather, up, actually, as our room is not on the same level as the lobby) to the lobby at about 6:45. The van was already waiting. The man who would turn out to be our tour guide introduced himself and the driver. The driver was Marco and the guide was Paulo. No, not really. Just kidding. The driver was Marco, but the guide was Salvadore.
The next stop was in Tulum. We’re talking at least an hour and a half away. In fact, all of the other passengers were in Tulum. And even though we booked a tour through Playa del Carmen tours, the office for these guys was also in Tulum. They were with Mexico Kan Tours.
Okay, so we got to Tulum and drove down this tiny side street and parked in front of a small building. Marco and Salvadore got out without saying anything. For about ten minutes (maybe it wasn’t that long, but I’m pretty sure it was), Christi and I sat there trying not to panic. Think about it. We got into an unmarked van with two strangers in Mexico, trusting that they were who they said they were, and now we’re sitting in the van on a side street in Tulum, with no clue what is happening. In my mind, I envisioned the hotel staff coming into our room and eradicating any trace that we had ever been here.
I have a very vivid imagination.
Finally, though, the van door opened, and three other Americans got in; a couple from Seattle, and their daughter, who lives in New York. The next stop was about thirty minutes down this long, narrow road that was lined on either side with tiny hotels, clubs, and spas.
Along with about thirty speed bumps.
Okay, side topic. Mexico really loves their speed bumps. If I had even tried to count all the speed bumps we drove over yesterday, I would have lost count. And they make them out of just about everything. Some were small metal strips across the road; some were made up of the kind of bumpy thingies that you see in the U.S., dividing turn lanes; some were made out of what appeared to be small versions of railroad ties . . . those “speed bumps” were about three feet long; there were some that steeply went up about two feet, with about a foot on top, and then back down; there were some that were even made out of tire treads stretched across the road. It’s insane!
Okay, back to Tulum’s “hotel district.” We finally stopped (after passing one hotel called “Hip Hotel;” I’m not making that up), and picked up a couple that turned out to be both frustrating and amusing, in a very sad way. I was never sure if they are married or not, but she claimed to be Canadian, and he was American, and they currently live in New Mexico. As they day went on, they proved to be just about the most pretentious people I have ever met in my life. Not “hipsters,” either. Waaay to old to be hipsters.
The final pickup for the day was at another small hotel, back toward the main road in Tulum. This pair turned out to be two adorable young ladies from Birmingham. England! They are on a three-week trip that began in the “deep south” of the U.S., ventured into Mexico (where they will be continuing to Mexico City, later this week), and finishing up in Costa Rica, I believe they said. They have been having a great time.
So, we were finally on our way. Next stop, Chichen Itza! Roughly an hour and a half away. Now, by this time, we had already been in this van for about three hours!
Salvador talked to us for part of the trip, giving us some brief Mayan history, showing us a map of Chichen Itza, along with where we would be visiting. He also pointed out some neat aspects of the small villages that we passed along the way.
When we arrived at Chichen Itza, we unloaded from the van at the main entrance. We had a brief restroom break while Salvador went and procured our tickets. Then we went through the turnstyles and were in, immediately faced with hundreds of vendors lining the paths, trying to sell us their stuff. Everything’s a dollar if you believe them. But don’t believe them. Everything’s a dollar except for that one thing that you happen to want.
I wish I could remember what order we visited the various attractions in Chichen Itza, but I cannot. I can’t even remember the names of everything. We were there for aout two hours, and it was very hot. There were some shady areas, but there was also a lot of walking and standing in the sun. We had, of course, put on a heavy dose of sunblock before we got there, so we didn’t get burned. But we got very tired, and Christi’s calf was bothering her greatly, which kept us a few steps behind the group. However, the English girls were behind us most of the way, so we didn’t feel bad. The only time we got way behind was when Christi stopped to try to get one of those “dollar t-shirts.” Right. And all she really wanted was something to wipe the sweat off with.
Finally, shortly before the end of the tour, we reached the pinnacle of Chichen Itza, that thing that everyone knows it for, the Temple of the Sun, the great pyramid, Pyramid Kukulkan, El Castillo.
I have to confess that I got a bit emotional as we walked around it, taking some photos. Unfortunately, they no longer allow people to climb the steps to the top. Of course, by that time, I’m pretty sure we would not have had the stamina to make it. There are a lot of steps.
The tour finished with the Throne Room and the Ball Court. We had also seen the Ossuary (a smaller pyramid), the Observatory, the Platform of the Craniums, where they displayed the heads of their defeated enemies, the Temple of the Warriors, and the Hallway of a Thousand Columns. There just might be a thousand columns, too. That site was pretty overwhelming.
Over all, it was a fun, informing tour, one notch off my “bucket list.” But remember the first line of this article? Right, the one about how much my wife loves me? I say that because of what she endured yesterday, just to allow me to have something that I have wanted for a long time. She wound up being in a lot of pain, but got through it. And she did that for me. I had offered a couple of times, to bail on the tour, or just cancel it and try to get a refund, but she kept insisting that we go ahead and do it.
After we hobbled back to the van, we drove for about a half hour to where we would swim in a cenote. Now, we had done this before, on our Hummer Jungle Tour, the last time we visited Mexico. But this cenote was much better! It was completely underground, with only a small hole at the top, where the sun could shine through into what was just about the most beautiful blue water I’ve ever seen.
We had to climb down a lot of steps to get to it (all the while remembering that what goes down must come up). Christi went in first, while I hung back and took some pictures. I was still debating if I would get in. I did, finally, and I’m glad I did. The water was cold. I have no idea what the temperature was, but it was cold. Breathtakingly cold! But the good thing about this is that it was also refreshing! Almost rejuvenating! When we climbed out of that hole full of water, we felt great! Of course, after climbing back up all of those steps, I was out of breath for what felt like ten minutes.
We got back into the van, and after a short drive, were in Vallalidod, the small town where we would have “lunch.” I put lunch in quotations marks because it was around 3:00 PM by this time. But that’s about the time we had lunch on our last excursion. Maybe they just eat lunch later in Mexico.
We had lunch at a charming little restaurant at the Hotel El Meson del Marques. Salvador had given us our choices about thirty minutes beforehand, and Christi and I had ordered something called Tikin Xic. At least I swear that’s what Salvador said (I just looked it up to find the spelling). But Tikin Xic is a fish dish, and what we had was chicken. It was very delicious chicken, along with some beans and rice, and tableside guacamole, which was also delicious. Everything was wonderful (the green sauce was scorching hot, though), and had we not cooled down in that cenote, I would not have been able to enjoy it as much.
After lunch (which was topped off with pineapple sorbet), we walked down to a little market area. We didn’t stay there long, and while exiting one of the little shops, Christ’s calf muscle “popped” again, and she almost fell down. She could barely walk after that, but our tour was basically over. We just had to go across the street to meet up with Marco and the van.
The ride back was very long, of course, as we had to drop off all of the other passengers in Tulum, first, and then drive all the way back to wherever we are staying. It was after 8:00 PM when we got back to the hotel. We stopped at the bar to get a drink, went upstairs, and called room service for dinner. Christi ordered a Sirloin strip steak and I ordered a Kobe beef burger. It may have been the best burger I have ever tasted. We are ordering that again tonight.
Sadly, we must leave in the morning. Even sadlier (I know, I made that up), the transport to airport insists on picking us up at 9:00 AM, when our flight doesn’t leave until after 1:30 PM. I told Christi that I wouldn’t mind spending $45 to have the hotel take us later, but she didn’t want to do that.
We’ve had a great time. The times that have been good have been spectacular. The other times? Well, not so much. It won’t be the best vacation we’ve ever had, but it was a good one, and we spent two fabulous days doing nothing but laying on the beach, reading, and occasionally getting in the water.
Needless to say, we will not be recommending Apple Vacations or Iberostar to anyone in the near future. The incident was not Apple’s fault, but we believe it could have been handled better by both Apple and Iberostar. Those will be lessons learned the next time we plan a trip to Mexico, probably in another four or five years.
That’s it for now. The next time I write, we will be back in Texas, if the Lord says so, too.
Oh, and you can see all of the photos we have taken at my Facebook photo page. I have made this album public so anyone can look at it.
Grace and peace, friends.