Week of November 23, 2003
One more ruin to go before spending a few days roughing it near Cancun. Chichen-Itza (Chee-chin eat-zah) is the most popular ruin in Mexico as it is only a couple of hours from Cancun. Because it is so close to the tourist destination, we counted no less than 10 different languages being spoken as we walked through the ancient city.
The city was established by the Itzaes sometime around the 9th century A.D. There remains a debate as to whether the Toltecs and the Putun Maya coastal traders invaded and built this magnificent metropolis or if Chichen-Itza was a continuous Maya site influenced by association with the Toltecs, but not by invasion.
The city itself occupies four square miles, with its recognizable pyramid, El Castillo. Something to keep in mind when you look at the pictures is that El Castillo was built with the Mayan calendar in mind. There are 364 stairs plus a platform to equal 365 (days of the year), there are 52 panels on each side (which represent the 52-year cycle of the Maya calendar), and there are nine terraces on each side of the stairways (for a total of 18 terraces, which represents the 18-month Maya solar calendar). If this is not proof enough of the mathematical precision of this temple, visitors are asked to come on the spring or the fall equinox (March 21 or September 21, between 3 and 5 p.m.). On those days, the seven stairs of the northern stairway and the serpent-head carving at the base are touched with sunlight and become a "serpent" formed by the play of the light and shadow. This serpent appears to descend into the earth as the sun hits each stair from the top, ending with the serpent head.
Another noteworthy and thought provoking building is the El Caracol or the El Observatorio. Does not this structure look very similar to how our observatories are designed today? Keep in mind, this structure was built sometime around 900 A.D. Also, Chichen-Itza is known for its Market and its Plaza del Grupo de las Mil Columnas (thousand columns). These columns are perfectly aligned and you are hard pressed to find a stagger or any deviation in the placement of the columns. Remember, the Itzaes did not have a laser or other similar guide to keep a straight line. What they used (other then their sight or a rope) is unknown.
We stayed in Puerto Morelos, just south of Cancun. Dan and Pat (the
couple we met near Nautla and that were moving here from Vancouver, Washington)
were expected to arrive at any time so while we waited, we decided to take in a
local dive, unique to this area.
Another noteworthy aspect of diving a cenote is the mix of fresh water and salt water. The fresh water, being less viscous, sits on top of the salt water. Had our dive master not instructed us about the blurring effect on our vision when you swim through the disturbed portion where the fresh and salt waters meet, I would have immediately thought my mask had fogged up. But, with a small adjustment of swimming above, below or to the side of the displaced intersection of water, the blurring ceases and the visibility is once again 100' or more. The best way I can describe what the water looks like when fresh and salt water are disturbed is like swirling oil and water together.