Cancun (2004)

Ordering Drinks by Color

The Ceramic Seniors: (front) Jose, Pancho, Pedro, Pablo, Juan, Jesus; (rear) Pancho, Juan, Jesus, Pablo, Pedro, Jose.

January 2004

Icy multi-colored drinks and warm water — that’s all I was looking for in my long weekend in Cancun. I got all that, along with new friends, Mayans living and long dead, and a new understanding of the meaning of “all inclusive” resort.

Chichen Itza’s El Castillo.

New Friends

Delays getting out of New York caused me and about 100 other passengers to miss our connections in Miami. The airline provided hotel, meal, and transfer vouchers, so I soon found myself sitting across the bar in a Holiday Inn from Mike and Cathy from Long Island, who were also Cancun bound.

Colorful Hammocks on offer at a roadside rest stop.

We ended up having dinner together, finding many common interests to discuss and stories to share. We met up in the wee hours of the mourning to catch the first flight on to Cancun the next day, and only finally parted ways after getting our luggage it the airport there. We traded emails, and I hope we’ll keep in touch!

The wall of Skulls — carved replicas of what would have been the real heads of sacrificed ball players.

Mayans (living and long dead)

The meso-American archetype is unmistakable — broad flat forehead, convex nose, small stature, and rich brown skin. They are the people of the Yucatan, and I met my first on this visit as I exited the airport. He was offering taxis, and we quickly negotiated a price to get me to my hotel.

The Eagle devours a human heart.

The next day I rode to Chichen Itza beside a tour guide in training who shared some Mayan vocabulary with me while practicing his English. Pedro, who deals in cattle in his home village over on the western side of the peninsula, was hoping that guiding tourists to Chichen Itza would pay more. He has a wife and two sons to support. He had made the five hour drive from his home to Cancun the previous evening and stayed with his mother-in-law. He was planning to get his own apartment if the tour guide job panned out. We laughed about the stresses of family common to all cultures.

Chichen Itza and the cenote visit included in the tour were a highlight of my trip–far more satisfying than the resort pool and beach.

The next day I took the ferry to Isla Mujeres where I rented a moped. After a self-tour of the national park, I paid a fee to enter a water park where I could snorkel. I was informed by the waterside guardians that I had to wear a lifejacket, which I had declined when I checked in. So I went back and got one, although I was already predisposed to be disappointed by the reef. As I feared, there were too many people who don’t know how to snorkel. Oh well.

Back on the street, I couldn’t get my moped started. Key would not turn. I’m not sure how I finally figured out that mine was the next one over. The fact that I was able to open the little storage compartment with the key had deceived me.

Engine finally engaged, I drove back to the ferry dock and had time for a cold beer and a snack at a cafe next door.

Despite the touristy snorkel stop, I enjoyed the pace and mood on the island far more than resort central in Cancun, and resolved that if I return to the area, I’ll be staying on the island.

I finished off my visit with a dinner in town where I was serenaded by a band and has bananas flambe for dessert. A woman dining alone was a bit of an anomaly in this lover’s “paradise.”

Chac Mool, messenger of the gods, his belly prepared to receive the sacrifice. Chichen Itza is dotted with these figures in various states of decay.
Chac, the big-nosed rain god.
Chac in profile above a serpent.
A cenoté, or sink-hole — one of a thousand dotting the peninsula.
View into the Cenoté.
Local musicians serenade me after dinner at Rosa Mexicano.
Bananas flambe — a delightfully entertaining dessert.