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MEXICO - CHICHEN-ITZA (THE ANCIENT CAPITAL OF YUCATAN)

TEMPLES AND TOMBS AND EL CARACOL

sunny 33 °C
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In 1517 El Conquistador Bernal Diaz de Castillo, who at that time was living in Santiago de Cuba, started his journey in the quest of new lands and Diego Velasquez, the governor of Cuba furnished them three ships. The Captain chosen by them was Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, a rich merchant of Cuba. He and his party discovered the shores of Yucatan, they first landed at Punta de Cotoche (Campeachy) where, after skirmishes with the natives, they captured two Indians and brought them to Havana (Cuba). There they were closely questioned by the governor Diego Velasquez as to whether there were any gold mines in their country. The Mexicans were shown the gold dust which was found in Cuba, and the Indians answered in the affirmative. But this proved to be untrue. (Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Diaz de Castillo-(written by himself) published in 1632.
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The Spaniards had seen Maize fields in Cotoche, the two Indians who were christianised and named Melchor and Julian, were shown the plants of Cassava root, which was grown in Cuba and was called Yuca. Cuban made bread from the Cassava flour. The Indians nodded and assured the governor and the people assembled there that indeed such roots grew in their country too and was called TALE.The Spaniards who were assembled around the governor Velasquez, told him, in the confusion of the sign languages and pronunciation of the words, that the Indians called their country Yucatan. From these two words, Yuca+tale came the name Yucatan. And the name stuck(memoirs of Bernal Diaz). ---
It was Mayas who traversed Mexico and arrived in Yucatan and who started the construction of such beautiful temples and other monuments in Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas and Quintana Roo, which were parts of Yucatan.

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The Spaniards were so astonished at the civilised ways of the Mayans, their stone built houses, cities with wide avenues, markets full of abundant merchandise, their art of making cloth etc, that they named the capital Merida, in memory of the city of the same name in Spain, which also is an archaeological wonder with ruins and remains of Roman architecture. Chichen-Itza ( which means at the mouth of the water well Itza.
Itza was a large city in pre-Colombian days built by Mayans and it is one of the most visited sites of Mexico. In Yucatan much of the population still speak Mayan language but I could not find out what was the original Mayan name for the peninsula.
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The Mayans built their pyramids with stone and the most famous is the Kukulkan pyramid, renamed El Castillo by the Spaniards.The four sides of the Kukulkan pyramid contain 365 steps in total 91 steps per side and the final 365th step on top representing the solar year, 52 panels for each year in the Mayan century as well as each week in the solar year, and 18 terraces (for the 18 months in the religious year). The height of the pyramid is more than 12 meters, and is a monumental representation of the Mayan calendar. -

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Mayan structures in Chichen Itza were built for different purposes, there is the astronomical Observatory El Caracol, the imposing Temple of Warriors, the reclining statue of Chac Mool, a classic Maya sculpture, believed to have served as an altar for sacrifices, and the Nunnery,probably inhabitated by the nobility and the ruling class, with two patios and a Ball game court decorated with reliefs featuring players. There are the remains of El Templo de los Tableros, the name of the building comes from the reliefs carved on the walls of the Colonnade,depicting scenes of people, plants, animals (both real and imaginary) dominated by two warriors.

Then there is the Plataforma de las Tumbas(Platform of the Tombs) the funerary structure, which probably served as a storage for human bones, since bones were also unearthed from other tombs. Most noteworthy features of this structure are the colums that rise up out of the mother rock and sustain a roof and a serpentine frieze which adorns the upper part of the platform. There is a path which connects the Northern path with the observatory "El Caracol", which was built in three stages (Sacbeoob 5&15)which is connected with the Temple of Xtoloc, the main Diety of the Mayans. This temple which is the largest in the centre of Cichhen-Itza, decorated with bass reliefs of birds, animals and mythological scenesand a large container, where archeolgists had found human remains. The temple was used for religious ceremonies.
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The Yucatán Peninsula is a limestone plain, with no rivers or streams. The region is pockmarked with natural sinkholes, called cenotes, which expose the water table to the surface. One of the most impressive of these is the Cenote Sagrado, which is 60 metres (200 ft) in diameter,[54] and sheer cliffs that drop to the water table some 27 metres (89 ft) below.

The Cenote Sagrado was a place of pilgrimage for ancient Maya people who, according to ethnohistoric sources, would conduct sacrifices during times of drought.[54] Archaeological investigations support this as thousands of objects have been removed from the bottom of the cenote, including material such as gold, carved jade, copal, pottery, flint, obsidian, shell, wood, rubber, cloth, as well as skeletons of children and men.

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La Plaza de las Mil Columnas (the Plaza of 1000 columns) with its steam bath building, with inner bathing chambers, waitng rooms with heating stones tell us about the social life of the Mayans, their knowledge, meaning and understanding of the worldly and celestial beings. There are numerous buildings to see at Chichen-Itza. There are dense forests surrounding many sites and the whole area has a mystry about it. A local guide, who was explaining the history of Mayans to a group of french tourists told us that there were many undiscovered temples and pyraminds in that area which had not been discovered yet because of density of the forests. Many local people were sitting and carving wooden statues of their dieties and their workmanship was superb. The wooden statues were beautiful and we also bought one.
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Posted by The Islander 04:55 Archived in Mexico Tagged mountains lakes beaches churches landscape monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)

MEXICO - THE CITY OF MERIDA (THE CAPITAL OF YUCATAN)

THE CULTURAL CAPITAL OF YUCATAN

rain 32 °C
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10/10/2008:

We arrived at Merida airport after ten 0'clock at night, it was raining and the night air was clean and warm. Alex took out the Lonely Planet Guide to see at which hostel we could find accommodation at that late hour.Alex phoned Nómadas Youth Hotel (tlf.924-52-23) and was told that we could come there. We took a taxi and by mistake gave the taxi driver the name of Hostel Zócalo ( mentioned erroneously in LP guide with the same tlf. number 924-52-23).The hostel (Tlf.930-95-62) was in the centre of the city and on arrival we saw a small band of musicians playing in the plaza. In the photo which I took immediately from the window of the hostel, you can see the plaza below.It had stopped raining. We rang the bell and nothing happened, we rang again a few more times, the door opened and a man in a singlet with a sleepy countenance opened the door and wanted to know what we wanted. We told him that we had phoned earlier and had made a reservation. The man said that no one had phoned him. So Alex showed him the LP guide and discovered the error. We had phoned one hostel and came to a different on

The hostel was one the first floor and as we went up, a troupe of cockroaches appeared from nowhere and scurried about. We went up and the receptionist showed us a room with two beds, with sharing toilet and bath outside. The room overlooked the plaza down, and the walls were full of graffiti. The beds were sagging, it was stuffy and hot and street noise was loud. The man told us that in the morning we could change the room. So after nine hours' journey we got a room where sleep was impossible. In the photo I have posted, and which I took from our room, you can see the plaza and the cathedral in the background.

Early in the morning we heard loud bangs and voices outside our room and opening the door, found many other travellers, preparing and eating breakfast. There was a long table in the middle of the hall, with a small kitchen in the corner, dirty cutlery, plates, cups and saucers piled up in the sink. which turned my stomach. I went to the W.C and found three cubicles with broken plastic doors. When I came back to our room, a young woman appeared at the door and told us that we could change the room later. She was the manageress/owner. I asked her as to how it was possible that the room was full of graffiti, shower and W.C door broken and the place so dirty? She arrogantly told me that it was the backpackers who had wrecked the doors. I told her that we would not stay and will look for another lodging. She told us that we could leave our backpacks in a room and collect them later.

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We showered and without eating any breakfast went out to have a look at the city centre El Zócalo and to find another hotel or hostel. The Plaza Grande and its park, with benches to sit down under the shade of tall trees, was wonderful and we had our breakfast at an open air cafe in front of the park. The streets were lined with shops. So we strolled down the streets and after giving a round, found a hostel( I have not written down the name), owners of which were Spanish. The place was neat and had an interior garden in the patio and rooms on the ground and first floor. So we took a room, went back to Hostel El Zocalo to collect our backpacks. The young woman told us that we will have to pay 60 pesos for the storage of our packs.

We found Merida a very cosmopolitan city, streets were narrow but the plazas broad, el Plaza Grande, in the centre of busy streets and the hustle & bustle of the city, shaded by tall trees and benches to sit on. Los Meridianos, like Madrileños take their paseos (strolls) there. In all cities constructed by the colonial Spaniards, the Plaza is its main centre, beautifully planted with trees and its promenade where people gather in the evenings to listen to municipal band playing the Serenata. Such practise still exists in many Spanish cities and towns.

When Spaniards first settled in the main cities of the colonial America, the neighbourhoods of the elite, the ruling class, were in separate areas of the cities, so that those ill-smelling pulque saturated labour class peons or Indians could not rub shoulders with the noble class. Even in the plazas the gentry with the town officials sat on one side of the park whereas the ordinary people were gathered on the other side. This I personally know from living in Spain, although I have never seen any segregation of classes in Spanish society. You will find a gardener, a mason or a labourer rubbing shoulders with the mayor, the judge or a lawyer in the local bar, playing a game of cards or dominoes, in their leisure time, without any class distinction.

In the evenings you will find well dressed señoritas, chaperoned by their sisters or elderly women, promenading, with their endless chatter, followed by young boys, the young men doing their military service, trying to draw the attention of the girls who seem to be attracted to them, laughing, flirting and enjoying the life which only Spanish know how to do.

Mexicans are known for their love of music and in Merida in the evening, when we came to sit in the park, a band was playing and some older couples were dancing. El Paseo de Montejo, the wide avenue full of shops and restaurants is the main throb of the city and at night some night clubs and one or two discos were open, their garish neon lights attracting the passersby. We found it very pleasant city indeed.

Posted by The Islander 09:53 Archived in Mexico Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises mountains beaches churches monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)

MEXICO - PUERTO ESCONDIDO -5. RAIN STORM AND RESTLESS NIGHT

We say Adios (GoodBye)

rain 34 °C
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08/10/2008:


I could not sleep during the night, there was a strong breeze and noise which I could not fathom, so I got up and came out on the balcony. The sky was alight with thuder, dark clouds streaked with violet spread out in the sky and over the treetops I could see the sun rays trying to burst through. So it must have been dawn breaking. As I was looking at the sea, it started to rain, thunder clasping its hands at the joyful downpour. Further sleep was out of the question, so I went in and cleaned my teeth, shaved, showeredDSC05358

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and put on a fresh shirt and shorts.

Alex was up when I got ready so I went and bought fresh mango and orange juice, fresh tomatoes, radishes, and had a nice breakfast with fresh bread, olive oil and fruit juice. Alex just had mango juice. He is again uneasy, says that he does not want to travel, etc, etc. However he has received a SMS message from a friend who is in Cancun and will wait for him until the 16th October. And Alex is looking forward to meet her there.

In the afternoon we again went to the Muncipal market and a hearty lunch of grilled fish and prawns, calde de camarones, salad, rice and guacamole.

A very good meal indeed. And came back to the hotel to have a siesta as the day, after the rain, is very hot. It was our plan to continue our travel by bus, however, Alex says it wil take eleven hours to reach Merida, so he has gone to book seats on the plane. We go back to Mexico city and from there fly to Merida. We leave tomarrow at 15hrs, have a four hours stopover at Mexico city and reach Merida at 22hrs. Can't say if travelling by plane will take less time than the bus.

Our original plan was to continue our journey west, visiting Las Lagunas de Chacahua in the National Park, stay a day or two at Puerto Angel, lie down and take it easy at Zipolite beach, where swimming is dangerous and surfing is committing suicide. We are told that food is good there and even vegetarian food is available. And then on to San Augustinillo, where not only the surfing is good but swimming too.But our plans are now changed.

In the evening Alex wanted to go out and see who was hanging out, instead decided to stroll together with me. So as soon as it was dark and felt a little cooler but was not, we went out. The street was empty and so were the restaurants. We came to a place where loud music was being played, the drinks were 2x1free. We ordered mojitos, the waitress brought two small glasses which were just water, ice and a few mint leaves hanging on the rims. No rum. On our complaing, she took our glasses and brought them back with a little rum (there was no rum) and the liquid tasted awful. We paid 100 pesos and left the place, mojito untouched, and returned to the hotel.

09/10/2008: The night was very hot, only after 2 O'clock a cool breeze started and we could sleep a little. Alex has gone to supermarket CHE to buy fesh bread and some fruit, as it wil be along day. After four days' stay at Puerto Escondido, we are on the move again.

We are now at the airport which is modern, has a nice bar and restaurant. It is raining but hot outside and many soldiers and local police are patrolling the area. I asked a security guard if carrying a bottle of olive oil on board was permitted, he said their only concern was terrorists carrying dynamite on board.

Posted by The Islander 09:36 Archived in Mexico Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches churches buildings planes landscape bus monuments backpacking air-travel Comments (0)

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