glyphDay 3 -- Friday-- Uxmal - Merida - Cancun Airport - Chitchen Itza

This morning we woke up to a beautiful clear day. When we left the room, the tables were set up on the patio for breakfast. We selected a table and sat down to enjoy the morning. The birds were flitting through the patio and chattering. We had a breakfast of fruit, toast and pastries and coffee. After we ate, we finished packing and checked out of our room. Before leaving, we visited the museum shop in an attempt to get a Guayabara shirt for Steve. They had only long sleeve shirts here and Steve's arms are extremely short so he was looking for short sleeve shirts. He bought one anyway but intended to look in Mérida when we got there.

Now we could start on the 80km drive back to Mérida. The day remained beautiful as we drove north through the countryside. At Mérida we easily found our way back to the center of the city and parked the car in the same parking lot. We wandered around the downtown area window shopping. We tried to find a shop called El Alcatraz which specialized in hand crafts from Oaxaca, however there was nothing at the address given in the guidebook. We tried asking at nearby stores. When we found someone who spoke some English in a shoe store, he said that the hand craft store had been closed for a while now. We walked back toward the central part of the city. We found some very large Oaxacan carvings of fish. They were very intriguing but so large that we had second thoughts about carrying them with us. On one of the side streets we found a store selling Guayabara shirts which had many short sleeve shirts. The woman who ran the shop spoke no English but she was extremely helpful. She declared that the size Steve had been given at Uxaml was definitely too large. He was well fit by a smaller size. She found several shirts of different styles that would fit . She had Steve take off his shirt and try them on in the shop whose front was wide open to the street. He chose two of these shirts now felt he was ready to give his talk at the meeting in Cozumal.

It was approaching lunch time now, a bit early for Mexico, but we still had to drive into the Cancún Airport. We decided to try Alberto's Continental Patio which offered a combination of Yucatán and Lebanese food (many Lebanese had emigrated to this area). We had an excellent meal here in an old colonial home a few blocks from the central plaza.

We had to recover our car from the parking lot, saying our final good-bye to the young girl who washed the car. We used our city map to negotiate our way through the one way streets to find a street headed the right direction to get back to the highway to Cancún. We drove east through the city, looking for the right place to turn up and connect with the highway. We finally decided that we passed the critical point and were diverging from the road we wanted to be on. The only thing to do was ask directions. We saw a group of teen age girls who had just gotten out of school. Steve pulled over and I tried in my best pidgin Spanish to ask the way to the highway. They immediately elected a spokesperson, much to her embarassment, while they all giggled just like girls in the U.S. would. We managed to communicate well enough for them to tell us where to turn to find the road. We left laughing and waving to each other. They gave good directions. We found that we were far out in the suburbs of the city and were very near the intersection of the highway and the circumferential highway. We easily joined the highway and were on our way to the Cancún airport.

We stopped off at the Villa Arquelogicas at Chitchén Itzá to check in. Then we continued in to the airport, stopping once at the same shop we had visited before for some cold soda. As we approached Cancún, we carefully noted the route between the highway and the airport so that we would not have to repeat the exercise of yesterday, through downtown Cancún. When we arrived at the airport, we were still early and there were no places to sit to wait for flights. Steve had put on one of his Guayabara shirts and I was wearing my new hat. The guards had to show that they were in control, so they were very picky about just exactly where people could stand (not sit or lean). That is until a very scantily dressed young woman showed up to wait for someone to arrive. Then the guards watched only her. She could sit or lean wherever she wished and they made no objection. But they didn't notice anything that anyone else did either. Finally the flight arrived and people started coming down the hallway. Early in the flow the man that the young woman was waiting for arrived, much to the disappointment of the guards. When they departed the guards returned their attention to controlling the rest of us. Finally Suzan and her son, Ryan, came down the hallway, carrying their luggage. She immediately noticed that we had dressed for the climate. We hurried out of the airport to the car. Now we just had to follow the same route back to the highway and return to Chitchén Itzá.

As we drove west again, Steve and I talked about our day at Uxmal and Mérida. Suddenly Suzan yelled and pointed at the road. A large black snake had crossed the road right in front of us. I just caught sight of its tail disappearing into the high grass. Ryan was disappointed to have missed it. We stopped again at the shop. The owners were beginning to expect us! We picked up some more soda and some potato chips. We also needed to get some gas. There was a gas station here, but we could not find the attendant. Again trying our pidgin Spanish, we were told to just drive over and honk. The attendant would appear. While we took a walk around the area, Steve drove over and did just as he was told. It worked. We looked around and decided to wait for ice cream until later. With the gas tank filled, we then continued on to Chitchén Itzá. Again we saw people pedalling along the highway, carrying big loads, apparently to houses unseen, but not far off the road.

When we arrived at the hotel, Suzan and Ryan checked into their room and freshened up while we waited on the patio. The swimming pool was very tempting to people who had been travelling all day, but we first needed to decide on our plans. Together we decide to spend what remains of the afternoon here, have dinner, and then take in one of the light shows tonight. The only problem is the early show is in Spanish; the late show is English. The decision is to go to the show narrated in Spanish. It is the sights that we want to see anyway. So now it is the swimming pool and drinks by the pool. We relax for the rest of the day, taking in the breezes, the birds and the flowers. We also took a short walk toward the park entrance so that we would know our way in the dark. There were small caves in the limestone exposed along the side of the road. The beginnings of a recycling program were in evidence, with trash barrels, marked for glass and aluminum. We enjoyed a relaxed dinner on the patio and prepared to take in the evening show.

As it began to get dark, we prepared for the show. We started for the entrance. As we gave in our tickets we saw that we would enter through a path that was shaped as an inverted U, with the pathway covered by interwoven branches of trees. This image has been with me for the last several years, ever since I saw a small print of these trees, labelled Chitchén Itzá, in a gallery on Newbury Street in Boston. When I turned away from the ticket taker, I had one of those dé vu moments, when you know that you have been here before. This was not just a "I've seen that already;" It was " I have been here!" The print had had that effect on me when I had held it. There is something about a place as intimate as this when you are expecting a large open area. As an entrance to Chitchén Itzá, this is spectacular. There were small lights along the path through the grove. We made our way carefully over the roots until we suddenly emerged into the open area and began walking toward the lights in the distance. Then we realized that there was an enormous object to our right. Though the night was very dark, there was a huge shadow blocking out the stars on our right. We stopped and stared at the pyramid. Then we moved on toward the light. We managed to make our way to the viewing area and chose a comfortable spot to sit on the grass. Our eyes slowly adjusted to the almost total darkness when looking away from the lights at the projection booth. We could see the pyramid outlined by the stars. We made out the other buildings and people around us.

Then the show started. The pyramids were lit up by beams of colored light. We understood enough Spanish to have some idea of what the announcer was talking about. It was really spectacular. The lights would suddenly switch your attention from one structure to another. Shadows of warriors were projected onto buildings. Meteors streaked across the sky. It was enough to keep adults, not to mention 10-year olds, entranced. When the show ended, we had to refind the path back to the entrance and then to the hotel. Tomorrow we will see the pyramid by daylight. Now we will get some rest. There will be a lot of walking to do tomorrow. When Ryan is in bed, we all sit on the patio for a while longer, adjusting to a the fact that we had nothing that had to get done immediately and that the air temperature was just perfect for sitting outside. Finally we all went to bed.

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© 1995 - Karen M. Strom