There’s a lot you can read about Chitzen Itza. The pyramid itself is a spectacular tourist draw and the iconic image of the Yucatan Peninsula. So much can be said about the heritage, history, and cultural impact of this long-lost city. This article isn’t about any of those things. It’s about 4 fools and a quick, off the beaten path adventure.
We rented a car from Adventura Palace early in the AM an quickly ventured off the ranch. Boy do things change when you are no longer on hotel property. The guys with the Uzis don’t care so much about or for your Bracelet of Power.
I’ve already mentioned that the interstates in Mexico are what country roads are in the States. Their country roads are what our jungles would be. If we had jungles.
We drove south past armed checkpoints of the Mexican army checking cars for drug smuggling. Alongside the north south route you can see hotels popping up every so often and then some supporting villages. Actually, villages is too strong a word. Let’s call them dwellings. If that’s where the hotel staff lives, I have no idea how they can be so nice to us the visiting tourists.
Eventually we came to an intersection of sorts and headed due West into the jungle. Zipping by in our rented Jeep you can see breaks in the jungle brush that act as driveways. Sometimes a carton or a plastic jug will be upended on a stick marking the entrance way to a dwelling. Glancing into the jungle dwellings you begin to wonder if you could live like that. Are you tough enough? That reminded me of our Tulum guide’s quip about the Mayan supermarket; it’s the jungle. He related that people living there thought the idea of being so dependent on others for food was insanity. They may have a point.
We headed for the town of Merida, passing kilometers of jungle and more army checkpoints along the way. The road led directly into villages and towns along the way. Giant Topes, or speed bumps ensured you slowed your roll. That affords time for you to see village life as well as time for the villagers to see you and present their goods. These goods are all the same across the entire route. Obviously more expensive at the hotel and at the airport, I imagine there is some factory somewhere that spits these things out and it’s up to the villagers to weave stories about them being hand made.
Reaching Merida, what our guide book lists as a ‘sleepy’ little town, we look around for lunch. The road had simply stopped and turned into a mini city full of one-way roads, houses, shops, schools and mess of one-way streets. We had some confusion as a jeep of armed…were they militia? the welcoming committee? army? …. we didn’t know… started to follow us. They followed us up one way streets, down others. That ended any inclination to explore ‘sleepy little Merida.’ We eventually lost them, or they lost interest in us and we continued on to Chitzen Itza.