20 June 2013

Moises' School of Maya Pickup Lines

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Somewhere out in the jungle, far from Tijuana on the opposite end of Mexico, is the city of Chichen Itza. The fallen capital of the northern Yucatan lowlands, here is where underground rivers dump into a massive sinkhole into which the Maya once hurled human sacrifices. One of the most visited archeological sites in the country and no doubt the most popular in the region, more than 1 million tourists visit annually. (FYI, Mexicans, you get in free on Sundays. So save yourself the 170-something pesos.) Today I am one of those 1 million.

The ride from Tulum took two hours in the rent-a-Tsuru plus time for roadside grilled chicken, rice, tortillas and a communal two liter of Mirinda inside a branch hut that doubled as some Maya family's living room. Eateries like this dot the two-lane highway that runs through the rainforest all the way to the ruins and are where I inhaled the majority of my best meals on this Yucateca tour. I guess that's a given whenever you find tomorrow's food running around out back by the outhouse. It was infinitely superb to the 80 peso cans of beer at the Chichen Itza cafe.

An afternoon downpour sent the tour herds running for the front lobby in their sliced-open trash bags, while I stuck around and thanked the gods for clearing the grounds for allowing me the opportunity to shamelessly wallow in my tendency to turn into Madonna whenever I visit archeological wonders such as this. I want it all for myself. Feels less like Disneyland that way.

Then they sent me Moises, a vendor-guide in a red T-shirt hoodie and North Carolina baseball hat who after giving up on his attempt to sell me enough jaguar figurines to supply each of my purported 19 children back home, launched into an impromptu Maya language lesson. Maybe it'd come in handy when looking for a Maya wife, he said. We got as far as "hello" and "thank you." Then, after telling me the tale of how he rides his bike two hours from his village through the jungle to Chichen Itza every day, he showed me how to clap anywhere near the staircases of the temple of Kulkulcan (above) to send an echo that sounded like a chirping quetzal, the Maya holy bird, into the air. That sort of combo deal, my good sir, is exactly how you earn a 20 peso tip from this gringo.

Afterward, soggy and back in the Tsuru, we stopped in Valladolid for cochinita pibil and corn ice cream in skinny cones. A classic colonial hideaway. Complete with a Domino's.

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