We arrive at Chichen Itza (self-proclaimed world wonder) mid-morning. I know. I read. I’m not new to this whole tourist thing; been doing it for decades. I know that to get the best out of a major attraction you need to be at the entrance when it opens so that you can explore on your own before the hoards arrive.
But a number of factors (not the least of which is that I’m not overly keen on early starts) mean that here we are, mid-morning, fighting our way through crowds of package tourists. Bussed in air-conditioned comfort from the cruise ships and mega-resorts of Cancun, they huddle together like sheep as their pontifical guides herd them around the ancient structures. They stand, wilting in the full sun and obediently clap in unison, delighted when their efforts are returned with a boinging echo. I have to wonder if any of them know that if they clap loudly in an empty car-park/gymnasium/stadium they will get the same result.
The ogling masses almost kill Chichen Itza for me. But not quite. Sure, the thousands of gawping tourists inflict some wounds. And the management, with their cordons that keep you well back from every structure suck much of the life out of the place, but the fatal blow is left to the souvenir touts. Hundreds of metres of pathways throughout the grounds are lined with stall upon stall of identical tat. What was once a pleasant stroll along a jungle path to the sacred cenote now resembles a strip-mall. Incessant cries of “one dollar!” from Mayan-mask wielding touts, and the strangled sounds of wooden ‘jaguar whistles’ fill the air. Any sense of mystery that might have remained (in between bouts of boing-clapping) is completely obliterated.
It’s a shame. Maybe even a disaster. But I am determined to make the best of it and decide that my challenge for the day is to take pictures that make it look like we had the place to ourselves. Lots of patience, clever angles, a little boy who is up for some fun and a teensy bit of photoshop later and I give you…. Chichen Itza. It was awesome! We had the whole place to ourselves! ;)
OK. Not entirely to ourselves. We saw an Iguana :)
Top tip: ARRIVE EARLY!