(posted from Chetamul on Feb 6)
Saturday was a free day so we took a short trip to explore the ruins of the Mayan city of Tulum, about 15 miles south of the RV park. Once again, Richard and Helen won the lottery to see who would have the honor of chauffeuring Carol Ann and me (still no word on our car). Tulum means “sticky waters” (salt water) in Mayan. The main difference between these ruins and those of the other Mayan cities that we have visited on the trip is that Tulum is the only Mayan seaport city discovered so far. The city was built on a cliff overlooking the Caribbean in order to control the maritime commerce along the coast.
Tulum wasn’t as large as the other Mayan cities with an estimated population of 6,000 – 8,000 people, most of who lived outside of the walled city. The ruling class and priests had some pretty nice places inside the walls of the city. As is now, and was then, rank has its privileges. Tulum didn’t rise to prominence until about 1300 AD. This was after most of the large Mayan cities in the south had already been abandoned and the Mayan civilization had begun its decline. Tulum was finally abandoned about 70 years after the Spanish Conquest.
If you were to “Google” Tulum you would probably see a photo of a large stone structure, called the Castillo, sitting atop a cliff overlooking the sea. There is now a wooden stairway leading down the cliff to a really great looking beach that is open to the public. There are also other buildings to explore among the ruins.
During our walking tour of this archeological site we enjoyed about 30 minutes or so of rain (very hard for a few minutes). We tried to shelter ourselves under the large trees but we still got wet. I kept my camera covered with my baseball cap.
After the tourwe met Michel and Ellen at one of the Tulum restaurants for some cold beer and lunch, both of which were excellent. As we were walking back to the parking lot I noticed a group of people dressed in the costumes of Mayan warriors. They were carrying spears and clubs and were covered in body paint and feathers, which presented a rather awesome sight. I pointed my camera in their direction and one of the “Mayans” (a very attractive young lady) ran up to me and asked for $50 pesos for the photo. I told her that $50 pesos was too much so she said, “OK, how about 5 dollars?” I replied that $5 US was more than $50 pesos and she laughed. We agreed on $35 pesos (a little less than $3 US) and I would stand with the group while she used my camera to take a photo. The camera was set for rapid shots so before she knew it she had actually taken about a half dozen pictures for my $35 pesos.
That evening our entire group boarded a tour bus for a trip to Cancun and dinner at a really fun place called Pericos. The restaurant’s motto is “Fiesta forever”. That should tell you something. We were met at the front door and given sombreros to wear (kind of a “tacky tourist” thing but it turned out to be fun). After we had our sombreros on and were being shown to our tables we were each offered a drink. I chose a Tequila Sunrise, which was really good. After the first drink, our waiter delivered all additional drink orders on his head. He would balance the glass or bottle on his head, walk, and even dance, to the table, where he would kneel beside your chair so you could reach your drink. There was a lot of interaction with the wait staff during the almost two and a half hours we were there. There was also a lot of drinking, loud music, and shouting of “Tequila”! All of the waiters had “referee” whistles (on a string around their neck) and blew them often and loudly.
Many in our group were singled out during the evening and made to sit in front of the group. The waiter would place a tin pot on top of your sombrero (read over “your head”), have everyone count loudly “UNO, DOS, TRES,” and then he would bang on the tin pot several times with a stick or club of some sort. Before you knew what was happening there was a shot glass of Tequila at your lips, your head was pulled back, and you either opened your mouth and drank it or had it spilled in your face. After the shot, the waiter again grabbed your head and wiped your mouth (vigorously) with a napkin while simultaneously shaking your head.
Others in our group were chosen, armed with fake rifles, and made to march around while the drill sergeant (our waiter) shouted commands (in Spanish). No one knew whether to left face, right face, about face, forward march, or stand at attention. The waiter shouted, blew his whistle, and slapped those that screwed up (everybody) with a rolled up newspaper.
Dance lessons were also given to those lucky enough to be selected from the group. The rhythm was Latin and there was a lot of hip shaking, clapping, and more shouts of “Tequila!”
Several of the men who were not blessed with a full head of hair were made to wear some really bad looking wigs. I escaped because I still have a little fuzz on top.
In short, there was a lot of noise, laughter, music, dancing, fun, and, did I mention? Drinking.