(Posted Jan 30, Piste)-->
It was dusk when we presented our tickets and walked through the turnstile and along the wide tree-lined hard-packed dirt walkway to the outdoor seating area at Chichen Itza. As I exited the walkway onto the large grassy plaza I was momentarily surprised to see the large pyramid to my right, perhaps a hundred yards away. I suppose you could use the cliché, “awe inspiring,” but really mean it. We walked to the plastic chairs set up in long rows, perhaps 200 yards opposite the north side of the pyramid. It was becoming darker but the few clouds in the sky were still visible. The pyramid was lit with multicolored floodlights and its features were still easily identified in the semi-darkness. We were given headsets that would allow us to hear an English translation of the show. The headsets were accompanied by stern warnings not to touch the black knob or we could end up listening in French or German instead of English. The yellow knob we could touch. It was the volume control.
While we waited in our front row center seats under portable lighting, the Maya story began playing in our headsets. The show had not yet begun. I suppose that the purpose of this “preview” was to allow us to familiarize ourselves with the yellow knob and maybe to see how many of us would touch the forbidden black knob and have to ask the attendant for forgiveness and beg to have it changed back to the English translation.
Meanwhile, there were a lot of people coming in and filling the chairs. Somewhat surprisingly, many of these people were teenagers who would take turns standing in front of us (taking advantage of the portable light source) in order to have their friends or family take their pictures with the lighted pyramid in the background. There was a teenage girl who posed in every imaginable position while her girl friend snapped away. A rather large teenage boy came to the front and took his place in front of us. He stood as still as a statue, with a frozen expression, for several minutes. I began to wonder if his friend was having camera trouble or taking hundreds of exposures. I finally realized that the friend was shooting a video, even though there was no movement at all for those several minutes.
At the appointed time, the headphones went silent and all of the lights were turned off. We sat in total darkness for perhaps 15 to 30 seconds. During this period of absolute blackness I just happened to lean my head back and look straight up. What I saw took my breath. That portion of a minute was more beautiful than anything the light show was to offer. The sky was crystal clear and against the black background of the universe it seemed as if I could see every star and planet in the heavens. My immediate thought was that this was part of the show and that somehow the bright and shining stars and planets were being projected into the dark night. But it was no such thing. With no cities within miles of this place there was very little or no light pollution and I was really seeing the heavens, as had the Mayans a thousand years earlier. They were noted astronomers and through their observations of the skies they understood time and developed very accurate calendars and a system of dates, which allowed them to predict the occurrences of the summer, winter, spring, and fall solstices. I was almost sorry when the sound and light show began and brought me back to the present. Then I noticed that the English recording began where it had been stopped when all the lights went out. When the recording finished, 10 or 15 minutes later, it started over from the beginning and went all the way through to the end again. I guess we got our money’s worth.
Tomorrow we would be coming back at 8AM for a guided tour before the expected thousands of tourists would arrive in fleets of buses from Cancun.