May 25, 2006

Tropical air, Mayan architecture, spicy sausage.

"We're in Mexico. Nothing makes sense."

So said the pouty, tall, 20+ brunette behind us in response to her mother's frustration with the speed of the Customs line.

I almost turned around and asked her what, if anything at her age, she had experienced as background or basis for this blanket dismissal of an entire country. But then I realized that I was tired, she was bitchy, and it wasn't worth it. I recounted the exchange to my wife, who replied "Those are the people we plan to get away from." As usual, she was right.

We arrived in Cancun two days ago in a torrential downpour. One of those heavy, warm tropical rains with huge, soft droplets coming down in sheets. The streets flooded, naturally, and after waiting calmly in the local bus station (we'd sidestepped the airport tourist scrum and taken the local shuttle), we hopscotched and waded our way to a nearby hotel to spend the night. Four amazing tacos later, I fell asleep.

Wednesday we got up early and took a local bus to Valladolid, a smallish town near the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza. The local or second class busses are great. With anthopoligical precision, our bus driver deduced I was from the US (What was it? The lack of Spanish? Pale skin?) and proceeded to tell us he spoke English and French. Actually, he spoke about three phrases in each, but it was enough to laugh a little and start the trip off right.

It's hard to describe the tropical air. "Heavy" is close, but it's also soft, none of the hard edges of dry heat. Even though I miss feeling completely dry, the humidity just makes things so much more relaxed. As we cruised through the outskirts of Cancun, I could see the weather's influence on the way of life--a kind of benevolent disorder mixed with a public life lived on the sidewalk. Businesses front (sp) the street. You hang out in front of them to take care of your transaction, because, I guess, it's never cold, only wet, and only then for a short while.

As we cruised along, warm, moist wind streaming through the windows, I noticed a to-go beer stand complete with bars to keep the drunks out, a frame shop, a pre-school called the "Instituto Rockefeller", a plastic bag store and a roadside supplement stand touting increased sexual energy pills. Every six blocks or so, we'd pull over to pick up a few more passengers, and our driver would ask them their destination and then calculate some sort of tarif. One very poor-looking mother/daughter couple got by with just a few pesos. One very stinky "road hard, put away wet" looking guy didn't have the complete fare, so the driver tossed in the difference.

The langor or torpor got to me and I dozed off as we bumped our way through several small towns, always picking up and dropping off. Three hours later we arrived at Valladolid, where our driver dropped us off with a "Nice to meet you." A world of difference from even our srubby section of Cancun. The Spanish built this town, so the core is full of small one-way streets and buildings of all colors pushing their way on to the single-file sidewalks. Music coming from everywhere, short, stocky locals eating, laughing, talking and conducting business. Although the local stores lack in variety and creativity, they sure are numerous. Hard to imagine the local populace can sustain so many. But I guess they do.

Valladolid is "away from there". It's far more unAmerican than Sayulita, the Pacific-side surf town we love so much. Compared to Valladolid, Sayulita is Gringoville. Which neither good or bad. But a nice change for us.

Anyway, we've had some decent meals and enjoyed walking around this little, peppy town. Today we also went to a less visited but impressive set of Mayan ruins called Ek-Balaam, a description of which I'll save for another day. I'll probably sample some more of the local, cinnamon flavored sausgage tonight, then we're off to Chitchen Itza tomorrow. After that, Merida.


GMR said...

I only know one other person who has been to Chitchen Itza, and, you guessed it, it's Henry. Of course.

Anonymous said...

I have been to Chitchen Itza (sp?) and loved it-read up on the history and calendar aspects of the big temple-it's pretty amazing. I recall reading that the city below ran deep with blood when they were sacraficing at top speed to ward off the incoming Spanish. Yikes.

Have a great time. re: dismissing Mexico-to each his own...