Don’t go to Chichen Itza…you can’t walk up the Pyramid anymore…it’s crowded with locals selling junk…it’s hot and there’s no cover…blah blah blah. Of course I ignored all of that and joined the masses in a pilgrimage to the ruins of this member of both UNESCO and new member of the 2007 New Seven Wonders of the World group.
Unfortunately it’s not all rainbows and unicorns for this site and any others as individual members struggle to manage the sudden popularity of the location. The motivation for most who want to be on such lists is not just for recognition but the gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s money first, then comes physical impact and unanticipated events like accident injuries and death, and then what they need to close off to protect both visitors and physical structures afterwards.
The huge increase in money flow, via grants and admission prices, does help preserve and rebuild. The peripheral things like pollution and change in the landscape (like increase surrounding infrastructure) will do a lot of damage to an area that has remained untouched in centuries. So basically, being on these lists can also be counter productive if the site is poorly managed.
Chichen-Itza popularity has made it a “must see” for large groups for passengers needing to take a break from slot machines and work off calories inhaled from all you can eat buffet. The decision to close the stairway of the main Pyramid or El Castillo’s became final in March 2006 after an 80-year-old free style cruising woman from San Diego tragically fell to her death on January 4, 2006. Many who travelled afterwards were disappointed and surprised that the officials would do something so extreme and close it off to everyone, but these things and others happen when the masses arrive with their check lists.
The day I decided to check out the treasures of Chichen Itza was not a typical or ideal day weather-wise to see the sights. There must have been a goat sacrificed to the Rain God Chac the day before because it was a little messy but still walkable. The forecast for the day called for light rain and clouds. This lengthen my window to check out the ruins since I didn’t have to worry as much about sun exposure. I’m a bit on the pale side which is expected from someone whose been living in the cold winter shadows of the Northeast. The weather seemed to keep the visitor numbers down, so capturing the sites on film or SD card was not difficult. Disappoint was only felt by the numerous souvenir totting vendors. All the sudden everything was a dollar. Vendors clamored to get whatever peso they could get from the brave garbage bag covered gringos. Good for me and bad for them as they tried to keep the goods dry and looking like new after each downpour.
The crowds seemed to be mostly traveling in packs so taking pictures only involved having to place myself strategically in-between groups. The site was peaceful and all that could be heard were the sounds of an approaching downpours and various vendors displaying their ability to make jaguar sounds with some sort of wooden whistle. Probably costs a dollar for one. I feel for the parent who was pestered into buying one for their child whose fast becoming bored and missing their Ipad, and for those within ear shot of that family back at the ship/resort.
Chichen Itza is well worth the trip especially when you combine it with some R&R on the beach in Tulum. The area is very safe since the Yucatan providence is one of the wealthiest in Mexico. Another attractive quality Mexico has right now is that the USD seems to get you far. Don’t mind the media who has seemed to make other travelers abandon their plans because of the increase of violent crime . It’s always best to just read up on travel advisories before booking, use common sense (Luna Blue’s article on travel to Playa del Carmen) and be travel savvy. There’s a reason military trucks with machine guns mounted on them all over the roads. They don’t expect to use them but they do provide the feeling of being safe from the scary unknown. It’s no different to what I see in Penn Station or Grand Central on any given day since September 2001. Worse things have happened here in the recent past and people aren’t staying away from NYC.