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Saturday, 31 January 2015

MEXICO - THE IGUANAS

I was looking through the window when I saw a blue circle formed by an atoll in the Caribbean Sea. Ricky and I did not fly to India after all: I had a business trip to Merida, in the Gulf of Mexico and we ended up in the Yucatan Peninsula. The taxi drove us from Cancun International Airport to our hotel in the famous 7-shaped island, connected at each end to the mainland with bridges. The narrow line of land, where the modern beachfront resorts are located, separates the Caribbean Sea from the calm lagoon. The palms, the white sand beaches and intensive colours made of that place a paradise on earth.

The porter carried the luggage to our room and he opened the door to let us in. Ricky and I stood there speechless: the room looked great for the money and next to one of the beds there was an A.C. box and a window with an enchanting view on the clear blue sea. “I’ll sleep there, may I?” Asked Ricky pointing to the bed close to the window. “Sure, I am happy to sleep far from the air conditioning box anyway.” I replied.

We spent the whole afternoon by the beach, where we tried to suppress the tiredness caused by the jet lag and after the magical orange sunset we ate a delicious “fajita de pollo” at the local “Fat Tuesday” restaurant and we had some drinks. It was past midnight when we decided to go home, it was dark and we opted for an unusual shortcut, as we were too tired to walk the long way. We were crossing a green, when we heard a weird noise and we saw the black shape of a reptile that we had never seen before. My friend and I got scared, we run away as fast as we could and as soon as we reached our hotel, we looked at each other and started laughing to tears. “How silly!” I said and I touched my face as I felt the pain of the sunburn. Apparently my half Mediterranean skin wasn’t used to the stronger tropical sun.

Before going to sleep we went the reception to book that very same room again for the last night in Cancun, where we would have returned after a journey through the Yucatan Peninsula. At 1am, we were exhausted and as we touched bed we crashed.

“Psss, Mattia, Mattia… Wake up… Have you heard that noise? Wake up…” Ricky kept on saying in the dark. “Which noise?” I asked half asleep. “I don’t know, I think I heard something and it was not human…” Added Ricky.

We turned the light on but as there was nothing to be seen, we went back to sleep.

“crrrrr… crrrr… crrr…”
“Oh my God! What was that?” My friend and I stood up immediately and turned the light back on.

After looking everywhere in the room without finding the source of that spooky noise, I decided to call the reception and ask for someone to come over. A few minutes later a middle age chubby guy knocked at the door and Ricky let him in. The man had a budge pinched on the top right of his jacket with written: “Animal Protection” and he could not speak fluent Spanish, in fact he spoke some kind of indigenous language, which I could not understand. “Oímos un ruido muy extraño – we heard a very strange noise” I told him in both languages. The Mexican man started looking around but he did not seem to have any luck either. Some five minutes later another “Animal Protection” younger man, who could speak both Spanish and English came to help. It was 3am when our Mexican rescuers decided to abandon us there. “Aquí no hay nada – There is nothing here”. Said the younger of the two. “Please don’t leave us, you have to protect us from that animal!” we begged. “Crrrr… crrr… crrrr…” Added the unidentified creature. “You see!!! There is something!” Concluded happily Ricky and I. It came from the A.C. Box. A green iguana had made its nest for the night there and it was impossible to chase it away, as the box was locked. After half an hour of failed attempts, the Mexican men waved their arms in the air to make us believe the iguana had flown away and they left us alone. Of course the iguana had not flown away, in fact it kept us awake for the whole night and on the day after we were told that iguanas do not fly.

***

On the 12th of April at 10am our bus left Cancun bus station heading to Chichen Itza. We drove a few hours through the jungle, we crossed the border between the Mexican State of Quintana Roo and the State of Yucatan, where we had a short stop in the city of Valladolid and we reached our destination in the late afternoon. We got off the bus some three kilometres away from the ruins, where we saw a small resort with five or six bungalows hidden by the dense vegetation and we decided to spend the night there. Fernando, the owner of the resort, cooked some rice and two delicious tortillas for us and after dinner, he showed us the “cenote”. “The cenote is a sinkhole containing groundwater… The Mayas used this cenote in the Pre-Columbian time… They used to cast the victims of their human sacrifice rites into the hole… Some skeletons were found by Sir Edward Herbert Thompson in 1904” enlightened us Fernando. “Do you want to see the light show at the ruins tonight? I can take you there, if you want…” added Fernando.

At 10pm the Mexican man drove Ricky, a couple of French tourists and me to the ruins of Chichen Itza, “The mouth of the well of the Itza”. The moon and the stars were hidden behind the density of the jungle and we could hear the howling of indigenous animals.

“I will be back to pick you up at 1am.” Said Fernando before driving away.

There were already a few other people at the Mayan ruins. The guardian welcomed us and took us to our seats. A couple of minutes later, the show started and everyone stop talking. I was staring at the Temple of the Warriors, which had turned red through the spectacular special effects, when 2 men walked in front of the light projector and we could see their shadow on the façade of the temple. The show, the jungle, the music and the ruins gave a mysterious atmosphere to the Mayan site, the same place where human sacrifices had taken place a few centuries before.

Ricky pointed at the sky and he showed me eleven triangular lights with a tiny tail. “That must have cost a fortune!” Commented my friend speaking to the guardian, who was sitting next to us. “Those lights? Those aren’t ours …” Replied the old man with a worried face. Seconds later the eleven lights vanished

That night Ricky and I could not sleep, we were not used to the howling of those indigenous wild animals and we were thinking about those unidentified lights in the sky. We asked ourselves if the guardian had lied, or if he had told the truth, in which part of the jungle the source of those lights could have been. The day after we visited the ruins again and we went on top of the pyramid. From up there we had a fantastic view over the site, but it took me about one hour to get down those steep steps with the use of my ass.

***

In the afternoon a 2nd class bus took us to Merida, the capital city of Yucatan, where we were welcomed with torrential rain. The streets were flooded and we could not find any taxi, so we walked our way to the hotel, soaking in the water, which sometimes reached our knees. After dinner we were too tired to go out again, besides on the following day I had my work appointment, which I could not miss. My friend and I went to our room and at around 2am, when the guests of the hotel had finished partying, I closed my eyes.

It was not easy to find the branch of my company in Merida: the streets were numbered, but those numbers did not seem to be always in the correct order. At 10am we found the office and we met Javier, the local engineer. The Mexican employee showed me the equipment, he explained me how the node was connected to the other routers and I took note for my presentation. After two hours Javier offered to take Ricky and me for a sightseeing tour of the colonial district with its car. The Mexican man could only speak Spanish, so I had to translate into English for Ricky, who had also some questions regarding the colonial time in Mexico. I told Javier about the lights we had seen in the sky of Chichen Itza and he told me that a few days before the Mexican Military had seen those lights in the area of Campeche and they were classified as U.F.O. Javier was not a good driver, I was feeling dizzy and I asked him to let us down. “Muchas gracias, Javier!” I thanked him and as soon as he drove away I threw up. “What if they were Martians?” joked Ricky.

***

After leaving Merida, we spent two days in Campeche, the capital of the homonymous state. On my travel guide I had read that the colonial city was founded in the 16th century, as the Conquistadores had built their houses on the pre-existing Mayan city of Canpech. Our hotel was next to the walls, which had protected Campeche from the pirates and the buccaneers. “Iguanas, Mayans, Pirates, Martians… Mexico has surely lots too offer!” I thought smiling. On Monday Ricky and I took a bus back to the Caribbean Sea coast and we reached Playa del Carmen. The fishing town on the Mayan Riviera gave me inspiration to write this book. From Playa del Carmen we took a ferry to the Caribbean island of Cozumel, where we spent the whole day by the beautiful exotic beach and in the evening we visited the town of San Miguel.

The following morning we woke up early, we took a southbound bus and we reached Tulum, the pre-Columbian Mayan site on the coast. After visiting the main temple on the cliff, we went down to the town, where my friend wanted to buy himself a cap. I was looking at some postcards, when I heard a Mayan seller trying to convince Ricky to buy something from him. My friend did not give in the pushy seller and he bought his cap in the shop across the road, provoking the rage of the unsuccessful man. “Why did you buy it from him and not from me?” Shouted the Mayan ending up his sentence with some incomprehensible words, which sounded like a spell. My friend kept on walking and he turned his face from time to time to look at the angry man.

“BAAAANG”

I heard and I saw Ricky lying on the ground unconscious: he had just hit the metal bar of the car park with his nose. “Ricky wake up! Wake up!” I shouted and a few seconds later my friend stood up with a painful swollen nose. A bar keeper gave him some ice wrapped in a dirty piece of cloth, which had probably never been washed and she showed us the way to the bus. Once back in Playa del Carmen, I took Ricky to the hospital, where we waited two or three hours in the Hallway between the kitchen’s, the bathroom’s and the X-ray room’s doors. Eventually at 5pm a doctor visited Ricky, he looked inside his nose with a pair of old fashion nasal forceps, he said: “No está roto – it’s not broken” and he gave him a box of painkillers.


We ended our tour in tiny Isla Mujeres and on Saturday afternoon we went to Cancun International Airport to catch our flight back to the United Kingdom.