Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Akil 3

As you read the first two parts of this saga, I am sure you all have had as much trouble with the names of Mexican cities as I do! I checked with Juan last night and verified that we did visit the Cenote prior to lunch in Peto. It is so easy to get confused as to where things are actually located. Therefore, I have to backtrack a little.

We had already put the top up on the Jeep because the ladies had complained of the blazing heat from the sun. I had warned them, but it was a lesson they had to learn for themselves. We drove on and as we got further into the state of Yucatan, the sky began to change. We could see rain clouds ahead and knew that we would hit it eventually. I mentally groaned because I knew we didn’t have all the windows with us. Nothing to do but continue on and hope for the best. I asked the ladies if they wanted out and they didn’t. So on we drove until we saw the entrance to Cenote Keken. This is located very near the city of Valledolid.

As we pulled into the entrance, we were met by a flock of screaming, running children. They were everywhere and it was difficult to make any forward progress. They were grabbing onto the sides of the Jeep and the rack in back, shouting stuff in Spanish at us. I expected Maria to reply to them, but not a word was forthcoming from her mouth. I discovered later that she was way too dignified to converse with the trashy, poor children of this place. She, along with Lupe and Lizzie, totally ignored them. (my first close up encounter of perceived class differences and internal prejudices here) It was up to me to deal with them and to yell at them to get off my Jeep. B was not much help either. I think he was totally amazed at the behavior and stunned by it. I had encountered it many times before. Especially when Jaimie and I pulled into the parking lot at the ruins of Tajin in the state of Veracruz. So I gingerly made my way to the parking area and gently pushed children aside so that I could open my door. B and crew unloaded as best they could from the passenger side. They were all shouting to watch the Jeep for us, trying to sell anything they had, including baby Marmosets and holding out USA quarters asking for change. As B and I struggled to put the windows in that we had brought, the skies opened up. Everyone but us and several of the children dashed for cover. We were drenched to the skin in less than 15 seconds. I hired a boy to watch the Jeep for us, with the promise of pesos when we returned. B and I headed for the relative safety of the ticket seller office where everyone was gathered. We purchased tickets to enter the cenote, but had to wait until the rain let up before we could enter.

The entrance descended from the parking lot along a now muddy and slippery path. We carefully picked our way along the path, grabbing onto tree branches or whatever we could for support. The last thing I wanted to do was fall and re-injure my back. The path took a sharp turn to the right and we encountered a set of equally slippery stairs leading down into a large black hole. It was more like a vast cave entrance than anything else. The family rushed on ahead and B and I picked our way down as best we could. B had not even wanted to go into the cenote for fear it was going to be small. He has a bit of claustrophobia. As I picked my way down the stairs, I could hear him whimpering about tight spaces behind me. After ducking a few overhangs, we were able to stand up and view a totally incredible sight.

photo found on the web with no indication of copyright.

There before us was a vast inland lake, lit from above by the sunlight streaming in from a hole in the ceiling. Stalactites hung from the ceiling and dripped water into the pool and along the floor, adding to an already slippery condition. The front part of the pool had been roped off and people were swimming and playing in it. No way I would have gotten into that water. I can just imagine how deep it probably was and it was cold as ice, only having the sun shine on it for a few hours each day. Everybody posed for pictures and marveled at the rock formations and then we headed back up and out. Climbing out was no easier than the descent had been. Upon reaching the top where the stairs again turned to the path, it started to rain again. What a mess. Slippery red clay sticking to shoes, making walking a near impossibility.

We were quite tired of the rain by this point. But we made our way back up to the parking area and visited the souvenir shops lining it. I bought three wall plaques depicting different Mayan gods. I should have waited and let Maria buy them for me. I paid twice the price he quoted her when she asked. We find that a lot here. One price for the Mexicans, a different, more expensive price for the tourists and white people. (That’s what they call us)

I paid my Jeep watcher a whopping 10 pesos (about 90 cents) and B and I got in the Jeep under cover while we waited for the girls to finish shopping. As we waited, just like mosquitoes, the children descended on us again. I was eating the last of the cookies I had made for the trip so I shared them with the many outstretched hands sticking in my face. I don’t think they had any idea of what it was I was giving them. They watched me take a bite and tore into theirs. The look on their faces was incredible. I laughed out loud because I had been expecting it. Way too much sugar for them but they all politely swallowed the bite they had taken but did not take another! I think they eventually found their way to the multitude of dogs hanging about. Whimpers and pleas of “Give me money” surrounded us and we tried to ignore them. One just can’t start giving these children money or all hell will break out. Besides, I try not to encourage begging.

The family finally appeared and Juan said something in very gruff Spanish and the children scattered away from his car. He backed out and started out of the parking lot. I, in the meantime, was left to still deal with the children around the Jeep. They just would not go away. I put it in reverse and, with B extorting me not to hit any kids, I slowly started backing up. Of course, they moved, but they continued to run along side of us, asking for money and who knows what else.

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