Travels in the Yucatan II

Before I left on this jungle jaunt, more than a few folks mentioned the name of Chichen Itza, the sprawling, epic complex of Mayan ruins that are now world famous and world renowned, so much so that the site was recently named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. I acknowledged that Itza was indeed on our itinerary, and was looking forward to having some kind of moody, meaningful experience there.

We were warned to get there early in the day, before the buses from Cancun, Merida and probably Brownsville began to roll in. Sounded ominous to our quartet of junior misanthropes. Those warnings were, alas, right on. For Itza, with all its fame and splendor, has now become the Disney World of Mayan Mexico. For those of you who had powerful, substantial moments at the place 20 and 30 years ago, savor your memories, because they’re not so easily acquired here in the new millenium. In fact, if those ancient Mayan priests have any real juju going for them, they’ll begin their much-anticipated Apocalypse of 2012 with a few lightning bolts that vaporize the taco/trinket stand that sits in the moody, meaningful shadow of the Great Pyramid itself.

It’s not that Chichen Itza isn’t awesome, impressive and epic. You don’t get to be a Modern Wonder, after all, by being mediocre in the crumbling ruin department. It’s just that, like Lake Tahoe, us oily little turistas are loving the place a bit too much for its own good. This is what happens when the word gets out and a place gets stamped as “Must See.” The busloads roll in. The tickets get sold. The soda/beer gets pounded. The Mayan craft dealers, bless ’em, show up by the hundreds. Literally. And my lasting memory of Chichen Itza becomes not one of silent majesty or profound ancient vibration, but of haggling with a vendor for my really cool batik Mayan T-shirt, which I’ll be wearing to every Reno Aces game I attend this summer.

So to have the modern quality experience at Itza, don’t expect much in the way of deep personal whatever. Instead, buy a ticket to the big April 3 Elton John concert. For real! Sir Elton, set up in front of the Pyramid itself. Tickets ranging from 10,000 to 1,000 pesos (800 to 80 bucks). Travel packages available, where you can leave Reno at 6am on the 2nd, be in Cancun by 4 p.m., spend the night with your S.O. enjoying the moody, meaningful complexities of a tequila-soaked wet T-shirt contest at Senor Frog’s, and be on the bus the next day to see Elton sing . That’s just the way Chichen Itza rolls these days. And, truth be told, it’ll be an absolutely awesome setting for such a show.

Elton is not expected to have his beating heart carved out onstage by descendants of Mayan priests following his second encore. No matter how poorly performed it may be.