We went on a short vacation to Cancun. The husband is in charge of booking trips. He is the planner. I am the slacker. Give the husband a task like planning a vacation, and he bustles about most impressively (on the couch of course). In true form, he booked a lovely place to stay, surprised his daughter with a day with dolphins, and booked a van to spend the day with the ancient Mayans at the pyramid at Chichen Itza. All in all it turned out to be a marvelous vacation with novel experiences.
The drive to Chichen Itza is a good three hours from Cancun, and we settled down with books, games, snacks, and water to keep us occupied on the journey.
The husband was chatting amiably with the van driver, while we pulled out our books to read. Up in the front, the conversation was flourishing, if somewhat one-sided. The van driver liked his audience, and his theories grew wilder, and his stories more grandiose.
The scenery outside was rustic. We were passing village after village tucked away in the Yucatan province. Outside the opulence of the tourist city of Cancun was where we got a peek into the real Mexico. Small brick buildings, children in slippers and shorts, palm trees, livestock, dogs. The rising heat was already setting the tone for the rest of the day. The talk inside the van turned to regional flora and fauna. I asked about tropical birds, and he assured me that they were plenty and marvelous.
‘Have you heard the cry of the Jaguar?’, he said.
‘No! Indeed!’, we cried.
The van driver then went on to explain. ‘Well….what is most impressive about those ancient Mayans is that if you clap your hands at the foot of the pyramid, you will hear the Jaguar cry from within the pyramid. Jaguars are sacred animals to the Mayans. You’ll hear all from the guide no doubt’.
The toddler was impressed. ‘Could I really clap like this, and jaguars will come?’ he asked clapping his hands and blinking his eyes at the same time.
The guide at Chichen Itza, told us about the ancient agrarian economy, and how the ruling class were probably mathematicians and scholars, and not wizards like the peasant class believed at the time. There was an impressive sort of buildup to the clap-echo section: the children even scoured the bushes for hidden jaguars.
When it came to the clapping section, the guide’s CLAP reverberated through the pyramid. It just goes to prove that practice makes a world of difference – our claps were like birds rustling leaves compared to the thunder-shots that rang through when he clapped. That guide clapped for a living and it showed.
It was lovely to stand there in the heat under a perfectly blue sky with lazy clouds flitting here and there, and listen to the chirruping sound that emanates. For some reason, I thought the Jaguar ’s cry would sound like a roar or even a grumble – piteous, scary or ominous, but I was not prepared for it sound like a bird call.
The call we heard, the guide told us, was the sound of the elusive Quetzal bird.
The toddler was disappointed: maybe he expected a Jaguar to come out from the pyramid’s top. A bird flying out was not half as impressive as a Jaguar leaping out, but finally neither came out. We showed him an iguana sunning himself nearby, to which he gave us a look that made his teen sister proud and drooped away to the shade.
Moments later, he philosophically resigned himself to treating life’s disappointments with ice-cream. Jaguars and quetzals could cry or fly, but they didn’t get ice-cream and he did. That was all that mattered.
Coming up next: The Van Driver’s Theory Blasting Evolution to Pieces.