Built 1967, 378', 3,250 tons, 29 knots
The Coasties have a great color scheme, don't you think ? In 2014, the 45 year old Gallatin was retired from the USCG and donated to Nigeria, becoming the NNS Okpabana.
The famous Mayan ruins - a small ceremonial platform.
A small pyramid.
While the ancient Egyptians built each pyramid in a single shot, the Mayan's construction technique was generational. Starting with a small platform like the one above, every fifty years or so they would build a new structure over it, completely encasing the old one, usually in a completely different style. Thus, each pyramid has a smaller one inside, which has a smaller one inside, which has a smaller one inside ...
The inner pyramids are often preserved in near-perfect condition - an archaeologist's dream. All of the buildings were brightly painted, and traces of the paint remain in spots. Many seem to have been blood red.
The Indians made many accurate celestial observations, although they had no instruments other than their own eyes.
A building decorated with the hook-nosed mask of the rain god Chaac.
The big pyramid, El Castillo - "The Castle", from the restored good side. Mayan pyramids were not tombs, but ceremonial and religious centers.
The local limestone is quite soft and chalky, which would make it easy to shape and carve, but from a structural point-of-view this material is nearly worthless. I am amazed that the Indians were able to build anything at all out of it, let alone what you see here.
The Mayans never learned to build arched roofs, and because of this most of their buildings, even the largest ones, contain only one or two small rooms.
Another stone platform, with snake-head decorations. Our tour guide ( in the blue hat ) knew the locations of all the ancient Mayan souvenir shops, and made sure we didn't miss any.
The wall of skulls. Nice. Death figured largely in the natives' religion and society.
The Temple of Chaac Mool. Look at that funky sky. ( Digital camera is dying from the heat.)
The ball court. The game was something like a cross between soccer and basketball, except that the winning team was executed after the game. On a good day, so was the losing team. I suspect that no one ever got very good at this game.
A cenote, where you could go swimming ( and buy souvenirs. ) Actually, it was pretty neat. You couldn't swim in the other cenotes.
Looking out from the inside.
For the Culturally-Minded:
We took a direct flight from Cozumel to Chichen Itza, which makes it a half-day trip, and the plane broke down for several hours, just as the concierge at the hotel warned us it would. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of things from the air - don't bet on it. The airport tax is a hefty $44 per head on top of the cost of the flight. They don't tell you about that! There are also all-day bus tours from Playa del Carmen.
The ruins are pretty interesting, but don't go on the solstice ( the first day of Spring ) +/- 1 day - big crowds and everything is roped off. Otherwise, normally you can actually climb up a lot of the monuments at Chichen Itza. The ruins at Tulum are closer, and more picturesque, atop a white cliff overlooking the sea, but Tulum is disappointingly small compared to Chichen Itza. The ruins on the island itself are extremely ruined, from what I have seen of them.
If I were to do it again, I would take the ferry to the mainland, rent a car or jeep in Playa del Carmen, and drive to Chichen Itza and spend two days there. There are nice hotels within walking distance, and with a little guide book and the extra time you could do a lot better than with a hurried tourguide. ( You could tag along with a guided group for a while to get the lay of the land, and then strike out on your own. )
The drive to and from Chichen Itza is long, but it runs up the coast to Cancun along the way, so you could stop there too. The main roads are narrow, but in good repair. Watch out for the local Policias. Playa del Carmen is a nice place to visit in itself - very pretty and much less touristy than Cozumel or Cancun.
Last day diving.
The Regal Empress - what a ship is supposed to look like. Built 1953, 612', 21,909 tons, 17 knots. She was once a trans-Atlantic liner, and was one of the few remaining. Sadly, scrapped in 2009.
Old-time dive gear at the museum of the island, downtown.
The Museum of the Island has a big map of the island with little lights on it, one for each souvenir shop. Ha - just kidding! That many lights wouldn't fit. Seriously, the museum is not very big, but it has lots of interesting displays, and the locals are justifiably proud of it, as they point you from one room to the next. It's a good way to spend a few hours on your last day.
Replica of a native hut.
I thought it was interesting the way the palm fronds were woven into the roof. Alas, once an engineer, always an engineer - it's a lifelong curse.
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