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per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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Swimming in the sacred well

So, the Captain apparently decided to put the pedal to the metal, because we arrived in Progreso (our port in the Yucatan) only a little behind schedule. We ate breakfast while the Fantasy docked- there were pelicans swooping all around, and the day was grey but not too threatening. The pier at the port is five miles long- the water in this part of the gulf is so shallow that they had to go out that far to allow ships to dock. There was another Carnival ship- the Ecstasy- in port with us... they apparently were following the same itinerary, but with Galveston as their homeport (which means Houston right now, given the hurricane damage).

Because we were running late, everyone on a shore excursion was trying to disembark at once, which meant the line extended up several flights of stairs from the gangway level. Still, we made it off fairly quickly, and found our rendezvous for the tour we were taking- a Maya site called Dzibilchaltun ("The Place with Writing on Flat Stones"). Since ambug666 was along, we had to call it our "muster point"- sorry, Threads in-joke, never mind... mohnkern and ravenrose joined us, and eventually we trooped off to our bus.

I was happy to note a sign for Chixculub after we left Progreso. The Chixculub impact was one of the possible causes for the "K-T" extinction- the so-called "Dinosaur Killer". We were in the crater area for all of our excursion... "Chixculub" means "the tail of the devil" in Maya...

Our tour guide, José, as wacky (I think this is a requirement for tour guides all around the world) but passionate and well-informed. He spoke to us much of the way to the site, describing the local area and giving us a quick rundown on the Maya, their calendar system, etc. For the latter, he used a very cool book as a visual aid- it was laid out like an ancient Mesoamerican book (screenfold rather than signatures), and had a nifty tooled cover. He mentioned that they were available for sale, personalized with the date of our choice in Maya glyphs- I of course ordered one, and chose monsteralice's and my wedding date.

According to José, "Yucatan" means "I don't understand", but this is apparently one of those lovely stories, and not true. He also said that the Maya word pronounced "wish" means "to pee", so he referred to bathrooms as "wishrooms"... something that caught on with monsteralice and I. Also, apparently the Maya word "to fart" is pronounced "kiss"... but the Maya word for "hole" is "hol".

We arrived at the site, and José led us in. We got a quick tour of the sculpture garden of the museum there, and a look at a recreation of a Maya peasant dwelling- the sort of place that the common folk dwelt in back in the Pre-Columbian days, and still had until relatively recently.

Then we headed to the actual archaeological area. The site has a very distinctive building called the "Temple of the Seven Dolls" (from some odd statues discovered there) or the "Temple of the Sun". The latter name is because the equinoctal sunrise shines through the larger door; on the winter solstice, it shines through one small window, and on the summer it shines through the other. This temple is connected by a causeway (called a sacbe or "white road" to the rest of the site. It's not huge or impressive like Copan or Tikal, but it still is very atmospheric. The central plaza has an odd acoustic property- clap your hands, and the echo sounds like many hands clapping- that is shared by many Maya sites.

Then we went to the cenote, or sacred well. This is a sinkhole filled with fresh water- there are no surface streams in the Yucatan, so all water has to be taken from sinkholes or caves. This one is right on the edge of the plaza, and the size of a large swimming pool. It's quite shallow at one end- the Spanish filled it in partially so they could water their horses- but the other end is over 130 feet deep and leads to an underwater cave system that has never been fully explored.

The tour was essentially over at that point, and we had a little free time before we had to get back to the bus. We took a swim in the cenote, of course! The water was wonderful- cool and almost silky-feeling (probably extremely soft because of the limestone caves that it flowed through). It was also amazingly clear- I remember looking down and thinking that the bottom was pebbles... then realized they were boulders and the water was at least 50 feet deep at that point. It was the deepest water I'd ever swum in, which was a distinctly odd sensation. There were lilies and fish and lots of snails sharing the water with us, which was pretty cool, too. Treading water at the deep end, you could shade your eyes and see the light from above disappearing into the caves (I'm going to bring a mask next time, and maybe a snorkel, so I can see more clearly)...

Cooled and refreshed, we dried off and made our way back to the visitors' center. Alas, we had very little time before we had to go back to the bus. I think when we take this cruise again, we will rent a taxi for the day in Progreso and spend a lot more time- we didn't even get to see the museum, or walk down to the Temple of the Sun, or explore any of the other buildings.

On the way back, José encouraged us to take a shuttle bus back down the pier and see a bit of Progreso. Honestly, though, it didn't look very prepossessing, although it’s supposed to have some nice beaches- it's the beach resort town nearest Merida, the local capital. We didn't really have much time before we had to be back on board, so we elected to do a bit of shopping in the stores on the pier instead. I didn't get very much, but I did get to see a local merchant doing an amusing hard sell on mohnkern and ravenrose. ambug666 bought a Coke because he'd heard they made it with real sugar in Mexico, and pronounced it delicious. I tried to get some for monsteralice and I, but alas they were sold out.

We boarded and soon the Fantasy was at sea again. The wind picked up again as soon as we were well away- I nearly lost my boat drink and one of my sandals climbing a companionway near the bow. Oh, and by the way- I've heard it said that you can't tell you're on a ship in the big cruise ships. Maybe under different circumstances, but there was no problem with this on the Fantasy. For much of the cruise, there was this constant, pronounced corkscrew motion. It was very pleasant at night- kind of like being rocked to sleep- but it made progress down the passageways kind of amusing- a drunkard's walk, even if you were sober.

There was only one channel on the TV worth watching- it was a map plot of the ship's position, speed, heading, wind speed (true and relative), etc., all constantly updated. It showed three different map scales, from the globe to local. All it needed was a weather report, and it would have been absolutely riveting. It also showed the apparent wind direction plotted against an outline of the ship... an outline that looked very much like a dildo. ;-)

Dinner was, once again, wonderful- I had pork in jerk sauce, which was very tasty. Around dessert time, they lowered the lights, and the marquee lights in the room started flashing. Then the entire dining room staff came in, dancing to "Hot! Hot! Hot!" with things on their heads- trays of glasses and glitzy stuff, cat ears folded out of towels, a ketchup bottle... insane.

I was really wiped after dinner- barely enough steam for an after-dinner drink (Glenmorangie, this time) and a little schmoozing... ravenrose and I went to look at the stars again, but it was really windy on the bow, so we didn't stay long. Greg A. was apparently running a guerilla LARP on the Lido deck, but I couldn't see much of it... And then it was time for bed.

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Coke with real sugar is sold in the US during Passover. It is kosher. It comes in bottles with yellow caps, as opposed to white caps. It is know by sophistbastard and I as jew coke. It is very tasty with Captain Morgan Private Stock.

Yeah, I was aware of the kosher-for-passover coke... going to have to score some...

I have to admit, I wanna go with you on that archeological tour if you go again. You make it sound like such fun, and I'd be a willing student. ^_^

we have vague plans for 2010- not that site but a different tour entirely... more detail to come when we actually are making plans...

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