As far as adventures go this one was a misadventure. Don’t get me wrong, my dear reader, Mexico is beautiful. Here is a snorkeling video which may portray Mexico in a somewhat happy light. There I do a backflip from the diving platform at the sinkhole of the Ik-Kil provincial park. Was it scary? Yes, yes it was. Did I hurt my balls? Yes, yes I did.
Anyways here is the full story with all the gory details, in case anyone cares what I really think of this paradise.
This trip was going to be my salvation. I was excited for it like nothing else. I was looking forward to it like nothing else. All my life I read books about the Mayan pyramids and monuments and the secrets locked within that no one could decipher. I had to see them for myself. I had to climb the Kukulkan. I had to! Oh my god, I couldn’t wait. I wrote a short story not many years prior to this trip that went something like this:
“‘Excuse me,’ said the tourist, ‘Aren’t we going to climb this pyramid?’ The tour guide looked at him a moment and then smiled and said ‘No, it is forbidden.’ ‘But… Listen!’ exclaimed the tourist, ‘I have dreamt of this moment all my life! You aren’t really going to deny me my fulfillment of my dream are you? This could very well be the last time in my life that I am here!’ The tour guide called over a guard and they exchanged some words in Spanish. Then he turned to the tourist. ‘I am sorry sir, but entrance into this particular pyramid is forbidden and is persecuted by law.’ The tourist looked up at the pyramid and its 150 steps and the entrance of the temple at the top with its 3 columns and darkness beyond which great mystery awaited. And suddenly he was overcome with madness. With a yell he pushed the tourguide out of the way and began climbing the steep staircase.”
Similarities of this story and what actually happened amaze me to this day.
When our chartered plane that turned out to be late by 5 hours landed and we got into our bus we waited for about an hour more. The bus then passed point A (our hotel) and went on a giant detour to drop other passengers off at point B. Then it went to points C, D, E, F, G, and I don’t think I know the rest of the alphabet but eventually it came back to point A (our hotel). Out the window I saw a land that has not been renovated since the 50s. Oh my dear sombrero… The inefficiency of it all outraged me. The desolation just made me sad.
It was past 2 am when we got to the resort check-in desk. We waited for another hour for them to check us in. We were waiting for them to wake up the luggage valet, since in this 5-star hotel the guests were forbidden to carry their own luggage without proper assistance. After a while, a long while, might I add, we told them to forget it and proceeded to our quarters on our own. They stopped us and begged that we wait for the valet to take his sweet time. It was ridiculous, except that, no, it was not. It was normal as we would soon learn. Whenever we ordered a beer, we had to wait a whole hour for them to bring it. If they remembered that is. Mexico! Nuf said.
The beach was awesome. But all the corals were dead. And the fish in the restaurants was overcooked. But all that faded in face of a much worse problem. This 5-star hotel was full of OLD PEOPLE. Youngsters! If you want to have a good time do not go to Valentin Imperial 5 star hotel in Riviera Maya. Go to some cheapo 3-star hotel in Cancun or Playa del Carmen. I lamented about Curacao.
On the third day we went to the pyramids. Chichen Itza! It was hot. Most mexicans were wearing jean jackets and seemed to be freezing. The tour guide recounted all the horrors of Mayan history. I will let somebody else comment on eradication of the Mayan gene pool over the centuries of murder and sacrifice. The sight of today’s Mayans has to be seen to be believed. And be lamented about. The great monuments that defy space and time (and maybe even gravity) turned out to be not so great. In fact they were just stones piled up together. Sure the triangles of light and shadow might form a giant snake on the side of Kukulkan on summer solstice but considering the head of the snake is carved from stone at the base of the monument and its body is just the pyramid’s corner the whole sight is hardly the logo of Mortal Combat I imagined to appear smack dab on the front staircase. You oversold it Graham Hancock, you Indiana Jones wanna-be son of a bitch!
I asked if I could climb the pyramid. I did. Honest to god. The tour guide said no. Just like in the friggin story. I asked him if it were persecuted by law. He called over a guard and they exchanged some words in Spanish. He then gave me this weird look. And I looked up at the pyramid and I saw the three doorways concealing great secrets and mystery beyond… But I did not knock anyone over. Nope, nope, nope. I knew that was it, the moment I yell and charge the staircase. But no. I guess the madness that should have taken me over was suppressed by the heat of that day.
We were given an infinite amount of time of about a half-hour to explore the ruins of Chichen Itza. The most interesting place was the colonnade. Everywhere else was forbidden. And persecuted by law…
Then the tour bus took us to Tulum. For those who don’t know Tulum, it is that beautiful romantic Mayan temple on the seashore they show in all the brochures. It was featured in Rodriguez-Tarantino double feature film Grindhouse – Planet Terror. At the end of Planet Terror Tulum is where the survivors go to defend themselves against all the zombies. I enjoyed being in Tulum way more than that grindhouse, Chichen Itza… Chicken Pizza! Here is the clip for anyone interested. SPOILER ALERT!
I did a backflip from the diving platform at the sinkhole of the Ik-Kil provincial park. You can see it in the video. Ik-Kil with its bottomless sinkhole of clear blue water is by far my favourite place in Mexico to this day. It was too much fun. Then we went to the Xel-Ha provincial park. I did something very brave and stupid there. As I snorkeled I saw a small cave-like tunnel. So I decided to dive through it and as I did I realized that a human-sized fish was there at the bottom of the tunnel. It was no shark of course but let’s agree it’s somewhat scary to be next to a giant wild animal, especially fish. Needless to say I panicked and began rising. I scratched my back on the cave ceiling and, as I saw no other option, pushed my way back down. The giant fish turned away at that moment and hid under a rock.
“Aaaugh!” I screamed as I resurfaced on the other side of the tunnel. “Let’s not do that again.”
And then the fun ended.
That night my vacation in paradise turned into a nightmare. I woke up in the middle of the night from terrible itching in my legs. The more I scratched it the worse it seemed to get. I looked at my iPod. 4:00 am. Dazed I stumbled into the bathroom. As I rubbed my ankles under the water I realized that they were covered in bumps. My hands began to itch too. I did not have any cream in my suite so I did the next best thing and rubbed my hands with soap. I went back to bed, but my skin covered in soap began to itch even worse. I went back to the bathroom and as I was about to wash it off I noticed a small red-coloured frog sitting on the side of the sink. I remembered about poisonous frogs I read about when I was a kid. What did they call them? Something funny… Oh yes, the tree frogs.
I scrambled around my suite for anything I could use to get the frog out of there. I ended up pulling a toilet paper tube from under the toilet paper and I used it to scoop the frog out of the sink and carry it onto the balcony. Dawn was beginning to break. I looked at the frog. The frog looked at me.
“Did you bite me?” I asked the frog.
It could have been anything. It could have been the frog, the coral I touched in ceiling of that cave while snorkeling, an allergic reaction to the “100% natural” sunscreen they gave us, or the fish I ate the other day, or the sweet granadillas of which I had not a small amount the other day, so sweet they were. Maybe it was the tap water. They told me not to rinse my mouth with it… I didn’t think I did… Did I?
I went back to bed. But I kept itching myself and the more I itched the worse it got. So I tried to lay still. Dear reader! Do you know what it is like when the itch turns into a burning sensation of magnitude so great that needles begin piercing your skin and you begin to shiver involuntarily when the nervous system is overridden by instinctive desire to scratch yourself? At that point laying still is more difficult than anything. And then I forgot about the itch on my feet because an even greater rash appeared on my chest. And then I realized that the itching of the feet was just the tip of the iceberg.
At 7:00 am I knocked on the door of my parents’ suite and asked for a cream. But nothing helped. Creams just made it worse. The cooling gel we bought in the boutique downstairs did not work either. We went to see a doctor at the resort clinic. She had no clue. The most she has seen have been fire coral burns.
“Piss on yourself,” she suggested.
It was my greatest pleasure to pee on myself as that particular point in my life. If anyone were to ask why a young man was lying on the marble floor of his gorgeous 5-star hotel suite covered in urine, all I could say is “Traditional medicine!” Without going into how exactly I did it and what I felt, most of which was nothing anyway, so little did I care, I will go straight to the point and say that peeing on myself did not help to relieve the rash either.
Maybe I was dying. Maybe that is how it happens. You go to the tropics, you catch some weird disease your body is not used to and then you are slowly taken over by the horrible symptoms. What was it? Skin cancer? A form of hepatitis? Some STD? But I didn’t even have sex!
For the remainder of the trip I could not sleep. I spent my nights laying in bed either twitching or itching. I spent my days lying in the pool, under a shade of a big palm tree. Only in the coolness of that pool could I find at least some temporary relief. I also began taking pain killers in hopes of numbing the itchiness. On the 3rd day of wading around I decided to amuse myself by jumping and grabbing the edge of a bridge that spanned across the pool. In this 5-star hotel all the decor was made from raw rustic materials such as, in the case of this wacky old bridge, unpolished logs. Thinking back the whole bridge looked like a big porcupine with splinters sticking out like hair. Of course it was only after a big one went under my 4th fingernail on my left hand that I realized that. I knew getting medical help here was as useless as painfully long. Without a word I ran back to my suite, took my swiss army tweezers…
Dear reader! If you ever pack for a trip and you are thinking which items are needed and which are not, let me give you my number one advice: your first priority should be to have with you at least one pair of those tiny swiss army tweezers! If you pack that when you go on your trip you have my utmost blessing, because, believe me, if you need it, you ain’t gonna need anything as bad. I grabbed onto the small tip of the splinter and on the 5th or 6th try yanked it out.
“FUCK!!!” probably the whole of Mexico heard me scream that when a wave of both excruciating pain in my finger and relief took me at once. And then I began to curse like I’ve never cursed in my life. I was outraged at the way this trip turned out. I was outraged at the people who designed this 5-star hotel, with all their ideas of “cool wildlife” decor, the fake valeur and snobbiness of it all and the way other idiots pointed their fingers at it and exclaimed “oh cool!” I was outraged at the laziness of the Mexican people, their over-the-top outfits and uniforms and the way those did not live up to the undeniably worst service we had ever received. I was outraged at my helplessness in face of an unknown disease that was taking over my body and burned my skin with itchiness that borderlined with pain. I couldn’t sleep. I was angry, tired and, now, empty. I wanted to go home… I began to cry.
Never in my life had I been happier to get on the plane going back. As I sat in the plane seat oozing from the effects of the Mexican antihistamine called Vicnite, a U.S. Benadryl equivalent, I looked upon faces, happy faces, of people that actually had a good time on this trip. And on their faces was ignorance and bliss of a nation that, like the foreign Mexicans, I was destined to never understand. Of course they too would never understand me. But you, dear reader, you and I both know that never again shall I sat my foot in the land called Mexico. That much I swore to myself as I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep for the first time in 4 days.