Geek Cruise - Linux Lunacy 2 - Day 3 - Cozumel, Tulum

[Cozumel Island]

The ship arrived at Cozumel Island early, about 6:30am. We were up and had an early breakfast and got ready for our first shore excursion. We were berthed just off Cozumel Island. Our first step was to get off the ship, walk over to that ferry in the photo, and take a three quarter hour, choppy ferry ride to the mainland and the city of Cozumel.

We got off the ferry in Cozumel, and were organised into groups and we walked to the buses. Each group got a tour guide who led us through the streets. The other tour guides started with happy greetings and loud chatting. Our tour guide was a large dour man, who told us to stay together and follow him, and we did. The streets were run down, the buildings were run down, poles in the street carried open wires up to the street lights, and the wires had been cut and spliced and flapped in the breeze. I couldn't help notice the casual use of electricity.

The bus worked and was clean and somehow, Anne and I got the front seats beside our tour guide. One thing that amused me was a large alarm light at the front of the bus. I could piece out the Spanish sign and if the bus went over 95 kph, the alarm sounded. This was apparently to control the urge to take the bus to 150 kph on roads that wouldn't handle it.

We were heading to Tulum, the ruins of a Mayan walled city. It was a one hour bus trip, but we stopped after 20 minute, ostensibly for a toilet break, but the stop's primary purpose was to deposit us in front of a series of stalls selling tourist junk. Anne and I walked around and bought nothing. When the shopkeepers had had adequate time to pick over us, we boarded the bus again and finished the drive to Tulum.

Tulum is a small village on the coast, near the ruins of a large walled city, also called Tulum. It's a popular tourist spot. It's not too far from two other ruins. Further inland to the north is Chichen Itza, and further north on the coast is Cancun, which is probably better known as a tourist for young people.

[Ticket to enter Tulum]

I looked up Tulum in the National Geographic (bought the cd set recently, and had to find some use for them) and the only mention was a complaint about the buses. Up till the 1990s, buses would park near the ruins, and keep their engines running for the airconditioning. The fumes affect Tulum, especially the frescos which are now dingy grey shadows instead of brightly coloured images of Mayan life.

Our bus parked with dozens of other buses, but I noticed that the engines did get turned off. We strolled through a series of stalls selling stuff for tourists, and then our guide explained the morning. We could either take a short walk down to the ruins, or we could board a small shuttle for a dollar or two. He would take us round and explain stuff, and then let us wander around freely for a while, then we had to be back at the buses in time to get back to the ship. We walked down to the ruins. The foliage was lush and green, and Anne spotted several beautifully coloured birds. It looked a bit swampy and I kept remembering that Gary Jennings' book Aztec. Yes, I knew I was visiting a Mayan ruin, not an Aztec ruin, yet the descriptions of the scenery seemed similar.

Tulum was on the coast and was walled for defense. Only three walls, as the coast was the fourth side of the city. There were ruins of several large buildings. See the map in the photo? The coast is on the right. We went in with the arrows and we came out with the arrows.

[The map of the ruins
  of Tulum]

Once inside the walls of Tulum, our guide stopped us and talked about the city. He gave us a bit of a history of the Mayans. He was Mayan descended and was quite proud of his heritage. He wanted to dispel a lot of myths in a short time, and his talk was quite passionate. The Mayans didn't disappear. They just abandoned their walled cities and settled in little villages around the city and life just continued on. That's our guide in the middle.

[Our guide describes Mayan
history]

The biggest building in the city was called The Castle. That's it in the background. Right behind it is the beach. In the foreground are some small shrines and tombs.

[The Castle at Tulum]

This is one of the corners of the Temple of the Frescoes. It was called the Temple of the Frescoes for obvious reasons. Because of vandalism, we aren't allowed to go inside and see the frescoes. Underneath it are some frescoes that can be dimly seen, but they are so grimy and dingy that they are hardly worth viewing anymore. The most obviously attractive part of this temple are the corners and the large masks. I looked at the corners and saw nothing, until our guide spoke about the masks, and then they clicked into focus. [Mask on the corner of
  the Temple of the Frescoes]

I took this photo of one of the frescoes underneath the Temple of the Frescoes. These used to be vividly coloured frescoes. Age and dirt sure dim the colours. [One of the frescoes
  under the Temple of the Frescoes]

There were heaps of ruins of buildings spread around the city. Some have modern names like the Castle and the Temple of the Frescoes and the House of Columns, and some have names based on their original purposes like the House of the Halach Uinik, House of the Chulton, Temple of the Wind, Temple of the Sea.

[A view of the ruins]

Years ago, we went to Turkey and did an ancient history tour. One of the habits we developed from that tour was taking photos of one or the other of us posed in arches. There's not much left of this arch. [Anne in an arch]

Anne spotted this iguana sunning itself on the Castle. [Iguana on the
  Castle]

Anne really liked this building, The Temple of the Descending God. None of the sides was straight, and it had a crazy leaning feel to it. Inside the building are frescoes and a big wall sculpture showing the Descending God, and a large carving of a rattlesnake head, but that's all locked away and we can't see it any more.

[Temple of the Descending
God]

Up to the left of the Castle, you can look down on this lovely little beach. Tourists were swimming and sunbaking and it looked really nice. The building on top of the rocks on the other side of the beach is the Temple of the Wind.

[The little beach and the
Temple of the Wind]

We finished our look around the site, and we exited by the East Gate in the original wall. Naturally, we had to have a photo of one us framed in the gateway. That's a pretty thick wall. [Anne in the East
  Gate]

When we got back to the bus area, we had the time to look around and see the tourist traps. This was one of them, a sort of Mayan Maypole dance. One guy stays down the bottom and tweetles on a flute. The other guys climb to the top, wind their ropes around the top of the pole, then hang down and swing out and slowly descended upside down. The flautist then comes round with his cap out for tips. They do this about 5 or 6 times per hour. Those guys must end up really dizzy.

We piled back on the bus and were ready to get back to the ship. As a celebration, and to take the edge off the heat, the driver and the guide had an esky of drinks for us. Pepsi and Sol beer. Naturally, I started on the Sol beer. It was crisp and cold, and had a little bit of a taste, and it was very welcome.

Unfortunately, there was a delay. One woman had misplaced her purse, or lost it, or given it to someone, and couldn't afford the $1 to take the little road train from the ruin back to the buses. And apparently, she was a little too elderly to walk back. So she was delayed, and her sons headed off to find her and bring her back. We waited. We drank more Sol beer.

Eventually, we gave up. We left them behind, with the understanding that they could get back to Cozumel on one of the other buses. As we were late, we had to give up the privilege at stopping at one of the little tourist enclaves selling bric a brac. The driver pushed the bus, and the speed alarm went off repeatedly.

We got back to Cozumel in good time, were quickly marched to the ferry, loaded up and the ferry headed back to Cozumel island. We didn't get a chance to see anything of Cozumel. The ferry trip was again pleasant, and most of the time was spent fending off the Cozumel photographer, and encouraging the T-shirt vendors. We bought four T-shirts, mostly featuring large green iguanas.

No time for duty-free shopping at the small building beside the ship, so we just got back on the ship, and headed for lunch.

[Mayan Maypole]

After lunch, the geek side of the cruise started again. When the afternoon sessions started, I wanted to do Programming Without Perl presented by Phil Hughes, but he hadn't arrived on the ship, so the class was cancelled. I really wanted to do this one, so I was annoyed. The others were More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Filesystems presented by Theodore Ts'o; Preparing for Incident Response and Forensics presented by Brain Carrier; and Vim for Vi Users presented by Steve Oualline. I settled for the Vim presentation. I already have Steve Oualline's book on Vim, and as I discovered later, I have three of his other books too. The Vim talk was very good. We were jammed into the piano bar, with the heavy ching of the slot machines coming at us from the casino around the corner. I use Vim all the time at work, and have been using a lot of the advanced features, but Steve taught me a heap more. We were only interrupted twice by the Captain and Rockin' Ronnie the DJ, telling us about the gambling and karaoke delights on board ship.

After this session, Doc Searls gave a keynote address. He is one of the editors of Linux Journal, who put on the Geek Cruise. He's written a few things about the cruise, like here.

He runs a blog, so you can go there and have a read of his experiences during the cruise.

He gave a slide presentation on The Silent Majority: How Linux Got To Be Everywhere While Nobody Was Watching. Part of his talk was a quick history of the rise of Linux as demonstrated by a series of photos of little plastic penguins, historically arranged by Doc and his son Jeffrey. This has to be seen. It's supposed to be on the web and available for viewing, but I can't find it. If I do find it, I'll post a link to it later.

After Doc Searls, I rushed off to dinner. Food. All these meals, so much food. Have you seen how chickens are bred for the dinner table? Battery hens? You pack a heap of chickens into a small space, so that they can hardly move, and then you feed them and feed them. That's like a cruise ship. Tiny cabins, nowhere to go except around the ship, and they feed you and feed you. They loaded 7,000 tons of food onto the ship before it left, and there was probably only a ton left when we finished the cruise. Every time I turned around, there was another meal. A huge buffet breakfast, then maybe hot dogs or pizza for morning tea, and then a huge lunch, and then hamburgers for afternoon tea, and then the huge formal dinners, or the giant buffets, and the midnight snacks and the special dessert treats. We heard of one woman who got stuck into the food. She gained 27 pounds in the 7 days, and had to buy new big wrap-around clothes just to be able to leave the ship. Probably an urban myth, but it shows how we felt about the food. On the first few days whenever we went ashore, I watched the slim young girls in their bikinis, and then a few days later I watched the same young girls who were no longer so slim, and were wearing larger one-piece swimsuits. And the men's bellies got larger and larger and every day, fewer people could get into the ship's elevators.

After dinner, Anne dragged me off to the magician's show. I don't get off on magicians much. They're fun, but if you ignore the hand they're waving at you and watch the other hand, you can usually see them palming the doves. Greg Frewin was the magician and the show was pretty good. He used some large birds like a white cockatoo and a huge red parrot, as well as the obligatory doves.

I found that life on board the ship was pretty hectic. There was always something on, so it was always a rush to get changed and get to the next thing. I was glad when it was over and I could go back to work to get some rest.

Every night when we got back to our cabin, the bed was prepared for sleep and chocolates were left on our pillows. Sometimes there were helpful notices left on our pillows too. During the cruise, we changed time zones a few times, and daylight saving ended too. Each time this happened, we were given a polite notice about it, which we dutifully followed. This was really nice, and I daydreamed of having the same service back home, of having helpful reminders left on my pillow (with chocolate) about the start and end of daylight saving. [Time change]

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