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Itsy-bitsy, teeny weeny

Given the few days we had in Valladolid we found a tour guide at a little company called MexiGo Tours. We firstly did the Go Flamingo tour, and at risk of trading surprise down the road for exposition at this point of the yarn, we followed it up with Go Monkey, but didn't go Go Maya, Go Wonders or Go Snake, and we didn't go early enough for Go Hacienda. You're going to have gotten the theme; I don't need to go on.

Go Flamingo took us first to Rio Lagartos, or Alligator River, which has no alligators but does have crocodiles, and at one point Spaniards who did not know the difference. One gets on a boat and heads towards the Carribean Sea, and unlike many bullcrap nature viewing tours, one actually sees flamingos and crabs and crocodiles with fair regularity. At one point we went into the mangroves to look at their strange seeds, allegedly used as pens by the Maya, and after a short while found that we were within a metre or two of a well disguised croc.

The fact of the day was that flamingos would naturally be white, except that the colouring of krill they eat accumulates in their bodies and gradually makes their down go pink; all of which reminds me of another tangent – for a long time in Mexico I wouldn't buy chicken at the supermarket, as it was yellowish-orange rather than the pink I was accustomed to, and I was convinced that it was, like many foods in Mexico, rolled in chilli powder. It turns out their chooks are corn fed, not grain fed as in Australia, and this changes the colour of the flesh. Thus, we have two data points that indicate that feeding birds outlandishly will make them change colour.

Next, one forgets momentarily about the crocodiles (they are only little ones, unlike the salties seen in Australia and hanging upside down from the roof on every Australian-themed bar in the world) and hops out of the boat and into a small tributary that is salty enough to make sinking an impossibility. Not drowning though, I expect. You'd just float. And float you do. This is followed by getting out onto the clay bank, and smearing the stuff all over yourself. Allegedly the Maya did this for beauty purposes. This is followed by getting back on the boat, heading back to the idyllic upriver locale one departed from, and jumping in to clean the stuff off in the azure water next to the golden sand. The highlight of this trip for me was seeing Naomi in a bikini for the first time.

The bus then goes to Ek'Balam, one of the best preserved and most carefully reconstructed archaeological sites we visited, which is certainly worth the visit. Remnants of the incredibly straight white-gravel road that connected Mayan cities is still in evidence, along with hints of the outer fortifications, a well-reconstructed arched gate house, and some large-scale, intricate stucco work that was uncovered in reconstruction, having been sealed up in later stages of construction. The latter shows much detail of the religious beliefs of the Maya, including their worship of those born with birth defects and the pan-Mesoamerican Earth Monster. The site suggested to my mind a strong reminiscence of the level of technological mastery obtained by the Romans, but achieved without beasts of burden or iron.(Such a comparison would horrify the modern day archaeologist, but I don't give a rat's – technological innovation \textit{is} a good thing. There. I did it. I made a value judgement.)

Lastly, the tour goes to the former convent of Santo Domingo in the town of Uayma, dating from the 17th century, though recently restored. The stucco work on it is exquisite, in white, red ocher, and Mayan blue (that shade of blue has that name for a reason). Nearby is another, open-topped, manky cenote. Upon seeing it, Mother told the guide that in Australia we need to put pools around our fences. He was bemused.

That night, but at our faux hacienda, we stood around and stared at a dying tarantula. The girl at reception was bemused.

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