We are staying at the Casa Hamaca guesthouse in Valladolid. The host, our friend Denis, invited us to pay him a visit of a few days: “If you do a trip Around the World in 80 Brands, writing stories, Yucatan is a must. The best stories are here. Maya culture is amazing!”
“The Mayas were excellent astrologists and mathematicians. They invented the 0 before any other culture. And the biggest story is of course the Mayan calendar and the predictions of the end of the world in December 2012,” he had said over the phone.
“Wow, ‘the end of the world’, that sounds like a great ending for our book,” I replied with a smile.
The very first morning of our stay, Denis explains his plan for the day: “I will take you to Chichén Itzá, one of the most important Maya cities. Let me show you the Kukulcán pyramid and even the mysterious calendar.”
On the way to the famous temple complex, Denis tells us more about Mayan culture. “The people working for me in the guesthouse are Mayan. They speak Mayan, cook Mayan, soon I will start dreaming Mayan,” he jokes.
As we enter the temple area and see the huge pyramid we feel impressed by the size on the one hand and by the finesse of the architecture on the other. It is not just big stones put one on the other, but the staircase leading to the top of the pyramid bordered with a giant snake statue is almost frightening.
“You guys, go up, to the top of the pyramid, while I go over there to take a picture,” I say pointing in the direction of a smaller building, called the Jaguar Temple. As I mount my camera on the tripod, I see Anouk and Denis almost reach the top of the temple. I look through the lens and adjust the shutter speed to the surrounding light, when I suddenly hear a voice behind me say: “It will be the end of the world as we know it.” I turn around and see this typically Mayan-looking man, wearing a white robe.
“I’m sorry?” I reply.
He looks at me as if he’s looking right through me, in a sort of friendly way though. “The end of the calendar means the world as we know it, will come to an end. The way people live, their relation with the planet, nature and with each other will end.” “I don’t know what to say,” I mutter, “you take me a bit by surprise with this prediction.”
I look at the pyramid and see Anouk waving at me. I wave back and turn to the man again. “Is there anything I can do?” I ask.
“You travel a lot,” he says, “you see many different cultures around the world. Tell people from other cultures to change their ways. Let them become conscious of the higher goal in life.”
“Maarten, Maarten, are you okay?” I look over my shoulder and see Anouk and Denis approach.
“Did you take the picture?” she asks. “No, not yet. I was talking to this Mayan priest,” I reply pointing behind me.
“What Mayan priest?” Anouk wonders.
“This Mayan ….,” I say turning around and discovering that the man has disappeared. “But there was this man, just a few seconds ago… I swear!”