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Chichen Itza, Mexico without a Camera

One evening in May 2009 on the island of Isla Mujeres, Mexico I fastidiously prepared my day pack with all items I would need to make a 14-hour round trip the following day to the Chichen Itza ruins on the mainland. These Mayan ruins are basically the eighth wonder of the world.

My day pack was perfectly filled when I climbed into bed, except for one item – my camera, whose battery was tucked into its charger and attached to the outlet so it could juice up for a full day of work as I slept. At one point in the middle of the night I awoke and impressed myself by possessing the presence of mind to check my charger, notice that the battery was fully charged, and unplug it before I fell back to sleep.

Colorful house in downtown Isla Mujeres, Mexico, a few hours away from the Chichen Itza ruins

My favorite house on Isla Mujeres.

The morning ticked by perfectly as I, in a very quick and organized fashion, readied myself, tucked my camera into my day pack, and glided down the dark streets to the Isla Mujeres ferry that sailed me serenely across the water to Cancun, where I took a lovely taxi ride, then strolled into the bus station with half an hour to spare and bought a ticket for the one and only bus that would depart on this day for a trip from Cancun to Chichen Itza.

Careful planning can result in perfection, I thought, patting myself on the back as I exited the station for a quick walk around to see what this area of Cancun held. This was downtown, far from where people typically take their all inclusive holidays. A little bit of the life on the streets caught my attention, so I stopped and pulled my camera out of my day pack. I extracted it from its case, pressed the button to turn it on and…nothingness. Blankness. A black hole. I had entered the abyss.

My heart sunk into immediate recognition and resignation of what I had done. My planning had been precise but not perfect after all, for I had left behind one critical element of visiting a world wonder – my camera battery. Within 1.5 seconds of pressing that button I knew the battery was back in my hotel, safely – and stupidly – tucked into its charger which I’d pulled out of the wall in the middle of the night back on Isla Mujeres.

Man sleeping in a hammock under a truck on Isla Mujeres, Mexico, not far from the famous Chichen Itza ruins

This is not me.

(Since I have zero photos of Chichen Itza, the photos in this post are of the island of Isla Mujeres instead.)

In 2009 phones with cameras had not yet been invented. The point and shoot had been my only option for taking photos of the Chichen Itza ruins which I will probably never visit again. Crazy thoughts borne of desperation flooded my head. If I just look around enough, I’ll see an electronics store open at 8:30 on this Sunday morning which I can walk into and quickly find an identical battery, take it out of the package to make sure it fits in my camera, which, of course, it will, buy it and still make it to the bus on time! Other such fanciful ideas flitted through my mind as I struggled to come to terms with what I had done.

As reality started setting in, my fancy thoughts fizzled. I began to talk myself through the disappointment of the heart-stopping realization that I was going to be spending the day at incredible ancient Mayan ruins with nothing but my mind to record the sights.

Once I arrived at Chichen Itza, I meandered around, consoling myself by noticing that most all I would have photographed would be identical to images I could see on the internet at any time, anyway – the Chichen Itza pyramid, gorgeous colonnades and the like. I love taking videos, though, and could have caught some moments that would have been all my own.

The Chichen Itza ruins themselves are not all that I missed recording with photos and videos while living through this traveler’s nightmare. Here are some more sights that my camera-less self had to store only in my memory.

The largest iguana I have ever seen

Another large iguana crawling around on a tree trunk, its eyes glued to yet a much smaller iguana sitting motionless high up in the next tree. Its tiny heart must have been pounding, as it was obviously hiding from its big brother. Are iguanas cannibals? Whether the large one wanted to eat the little one or just beat it up, it would have made a great video.

A tree I have never before seen in my life, blossoming with beautiful small red flowers.

A beautifully colored bird which flew onto a grate-type covering on a window in one of the ruins, where it perched and posed for several minutes.

Colorful gas station in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, a few hours away from the Chichen Itza ruins

I may not have any photos of the ancient Mayan Ruins, but I do have photos of this gas station on Isla Mujeres.

A small town I passed through on the bus back to Cancun where a great rainfall had obviously just occurred although the sun had blazed all day at Chichen Itza. Little boys were playing, pushing each other down, laughing and getting back up again in the muddy waters swelling through the streets – a scene which could have given me several minutes of very interesting video.

I will never be able to support my memory in the most effective way possible, with photographs of Chichen Itza. In digging up my notes of the day to write this, though, little memories have been set off for me. Perhaps our minds would hold for us more vivid recollections of the places we see, if we didn’t have cameras to document everything.

What about you? Have you ever forgotten your camera when you’ve traveled? Tells me about it in the comments!

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