How Far Can You Get On Three Wheels? Piaggio Ape Adventures

Taurinorum Charity Rally 2012 – APEMAYA Official trailer” from Taurinorum Travel Team on Vimeo.

On my recent trip to Italy, I fell hard for the tiny Piaggio Ape (say AH-peh, means bee in Italian, for its pleasant hum), a glorified Vespa scooter with a truck bed or a back seat attached. In Italy and India, you see the adorable vehicles everywhere, outfitted as delivery trucks or touristy rickshaws. With its small footprint to park nearly anywhere, high fuel efficiency and low city speeds, I think the Ape might be the perfect car for a New Yorker who just wants it for IKEA runs and those times you find a really amazing coffee table on the street.

Researching the viability and legality of these cars outside of Italy (maybe okay in America, if you don’t take it on the highway), I found the Taurinorum Travel Team, a group who has been raising charity funds with some incredible adventures. They started in 2009 in West Africa, touring in a comparably large Fiat Panda. The first Piaggio Ape trip was in 2011, from Quito, Ecuador, to Machu Picchu, Peru, for the centennial celebration of the ancient city’s discovery and to support biodiversity (watch the little trike car make it over 4,000 kilometers here). The ApeMaya trip last year went through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize, ending in Chichen Itza to combat violence against women. The 2012 trip was designed to coincide with the end of the world as prophesied by the Mayans, but the tuk-tuk survived the 3,000-mile trip. Check out more of their beautiful footage here.

No news yet on their 2013 trip, but I hope they can stop by Brooklyn so I can take it for a test drive.

Gadling goes to Chichen Itza (and so does everyone else)

Located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula, Chichen Itza is one of Mexico’s most popular Mayan ruins, and for good reason. Only three hours by bus from Cancún, the thousand-year-old ruins transport you back to an age of hierogloyphics, massive temple-pyramids, and human sacrifices.

Are there tourists? Oh yeah, in spades. Tell someone traveling around Mexico that you’ve just been to Chichen Itza, and within ten seconds some variation of the word “touristy” will escape their lips. Sure, it can be a little crowded, but the tourists come for good reason– to see the mind-boggling, towering remains of this ancient civilization.

First populated by the Mayans around the year 500, Chichen Itza became an important political and cultural center as early as 800 before the civilization began to decline. In the 900s, the city was resettled and appears to have been invaded by Toltecs from the northern town of Tula, apparent from the fusion of Mayan and Toltec architectural styles. The city was abandoned in the early 1200s.


Another can’t-miss site in the park is the Gran Juego de Pelotas (Grand Ballcourt), where tour guides can be heard clapping throughout the day to demonstrate to their groups the court’s wonderful acoustics. (Go on, try it!) The Grupo de las Mil Columnas (Group of the Thousand Columns) is just what it sounds like– an impressive arrangement of, well, a thousand ten-foot-high columns. For more on the individual buildings at Chichen Itza, check out the accompanying slideshow.

If you go: From Cancún, buses leave for Chichen Itza every hour from 5 am to 5 pm. Expect to pay about US$10 if traveling first-class, slightly less otherwise. Buses typically stop at the park’s western entrance, though a few will drop you off in the nearby town of Piste. Ask before you get on. Outside of Cancún, almost any town in the Yucatan will have multiple buses going to (or through) Chichen Itza every day. The park gets very crowded later in the day, so try to go as early as possible.

Tickets for the ruins, purchased right at the entrance to the park, cost about US$9.

Where to stay: Day-trips to Chichen Itza are possible from tour agencies in almost any decent-sized town in the Yucatan, although the three-hour (at least) bus ride each way makes for a very long day.

A better option is to spend the night in Valladolid, a small colonial town about 25 miles east of the ruins. Places to stay are cheap and abundant and reservations aren’t required. If you’re looking for a more cosmopolitan city, head to lovely Mérida about 90 minutes to the northwest of the ruins. Bus tickets are sold inside the Chichen Itza visitors’ center.

An undiscovered gem: The pyramids of Tikal

I talked yesterday about a little known alternative to Machu Picchu. Today, I bring you the Mayan version: the ruins at Tikal in Guatemala. But here’s the zinger: they’re actually more impressive than the much better known pyramids at Chichen Itza in Mexico.

Here’s what one American had to say about the place. “I saw the Pyramids [in Egypt] … This is better, because you can go on top of them, and see what they saw.” The best part is that they’re in the middle of the jungle. Yes, that does make it harder to get to the place, but once you’re there, it feels like you’ve traveled back in time 3,000 years. There’s also authentic Mayan rituals performed every once in a while, since the government opened the national park to Mayans in 1996.

The ‘Wonders of the World’ Votes are in!

Following up on an earlier post, the voting is now complete, and the winner has been announced. And here are the “New Seven Wonders of the World”: Mexico’s Chichen Itza, Brazil’s statue of Christ Redeemer, The Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu, Jordan’s Petra, the Colosseum in Rome, and India’s Taj Mahal.

The organizers say that they got about 100 million votes in what they’re calling the world’s first global vote.

The Egyptian pyramids at Giza retain their place in the “original” list of the Seven Wonders of the World, and that site is the only site which still exists from the original Seven.

The organizers are now busying themselves with the next world-vote: the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Vote online at

Seven Wonders of the World? Vote on Them!

This is following up on a post by Jamie back in February. There’s only little more than a month left to “vote” on your favorite Seven Wonders of the World, at New7Wonders. July 6, 2007, is the deadline.

Apparently, there have been a staggering 45 million votes on line so far. You can login and choose from between twenty-one buildings or man-made features currently standing.

Right now, the three leaders are the Acropolis, Chichen Itza, and the Coliseum.

The site was started by a Swiss filmmaker who wanted to raise funds to re-raise one of the Buddha statutes dynamited by the Taliban in 2001. (Price tag for the reconstruction? A staggering $50m.) Donations are welcome, and they are going to help preserve these sites.