A Day in Riviera Maya Paradise

By on April 2, 2019
Riviera Maya

The promise of morning light lay hidden in the soft charcoal sky as we sat on an open-air wooden bench waiting for our grand Mexican adventure to begin.  Glancing around at the gorgeous Vidanta resort located on a stretch of beach between Cancun and Playa del Carman made us glad we booked our stay for a full week.  Promptly at 7:00 am we boarded a luxurious turquoise Mercedes Benz air-conditioned bus and settled into comfortable seats as we peered out the huge viewing windows.  Fortunately for us, locals had tipped us off that Cancun Bay Excursions www.cancunbay.com rates as their favorite and most reliable company for tours and shuttle transportation in the area.

Victor bounded up the bus steps with a smile and pronounced “I am your certified tour guide”.  He promptly began sharing fascinating glimpses into Mayan life 1000 years ago and insights into current day descendants. Victor, a teacher by trade, should know.  He and his team are all Mayans, so his passion for everything Mayan flowed throughout his commentary on geometry, mathematics, birthing babies, silver pendants, Cenotes, Mayan ruins and lifestyles. 

Riviera MayaVeering off the main highway, our route took us into a little modest village called Suytún.  This village almost became extinct until the government mandated all tour companies adopt a village.  Cautiously driving down the narrow road we passed a stucco school building where younger children laughed and kids clustered in small groups throughout a dirt school yard surrounded by a protective chain link fence.  We saw love in action as the local mamas lined up to pass a plated burrito lunch along with a beaming smile and quick word to their child through a rectangular access hole cut in the fence.

Not that long ago, these villagers were desperate to save their village. They needed to find a way to send their kids to school and figure out a way to support their families so they could survive and thrive.  Taking stock of their natural resources, they created ways to attract tourists.  Arriving at our destination, we ventured into their open market filled with hand-crafted jewelry, clothes, stones, carved masks and stones for purchase.  Based on all we had just learned about the Mayan culture, we choose to invest in exquisite, handcrafted Mayan pendants.  While we had lunch and explored the area, local craftsman hammered our names in Mayan symbols on the authentic silver medallions.  Our group’s purchases contributed to the well-being of dozens of Mayan families living in this village.

Riviera MayaFragrant food aromas next to the market wafted over in the soft breezes.  The aromas mixing with folk dancers and traditional Mexican music, beckoned us to dine.  The simple spread, laid out in an open-air dining arena with unpretentious decor, included rice, beans, grated fresh carrots, sautéed squash and carrots, scrambled eggs, spaghetti with red sauce (tourist fare), tortillas, pork, chicken and rice pudding for dessert.  Graciously invited into their world, we swallowed a lump in our throats as we felt a wave of humility move us to tears.  These people in need, served us, giving of their best and sincerely making sure we were happily content. 

After our satisfying lunch we wandered down the trail toward the village sacred Cenote located in a huge cavern, stopping just long enough to have our picture taken by a twenty-something Mayan man.  The locals had built stone steps, no easy task, down the long descent to the pool and created a keyhole shaped dock out of rock extending into the waters.  A circle of sunlight beamed through the natural six-foot circular hole in the rock ceiling shooting sun rays all around the Mayan drummer.  His percussion beats vibrated around the stone cavern in and out of the stalagmites growing up from the cave floor and stalactites hanging from the ceiling of the cave.  Haunting flutes and voices joined the drummer on the stone dock taking us back centuries to when their ancestors played the same tunes.

Feeling the beat of the drum, we dared to tentatively slip a toe into the cool water.  Peering at the blind black catfish, sporting long whiskers on either side of his mouth and swimmingly lazily by with his buddies, we sincerely hoped he did not want to nibble on us.  Slowly immersing deeper and deeper into the murky brownish water, we discovered swimming in the Cenote refreshing.

After drying off without a towel, not a simple feat, we climbed back on the bus and headed down the road to Chichén Itzá.  Once the bustling center of ancient Mayan civilization, Chichén Itzá is now a designated Unesco World Heritage Site and noted as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Donning hats to shade us from the scorching sun, we stepped back in time when we entered one of the largest Mayan archaeological sites, a complex of 17 imposing structures. Our eyes riveted on the most notable structure, the Pyramid of Kukulcan.  It triggered thoughts bordering on the incredulous, regarding the extraordinary mathematical skill (particularly geometry) and astronomy, which the Mayans used to create this massive stone pyramid designed to also function as an accurate gigantic calendar.  The four sides of the temple, each made with 91 stone steps, adds up to 364, plus the top echo chamber, equals 365, the number of days in a year.  Strategically oriented, this pyramid, in turn, captured the sunsets during the spring and fall solstices, casting shadows resembling a large slithering snake from top to bottom along the structure. We were privileged to catch a glimpse of this phenomena.

While wandering around the grounds through the rest of Chichén Itzá, we discovered our second Cenote for the day, which in years past was critical for the survival of the Mayans.  Strolling into the Great Ball Court, we envisioned the competitive sports played in that arena which resulted in the winner receiving an honorable death as his prize! We strode by the El Caracol Observatory where diligent astronomy students used to work, and grappled with disturbing thoughts about human sacrifices made on nearby temple courtyard stone alters to worship the Mayan rain god.  Lost in thought we boarded our bus.

Another Mayan, Miguel, joined our group and gave each of us a taste of Mayan Moonshine while filling us in on the particulars of this substance.  Not really a lover of liqueurs, we unexpectantly savored the sensation of sweet moonshine flowing across our tongues and down our throats and decided this liquid would be decadent over ice cream and in coffee too.  Our guide, Vincent, introduced Miguel as one of his previous students who was failing in school until our guide worked closely with him.  Successfully graduating, Miguel developed his own entrepreneurial idea.  He was our mystery photographer in Suytún who took all the guest’s pictures on their way to the Cenote.  Then he went home and turned the guest’s pictures into bottle labels and sold the personalized Mayan Moonshine for $20 USD while guests rode the bus back to their luxury resorts.  What a brilliant plan.

Wrapping up our adventures with the setting sun, our tour concluded with a question by Victor, “Did you enjoy your day and feel safe?  Tell your friends and family, they can safely visit the Riviera Maya region and to come see us.”  Clapping wildly, we responded with a resounding YES! 

Pamela Lovegren
Travel Editor
Pamela’s expertise flows from building her own successful business to guiding small to mid-size family owned companies. She analyzes business structure, is a diplomatic negotiator, identifies operational issues, and implements effective resolutions to lead a firm on a path to excellence. Her experience ranges from resort management, leadership conferences, property management and business consulting to extensive traveling and travel editor of this online publication. Pamela shares the vision of LivingBetter50 to celebrate and encourage women of 50+ who desire to live life with spirit and passion each and every day.

 

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A Day in Riviera Maya Paradise