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Days of Leisure on the Mayan Riviera

My idea of a Mexico vacation is slogging through the jungle to see Mayan ruins and other Pre-colonization civilization remnants. I want to feel the magick and the energy of the stones left behind by other peoples that were here before us. Especially those who mastered the power of the pyramid. BUT I was traveling in Mexico with a friend and she had some other suggestions including a Catamaran adventure from Cancun and visiting some cenote’s – so with a minor twist of my arm I was willing to give these more watery liesure activities a look see and expand my horizons.

A Cenote is an underground lake.

These reservoirs of fresh water are all over the place in the Yucatan peninsula. And apparently some people come to this area of Mexico just to swim in them. Who knew? I sure didn’t. I don’t like swimming, especially when I can’t see the bottom, and cenotes are deep. But I was willing to stick my toe in and take a look at a cenote.

Luckily our tour guide company wasn’t going to let me leave Mexico without doing otherwise. So we got an eyeful of a very tourist infested cenote, complete with a sad cultural mess that was supposed to be “education” re: Mayan warriors ( I hope it was education, if not it was just awful). I felt a little dirty taking a picture of the spectacle but I had to document the disaster.

“Mayan” warriors playing drums outside of cenote.

If I were to really explore these I would make an entire day of it (or trip of it) and stay somewhere nearby one, or at one that wasn’t so busy. But I am very glad I was exposed to what they are (not to the messed up marketing and packaging of indigenous cultures as entertainment).

The connection to the Mayan way of life and Cenotes is two-fold. One practicality – cenotes are abundant on the Yucatan peninsula thanks to geology I won’t get into and they are the only source of clean drinking water. So Mayan cities were built on, around and near them. Two spiritually – cenotes were the doorway to the afterlife and used in sacrifice and ceremony by the Maya. This is an oversimplification – but there is a rich cultural heritage here and in the heyday of colonization archaeology gross powerful and rich men pretending to be explorers of cultural history plundered around in cenotes finding proof of legends of barbarism and human sacrifice and stealing artifacts to take back to their museums or Sotherby’s Auctions. Today the tourism industry just has grown men “dress up” like Mayan warriors and beat drums to entertain people sipping on smoothies and/or wearing mandated orange life vests and jumping into the sacred spring.

The other adventure I would not have engaged in in Mexico without encouragement was snorkeling. I do not like putting my head underwater or getting water up my nose, or breathing in water in any way shape or form. Its triggering as I almost drowned as a little wee one – so water torture such as snorkeling just never really translates to fun – so why would I pay for it? We compromised however, and found an upscale catamaran boat ride to the Isle of Muyeres, that included optional snorkeling, plus a sandy white beach afternoon on the island to engage in.

The boat ride involved swimming in the ocean, seeing some underwater sculpture park, and surprise! watching a very animated guide for our day who expected that we were all on spring break from some Greek system college (even though all of us were WAY TOO OLD for that type of behavior but it does appear that people treat Cancun like the Vegas of the world). I was fascinated by this entertainment dance, but also how the whole system worked, from the driving of the boat to the high dollar tips produced at the end of the day. The snorkeling however, was not beginner, involved no instruction on how to do it, and the water was choppy as hell. So we watched some brave souls get a lot of water up their noses.

Now, I’m not poo pooing those who choose to have their pina colada on the beach type of vacation. I now understand why this type of vacation is enjoyable. I have always just been about making my vacations work and adventure – which doesn’t involve sitting by a beach, or a pool, sipping a cold beverage featuring coconut milk. I now agree, that there is a time and place for a cold glass of coconut milk forward beverage with a very fruity garnish. And the Mayan Riviera is definitely a place to indulge in that kind of thing – they make it so easy. In fact, it is impossible to avoid. You can have it sans the rum though, and just go virgin all the things if alcohol is not your thing. Its not even weird (although don’t tell the obnoxious Americans at the next table over). On our catamaran beach day adventure – I enjoyed sitting on the boat having cold juice brought to me. I felt like I was in a Duran Duran video. I enjoyed sitting on the white sand beach with my feet in the sand, and having cold beverages brought to me on a tray.

I enjoyed floating in the ocean and watching thousands of commercial vessels float by. This was off-season. What would it be like in high season? Not for me. But I enjoyed it for what it was and read my book about doing archaeology appropriately to find a lost city in Honduras and all of the trials, tribulations and illness that befell the people who engaged in that.

At the end of the day these adventures in contributing to the Yucatan Peninsula’s and Mexico’s economy were quite enjoyable. It was a practice in engaging in leisure – which is not all bad. It can be accomplished with quality, self care and fun. You can make healthy choices (like not eating the strange meal that sat out in the sun all day) and you can make fun and risky choices (like snorkeling in choppy water far from shore). I learned a little how to relax and go with the flow, no need to just go go go. I admit it I enjoy sitting on a beach and reading, sipping a cold beverage and periodically dipping in the ocean waves. I prefer clean, soft white sand, and being able to see the bottom/wear my bare feet are stepping.

I will go back to Mexico and see more ruins, and spend more time on a beach. I will likely go to a small cenote and actually swim in it. I will go back on a catamaran. I will enjoy myself and the experience. There is a time and place for every type of experience, and this experience provides jobs and fuels most of the economy of Mexico. And I’m blessed enough to be able to engage in it, so why not.

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