[Forgive me if you did already get this! Apparently I tried to send out the draft, before it was saved. I just heard that almost no “subscribers” have seen it…the final post in the Mexico series. So here it is now…. Please let me know if you still are having problems opening it! I hope you enjoy it (and the entire trip) as much as Marsha & I have. We look forward to seeing you soon!]
A morning drive to Xkopek Bee Keeping Park. Fascinating. The little buzzers you see here don’t look anything like European or our yellow jacketed honey bees. And, they are totally not aggressive, except for a couple of varieties that protect themselves by biting, not stinging. They love hot, humid weather and often build their hives, like where we visited, in a dry cenote.
You’ll remember our wet/swimming hole cenote from a previous post. A dry cenote, like the one above was filled with water eons ago, but a hole formed at the top allowing the water to evaporate until it looks like this. Actually there is still water below the floor on which we were standing. This creates the perfect environment for our friendly and productive bees.
The “stalactite” on the left is actually a hive built by the bees. The ancient drawing on the stone depicts a snake, a very significant symbol in Mayan culture. This dry cenote is about 20 feet below the surface and so humid it’s almost hard to breathe.
A picturesque view from the honey gathering area of the cenote. Many of the bees’ hives are relocated to wooden boxes to make the harvesting more efficient. We got a chance to taste a number of honeys and pollens, most used for health and medicinal purposes. Straight honey, a hibiscus flavored honey drink, pollen as a supplement, even cough drops.
We ended our morning visit at the all important “Honey Pot”. Now off to Playa del Carmen…the heart of the Riviera Maya.
Embracing the Ancient and the Modern in Playa del Carmen
Playa Del Carmén, once a fishing town known as Kaman Ha, is a vibrant, beautiful, and modern beach resort destination in the Yucatan. After we arrived and before we could settle in, we drove to the interior to take part in a sacred Mayan ritual.
The village has been kept alive and open to experience by a number of Mayans who still reside there (I presume at least part time). There is a school, working areas like the one above where tortillas were being made (for us) totally by hand – she pressed them by hand into perfect rounds, even rounder that those off a commercial press, and living areas with wooden, slat walls allowing cooling air circulation. In the center is an open air kitchen with fire pit and oven.
But the highlight of the evening was the sacred Mayan cleansing ritual; cleansing of the mind, the soul, and the body. The local shaman and her assistant prepare the elements for the ceremony while the rocks to be transported (by pitchfork) to the pit in the sealed hut in the back are super heated in the fire.
We changed into our bathing suits and formed a circle while she chanted in Mayan and Spanish, had us drink hibiscus water (?) and shrouded us in an incense tinged smoke.
The shaman led us into the ceremonial hut to sit on the stone bench while she chanted and asked us to chant with her while the assistant brought the hot rocks that she piled high in the pit. Sweat was already beading on our skin as she covered the doorway, blew out the candle creating total blackness, and began ladling water onto the hot rocks making a hot, hot, pungent steam that we could feel totally surrounding us. We had been instructed to use our fingers to cover our mouths and noses, breathing slowly through them until we felt comfortable breathing the cleansing steam without them. That took a while for me. We were also asked to think of things we’d like to purge from ourselves while we also thought of the good we’d like to keep in. Chanting, singing, crying, laughing are all common during this 15 or 20 minute ritual.
After about 20 minutes the shaman opened the door and asked us to file out, dripping with sweat, into a circle where she gave each 0f us a string wrist band that she tied in nine knots, used to remember our transition. From there we were led to most beautiful cenote we had seen to cool down and clean our bodies. I honestly never felt cleaner in my life.
From this crystal clear cenote we dried off, put our clothes back on and sat down to a simple and delicious Mayan dinner of chicken (so tender–steamed, wrapped in banana leaves), potatoes, a mild sauce, and the fresh tortillas that were made earlier. And, copious amounts of hibiscus water to replenish our sated bodies. I (and I think we all) slept very well that night.
Modern Playa Del Carmén – Our Last Day
Our last day. No rush to get up. No busses to catch. No guided tours. Just a day to wander modern Playa del Carmen, do some shopping, hit the resort lined beach.
We chose some destinations for our wanderings. But, the Museum of Chocolate was closed, and the cool sounding 3D museum was, as the waiter across the street told me, “no more…closed down”. So off we went to lunch.
There we found a winner that was open. This little seafood restaurant offered incredible ceviches, as good as those we had in Lima, Peru. Marsha had tuna while I had the mixed plate with shrimp, pulpo, white fish and scallops. Perfect last lunch.
Murals and a can and bottle-eating fish filled in the afternoon until we made ready for our farewell dinner at a special restaurant on the crowded, popular Fifth Avenue.
Good food, good bands, good company…and, much to our surprise and (my) delight, they were streaming the Eagles playoff game live. I had a great time toasting with mezcal and texting my brother and his family and my son and his family as the Eagles made taco meat out of the Giants.
We even got most of our incredible fellow travelers excited about the game! Maybe not exactly excited, but….
And, somehow?, the restaurant found out that it was Marsha’s birthday the next day! The sombreros were broken out, the band played, and everyone sang. The cake was a flan that Marsha doesn’t like and I do, but can’t eat, but, so what! A marvelous way to finish our super day and amazing adventure!
Thanks for coming with us. Your company is always our pleasure. We’ll see you soon when we start out on our next adventure…. Marsha & Joel