The Toltec’s are the eagles, the Mayans the jaguars.
Last month, and probably the month before that, I talked about my vacation plans for the end of January. I also admitted that my January trip was the first relaxing vacation I had taken in nearly a decade. Honestly, that is far too long.
I’m a person who goes until they run themselves into the ground. I did it in high school. I did it in university. And now I’m doing it mixing the day job with the writing and blogging. I suppose it’s all well and good, until you take a break and find that getting back on the horse after a minor rest is a lot harder than you ever imagined it could be.
I have a lot of goals this year. And while I intend to conquer them all, I also intend to let myself have breaks before I hit the dirt. Acknowledging your need to recharge is the first step. The next is to feed your need to recharge. Which I did, and I am really excited to share some details!
If you look closely, you can see the pikes the Toltec’s put these skulls on. Inside the formation archaeologists found the real thing the stones depict.
On January 22 my alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. (after staying up too late and not sleeping properly at all) so that I could be up and ready to be picked up at 4:45. Four of us had planned this trip, and only two of us are accustomed to such early wakeups, for the record. Our plane took off around 8, just as the sun was
starting to peak over the horizon, to take us directly to Cancún.
I’ve never felt humidity like I did standing in line for Mexican customs. But I was revved. I could smell the ocean. Once through the gates we went and found our shuttle and prepared for our hour long drive south to our destination. I have never been so grateful for air conditioning and bottled water.
This trip served as my very first to the tropics and my first experience with an all-inclusive resort. My seven night stay was amazing. I took a lot of entertainment with me –books, my blogging notebook, my sketchbook, an empty notebook, and magazines– because I honestly expected to be bored. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that the only thing I opened was two of the four paperbacks I packed.
I hadn’t realized until we staked out our spots in the sand overlooking the Caribbean just how badly my brain needed to disengage. When I sat in the sun, I either dozed or people watched. I did a lot of people watching, which is in itself a writing necessity, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty. Not once was I bored.
We planned two excursions, a full day at Chichén-Itzá and a half day tour through Río Secreto. Other than that we were lazy on the beach, explored our massive resort, ate at a few à la cartes, and popped into the little shops set up on the grounds.
The breakfast tamale was bright pink with pineapple and raisin chunks. The other was a yummy chicken tamale. The texture was odd, but overall they were tasty and filling.
The history nerd in me loved Chichén-Itzá, even though we had to get up at the butt crack of dawn for our two hour bus ride. Our tour guides were fantastic, I’ve never been so impressed. We were given traditional tamales half-way to our destination while the leader gave us a long rundown of Mayan history. We were then taken to a little shop to check out goods made by the local Mayans. After that it was on to our destination.
I had no idea that the Mayans had deserted the city long before the Spaniards came. And I got a refresher on the fact that the Toltec’s invaded Mayan cities before the Europeans had a chance. I was entranced learning about the local history from people of native descent who had much different information to share than the European-based textbooks I’ve been reading all my life. There was a whole world rising and falling in the Yucatán prior to the arrival of the Spanish fleets. As someone raised in a commonwealth nation, I sometimes forget that the world didn’t start and stop with the actions of Europe.
Once we were done touring the ruins, we returned to the hotel that owns the entryway into the site, Mayaland, and were served a rather traditional lunch. I didn’t think I’d enjoy lime soup or suckling pig tacos, but I was mistaken. I had promised myself to at least try the local cuisine while I was south and was happily surprised by most of it.
Once our lunch, and much needed time in the shade, was over, we hopped back on the bus and drove to a cenote. My waterproof camera failed me that day because it decided to be temperamental, so most of my pictures are blurry. I’ve never swum in a pit, nor in anything so deep, as that cenote. I had scoffed at the fact that we were required to wear lifejackets before I descended into the depths. After I leapt into the pool I was grateful.
The best image I have of the cenote from the relative top.
Our time in the mineral water was too short, but our guides wanted to take us to one last stop: Valladolid. Our bus parked for 25 minutes next to the city’s main square and we were let out to explore. The square was beautiful, as was the San Servacio church across the street. What struck me most was the look at real Mexico. Being on the resort was nice, but there was no culture. I might as well have been at a hotel at home. The brief glimpse of the life in Valladolid was important to me.
The centre of the square. The fence enclosing the whole thing was designed to keep Mayans out, only the Spanish were permitted to enter.
My friends and I finished our ice cream and waited until the last moment before getting back on the bus and heading back.
The church, which I did not enter because my one friend did not feel properly dressed for it and I concurred.
That was a wonderful day, one that will be permanently etched in my mind. The history I learned, the ruins I finally got to see firsthand, and the landmarks I was taken to are certainly going to inform my writing. History is always told by the victors, but you have to remember that there are other voices to find.
Our second adventure was short and no less interesting. Río Secreto is a relatively new site in Mexico, the underwater pathways were accidentally discovered in 2008. National Geographic has the rights, or whatever you want to call them, to the area so I was not allowed to take pictures inside and I was not paying the exorbitant fee for pictures that they were charging.
We did a roughly two-hour tour in wetsuits, lifejackets, and water shoes underground in part of the river system. We saw stalagmites rising from the ground, some meeting the incredible stalactites that are still forming, creating massive columns of minerals. The ancient coral from the Yucatan’s time under the ocean millions of years ago was still sharp –I crashed into a low hanging part that I didn’t see thanks to my helmet and sliced my hand on some, so I know it’s sharp.
A shot of Rio Secreto from perceptivetravel.com.
During the vernal and autumnal equinoxes, at a specific time that I’ve forgotten, the shadows hit this snake just right and his tail is visible up the staircase.
We saw bats, a spider that has evolved to live in the pitch-black, we saw the tiniest red ants I have ever laid eyes on, and cat fish. At one point, in the centre, our guide had us all turn off our headlamps so that we could see for ourselves that no light enters that place. I’m glad we were in a group because there is some kind of primal fear that fills me in such darkness in strange places.
It’s secret places like that that I need to remember to include in my stories. We have so much magic in our world half the time you don’t even need to make it up.
As I think back, during my vacation I felt like I was in another world. It was too easy to forget that it was January while I dunked my head in the warm ocean and searched for shells in the sand. My life back home seemed unreal.
I thoroughly enjoyed being out of time and space for a while, but I’m glad I’m back. I have so much writing I want to do and goals to tackle now that I have a new mental calm. I really do feel recharged.
What do you do to fill up your creative batteries? What’s the last relaxing trip you took?