Text and photos by Ron.
Here is part 3. Cancun is GREAT! They even celebrated Father's Day. Here at the Club Regina they had a free breakfast for Dads and free drinks with dinner on Sunday night. However, you had to have your kids with you. LOL I missed out on both of these perks.
During our second week in Cancun, we visited a very interesting Eco Park called Xcaret. This "X" in Spanish is pronounced "ish".
Xcaret is actually a Maya civilization archaeological site which was occupied by pre-Columbian Maya and functioned as a port of navigation and an important Maya trading center.
According to the research by the National Institute of Anthropology and History the first buildings of the site are from the years 200 to 600 A.D., but the majority of them are from the period from 1200 to 1550 AD.
Xcaret Eco Park is a huge complex, with many fun attractions. The first one we took advantage of was the snorkeling trip.
On this map a park guide drew the route to the place to pick up our snorkeling gear (at ㉚),
and then to the boat dock (at 1).
The park was huge, like Disneyland, and we walked or butts off. I think we both slept very soundly that night.
If you have never done snorkeling before over a coral reef in the tropics, then you might think this was a good adventure. But, if you have actually done snorkeling over live coral reefs, and been free to go where ever you wished, then this trip would seem quite dull. The coral reef where they allowed us to dive was quite dead, and almost devoid of color. The guy at Xplora who sold us the tickets said it was better than the reefs in Australia. LOL I don't think he's ever seen the reefs in Australia. Even the snorkeling we've done in Aruba is much better, and there you are free to go where you want. The fish were beautiful, and there were plenty of them, and I'm sure there was an area where the reef was quite alive and brilliantly spectacular, but we never saw it. Our guides kept us in a tight group and directed us to stay in specific areas only. And I can actually understand why. If you turn a bunch of unthinking tourists lose in such a pristine environment it would soon be destroyed. And believe me, this Eco Park gets tourists on the order of Disneyland. I can accept and respect their efforts of care and protection for the delicate environment. What it lacked in the way of a true snorkeling experience it made up for by providing a pleasant means of cooling down from the intense heat. LOL
Following the snorkeling trip, since we were already wet, and had the gear for it, we decided to do the underground river swim. We entered this amazing underground river wearing our life jackets, fins and a mask and snorkel. The river flows underground for over 2000 feet in length, and is perhaps 30 to 40 feet below the ground level of the park. It was quite an amazing trip. You could see huge holes that went off the main channel and seemed to be bottomless. I wondered if we had scuba gear, could we head down one or more of these holes and find a passage to the sea. I'd say probably yes.
Emerging from our river swim, we toweled off and went to the restaurant recommended by our guide, near the boat dock where we went on the snorkeling trip (at 30 on the map above). For a buffet it was surprisingly good. There were lots of interesting and exotic fish dishes, and the salads and appetizers were top quality.
That large thatched roofed hut is the restaurant where we ate lunch. The surrounding views were excellent. The restaurant was actually full when we got there, so we ate in the outside seating area under one of those palm covered umbrellas at the right edge of the photo. It was actually better than eating inside.
It was a rather hot day, so the large mugs of ice cold Corona beer certainly hit the spot.
Following that delicious lunch we decided to walk around the park and see some of the other attractions. The Maya ruins were well preserved and nicely restored. They did a very nice job of displaying the history of the site, and portraying the Maya culture throughout the Yucatán peninsula.
This is the stairs going up the side of the grandstand at the playing field for the Juego de Pelota.
This is the actual playing field where the warriors played Juego de Pelota. It makes you wonder who thinks up this stuff.
This game must have been just like baseball or football is to us today, or futbal (soccer) in latin cultures, a national sporting event, because every Mayan city had at least one of these playing fields, and some had more than one.
There was a rather elaborate butterfly pavilion, which housed many varieties and had a rather interesting display of the life cycle from worm to cocoon to butterfly. I think we spent half an hour or more walking through this place.
This little guy (about 4 inches top to bottom) was the most prevalent variety.
The foliage was lush and exotic, giving you the feeling of being in a rain forest.
The orchids were exotically beautiful, adding a pleasant touch of color to the already overpowering beauty.
This exquisite waterfall created a cacophony of sound that enhanced the sense of being in a very special place.
They had a couple of Jaguar, and the black one made noises like he was trying to hack up a fur ball. Pretty funny.
If you look closely in the center of this photo you'll see the head of a Puma, or what we call a Cougar in California.
The climax of the day was the Extravaganza Show, and on the way to the theatre pavilion there were many Mayan men in costumes typical of how they looked centuries ago.
Once we entered that gateway to the theatre where the show was to be performed, there were these cool warriors posing for the tourists to photograph.
I don't know about you, but this guy looks like a serious threat to me . . .
. . . and his buddy was no slouch either.
Overall, the park was done very well, and the staff were all very helpful and courteous. The Extravaganza Show was definitely the icing on the cake. I uploaded a couple of movies to YouTube, my very first attempt at doing that. One is of the Mayan game "La Pelota Phoré", which is like ice hockey, but played with a flaming ball for the puck. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GtUppipBQIg . . . and the other is "Juego de Pelota", http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_mCYTVYhsw&feature=channel which is a game played by the best warriors, and the winner of the game is given the high honor of having his head cut off and buried in a sacred place of honor near the game field. We saw one of these burial places in Chichen Itza when we were there in May of 1989, and that is where the guide told us about the winner losing his head.
Tomorrow we go to Cobá to see the Mayan temple there. It is the tallest ancient structure on the Yucatán peninsula.
We wanted to go to Chichen Itza again, but now they don't allow tourists to climb up on the pyramid, nor to enter it. We did that in May of 1989, and it's no fun if you can't go inside the pyramid and climb up the damp corridors to the top where the sacrificial chamber is located, or climb up the outside of the pyramid to the top and pretend that you are a Mayan High Priest getting ready to rip the heart out of some virgin or captured warrior, as in Mel Gibson's 2006 movie "Apocalypto".
Remember that movie? Mel took a lot of flack for producing that one. LOL
You can still climb all over the pyramid at Cobá, and it's in a jungle, so it should be interesting. But there will be more about that in the next chapter.