21st Aug 2014 - Caribbean Cruising
Cacchoben Mayan Ruins
Thursday August 21, 2014 Costa Maya, Mexico
Today is Ruins Day! I have always wanted to go to a Mayan Ruin, be it Chichen Itza, Tulum, or Chacchoben, to help my classroom instruction. I taught this unit last year, and won't be next year...go figure. Luckily, I am also a naturally curious person and it has been on my list of things to do for myself too. We missed out on Tulum when in Cozumel and had heard great things about Chacchoben.
We boarded a bus that was being led by Manuel "The Silver Fox" who is 75 years young. In his life he has been a school teacher, guide, and a painter of Mayan art pieces. He was incredibly interesting to talk to as he is passionate about what he does. Due to an onslaught of tropical storms in the last decade (3 big ones, plus smaller ones) many people have left Majahual area outside of the Costa Maya pier. In fact, Manuel travels from near the Belizean border for three hours every morning to get to work (which starts at 6:30am) to ensure that his home isn't wrecked again. As such, many businesses and homes around the pier were empty or for sale.
At the site, we learned that Chacchoben is only partially excavated. Their landscape here is incredibly flat and most prominent 'hills' are actually sites that are awaiting further professional excavation. Apparently (I want to check this fact) Charles Lindberg discovered the ruins when he spotted them from his plane and wondered what the hills covered in trees and plants were. Thus started the 'discovery' of many Mayan Ruins in Mexico.
Some tidbits about Mayans that I found interesting in no particular order:
1) Playing ball (made from the rubber from the trees) was incredibly important to them. It was used to settle disputes (similar to lacrosse and First Nation groups in Canada). However, at the end of some battles, the captain on the WINNING team would be sacrificed to the gods in hopes of bringing good fortune for those on earth (crops, rain) and as a way to ensure passage to heaven.
2) Mayan heaven had 7 levels. Often depicted as different branches of a tree, royalty receiving the highest levels. Earth was supported on the back of a crocodile and hell did exist.
3) Mayan traded cocoa beans, shells, etc. Kind of obvious, but I know some readers would also value chocolate as valuable as some precious gemstones. (Joan, I am thinking of you).
4) Women would tear the leaves of the peppercorn tree to wear as perfume.
5) There are 2 Mayan calendars that are circular and are to be used in an ever rotating cycle. All possible combinations can only happen once every couple of thousand years. Therefore, when the Mayans said the 'world would end Dec 21, 2012' it was actually the end of a full calendar rotation of every possible combination, and the next day represented a new start.
All of the Mayan ruins here have been roped off to prevent tourists from climbing all the way up them. They do have ropes about one quarter of the way up so that you can see certain parts, and have the typical tourist photo (guilty).
Dad and I were both happy to see and experience the ruins. Here at Chacchoben, the ruins are located in a forest and offer a lot of shade which was a great blessing on a hot and humid August day.
I received another stamp in my passport and boarded the ship. No ring today, as I already have a Mexican ring and my ring budget (while I only buy cheap silver rings) is much higher than I would have anticipated.