Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vacation 2013 - Disney Cruise Day 4 - An Educational Costa Maya Excursion

On Day 4 we would arrive at the Mexican port of Costa Maya at 13:00.

The kids were up at the crack of dawn, so I took them up to Goofy's Sports deck at the top of the ship so Tash could sleep in. We played foosball, table tennis, and mini-golf and built up an appetite on a beautiful sunny morning.

Even after playing around for a bit we still were left with plenty of time to burn. So we not only went o the cabin, got Tash and had a delicious breakfast on the ship, but caught the morning showing of Wreck it Ralph in 3D in the Buena Vista theater. Yep, we were in a full-size, stereo sound and 3D capable theater watching a movie in the Caribbean Sea.

We then arrived at Costa Maya and began our tour. Originally we were going to tour the Chacchoben ruins, but we felt it would pose too much on the kids to walk around all of them under the hot sun. The day proved us correct. So instead we changed our plans and booked a May Tour that gave a history of the Maya, let us visit a single classical Mayan temple and have a Mayan lunch.

Our guide was a friendly and very personable person named Gerardo. Quite an accent but very knowledgeable and lots of impressive detail on Mayan history life, culture and the modern descendants of the Maya in the region. Tons of info delivered in a warm and engaging style. He showed us the chicle trees from which chewing gum originated, a block of unrefined chicle, and the many other interesting trees in the region that are or were important to its development and economy.

On the way to the ruin we passed a Mexican Army checkpoint. Notice the G3 rifle. The soldiers at the checkpoint had G3s, while the soldiers at the port were carrying M-16s (I didn't get a chance to take their picture).

We were headed to the ruins of the Mayan Temple of Ixhel in the small town of Limones

Clearing the checkpoint, we then entered the town of Limones.

To say we had entered the Third World was an understatement. This wasn't some dressed up tourist town. The nearest high school is in a town 45 minutes away and any serious medical treatment including a lady giving birth is typically done in the city rather than in Limones.

The town medical clinic:

A shop where tortillas are made from corn. That machine takes the soaked corn and mashes it down into flour for tortillas with the end result a block of corn flour.

Some other scenes of the town, including the field where kids were playing:

People were quite friendly. Poor but proud you might say. Indeed most welfare recipients in the US would flip if they had to live in conditions these people considered normal. It was also Abby and Leah's introduction to such an environment and it left an impression regarding appreciation and gratitude for what you have, and the importance of charity and helping out the less fortunate.

We then left the visited the Maya Temple in the village that was dedicated to Ixhel, the Mayan fertility goddess.

The ruin is quite large and the steps are about twice the size of a typical step you might encounter today. When discovered and excavated, three teenage female skeletons were found buried under it. The three were most likely virgins sacrificed to Ixhel to promote fertility.

Interestingly enough, sites considered holy by one religion are often re-purposed by the next religion on the scene. Right beside the ruin of the Mayan Temple is Limones' Catholic church.

We then went to a Mexican ranch for lunch. We met the Don and Dona who ran the ranch. The lunch was indeed special. We went to an area that appeared to just be a circle of dirt.

But the Don cleared the dirt away, and a cover of green banana leaves appeared, which were pulled away to reveal a hole with a clay pot inside and coals beneath.

Chicken Pibil is a Mayan traditional dish of chicken mixed with spices then slow-cooked underground for hours. Removed and shredded and served with avocado salsa and in my case some habanero salsa, the meal was pure awesomeness on a plate.

We then had a tour of the ranch, most of the buildings have palapa roofs. A palapa roof can be quickly made and lasts for up to 25 years.

We saw the kitchen, it had a cobblestone and dirt floor. Remember, this was a comparative well-to-do ranch for the region:

The basin where washing is done:

And the well:

Then we had a demonstration of how rope is made from sisal.

The sisal is placed on a board and rubbed until the outer part of the leaf is stripped off and the interior splits into separate fibers

The fibers are then twisted around and around until a very strong rope is formed.

The sisal rope industry is in decline due to the prevalence of polypropylene and nylon ropes that are both cheaper and quicker to make.

Then we took the bus back to port, falling asleep on the way, to mark the end of a very educational day.

After some rest we went to the evening's entertainment, a family magic show put on by Magical Dave Williamson, who put on a great show. Like most entertainers on the ship during a family show, he was able to run it at two levels: one that the kids would enjoy, and the second full of innuendo and humor that went right over their heads but the parents all understood and appreciated. Magical Dave is seriously talented with impressive sleight of hand illusions that left the audience both awed and amazed. A great show.

We then had dinner at the Animator's palate restaurant. The walls are covered in changing animated pictures and for this dinner Crush, the turtle from Finding Nemo appeared on the wall and interacted with the diners. Very cool how if could chat with the kids.

After that, we passed out and looked forward to the nest day's adventure.

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