read pieces - Divine Daytripper
text and photos by Ingrid Hart
The aroma of amber-infused incense fills the thick jungle air.
It’s after midnight as the Mayan procession of medicine men, rowers
and maidens pass by. The high priest’s face is painted to look like a
skeleton—an ominous black on white. Adding to his attire is a regal
feather head dress and a commanding leopard skin covering most of
his body. The rowers don white loin cloths and high ponytails that expose tender body parts. The maidens dress in bright orange cotton
caftans made of burlap fabric that swishes on the ground as they walk.
These pilgrims, over one hundred and twenty of them, come from the
villages of Polé and Xaman-Ha along the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula, an hour south of Cancun. They are here on the Sacred Mayan
Journey to worship Ix Chel, the goddess of fertility and abundance.
MexicoTRAVELER 2009 Fall Collectors’ Edition
The Sacred Mayan Journey, now in its second
year is a mystical and oftentimes theatrical
re-creation of the ancient pilgrimage.
Throughout the night there will be rituals, ceremonies, music, and
dance. In the morning the strongest of the group will row fifteen miles
across the Caribbean Sea to the island of Cozumel. In unison, the
haunting procession chants a simple prayer in a supernatural voice: Ix
Chel: the mission and work are waiting for us. Ix Chel: nobody can hide
your truth from us.
The Sacred Mayan Journey, now in its second year is a mystical
and oftentimes theatrical re-creation of the ancient pilgrimage. This his-
torical and cultural legacy of Mayan past was lost after the Spaniards
invaded and conquered Mexico nearly five hundred years ago. The
journey’s sponsors include the eco-archeological park Xcaret, the marketing collaborative Riviera Maya and the island of Cozumel. According
to State of Quintana Roo Tourism Secretary Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez,
“We want to diversify the tourism base from beach lovers to include
people who are interested in culture and archeology. We hope to innovate and initiate new projects that will showcase our best assets. The
Sacred Mayan Journey is helping to rescue a lost culture.”
History of the Goddess Ix Chel
The heart of the journey resides in the worship of Ix Chel, the ancient
Mayan goddess responsible for fertility of the earth, good weather,
health and continuity of life. The story is told that pilgrims would petition
the goddess to bestow upon them her blessings and favor them with
a year of abundance. Sounds easy, right? Here’s where the “journey”
part of the adventure begins. The challenge is that Ix Chel’s stronghold
is on the island of Cozumel, a fifteen-mile canoe traverse from Polé, the
site of present-day Xcaret, where the quest begins. The journey was a
dangerous, mystical undertaking for these ancient navigators, whose
trade networks were one of the crowning glories of the Yucatan culture.
At the crossing were rough seas, leaky crafts, and bad luck – qualities
that could terminate a life in short order. In the Mayan post-classic period, life vests were not an option.
Once the paddlers were successful crossing the Channel of Cozumel along the Caribbean Sea to Ix Chel’s sanctuary, they had to endure
a three-hour walk to the island’s center at San Gervasio. Bearing of-
the others—friends. After a successful crossing to the other side, rower
Betty Sandoval said that the group was singing and praying to Ix Chel.
“We have great respect for the original Mayans. They were brave and
powerful,” said the 37-year-old Cozumel native. “We were trying to talk
my sister into having a baby. Ix Chel is the goddess of fertility—we almost got her to agree.”
The drama continues as six long-haired maidens in floor-length
orange-red dresses, arms outstretched in meditative prayer await the
remaining rowers. Nearly thirty native men and women all wear white,
with faces painted to reflect the time when the Mayan culture was rich
with the promise of an everlasting existence. Today, these proud descendents of the Mayans are reliving the fantasia, the dream.
Present Day Sacred Crossing
Riviera Maya: Magic and Mystery
“Exist in the moment” is the island of Cozumel’s motto. True to heart,
present-day rowers recreating the Sacred Mayan Journey leave the island as the sun rises over the tranquil waters of eco-archeological park
Chankanaab. They have one goal in mind, paddle across the 15-mile
waters to reach the other side. These present day rowers are escorted
It’s easy to fall under the spell of enchantment at the archeologically
rich Riviera Maya. It is home to the ruins of Tulum, one of the bestpreserved coastal Pre-Columbian Mayan sites. The series of ancient
buildings sit on a cliff, overlooking the Caribbean Sea. There is also the
hidden city of Coba, temples, and ceremonial sites—all a living testa-
by enthusiastic boaters and a coast guard vessel, each one keeping
the spirit of the journey alive.
On a white sandy beach at the end of the journey is wind-swept
Playa del Carmen. The Caribbean Sea, turquoise and aquamarine, is
churning with strength and ferocity on this alternating sunny and cloudy
afternoon. A thousand enthusiastic natives and tourists await the arrival
of remaining rowers. This recreation looks like a Hollywood movie set.
In costume are one of the four mysterious medicine men, clad in full
red body paint with a necklace of feathers and shells. Topping his ensemble is an imposing three-foot wide horizontal gourd headdress. He
skulks along the beach like he’s ready to tear out the heart of whoever
looks at him sideways. As he whistles into an ancient flute the sound
carries in the wind sending chills into the rapturous crowd.
As each boat load of exhausted and exhilarated rowers arrives on
the shore, they are greeted with an explosion of applause and some
good ole’ whoopin’ and hollerin.’ Among the 26-foot canoes, each
with a crew of four to six rowers are a group of women who have
trained for three months in anticipation of the event. Two are sisters,
ment to the Maya civilization, one of the grandest in world history. The
ancient Maya occupied a vast geographic area in Central and South
America from around 2000 BC until 1500 AD. The reason for its collapse is still shrouded in mystery.
Today, the region is a thriving tourist destination with a range of
attractions from beach activities such as snorkeling, scuba and swimming to adventure sports like hiking, horseback riding and of course
golf and tennis. Five-star hotels along with fine dining options make
the Riviera Maya an appealing destination for visitors seeking a combination of cultural enlightenment, exploration and some down time to
simply relax by the beach.
So on your next visit to the Riviera Maya, if you happen to see a
group of paddlers at sea dressed in native costume be certain to send
along some good wishes. You never know when the goddess Ix Chel
will offer her blessing and grant you a year of abundance. After all,
her spirit is still alive in the hearts and minds of the Mayan people. If
the success of the second Sacred Mayan Journey is any indication of
what’s to come, it will be a great year indeed. h
ferings of corn, squash and cacao beans to honor the goddess, these
pilgrims would then consult an oracle to channel Ix Chel’s wisdom on
their behalf. The goddess provided insight for the year on her area of
expertise. If all went well, omens of good fortune would be bestowed
upon these courageous pilgrims.
Before crossing in their wooden canoes made from the Pich tree
back to the mainland, the pilgrims would receive a special blessing
for a safe journey by el halach uinik – a wise man. Again the paddlers
took to the dangerous sea. Upon their return to Xamanhá, the site of
present-day Playa del Carmen, they were greeted by eager villagers,
wanting insight into their future. Dances of joy were held celebrating the
transmission of their goddess Ix Chel’s message.
Leaving a Smaller Carbon Footprint on the Environment
text and photos by Ingrid Hart
Imagine yourself at a boutique Mexican resort that caters to
all your senses. You hear waves lightly crash on the pristine beach.
Your feet touch the soft, sugar-coated sand, while above you, pelicans grace the afternoon sky. The scent of fragrant orange blossoms
float through the air as you sip a cool margarita, and the first rush of
well-being radiates through your entire body. You relax into the gentle
knowing that not only are you on a glorious holiday, but you are supporting the environment. Welcome to the new, green, eco-friendly
brand of vacation.
As the impact of travel creates a larger carbon footprint on the
environment, there are select resorts working within the boundaries of
the new “green-energy” code of ethics. These resorts don’t ask their
guests to sacrifice any comforts – they simply work within the constraints of eco-friendly principals. We researched resorts throughout
Mexico that employ environmental values and offer alternative choices
to consider for your next vacation “off the grid.”
Hacienda Tres Rios - Riviera Maya
Hacienda Tres Ríos, a brand new resort, resides within an extraordinary
natural reserve, featuring mangrove forests, crystal-clear fresh water
canals and a mile of virgin beaches¬ where the jungle meets the Caribbean Sea. The 273 deluxe rooms’ ambiance engages with the natural
environment and offers elegant living spaces. Each generously sized
room features its own private terrace or balcony, Jacuzzi tub, lounge
sofa and flat-screen TV. The dramatic views from each room allow you
to see the ocean or lush tropical gardens while relaxing in the comfort
of your living area.
Green-energy highlights: The location of Hacienda Tres Ríos was
carefully chosen to create the least environmental impact. Before the
hotel’s construction began all endangered species were removed from
the worksite. Important plants were also moved to the Tres Ríos nursery for care and further propagation. All refuse materials are carefully
sorted and, when possible, recycled. For example, all wood waste is
mulched for use in the nursery and for future landscaping projects.
Chemical waste is also carefully monitored and collected to avoid contamination. State-of-the-art energy recovery systems help save on
waste and consumption. Recycling is a community-wide effort, with
recycling bins in every room. www.haciendatresrios.com
Hotel Eco Paraiso sits on a pristine natural beach within a vast plantation of Malayan dwarf coconut palm trees. Imagine watching pelicans
or flamingos flying across the skies. Visualize sea turtles coming ashore
to lay their eggs or watching the babies hatch and make their way to
the sea. There are millions of seashells at your footsteps, yet your only
companions are the sounds of the sea and a few fishing boats passing
by. All of the 15 spacious bungalows offer a phenomenal view of the
Gulf of Mexico. Each room comes with two queen size beds, a sitting
area with sofa bed, desk, comfortable armchairs, a spacious bath with
a shower and of course, hammocks to enjoy the view.
MexicoTRAVELER 2009 Fall Collectors’ Edition
Hotel Eco Paraiso Xixim - Celestún, Yucatán
Green-energy highlights: This charming hotel is designed with
great care to meet ecological standards. All of their water comes from
a salty well. It is filtered with sand, gravel and activated carbon, stored
and chlorinated. An inverse osmosis water system makes their water potable, so they can avoid buying water bottles that would cause
more garbage. The resort keeps their illumination profile low to guide
the little sea turtles away from the lights so they can find their way
back to the sea. www.ecoparaiso.com
Azulik - EcoTulum Resorts & Spa - Riviera Maya
Azulik offers luxury and romance for honeymooners and couples seeking relaxation at their rustic, clothing optional, seaside eco-resort. Their
15 lavish, beachfront villas provide a spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea. Each villa is constructed of fine local hardwood with a large,
private deck. Essential to their philosophy is the harmonizing of body,
mind and soul. In-room spa services include a Mayan clay massage,
ander throughout the resort. Some of the open-air rooms are perched
on stilts over a lagoon, creating a unique union with nature—almost like
luxury camping. An onsite primitive-luxury spa offers steam baths and
a natural Jacuzzi with cold water. Spa treatments include mud baths,
mermaid baths, stone therapies and traditional massage.
Green-energy highlights: Hotelito is solar-powered for the energy
needs of the hotel. There are no phones and ceiling fans cool the
air. If you’re looking to help save the environment, participate in the
sunset releases of baby sea turtles from the protected nesting area,
June to January.
Balamku - Costa Maya
Balamku will suit visitors who want a change from the large resort experience. All the rooms at this quaint, eight-room beachfront resort
feature private terraces overlooking the Caribbean Sea. The property
sits in a natural, unspoiled environment with a community of friendly
people. Each room is powered by solar and wind electricity, maximizing
the natural ventilation. Room features include ceiling fans, beautifully
tiled floors and tastefully decorated Mexican art.
Green-energy highlights: Balumku ensures the protection of endangered trees and plants on their property including zapote—the
original source of chewing gum, a variety of palms, and sea grapes.
They continue to plant hibiscus, bougainvillea, banana, mango, papaya, lime trees, aloe vera, cactus and other local species. All the water
from the showers and sinks supports constructed wetlands, providing controlled nutrition to a variety of plants. The toilets are low-flush,
reducing water usage and the waste is filtered into composting units
eliminating septic tanks—an important quality when building so close
to the sea. www.balamku.com
MexicoTRAVELER 2009 Fall Collectors’ Edition
reiki with aromatherapy oils or exotic mud wraps. Visitors can connect with their inner selves through a Mexican purification ritual called
Temazcal—or experience lucid dreaming in a flotation chamber.
Green-energy highlights: Azulik’s daily operation strives for minimum impact on the environment. Electricity is available only for a few
hours after sunset. There is no air conditioning. Gas tanks are brought
in to heat water for the bathrooms, and bath water is brought from
town in trucks. Well water is stored in ground-level tanks and pumped
several times a day to upper tanks to provide running water in all bathrooms. They reclaim wood/recycled building materials and promote
the protection of biodiversity. Their spa products are organic and locally made. www.azulik.com
Hotelito Desconocido - Costa Alegre
Hotelito Desconocido means “little unknown hotel,” but don’t let that
description sway you—this resort has charm to spare. The 24-rooms
are constructed in the style of an old Mexican fishing village. At night,
there are hundreds of luminary candles lighting the pathways that me-
Villa del Faro is a small, unique and secluded hotel situated on 12 acres
of gardens and desert over-looking miles of private, deserted beach. A
stay at the villa is more like being a guest in an artisan’s home, which is
exactly what the owners intend. Four casitas sit in lush gardens within
the surrounding desert. Villa del Faro was built, as much as possible,
around the cactus, leaving many trees and natural plants untouched.
Always aware of the ecological impact they were making, the casitas
were built as individual homes, rather than one huge imposing structure. The result is intimacy with the desert, a sort of interaction between
civilization and the wildness of nature.
Green-energy highlights: The series of four casitas are indeed
“off the grid.” There are no phone lines or electricity. Everything at
the Villa is run on solar power, supplemented by a generator when
needed. There are propane powered hot water heaters, refrigerators
and stoves. The water is trucked in and stored in a big tank where
it is cleaned and purified. Water conservation is always a priority as
everyone who lives in this desert area knows. The grounds feature
drought-tolerant plants. Laundry is sun dried. This is a “green” hotel—with plenty of luxury to spare. www.villadelfaro.net h
The scent of fragrant orange blossoms float through the air
as you sip a cool margarita, and the first rush of well-being
radiates through your entire body.
Villa del Faro - Sea of Cortez