Today we're in Mexico, on a small island off Costa Maya on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Here's the tour book description:
Flanked by the turquoise waters of the Caribbean and the wildlife-rich Gulf coast, the Yucatan Peninsula wows visitors with its Maya ruins, limestone swimming holes, colorful coral reefs and soulful colonial cities.
Now it's a busy tourist destination, with new docks and a new and modern tourist shopping mall.
It is the closest port to access some of the lesser known Maya ruins. And that's what we went to see. Europe has Roman ruins; Yucatan has Mayan ruins!
The cruise facility of Puerto Costa Maya, while facing the blue waters of the Caribbean, is surrounded by miles of flat, low lying forests. It is not the forest itself which is so interesting or attractive; rather what can be found in the forest (really it's jungle).
To date, that which has been discovered or uncovered, the partial unraveling of the mysterious Mayan civilization is one of the most dramatically interesting stories of world history.
The ruins are the account of ancient Mayan kings, priests and astronomers whom, using only two wooden sticks and extended time, produced celestial observations and mathematical calculations. Their accuracy staggers the imagination of modern astronomers with their massive telescopes and banks of computers. They built truly remarkable cities using little more than stone tools and bare hands.
But tragically, it is also the story of ritual sacrifice and zealous bishops, priests and monks who were charged with the earthly task of converting the Mayans. This is the story of the subjugation and attempted elimination of an entire people.
The ruins are covered with vines, shrubs, trees, palms and whatever else grows in a jungle. It has taken archaeologists years to dig out and uncover just a few of the temples, pyramids and other buildings. We were in a place called Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. It was a mid-size city with several temples dedicated to the Sun God and many other of their gods. The lush green jungle still hides much of the complex and is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including monkeys and many species of exotic birds. The excavated sacred temples and other structures filled us with a sense of wonder as we tried to picture how it must have looked centuries ago when it was a thriving cultural center for the Mayans. We saw the original red paint on the stucco walls of one of the pyramids and the temple where a mural was found showing the astronomical positions of the planet Venus. We climbed the Gran Basamento which took us above tree level and is where archaeologists found ceremonial offerings dating to around 1000 B.C. The pyramids are not like the ones in Egypt. These were built like stair steps and they let us climb up to the tops.
It was warm and humid in the jungle. The air-conditioned bus was a nice way to get back to the ship.
Tomorrow is Cozumel, Mexico.