One of my favorite things to do in Mexico is visit Mayan
ruins. It is incredible what the Mayans accomplished. Their civilization was
complex and their astronomy was extremely accurate. In fact, their astronomy is
so accurate they often constructed their temples and buildings to exploit
events like the winter and summer solstices.
Our day started off moderately early. We had to catch the bus in front of our hotel. We were traveling with a couple of friends, Mark and Tina. Mark is in a wheelchair and you would think that would slow him down, but it does not. One of my favorite things about Mark is his willingness to do pretty much anything. If it is logistically possible, he will do it. I bring this up because he and I knew we were going to have to get up in a tour bus. Our solution was a piggy back ride off and on the bus. It worked like a charm and with an early morning piggy back ride we began our adventure to Tulum!
Most tours in Cancun are sold in multiple hotels so you will
usually stop into several hotels on the way to pick up other visitors. This
tour was no different and by the time we made our way through Cancun we had a
packed bus. Our ride to Tulum is very enjoyable. We are aboard a large tour bus
and our guide starts telling us about the Mayans on the way. The cool thing
about Cancun is almost everything is in English and Spanish so it is very easy
for an English speaker to have a full experience without dealing with language
barriers. Our trip carries us through
another popular Mexico town called Playa Del Carmen. We didn't make any stops but you do get to see some of the city as you pass
When we arrived at Tulum there were people everywhere! There
are a lot of small shops where you can buy refreshments and see some of the
local performers in traditional Mayan ceremonial costumes. When you visit sites
like this in Mexico it is important to remember to be properly prepared. I
would suggest a back pack with plenty of water, a hat to shade your face,
sunscreen, good walking shoes, some cash, and clothing that is appropriate for
hot humid weather. Your experience will be much better if you go prepared.
As we walked into the ruin site we had a pretty good walk down a gravel road. Mark had to work a bit for this, but not too bad. When we entered the site our tour guide started explaining the history and significance of Tulum.
Tulum was a very important trade city for the Mayans. The
city was situated on the coast and it is believed that the first lighthouse in
North America is the one that is still standing in Tulum. There are small holes
that allow the sun to pass through. If you were bringing in a canoe full of
goods, you could navigate by the light directed through this building to help
you find the break in the barrier reef. The mastery the Mayans have accomplished
over astronomy allows them to exploit the position of the sun. Of course, their
engineering cannot be slighted either. They build these stone buildings in
place and they worked for this type of thing! It’s incredible to me.
Tulum has a fortified wall on the backside of the city that
has a narrow gate. During the Fall equinox the sun would pass through a small
window in “El Castillo” which was a temple. The architectural features of the
buildings would control the amount of sun that passed through and a few sun
rays would shine on the back gate. This symbolized the end of the harvest
season as the sun exited the back gate.
The girls got tired and decided to head back to the shops
and get some refreshments while Mark and I took a few more pictures and
explored some more. When we asked which way we needed to go to exit we were
told that it was accessible for a wheelchair and there was only a few stairs.
However, when we got over there it was a ton of stairs! Mark and I started
working our way through it. I would help lift and he would help roll up the
stairs. We made it about half way when a couple of the tour guides decided to
pitch in and Mark pretty much floated over the rest of the stairs.
What I Learned:
- Helping a friend over some stairs in 99% humidity and about that many degrees is sweaty work.
- The traditional Mayan ceremonial costumes are a little intimidating.
Philippians 2:4 NIV “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Mark and I were very grateful that several strangers decided to help us over the stairs. If those guys hadn't been so willing to give assistance to total strangers it would have taken us a lot longer to make it to the exit and we may not have made it on time. One of my favorite things about the Hispanic culture is their generosity. Our world would be a better place if we all tried to find opportunities to assist others. When you are presented with the next opportunity to assist a stranger, what will you do?