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Eco-Adventure in the Mayan World

by Alan Luke

Evidently, there may not be much time left. Because, if the Mayan calendar conspiracy theories are to be believed, a distinct end to a period of time will occur December 21, 2012.

Could it mean an end to the world as we know it? Believers say there will be a cosmic shift resulting in traumatic change or upheaval. There are claims of a galactic alignment, in which the sun will align with the centre of our galaxy—and with the solar cycle apparently peaking on the winter solstice, a global cataclysm has been predicted.

Sunset-at-Cancun-resort

Credit: Alan Luke

Although not fatalistic, I decided this would be an opportune time to enter the Mayan world and experience the essence of their universe…before it’s time to exit this one. And what better way to explore this ancient civilization than on an interactive eco-adventure tour?

Nohoch-Muul-Temple-Coba

Credit: Jacquie Durand

Based in Cancun, the northern part of the Riviera Maya, we embarked on a group tour of Coba, where we came face-to-face with the Hohoch Muul (“Big Mound”) pyramid. Rising 42 metres, it is the tallest ancient structure in the northern Yucatan.

A rope pulled taut to the summit assists you in your ascent to the temple. And after climbing 120 large steps, you can view the panorama and the expansive verdant jungle as only select Maya were permitted to do. (In retrospect, I should have inquired about an escalator.)

The Maya believed in the Supra World and the Infra World, which together made up the Mayan universe. It was this duality of life that I sought to make a tangible, if not spiritual, connection to through our ecologically-friendly activities. After experiencing the Supra World via the pyramid, we headed north of Coba to encounter the Infra World.

Wandering along a jungle path, we approached what appeared to be a small lake, but was actually a cenote (sink hole or pool). More than 3,000 cenotes have been identified, and they have been the only source of freshwater on the peninsula for thousands of years. This one was Cenote Caiman, and had a long cable crossing the glassy green water.

Zipping-across-cenote-Caiman

Credit: Jacquie Durand

Strapped into a lower body harness, we were to zip-line across, 14 metres above the water.

Our guide told us to leap off our rocky perch while holding on to the tether line—or not. Some fellow zip-liners whizzed across hands-free and even splayed themselves for our entertainment.

Onward and evidently downward, we donned our harnesses for our next eco-activity, and meandered through the jungle until we arrived at a fenced-in hole in the ground.

This was the Dzonot Balaam (Cenote Jaguar), where we were to rappel down through its gaping orifice into its watery belly. The jaguar is the symbol of sun and fire, and dzonot actually translates to “abyss.”

We rappelled down 20 metres into the water, where we could float on a large inner tube or swim at our leisure. The cool, clear fresh water was a welcome retreat from the scorching sun above. This cenote is part of an underground cave river system that flows over 70 kilometres end empties into the sea near Tulum, at the south end of Riviera Maya.

My eco-adventure tour into the Mayan worlds offered me a glimpse of their cultural vestiges and why they continue to be revered.