Friday, 31 October 2014, 10:25 am

Cancun: Mayan culture, beaches

Native Mayans perform a ceremonial ritual outside of Tulum, Mexico. PHOTO BY COLLIN STACHURABy COLLIN STACHURA
Staff Writer
After a 5 ½-hour flight filled with excited vacationers, screaming kids and being forced to watch some straight to DVD movie, the painful pressure and ears popping was almost a welcome feeling; we were about to land.
With a cool, calm and collected voice the captain spoke over the radio letting you know the temperature outside and the weather conditions, as if half the passengers on the plane weren’t already on their phones checking. As the plane rolls to a stop, the cabin doors open to let passengers off. At that minute it hits you —a wall of heat like opening an oven door. It’s the tropics.
In the 20-minute ride to the resort, expectations of what it might look like fade. Police and military officers are visible out the bus windows. With roads that look poorly maintained, and falling-down houses missing roofs and doors, it looks as if no one lives there. You ask yourself, “If this is what Mexico looks like, l wonder what the resort is going to look like?”
The one thing that seems to amaze everyone on the bus was the 20-foot wide by 15-foot high billboards placed everywhere, advertising all the high-end merchandise available.
After 20 minutes with the Spanish version of Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the wheel, you stop at a guardhouse with two security guards. One leans over to the driver asking, “Which resort?” The bus rumbles down the cobblestone road as everything seems to get brighter, prettier and much more pleasing to the eye. Almost straight out of a fairytale, the resort’s entrance is nothing but marble with swirls of brown and gold throughout. The Moon Palace needed no help living up to its name. You feel like royalty walking through the front doors.
At night, the resort reflects and shines in gold. Low incandescent lighting and gold coloured trim adorn everything turning spotless marble floors into apparent solid sheets of gold. For the next seven days it would be our palace.
We are in Cancun, the tourist part of Mexico, all of 35 years old, surrounded by amazing shorelines, coral reefs, five-star resorts and known only to the Yucatán Peninsula.
Cancun is one of the youngest tourist destinations. The beautiful, unspoiled coastline was previously home only to the Galápagos sea turtles and fishing villages and towns occupied by more than 100,000 Mayans.
It began when two brothers struck a deal with the Mexican government to purchase the land on the coast. It was the birth of one of the most beautiful tourist destinations on earth, the Yucatán Peninsula. It may seem rough-shod that two visionaries came in and took the land from the Mayans but it came with an attachment to the people. Resorts must ensure that 65 per cent of their workforce is Mayan. The hotels also agreed not to disturb wildlife, especially the sea turtles. This condition is true today.
Vacationers in Cancun will find there are so many excursions and sites to see that a seven-day trip isn’t nearly enough time. Whether it’s swimming with the dolphins, amazing experiences aboard a real submarine or zip lining through the jungle to getting your need for speed or taking a one-of-a-kind ATV ride through the rain forest and exploring the recently discovered caves. Resorts offer five-star à la cart dining, world-class spas and some of the most amazing beaches you will ever see.
Not only is Cancun filled with modern-day exciting excursions it’s also filled with some of the world’s most unique and ancient history. To get a real sense of the history behind this beautiful land, you must visit one of the four Mayan ruins, whether it is Xichen, Coba, Ek’Balam or Tulum. These sites truly gives you a feeling of what life was like for these people thousands of years ago.
The amazing part is that throughout Cancun, Mayan culture is alive and well.
It wasn’t until Day 3 that one of the most life changing events occured. It was about 6 p.m. The rain and the wind had just stopped. There was a fresh smell of tropical rain in the air in the light breeze off the ocean. As we walked towards the steakhouse in the distance a group of people assembled on the beach. As we started to walk towards them, drawn like an insect to a light, a voice in the distance yelled, “Señor come, come you have to join us.”
With imaginations running wild, down the cobblestone stairs and onto the still warm, soft sand we moved, realizing everyone is doing what only happens in October. The release of one-day-old baby sea turtles is one of the most amazing sights.
Watching the hundreds of turtles scurry to the ocean water with moonlight reflecting off their backs, glowing until they’re out of sight, you feel a sense of pride. That’s when you realize. All the myths and rumours of Cancun being nothing more than a party town couldn’t be further from the truth

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