here. Otoch Ma'ax Yetel Kooh translates to "home of the spider monkey and puma." The reserve is overseen by the local Mayan community members who serve as tour guides into the jungle. This was such an amazing experience - to walk through the jungle with a local guide, whose deep love and respect for his culture and this jungle was infectious.
The Mayan shaman began his ritual and I seriously had goose bumps the entire time. Ah! I just felt them again as I typed this. The chant he recited was a dialect unlike anything I'd ever heard. His voice boomed through the jungle as his practiced hands tended to the burning incense and tied-up bundles of plant clippings in front of him.
He lifted a bowl made from a hollowed out coconut shell over his head and chanted words before handing it to the first person in our line. It was filled with some kind of honey-tasting liquid and we each took a sip before carefully passing it to the person beside us. When it reached the last person, the shaman met it there, and chanted some more before receiving the bowl back into his hands.
There was also something in a bowl that the shaman sprinkled on each of us individually, making his way down the line. He held the bowl in one hand, and a bundle of leaves in the other. Dipping the tips of the leaves in the bowl, he'd recite some words as he tapped our forehead with the damp bundle, and then the front of each shoulder (eh-hm, breast).
After the ceremony we were free to move into the jungle. There was such a deep sense of reverence after the ritual, a feeling of belonging and permission to proceed into sacred territory. Really, one of the most amazing things I've ever had the opportunity to witness.
Our monkey-tour-guide, Jose was a sweet Mayan man with a limited English vocabulary, but we got by just fine. At one point we stopped and he asked us to be quiet as he called out to the spider monkeys. Cupping his hands in front of his mouth, he let out some sounds like I'd never heard before. So fun!
We were there in the early afternoon, and the heat of the day was a time when the monkeys are less active. We did finally see some on our hike, but it was difficult to photograph them. They were high up in the trees, and the jungle was so thick. All the photos I took of them (and there were a lot) were more focused on the leaves of trees closest to me, rather than the monkeys. Oh well.
Walking back through the jungle, we found a picnic area where we enjoyed a late lunch. All that walking and trying to find monkeys in the thick of the jungle, and then here was this guy, just hanging out in the picnic area. I thought maybe he was there to scavenge leftovers but no. The monkeys don't come near people, and they really enjoy their own diet of fruit from the trees.
Oh how I loved hiking through the jungle, receiving a Mayan blessing, and looking for cute spider monkeys with my yoga friends! I'll share about our zip-lining and cave swimming adventures in my next post.