Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Monkeys and a Mayan Shaman ~ Adventures on my mom's birthday

Today I'm continuing my recap of the amazing day I spent touring with my yoga friends in Tulum, Mexico. After climbing Coba ruins and having lunch at a great Mexican restaurant, we enjoyed a van ride through some crazy thick jungle roads and ended up at Punta Laguna, Mexico - The Spider Monkey Reserve.

There was this cute little museum near the entrance but there wasn't much time to linger there. We changed into our swimsuits, slathered on sun screen and hit the trail.

I'm super happy I thought to snap this next photo, because no way would I have remembered the name of this place. You can read more about it 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.

Before entering into the jungle, visitors are led through a purification ceremony. The ceremony was conducted by a Mayan shaman and this was one of the coolest things I've ever experienced!

We were led in a single file line, walked around this structure and stood in a half-circle, side-by-side. The scent of coba incense (now a familiar fragrance as our resort burned the same stuff) was wafting through the air. I snapped the above photo as we were taking our places. You know I was dying to take more photos, but once the ceremony began I felt it would be disrespectful to do so.

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.

The reserve's archeological site consists of a total of 36 structures that are pretty much engulfed by the jungle. These date back to 300 BC - 250 AD. It was so fascinating to imagine what these buildings might have been used for. Mayans constructed these buildings for temples and trade, while the village people lived in huts made from plant material.

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.

There's another Mayan structure in the photo above. Can you see it?

After walking through the jungle for a while, our path opened up to this clearing and a beautiful lagoon. I was awe struck at its beauty! It was here that we prepared for our zip-lining adventure, taking those canoes to the other side of the lagoon to reach the zip-line platform. I'm going to save the photos from that adventure for my next post, so the rest of the photos in this post show how we wrapped up our day.

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.

Our tour guide, Cesar, supplied us with cheese, tomatoes, chips and guacamole and white wine.

And our resort had packed us each a lunch of our choice. I enjoyed a tuna salad, chips and fresh fruit. So delicious!

Jungle randomness:

And more monkeys on our walk back to the van. They were a family, and one of them is holding a little baby. ♥

Our tour guides took such great care of us! We were so grateful. And it was so cool at the end of our day to give their small village our left over sandwiches, fruit and drinks. They were so grateful in return!

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.


debs14 said...

What an amazing experience you have had. It sounds like you had the best time ever!

Audrey said...

Oh my goodness, the MONKEYS!!!!! I would LOVE to see them in person. So cool!!!

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