Deborah J. "DJ" Martin

A Witch and a Bitch with an Herbal Itch - and an overactive imagination

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Month: February 2017

Tulum

As I said last week, it’s taken me a while to process my visit to Tulum. I’m not certain I’ve still fully grasped everything, but here goes…

(Note: most of what I’m saying here is from our tour guide who, in addition to being an archaeological guide, is part Mayan. Take it as fact, or not.)

 

First, Tulum was built on the highest point on the Yucatan Peninsula and the temple – El Castillo – sits almost at the edge of the bluff. (Husband, who grew up along the coast, estimates that in its heyday, it was probably visible five or six miles out to sea.) And what a perfect site to build on – so defensible! Landward, it’s surrounded by mangrove swamps which, in addition to being almost impossible to move through without a lot of machete work, are inhabited by animals like crocodiles and venomous snakes.

Thankfully, we were there on a dry, sunny day before the rainy season. Our guide told us Tulum means “stinky soil” and that would definitely apply when things were really wet. Yet, the official site says Tulum means “wall”. I think either would apply.

One you’ve made it to the wall, you don’t have much of a choice of entries unless you want to try to scale the wall. There are only five gateways, and they’re tiny – even for a small person like me. Husband had to duck and I saw several people going through sideways. (The exit is now a path with stairs, thanks to the restoration.)

Once through the gate, you see a beautiful clearing with the ruins. (I can’t imagine the work that went into building the city, much less uncovering it again.) Not many structures are still standing and those that are, aren’t fully intact. But compared to today’s cities, it’s small. The entire site within the wall & up to the cliff is only about 300 acres – that’s about 1/3 the size of Olympic Park in London!

The first thing that hit me was the silence. Even with a bunch of tourists walking around and several tour guides giving their talks, it was so peaceful! The first word that popped into my head was “sacred”. Makes sense. The Mayan were very careful with their land, living in harmony with it rather than trying to force it to their will.

Tulum was a trading port – one of the most important in the Mayan Empire. If you look at where it’s situated on a map, you can see that it’s in a perfect spot for people to bring things both by land and sea. There’s a natural cove at the base of the cliff, making it easy for boats. Although, I wouldn’t want to haul my goods up or down that path! I would love to see a different site (leaving the ruins as they are), set up as it originally was, with re-enactors. At least, re-enactors doing what we think they would’ve been doing 800 years ago. We can thank the conquistadors for destroying virtually everything related to the Mayan culture.

Some pics of the ruins, including El Castillo*:

*Those two lumps on El Castillo (better in the closeup) are the sacrifice stones. The person would’ve been laid on their back over those two stacks of rocks so the priest could more easily go up under the rib cage rather than trying to go through it to get to the heart. Ouch.

As an earth witch, I wear moccasins when I can’t go barefoot so I can feel what’s happening around me. While I still got the feeling of “sacred”, I didn’t get the energy buzz I normally get, which puzzled me. Husband and I talked about it later and we think it was because of all the underground water. The Yucatan Peninsula is riddled with underground rivers, and cenotes are all over the place, providing fresh water – if you want to climb down for it! Which, of course, they had to. Water seems to negate earth energy for me. I’m curious what I would’ve felt if we’d been allowed on the ruins themselves. Stone has a long memory. (But thankfully, we weren’t. I’d hate to see them destroyed any further.)

Unfortunately, the number of people walking around sort of kept the wildlife away. According to our guide, there are several coati-mundi living there, including two that aren’t shy. I was so disappointed I didn’t see them! But here’s a cool bird and a squirrel that didn’t immediately split when I got close:

Another disappointment: our guide said there were native Maya selling things they’d made in the village attached to the historical site. We would’ve definitely bought something if we’d seen anything we were certain was handmade but all the wood carvings looked like they’d have a sticker that said, “hecho en China” (made in China). So, we didn’t.

The place fascinated me. And I still want to go to Chichén Itzá.

Our First (and Last) Cruise

Yes, it’s been a while. Not much has been happening in my world, unless you count my (hopefully) learning how to read the Herbal Tarot and starting the research for a new book. We did, however, go on vacation last week, taking our first-ever cruise.

Not having any real clue whether we’d enjoy it or not, or which was the best line, I chose a 5-day, 4-night cruise with Carnival. (It’s actually a lot shorter than that, leaving late Monday afternoon & returning first-thing Friday morning. So, more like 3-plus days, 4 nights. That suited me, too.)

Our first stop was Key West – someplace I’d always wanted to visit. Mostly to go to the Hemingway House to see the six-toed kitties. Boy howdy, do they have cats! 53 currently, but not all with six toes on the front paws. Some had the normal number, but one had 24 toes (six on all four paws – a rarity)! Did you know? They have their own on-call veterinarian, and a cat cemetery on property. All the cats are named after movie stars. I think the top pic is of Betty Grable. Or maybe it’s Marlene Dietrich. (I never could get one in a position to actually see the toes in the picture.)

All cats drink out of toilets, if allowed, right? The bottom of that fountain is a urinal out of the original Sloppy Joe’s. 😀

Key West has a lot more to offer in the way of sightseeing, though. There’s the Truman “Little White House”, some pretty neat trees, and the Key West Museum with awesome sculptures:

Truman White House
Banyan Tree
Kapok Tree
Sculptures at the Key West Museum

Upon our return to the ship, our cabin had already been serviced and we were greeted with a towel animal (a different one each morning):

Poison Ivy is a running joke with friends. You’ll see her in my pics here & there.

Then it was on to Cozumel and our tour to Tulum. (I’d wanted to go to Chichén Itzá but they cancelled that tour.) I’ll have to do a completely separate post on that – I’m still processing what I saw, heard and felt. But, here’s some pics to get you started:

If you have an opportunity, go. It’s one of the most awesome places I’ve been.

As usual with shore excursions, our time was too short everywhere. We had about forty-five minutes in Playa del Carmen before the ferry back to Cozumel. (And got caught in a shower without an umbrella, to boot!) Our tour guide mentioned one of her favorite places in the shopping district – Ah Cacao. Chocolate! Of course, I had to visit – and make a purchase. Unfortunately, that souvenir didn’t last long.

One day at sea (which was windy), then back to Miami and our plane (and drive) home. During that day at sea, we discussed the cruise and whether we’d want to do it again. The staff was extremely friendly, the food wasn’t bad (we wouldn’t consider it gourmet but it was quite edible), and we made new friends. The answer was ‘yes, but on a different line and a room with a balcony’. You see, we’re old folks. Music started blaring at 9am and didn’t stop until very late. There was no where to go on deck that was quiet enough to just enjoy the view without the bass beat pounding its way into your thoughts. Our cabin was on the lowest deck, right above the deck they use for entering/exiting the ship. The noise associated with docking started as soon as the ship made port, usually at dark-thirty. A room higher up would eliminate that problem.

The answer was ‘yes, we’d do it again’ until I woke up Saturday morning still feeling like I was on a ship. Thinking it was temporary, I wasn’t too worried about reeling around the house. Unfortunately, a week later, I’m still reeling. And it’s really a thing. It’s called Mal de Débarquement Syndrome. (Naturally, I’d be one to get this…) So, no more cruising for me and fingers crossed this eventually goes away. I feel like I’m drunk without any of the benefits of being so!

I’ll write another post on Tulum when I get my thoughts together. In the meantime, it’s back to the grind.