Day 6 - Xcarat

Date: 2007-11-14
Location: Cancun 07

Early in the morning, we woke up, had some breakfast, then we went out and decided to have some adventure. We had decided to take the bus to Xcarat. Once we arrived the main highway via foot, we found the bus signs were no were in sight. The street was crumpled under the recent construction work. Sections of it were stripped. There were some road work equipment around and a few crew was working on a portion of the road. We asked around and were told to stand on an ambiguous spot and wait. We stood there, then to our amazement, a few minutes later, a small van veered toward us and pulled to a stop. The door opened, there was already people in there. We made sure the bus indeed go to our destination. Then jumped in and squeezed ourselves among others.

The van only stopped to drop off someone or to pick up anybody on the way. In terms of level of comfort and the convenience, it is nearly comparable as taxi. There was one incident made all of us nearly screamed. A guy, maybe fallen asleep, realized that we had passed his stop, yelled at the driver. The driver pulled the van immediately to the curb, nearly squashed a smaller car on our right hand side. The driver pulled to a stop, then backed up slowly until we arrived the place where the guy wanted to get off. It seemed like normal ordeal to them, but our pounding hearts nearly jumped out of our mouths. Eventually we arrived the stop for Xcarat. It was only 8 pesos a person!!!

Here we waited at another bus stop. This time, the stop was nicely done with thatched roof to give it a rustic look. There were a few other tourists groups sitting around there. Not long, a trolley arrived and we all jumped up. It pulled us all the way to the entrance of Xcaret. The entrance fee was a bit steep, 67 dollars per adult and 35 per child. No, I wasn’t talking about pesos, but American dollars. More than Disneyworld.

We got in and started to wondering around. First we went through the section where most of the farm animals can be seen, here was saw sheep and horses, and of course, the friendly iguanas. We walked through a orchid green house where various type of orchid were growing, a mushroom house where even pink mushrooms were growing, a fish farm, a shrimp farm…

The winding path that was surrounded by dense tropical jungle led us to the Paradise River. We stopped here and jumped into a raft. The oarsman took us down the serene river that was relaxing and interesting. Along the way, some of the native animals could be seen hidden in the bushes. The iguanas was everywhere; if you look closely at the rocky walls on both side of river, once a while you would notice some motion, for one of these reptile would run into the shades. Most time, they were just sitting on top a piece of rock, like statues, with their proud chins up.

Then we visited the aquarium where various colorful tropical fish were displayed in arrays of giant water tanks. There was a patting zoo for kids, though my little one was both fascinated and terrified at the same time while touching one of the sea creatures.

At a clearing, we stopped to see the performance of a group called the Papantla Fliers. It was a group of five brightly dressed Totonacan men who first played music and danced. Then all of them climbed up this 30 meters tall pole that was in the center of the clearing. While one member still playing its cheerful tune on the tip of the pole, the pole started to rotate slowly and the other four started to flying around as they descending like butterflies.

We then lined up, got our stuff secured in a large waterproof bag, each took a floating vest, and headed toward the underground river. We walked around the path under we stopped in front of this large blue pool that was the head of the river. As we each stepped into the water, we noticed the water wasn’t as cold as we expected.

As more people jumped in after us, we started to move forward following the flow of the river. For those of whom had swim much, this was quite a new experience. Even for the ones that swim around a lot, the beautiful rocky ledge surrounded the blue river, and the green foliage that draped over the water made the whole experience quite unique.

Just as we were started to enjoy ourselves, we heard some horror cries for helps. Looking ahead, we saw a man laying on his back, a woman next to him looked around fanatically, while another younger woman screamed for help. The scene bought a chill to our heart. We started to scream as well. There was large amount of fear in the air that my little nephew’s face turned white and he clang to his father tightly.

The people echoed back the universal distress call for help. As we approaching the duck, two staffs ran toward the unconscious man with a oxygen tank. An older woman, seeing we have kids around, urged us to keep going. As we passed the stop, my sister said overhead something that the man might be coming back. We moved along with a little relieve. Nevertheless, looking ahead, the trip was still pretty long.

My little boy, totally unaware the distress, swam ahead of us delightfully and excitedly, was probably the cause for all of us continued to going down the river. The river, flowed smoothly through the tense jungle, a maze of underground tunnels and caves that in several instance there was nearly total darkness, a mass tangle of roots that supported the giant canopy that cover the river… Over a hour later, we finally arrived the end point where our gears were carried down by trucks. We picked up our stuff and changed back to our clothes. It was rather cold when we stepped out.

Once we all changed, we were hit hard with hunger. We walked briskly back to the entrance, where we sat down and had a nice hamburger/chicken burger lunch. The price was cheap and the portion of food was good. We had our fill and headed back.

This time, we walked around the area, visited the spider monkeys, the wild boars, the butterfly pavilion, deer shelter… As we were looking for the jaguar island, we heard music playing in the background. We picked up our pace, and headed toward the origin of music. At last, we stopped by the Mayan Village where a live show were presented. We stood on the trails on the rocky cliff that overlooks the underground river. In the middle was a rocky stage that men in the full warrior customs danced along with the beating of drums. The air was filled with a sweet and herbal smoke. It was really a sight, if only I could squeeze myself in between a dense line of people who blocked my view. I raised my camera over the people in front of me and took a couple of pictures. I guess we arrived a bit too late. Just when I was so glad that people in front of me finally moved, I squeeze forward, just in time to see the boat that carried three Mayans with their faces painted with skull away.

We walked around the Mayan village and took a couple of picture when the little ones went inside the school house. As the afternoon sun started to descend, we walked around the park. Somehow we noticed that everyone was slowly pulled toward the large auditorium. Just as sun shone with last of its glory, we reached the opening of the large auditorium. Here lined along the path were Mayan warriors dressed in various outfits. High on top of the entrance gate, several Mayan women stood there with their colorful clothes. Nearly all visitors stopped here and took picture after pictures.

Once inside the auditorium, we found a row of seats and sat down. The center of the auditorium was a large ball court. The rectangular stage were surrounded by rows and row of stone bench chairs. One end was for the VIPS, who paid somewhere about 200 dollars for admissions, lunch buffet, and dinner. They were served there with their plates. Then there were rest of us, sitting everywhere behind the iron curtain that separated the ball court and the seats. The curtain made sense as fire balls were played later on.

The show started when the last sun light faded from the sky and the audience lit the small candles that were given to them at the entrance. The whole place was eerily lit with candle lights and the air was filled with a scent of burning candles. The show started. It was more like a play that begins with the daily lives of Mayan society where two tribes clashed. A ball game was initiated. The ball players were not allowed to use their hands and feet. They mostly use their side of their legs. The game was accompanied by drum beat and constant cheers from the spectators. When the ball actually went through the loop on the side, people cheered.

Once the ball game concluded, the second part was played with a fireball. While the whole auditorium turned pitch black, everyone’s eyes followed the dance of the fireball back and forth.

Shortly after the ball game ended, the music turned and the invasion of Spanish was presented when a group of Europeans showed in the scene with their guns and firearms. The Mayans and the Europeans tangled up in a fight, but when the Calvary came with horses and trumpets, the battle ended. Then there was the scene of the monks marched in with their holy crosses and the conversion of the Mayan to Christians.

Anyway, after that, there was an intermission. The iron curtain was pulled back to reveal the center stage at this point. Once the show resumed, the whole mode changed. It was no longer pre-Spanish ere, but traditional Mexican dance and others were performed.

Sometime before the closing of the show, we left the auditorium, fearing that we will stock in the large flux of people running out and miss the bus. We walked briskly out of the Xcaret and got on a shuttle. Shortly more and more people joined us. Once we stopped at the bus stop, we all waited. In the cold late night air, the other group of tourists waved their arms each time they thought the bus was coming. Several time, all of us were left in disappointment. When the small van finally showed up, we realized how small it was and they have decided to let us go first. Once the door opened, realized it was empty, we invited them to hop in as well.

Shortly, we were back into our comfort of lodge. Everyone was tired and sleepy. We washed down some food and went straight to bed.

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