Our last "new wonder of the world" - Mexico

Our friends Guy and Cynthia had a week of vacation in March so we decided to travel with them and experience a Mexico all-inclusive resort. 

It’s definitely not our typical style of travel, but we were looking for a hassle-free vacation and settled on Mexico because it was a short flight and was nearby the final "new 7 wonders of the world" on our checklist.  Note: We still haven't seen the Pyramids in Egypt, but those are now considered to be on the "old wonders of the world" list. 

We stayed in Riviera Maya on a resort called "Catalonia Riviera Maya”.  It was a pretty nice resort with most of the amenities you would normally expect.  We had fun relaxing, eating, reading, snorkelling, kayaking, and participating in some of the hotel’s activities.   We also decided to book 2 hassle-free excursions with Sunwing: Coba Express, and Chichen Itza / Cenote Maya.

"Coba Express" was a quick half-day tour to a somewhat-less-touristy ruin called Coba, located 2.5 hours South of our resort. 

Here are a few fun facts we learned about Coba: 
  • Coba means "plenty of water". 
  • The first ruler of Coba was a woman
  • Coba had about 5000 inhabitants during its golden years
  • The rulers were "gods" and would modify their physical appearance to look like gods. They gave themselves tattoos, sharpened teeth, wore complex costumes made of feathers, and pressed their heads between wood pieces to have cone-shaped heads. 
  • The rulers also controlled their subjects through their knowledge of mathematics and astronomy - they were able to predict eclipse occurrences and used that knowledge to install fear in their subjects.
  • Mayan had a really complex set of numbers - it was base 20, whereas ours is base 10 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_numerals
  • The 2012 end-of-the-world calendar was the end of one measure in their number system 
  • Cenotes, the Mayan's primary source of drinking water, contains a lot of calcium carbonate. It was estimated that the life expectancy of Mayans was about 40 to 50 years old as they would get kidney stones from the water.

Chichen Itza
We drove Northwest for about 3 hours and visited the Chichen Itza site for ~2 hours.  We then visited a Cenote on the return back. We chose to take a smaller van tour and it was worth it as we arrived at the touristy site well before all of the giant buses, so we were able to see the site with fewer tourists. 

Factoids (from our guide):
  • The entire site is 27 sq. km - we only visited about 3 sq. km of it
  • Guatemala was the heart of the Mayan culture which included Belize, part of Salvador, and part of Mexico
  • The main temple is oriented to the 4 cardinal points.  It took 1 or 2 generations to complete and was finished around ~1100 AC.
  • Only the High Priest was allowed to go up the temple
  • Only the ruler, high priest, and some merchants, were actually allowed to live within the city. Regular people lived outside the city.
  • The site was populated for about 1000 years
    • At around 400AC, people started moving from Guatemala to the region around Chichen Itza
    • Starting ~200AC, conflicts arose in the region.  
    • By 1470 AC, the site was completely abandoned, and Christopher Columbus arrived in America 24 years later.
    • The Spanish arrived in the area in 1526 AC
  • Historians think that the region was abandoned due to a big drought around ~1000 AC 

Lastly, and probably the highlight of our excursions, was the Cenote. Cenotes are underground caves and the one we visited was huge.  Here we rappelled 23m down into the water to swim and play for a while, then experienced a Mayan blessing ceremony, and had a traditional lunch before heading back to our resort.

While we were in Mexico, reports of the first presumptive cases of Covid-19 in Calgary had begun.  We were fortunate and returned to Calgary on March 7th - just 1 week before Calgary declared a state of emergency.