Northern California Things to do , San Francisco things to do, Writer, Travel Writer,

Tour name: Mayan Inland Expedition.

Did you know that the sound of howler monkeys, coming across the water sounds like two gigantic slabs of concrete rubbing against each other? It’s a real disconnect for me how that sound comes out of that little body.

After lunch, we drove to a Mayan tourist cooperative named Punta Laguna. We changed into swimming suits under our shorts and were put into harness by experienced, small, young men who were very experienced at doing this.

Our local guide and his cousin paddled me across the lake to the howlers in a canoe. They took me right to the monkeys and we hung out listening to that incredible sound.

Our guide for this part of the tour.

Our guide for this part of the tour.

More young Mayans, our zip line hosts, waited for us across the lake. They offered a stick, carved to perfectly fit over the zip line cable to function as a break. I left everything there except the break. We walked for about a quarter-mile, through the jungle on a rocky trail, undergrown with tree roots to the top of the hill.

zip-line break

High Tech Zip Line Break.

No one asked us to sign a waiver on the chance we would get hurt, or offered us a helmet. It was pretty basic, no helmet, just a simple harness, and a wooden brake. Flying through the air is always a rush and this flight qualified for a hearty “yaaahooooo” all the way to the dock. Everyone let out some sort of yell or another and grinned happily at the end of their ride.

Next, we canoed back to the first dock and walked to the cenote on a jungle path, wide enough for vehicles.

A cenote is a hole in the jungle floor where the limestone had fallen away and filled with fresh water. When it rains, water falls through the limestone into natural underground cisterns or caves.

The Mouth of the Cenote

The Mouth of the Cenote

There was an open shower for visitors to wash off sunblock and insect repellent. Going into that water with all that stuff on our skin would be devastating to the environment. Sun isn’t available to burn off impurities. Our guides didn’t mention this that I heard but the Lonely Planet Guidebook warned against peeing in the water for the same reason.

Once again, the harness came in handy. We attached to a pulley and repelled 35 feet down into the cool water. One bare light bulb illuminated the cave.   Two floats for 11 people waited at the bottom. There were a few life jackets or flotation devices up top but not one per person. This is the one safety issue I had. The water was 35 feet deep, so this was quite a hole.

There was a young man who was very fit, no fat on him to help him float. He was very uncomfortable in the water. He could have sunk-like-a-rock and, according to his wife, he was afraid that might happen. Fresh water doesn’t provide much buoyancy.

Eventually, we found shelves at the side of the cave to sit on.

I called up for a life jacket and they dropped it down.  I’m a scuba diver, used to wearing a Buoyancy Compensator Device (BCD). I just shoot air into it to float. This treading water business was a lot more work than I was ready for.

Climbing out was straight up and impossible for all but fit men.  Most of us hooked on to the pulley and reversed repelled (is there such a thing?) up. That was a nice ride.

Mayan Shaman and Altar

Mayan Shaman and Altar

Next, we arrived where the Mayan shaman performed his ceremony.  The altar’s dimensions measured about 5 feet square with branches creating arches, decorated with flowers and leaves, crossing in the Flowers, plants and candles rested on the platform of the altar. He had a burning bowl filled with large broom of smoldering sage.

The ritual included a combination of Mayan and Catholic elements. I stood there and closed my eyes to see what would happen. Sometimes I get impressions of a spiritual nature. As our shaman invoked, in the Mayan language, the hair on my right arm stood up, as if something had brushed against it. I opened my eyes and looked at my arm.  There was nothing there. I rubbed it to get back to the present. I looked around and saw that the “sink-like-a-rock” guy was also rubbing his right arm. Later he told me that the ceremony was very special. Something touched the two of us.

Finally, our shaman came around, with the burning sage and blessed each one of us. That was nice because I can use all the blessings I can get.

I asked our shaman if I could take a picture. He picked up his bowl and stood beside the alter, posing for me.

Next was another jungle hike to the Monkey Sanctuary. Spider monkeys flew through the tree tops. I feel very fortunate that we went at the time of day we did, which tells me that the tour operators really know what they are doing. Another group was there all afternoon and didn’t see anything. We saw monkeys as soon as we arrived. In the 45 minutes we were there, we saw at least two dozen monkeys. Maybe they were the same ones, but there was a lot of activity in the canopy. It was very enjoyable and we didn’t want to leave.

Marlon is passionate about the monkeys creating a facebook page for this particular population.

At the end of spider monkeys, our tour was over.

If floating down a lazy river isn’t for you then I highly recommend the Mayan Inland Expedition with Mexico Kan Tours. Another reason to work with Mexico Kan Tours is: this company supports jobs and opportunities for local Mayans. These people have chosen to say in their small jungle towns rather that move to Cancun or Merida for jobs.

Marlon, Our Tour Guide.

Marlon, Our Tour Guide.

Marlon and our driver made the whole day go very smoothly. The whole organization is professional and organized terrific activities.

John Hect, and Sandra Bao the writers and researchers of the Lonely Planet Guidebook Cancún, Cozumel & the Yucatán recommended all these places.