Log #54b Isla Mujeres and Mayan Ruins

March 25, 2012 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 54, The Logs

Fronteras, Rio Dulce, Guatemala
Anchored off RAM Marine
March 25, 2012

Hi Folks,
We have been in Guatemala for a week now and have enjoyed it. We are up the Rio Dulce 27 miles from the coast inside a couple of mountain ranges. We will be leaving Veleda on a mooring ball in El Golfete, a lake on the Rio Dulce next week, and will be returning to Toronto April 5 for about six weeks before we leave in our trailer for the Yukon and Alaska. The weather is hot, up to 31 C (close to 90 F) most days.

Of the attached pictures, two are from a CD I purchased on site. They are the artist’s image of the pyramid temple of Kukulcan overgrown when first discovered in the 1800’s. The second from that CD is of the same temple at the equinox last year showing the image of the sacred golden snake created by the sun as it sets on the side of the stair ramp. As the sun sets the snakes rippled image creeps down the stairs to the sculptured head at the base. If you look closely at the base you will see the sculptured head, and behind it a doorway, the only entrance inside which revealed another temple upon which the present temple was built. The two sides of the pyramid have been restored, but the other two side behind are not restored. Similarly the pyramid at Coba on which people are still allowed to climb, has not been restored.

I will have more pictures of Mayan ruins in my next log, and hope t make up an album on Picasa with even more pictures of Mayan sites. On our way back to Toronto next week we will be stopping at Kikal, another significant site here in Gutemala.

All the best,


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Log #54b Isla Mujeres and Mayan Ruins

Fronteras, Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Anchored off RAM Marine

March 23, 2012

When we awoke on the morning of Jan. 23 having anchored at 0230 at Isla Mujeres (21 14.771N, 086 94.737W), Mexico, we saw we were quite safe with a half dozen other boats nearby, none of which showed anchor lights when we arrived five hours ago in the dark. It is always interesting making a night entry to see where you are the next morning in daylight. Shortly after breakfast, about 0900, we motored over to Paraiso Marina, a half mile away, to go alongside and do our entry procedures. Pedro (I think that was his name) at the marina was very helpful, and arranged for all the officials to come down to do our check in to Mexico. Two officials came aboard. One was to check out the boat and the declarations of what we had on board. The other was a health/agriculture inspector who asked if we had had a fumigation done (No, but we would have such done later) and unfortunately confiscated all our vegetables, but not our frozen meats.

Kevin, the on site manager, was also quite helpful, indicating we really didn’t need to have a fumigation done, for if no problems of dirty shipboard areas was noted, no action need be taken. Paraiso Marina is a pleasant one at reasonable prices (less than $1.00 a foot) with water and electricity at the docks, a Tiki Bar/restaurant, swimming pool, WiFi, book exchange, and a fifteen minute walk from downtown or a good grocery store. We stayed alongside only one night, but used the marina facilities (showers, restaurant, WiFi ,dinghy dock, and TV for the Super Bowl football game of Boston vs New York) for the next ten days while out at anchor.

We also got a ten year temporary importation certificate for $50.00 U.S. but we had to go across by ferry to Cancun, to the government office, three times due to wrong paper work and signatures. The ferry across cost only 18 pesos return (the peso was roughly equivalent to 12.8 pesos to the U.S. dollar) for the twenty minute trip to that tourist mecca. We must have made ten trips across over the ten days we stayed at anchor for documentation and trips we took to Mayan ruins. Isla Mujeres is pleasantly low key in comparison to the dozens of high end tourist resorts and hotels that line the Cancun shoreline.

We took two day trips from Cancun to the major Mayan sites of Chichen Itza, and Tulum. The Yucatan Peninsula (including Mexico, Belize and Guatemala) and parts of Central America were the territories of the Mayan civilization dating back over 4000 years. As Wikipedia says,” The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems.”  It evolved from 2000 BC to its highest development in the “Classical” period from 250 to 900 AD. But, interestingly enough, they never developed the use of the wheel. Their calendar is fantastically accurate, but terminates on Dec. 21, 2012! Some say it will be the end of the world or the beginning of an Armageddon, or just the next cycle of several thousand years. (We plan to be back in Belize of it Dec. 21.)

The Maya developed a series of city states in Central America, Tulum preceding the establishment and dominance of Chichen Itza in the later classical period. The decline of the Mayan civilization preceded the Spanish conquest, and was not caused by it, even though the Spanish enslaved them and carried out genocide policies in the 1500 and 1600’s. Many of their cities were abandoned and not uncovered until the last century or so. Their abandoned temples and plazas over hundreds of years were overgrown by the forests. Still today many of their structures lie buried beneath forest mounds, with funds not available to Central American countries to excavate them and archeologically explore them.

There are a variety of theories as to the reason for their decline. One theory is that the more warlike Toltecs from Mexico conquered and subjugated them. This did not have any support from the guides we had. Other theories suggest droughts and crop failures due to poor agricultural practices. Another interesting one is that the lower classes rebelled or withdrew from the big centres in protest against the strict religious hierarchy. An adjunct to this theory is that the political and religious hierarchy brought in Toltecs to control and suppress the lower classes who then increased the rates at which they abandoned the city states leading to the decline of the civilization, but sustained the dispersed Mayan peasants who are populous but scattered today in the Yucatan, including Belize and Guatemala.

It was an hierarchical society dominated by the religious and political elite dominating the remaining 90 % of the population. Sacrifices, both animal and human were offered to their gods for good harvests. Perhaps when the harvests were not good, it caused the masses to lose faith and trust in their aristocracy? Their demise could be a result of all these factors, resulting in the abandonment of the grand cities which were then overgrown by the forests after being looted and partially dismantled for building blocks of their individual dwellings. In each of the Mayan ruins we saw, there were still mounds beneath which were dwellings, temples, and roads still unexcavated and unexplored. (See picture below of overgrown pyramid in mid 1800’s before any excavation.)


The two most important sites we saw in Mexico are Chichen Itza and Tulum. In both excavated cities the temples, observatories and games arenas were cleared and partially reconstructed to their original configurations. The most dramatic was the Pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, astronomically positioned to allow the sun to radiate through openings and to allow the shadows of its progress on the equinox to be reflected on the terraced corners of the temple, producing an image of the god as serpent moving down, and then up, the temple stairs (see attached picture).


It was also constructed in such a way as to reflect sound directly opposite the majestic stone staircase, so that the high priests could be heard by the throngs below. A popular activity for tourists is to stand 50 yards away and clap hands to hear quite clearly the echo created from this acoustically designed structure. The knowledge of astronomy and mathematics required to construct such temples is impressive.

The Yucatan Peninsula has a porous limestone base that is riddled with underground rivers that are sporadically exposed to the surface through sink holes, called cenotes (see attached picture),

log_54b_cenote_sink_hole_near_chichen_itza_1000                          log_54b_mayan_alter_in_cenote_cavern_1000
which often took on a religious importance. Some sacrifices were thrown into these cenotes, and religious ceremonies were conducted there (see attached picture).

Chichen Itza is inland whereas Tulum is on the coast south of Cancun. Another Mayan site inland from Tulum is Coba, a more incomplete excavation with many unexcavated mounds waiting for archaeological exploration. Here we were able to mount the main pyramid to look over the forest canopy (see attached picture).


It was also from here that a straight road was constructed to Chichen Itza, over 50 miles away through dense forest, a spectacular surveying feat a thousand years ago. The road is now just a long straight interrupted series of forest vegetated mounds.

These sites are large scale tourist destinations with many local artisans selling their wares. We were advised to never pay the initial asking price for an object, but to bargain for everything. Tourism along this coast of the Yucatan from Cancun down the coast to the island of Cozumel is big business supported by the Mexican government to bring in foreign currency. It is a well developed tourist area.

More about our travels and cruising in Mexico in my next log.