My wife Mary Jane, her twin sister Jan, our son Scott age 9 and I have returned from our Cancun trip! Scottie's impression in one word -- ``Awesome!!'' We arrived home in Lewisburg, PA Sunday May 7th at midnight. I had to administer an exam to an introduction to computer science course the next morning at 8 AM!
While I was attending the International Parallel and Distributed Processing Symposium 2000 (IPDPS 2000) (computer science conference of about 400 researchers in parallel and distributed computing) from Monday May 1st to Friday May 5th, Mary Jane, her twin sister Jan and Scottie had a grand time. They visited the many malls on Cancun and ``shopped 'til you dropped'', saw the reef in a glass bottom boat, and visited Mayan ruins on the Island. I have a new collection of beautiful tee-shirts they bought me -- five I think. When I was through with the sessions at about 6 PM, we all jumped into the nearest pool. The Westin Regina resort, where the conference was held and where we stayed, has seven (7) pools! Scottie and I practiced using our swim masks and snorkeling tubes. Each morning we woke up early (5:30 AM) and walked the beach. Even though the conference sessions didn't start until 8 AM, we soon learned that the sun was too hot and intense after 7 AM to walk the beach. We could see the beautiful white sand and the clear turquoise water of the Caribbean right from our hotel balcony (5th floor). Some of my pictures near our hotel.
Our plane flights down Saturday April 29th and back Sunday May 7th by way of Charlotte, NC were uneventful. That is the way we like it!
On Sunday April 30th we booked a tour for Chichen-Itza the most famous of the old Maya cities which is about 120 miles away through boring jungle. See some beautiful colored pictures of Chichen-Itza by J. Andrzej Wrotniak. [You can click on each individual picture to see bigger image!] Certainly, the tour was one of the highlights of the week. The main pyramid has 91 steps -- each about a foot high. The 91 steps on each of the four sides plus the top add to 365, the number of days in a year. The sides are very steep - maybe 60 degrees. Very scary to climb. Scott made it about half way. Dan all the way! The sun was intense! It was very hot, no breeze and humid. MJ and Jan voted not to climb! Our tour guide kiddingly remarked that Americans call the site -- ``Chicken Pizza''. Scott thought that was hilarious! Some of my pictures of Chichen-Itza.
On Wrotnick's web site, you can see the main pyramid at Chichen-Itza in the top three pictures and in the center and right of the second row. At the bottom of each of the four staircases on either side are carved rattlesnake heads (far right of top row left picture - hard to see in thumbnail image. Click on it to see larger image.). Each Spring and Fall Equinox (around March 21 and September 21), the shadows from the corners dances on the staircases exactly to give the impression of a snake wiggling up and down the staircase. Needless to say the surrounding area is packed to high heaven with tourists on those days!! :^)
While we were at Chichen-Itza, it was beastly hot and the sun was intense. We wore loose long sleeved 100% cotton shirts, long pants and straw hats to protect our skin. WORKED! No sun burn.
Archaeologist have tunneled into the main pyramid and discovered an inner pyramid. Scottie and I waited in line to enter this tunnel. By chance, we were stopped from entering because the guard only allowed 15 or so in at one time. Therefore, Scottie was first in line for the next group. Scottie and I didn't know what lay ahead! The tunnel climbs steeply up 67 steps to a small temple. The tunnel is so narrow that only one person can move in it. Which means all 15 people must go to the top like a worm and wait in a small room before anyone can descend. Not for the claustrophobic!! Even though scary and damp on the walls and floor, Scottie and I made it to the top! At the top in the room were two beautiful sculptures. One is shown on the second row on left of the above web page. The other is a red painted jaguar chair with jade inlay.
At Chichen-Itza, there are many ruins. We saw only a small part of the site. Scottie and I especially liked the ball court where they play an ancient game like soccer but the players must hit an eight pound 6 inch rubber ball with their hips.
While I was at my conference, MJ, Jan and Scott visited Ruina del Rey. This is a Mayan ruin on Cancun Island about 5 miles north of our hotel. Scottie relates that the site is thick with iguanas. The large reptiles (up to 4 feet long) are like pesky chipmunks at some US National Parks. They come up close to humans expecting a handout. You can see Andrzej Wrotniak's picture of an iguana at Ruina del Rey. One day while I was slaving away at the conference, MJ, Jan and Scott took a glass bottom boat out to the reef off the coast (2nd longest reef in world). They saw lots of colorful tropical fish and coral. Scott says he saw a seahorse.
Some of my pictures on our travels.
On Friday after the conference, all four of us booked a tour to Tulum in the morning and Xel-Ha in the afternoon. Tulum is the most visited ancient Maya city. The reason is obvious when you visit it. It is a spectacular view of stone ruins dramatically overlooking the Caribbean Sea. J. Andrzej Wrotniak, who took the Chichen-Itza pictures, also has shots of Tulum. The Maya built the city on the cliffs for protection from hurricanes. We had a great time walking around and climbing the ruins. With a wonderful breeze off the Caribbean Sea, the walk was much nicer here than at Chichen-Itza with its lack of even a trace of a breeze.
In the afternoon, our tour bus took us to Xel-Ha, an ecological park where a fresh water underground river meets the salt water Caribbean Sea. This was Scottie and my big moment! After all that practicing snorkeling in the hotel pool, we donned our masks, flippers and life vests to try snorkeling in the wild!! We were not disappointed! Because of the mix of fresh water and salt water, hundreds of brightly colored tropical fish congregate at the place. We swam within inches of many fish 4 to 12 inches long. I used a disposable underwater camera for the first time and was able to get several nice pictures of the fish. Scottie's reaction in one word -- ``Awesome!!'' I agree! Swimming in Xel-Ha was THE highlight of the trip for me! Underwater pictures at Xel-Ha.
Later after we changed back into our clothes, we walked on a floating bridge and saw many large fish (4 to 6 feet long) such as barracudas within a few feet of the bridge. People were snorkeling out there but we weren't brave enough to get in the water with those babies! :^)
Xel-Ha has many birds and plants on its many paths that were a delight to see.
On Saturday, we booked a tour to Xcaret, another ecological park. It is a little commercial like Sea World, but it has MANY things to do, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, swim with dolphins (ONLY 55 US dollars extra!), the world's largest butterfly pavilion, orchid pavilion, two jaguars on Jaguar Island, Macaws, parrots and other birds. Some of my pictures at Xcaret.
Scott and I decided we were not up to snorkeling on the reef in the Caribbean Sea (and it cost 23 US dollars more per person!) We decided to float down an underground river for over half a mile. We donned our snorkeling gear and jumped in. Scott didn't realize that an underground river was so dark! Even though they has some electric lights on the sides, our eyes took several minutes to adjust from swimming in bright sunlight to inside the cave. We had fun just floating along. The total distance we saw three fish. It was disappointing in the lack of things to see.
The big event at Xcaret is the night show. It starts at 5:30 PM and goes to 9 PM. First we saw Mexican precision horse riders. Both men and women. Next we walked to a replica of a Mayan ball court and watched a ceremony and ball game. Hitting a 8 pound rubber ball with ONLY your hip is hard! Especially if the ball is rolling on the ground. The players had to get their hips down on the ground and hit the ball.
After the ball game, we walked around to different places with Mayan dances. Then we ended up at the main theater. The theater is a nature amphitheater of a limestone sinkhole (Cenote) where they have added cement seats in one half. Seats several thousand I would say. At the back of the stage is an underground river where canoes lit with candles can dock. At the theater we saw close to two hours of Mexican folk dancing from many different regions of Mexico. Several Mariachi bands played superbly. For me, the night show was the second best thing of the trip! Very enjoyable! Great to see high quality folk dancing and singing.
J. Andrzej Wrotniak has some more shots of Mexico's Caribbean Coast.
On Sunday May 7th, we packed our bags and sadly left Cancun. A great time had by all. Picture of tired tourist!