Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay
A slice of paradise in Akumal, Mexico


Friday, May 10, 2013

The Great Pyramid of Uxmal


The Mayan Ruins are an incredible archeological treasure, spanning Central America. We recently visited Uxmal, a city of ancient beauty. Here we enjoyed a private tour with a local Mayan guide who has been studying this area for over 60 years. We stayed in the Uxmal Lodge, right across the street from the ruins and were able to visit several times, having the site practically to ourselves. The following tale was told to us by our guide. I am reprinting here from Yucatan Today, a very good website for knowledge about this culturally wealthy land.

From Yucatan Today-An Excellent Tale of the origins of Uxmal.
In the city of Kabah, there lived an ancient witch who knew all the mysteries of the stars and the secrets of the herbs. Every day, the witch gazed sweetly at a very small egg which she had found by chance. One day, the egg opened and a child appeared who became the happiness of the witch’s old age. With the passing of time, he became an adult: his beard and his hair grew, but his body remained small. The long-lived witch spent most of her time at the fireside, for she jealously guarded a tunkul (musical instrument) which she had hidden there. The dwarf, shrewd and malicious, taking advantage of a careless moment of hers, found the tunkul among the ashes. And the sound he made from the tunkul was so strong, that it reached the palace of the king of Uxmal. This sound was the precise signal of a terrible prophecy which announced the end of his reign. For this reason, the king decided to investigate, with the same dwarf, if there existed any way to be freed from this terrible prophecy. The dwarf responded that he would have a road built from Uxmal to Kabah, and when the road was finished, he would return with the answer. As soon as the road was finished, the dwarf added a new condition: break a “cocoyol” (local hard fruit seed) on the head of both. The king accepted, as long as the dwarf would be the first to pass the test, and he passed with no problems. However, the king lost his life in the attempt. And so the dwarf was proclaimed king of Uxmal. That same day, the witch called him home to tell him: “Be fair and always face the truth, but don’t forget it is more important to be good than to be fair. Follow the voices of the gods, but listen to the voices of men. Never scorn the poor and always distrust the powerful.” The old witch died a short time later, and as long as he followed her sage advice, the city of Uxmal enjoyed long periods of peace and happiness, until the moment arrived when the dwarf began to committ excesses, finally becoming a proud tyrant. He ordered a clay statue to be made which he placed over a bonfire, so it would become a more powerful god than the other gods. The statue not only survived the fire, but caused the vibration of every bell. The people, thinking that the statue was speaking, submitted themselves to its adoration. The other gods, indignant for such a sacrilege, punished the city. Thousands of warriors entered Uxmal, sacked it, and burned it, erasing forever the memory of the people and of the dwarf who had once reigned over them.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The secret to a great vacation: Adaptability!

Adaptability is probably one of the most important attributes of mankind. Evolution brought us to where we are at this moment, and social adaptability in our personal lives is one of the best ways to live without stress. No where is this trait more essential to personal enjoyment and happiness than when you are traveling! Especially when traveling outside of the United States, travelers need adaptability skills to smooth their road. Luggage taking a long time? Look in the duty-free shop while you wait, there’s a great special on tequila! Transfer or rental car company late to meet you? Grab a cervesa at the outdoor bar! (And don’t complain that it costs $6, there are plenty of $1.50 cervesas in your future!) Condo or room not ready yet? Grab your bathing suit and chill out by the pool! You’re in Mexico, relax! This is a great feeling, and brings up another point. Anticipation is a big part of the enjoyment of travel for me and many I know. The research, daydreaming, planning and fantasizing that goes on builds your expectations for your trip. This is why it is SO important to be adaptable when you travel. Let the journey unfold, try not to over plan, embrace the unexpected and you will realize your wish: a beautiful tropical vacation with warm people, clear turquoise water teeming with sea life to observe, authentic food and a relaxed laid back vibe that is truly Akumal.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dreaming of la hamaca vida!

The sounds are the quiet and ever present dull roar of the waves on the reef at the mouth of the bay, the louder crash of the small waves at the sandy shore, pushing loose coral, banging together like wind chimes, tinkling as they retreat.
The sound of the palm fronds shading the terrace, clacking in the breeze as they sway, the quiet creak of the hamaca rope, secured in it’s hook as I move to and fro, to and fro. The birds in the trees twitter, call and scold, pelicans glide silently, effortlessly overhead. The sun peeks through the palm to warm my skin. Comfortable now, my book quietly falls to my chest.
My hamaca vida!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Uses for an avocado

Avocado is particularly delicious in the Yucatan. The flavor is sweeter, fuller, greener and more buttery than the avocados I buy here on the east coast. It’s so easy to find the perfect ripeness for the day or next couple of days to enjoy. You may also see the larger, rounder avocado. It’s flesh is more yellow, and not as rich tasting.
Score the skin and cut through the flesh down to the pit, moving vertically. When you’ve cut all the way around, twist the two halves in opposite directions to pull them apart. Remove the large pit by tapping it lightly with your knife blade and twisting the avocado off the pit. Carefully push the pit off the knife blade. Score the flesh of each half horizontally in half inch slices and free the slices by running a spoon inside the skin.
Now you have perfect slices of avocado for many uses!
Use on top of salads, fold them into quesadillas, mash it into guacamole, serve with scrambled eggs for breakfast, drizzle with a little olive oil and sea salt, or just a squeeze of lime! Make a sandwich with sliced tomatoes, cube and fold into chicken salad, or eat it plain, avocadoes are full of vitamins, protein and healthy fat so enjoy this healthy treat. Don’t forget to save the skin and rub the remainder all over your face and body! It’s a soothing mask full of nutrients and moisturizers that are so good for your skin. Not too attractive when you have it on, however, so plan that for when you’re alone!

Friday, July 9, 2010

People of Mexico

One thing that will strike you when you visit the Yucatan is the people. They are quick to smile or offer help. There is a genuine warmth that perhaps is born of the easy climate.
Many people in the tourist services speak very good English, but don’t let that stop you
from digging out your rusty high school Spanish skills! We have found that many of the
people love to teach you a bit of their language, so don’t be shy about asking about pronunciations or usage. They will often in turn ask you about English words, as they
work on improving their communication with the tourists. I speak a bit of Spanish and love to try to talk to non English speaking Mexican people! As I begin in Spanish, I am frequently understood, but the trouble comes when they answer me back! Yikes, rapid fire conversation ensues and I am quickly lost. Oh well. I try to get them to slow down and can usually pick out the gist of the communication. Even with just a few words in common, sign language and gestures, we are usually able to get our needs met, obtain directions, or learn about the speaker in some way. Their proud smiles and shy nods of the head are heartwarming! Don’t rush to judgment about someone’s clothing or mode of transportation. Here the values run deeper, with family and friendship holding high value. Work to earn the respect of your Mexican hosts who serve you so graciously and you will be rewarded with the warmth that keeps us returning to Mexico year after year.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Food..................I love in Mexico!

*The simplest shrimp or fish tacos from small places along the highway. Two plump, batter fried shrimp on a five inch white corn tortilla, shredded cabbage, add your own hot sauce from the assortment on the table. 16 pesos each, about $1.30. Add your $2.00 Dos Equis with all the juicy lime you want and lunch is a bargain. Check out La Floresta or El Oasis, rt. 307 on the service road through Playa del Carmen.
*The flavorful hot sauces, condiments, relishes and pickled vegetables to try! Goodness, every place has a different sauce and the variety is huge. Many restaurants offer the standard salsa with chips, tourist style: chopped tomato, onion (heavy on the onion!), chopped pepper, cilantro and lime. When you venture off the beaten path, the accompaniments reflect the cook’s style. Cooked sauces with deep tomato and smoked dried peppers add real depth to your food when you liberally sauce it, so experiment! Another specialty is pickled vegetables and peppers. When this is on your table, do taste but proceed with caution!
Walk the main street in Tulum pueblo and stop at any street side table where you see locals eating.
*Flat chickens. Chickens are split and laid flat over wood coals, roasted to perfection.
Pick one up in Tulum pueblo on your way to the beach. All ready to go in the box: small whole grilled chicken, chopped into 8 pieces, corn tortillas, rice, cabbage salad and a thin tomato salsa, about $8.00. Try Bronco Chicken on the left as you go south through Tulum Pueblo, service road.
*Mangos. Visit the local produce markets and see variations on mango to expand your palette! Small fruits with slightly banana, citrus, and bitter flavors are wonderful with yogurt smoothies in the morning or sauces for chicken and fish. Larger, dark fruits with lush, juicy characteristics of peach or pear slice up nicely for any meal or right into the blender for mango margaritas.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Sian Ka'an

For true seclusion, take a drive down through the Sian Ka'an Biosphere. The Sian Ka'an translates to “place where the sky is born” and it feels a magical as that!
First drive through the Tulum beach. The road is all paved now through the commercial area, so the driving is easy. Watch for bicycles and pedestrians, as this area can be congested in spot. Be prepared with water for your drive, as you will not see any place for refreshment for many, many miles! Once you hit the entrance to the Biosphere, the road is dirt, and it can be a little rough in spots. With any recent rain, the puddles will be wide and deep. The road is also a bit narrow, so watch for oncoming traffic as groups of jeeps on tour come barreling up the road from Punta Allen, a sleepy fishing village at the very end of the road. Your patience with the slow drive will be rewarded with gorgeous vistas of blue water and white powder beaches. There are some places to pull over and park, where you can walk for miles and not see a soul. These are wild beaches, fringed with coconut palm and not manicured any sense, therefore, be prepared for some flotsam. Don’t let it spoil your walk, the beauty far outweighs the negative of the garbage. Cross the Boca Paila bridge further down the road and park to meander around this area, spotting fish in the shallows under the bridge. This is where the inland lagoon meets the sea. Make your way to one of the small lodges or go all the way to Punta Allen for a lobster tail lunch. This is an all day excursion, but if you value wide open sea views, wild, untamed beaches and the wonderful feeling of privacy with some adventure, the Sian Ka’an Biosphere is a great place to start!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More on food...................

Some questions from a guest about chiles rellenos had me longing for this dish and marveling at it’s versatility. Chiles rellenos translates to “stuffed chile” and is a staple on many restaurant menus in the Riviera Maya that feature traditional dishes. Typically this is a roasted fresh pepper with a stuffing of cheese and a coating. There are so many variations to enjoy, and I try them all. I love the chile relleno at the small lunch counter in Akumal. It is a fresh poblano pepper, stuffed with cheese and wrapped in a thin egg omelet, then covered with tomato sauce. The pepper shows just a small amount of heat, the cheese is firm rather than gooey and the tomato sauce smooth and on the sweet side. This is a great breakfast (or lunch or dinner!) dish and is served with black beans and tortillas. Other chiles rellenos I have experience in the area include stuffings of meat and raisins, seafood, or mashed potatoes. The coatings may be an egg batter, bread crumb or nothing. They may be baked or fried, and the peppers can vary widely to include dried chiles or small hot peppers. The sauces also differ, ranging from a simple tomato sauce as described above, to creamy cheese sauces or brown meat based sauces.
The chile relleno represents comfort food of the region to me because it seems each
cook has their own recipe which I imagine comes from the home. It is a more labor intensive dish, but because it is frequently meatless the price is usually low. Try this dish when you travel to the area. It is healthy and delicious!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lots of Adventure!

Besides the multitude of ruins in the Yucatan area of Mexico, many other adventures await you. Cenotes, underwater fresh rivers and sink holes offer lots of choices, including snorkeling and diving, as outlined in a previous post. The perfect combination of beautiful beaches and alluring jungle have enticed entrepreneurs to offer adventures that you may not be able to access on your own. Depending on the ages in your group, you may want to check out some of these options!
Aktun Chen is an eco park between Playa del Carmen and Tulum that all ages would enjoy. Here is a small zoo with indigenous animals on display, and you may be surprised to find out what lurks in the jungle all around you! Next you will be led on a walking tour through caves and rock formations, past underground cenotes and waterfalls.
This activity is not too strenuous and is interesting enough to occupy older children.
Xel-ha and Xcaret are two eco/water park facilities that offer all inclusive days with a
variety of activities. From beautiful beaches, to rafting a lagoon, snorkeling a cenote, aviary displays and sea life interaction, these parks are a full day of fun. They also feature good food and traditional entertainment and are a great choice for active families.
There are many options for a jungle treat called Zip-lining. Hidden Worlds and Selvatica are two that are close by. Climb the towering platforms and be hooked into a harness to
fly across the treetops for a birds eye view. Hidden Worlds also features a Sky Cycle, which is a reclining cycle in the trees. These are lots of fun for kids of all ages.
Further north of Playa del Carmen is the Crococun Zoo, a small animal park that showcases (what else) crocodiles and many other local animal species. It offers some animal interaction and kids will be grinning from ear to ear. Great photo opportunities!
Also along the coast are some horse ranches that allow you to live out your fantasy of
galloping along the beach in a tropical paradise.
The Jungle Place is a small, private monkey habitat just west of Chemuyil. Here a couple have built a place where abandoned or injured monkeys are rehabilitated and
cared for in loving attendance. Interaction with the monkeys is strictly monitored and
I have not heard of one person who did not think this was a highly worthwhile adventure.
Other activities available include ATV jungle tours, many types of fishing expeditions,
kayaking or catamaran tours.
If you crave adventure with your paradise, the Yucatan is the place for you!