Wednesday, January 27, 2016

#1592 Cozumel

Our first port of call on the cruise was the island of Cozumel, Mexico. Cozumel is about 12 miles off the coast of Mexico in the Caribbean Sea. There is an airport on the island and you can fly there directly or even take a ferry from Playa del Carmen to get there. Of course, we got there on the Celebrity Reflection.

We were on the larger boat.
You can see another little ship docked alongside the Reflection. I was told that it was a ship from a European company and held about 500 passengers. The ship I was on had about 3,000 passengers and a whole lot of crew members. It was a very nice ship.

The day before we arrived in Cozumel was a sea day for us as the ship was sailing from Miami to Mexico. The crossing was a little rough: it was rainy and windy and the seas were probably around 10-15 foot waves. It wasn't too bad, but it did make for some wobbly walking and a lot of ginger ale consumption around the ship. (We were fine.)

We had booked an excursion from the ship's listings to go sailing and snorkeling. When we got off the ship to go to the excursion, we were told that our excursion had been cancelled. The water was choppy and the visibility wasn't good. MT was sad because he was really looking forward to going out to the reef to snorkel, especially since he hadn't been able to do any snorkeling in Key West. I just like to go for a boat ride. The sky, as you can see from the photo, was blue. It was pretty windy but the temperature was warm, probably in the low 70s F. (22C)

We wandered through the port area looking for local excursions. We found a guy who said he would show us all around the island, including a stop at the Mayan ruins, and take us to a beach for a reasonable price. For some reason, though, that did not work out because the driver found a bunch of people who just wanted to go to a beach. We were interested in seeing the Mayan ruins, so we got a different cab and set out.

The ruins on Cozumel are called San Gervasio. The ruins at San Gervasio are certainly not as grand as Tikal (or really any of the other ruins I have seen), but it was still fun to see them. We hired a guide, Guilbardo, to walk us around the ruins and tell us a bit about the history. I liked it because it was just the three of us. We could have gotten more people together and paid a bit less, but I liked the privacy of having Guilbardo to ourselves.

San Gervasio is a small area with a few ruins and they are definitely in a ruined state. One of the main reasons, besides the fact that the place is OLD (probably started being used around 100 BC) is that there are hurricanes that come through and have destroyed parts of the buildings. A few of the larger structures have palapas covering them for some protection. It is thought that San Gervasio was a holy pilgrimage site for the Mayans, especially the women who came to worship Ixchel, the Goddess of Fertility.

This is the first structure you see when you enter the park. It is known as the Temple of the Hands because you can see little red handprints near the doorway. The red handprints are not unusual in Mayan ruins; I've seen them in Tikal and at Tulum as well.

las manitas
The Mayans are known for their calendars and their time-keeping. Much of their time-keeping was based on the moon phases and they would incorporate symbols of the moon phases in their structures. This temple had four pillars that were said to represent the lunar cycle.

four pillars
Guilbardo the tour guide said this was a little Mayan dragon guarding the temple.

Do you see the iguana?
Another interesting structure was at the main square of the village. Guilbardo said it was where women would come to have their babies and the priests and wise men would watch and there would be dancing and festivities. There was even a throne/chair structure where the women would squat to give birth. It didn't look comfortable. I didn't take a photo of that, but I did take a photo of the temple where the priests and wise men would be.

You can see there is not much left of it, but what I found really remarkable was the large tree growing out the back of the structure. Can you see it in the back there? (click on the photo to enlarge the image)
Here's a view from the back of the structure.

That's a big tree!

The Mayans were also known for building roads, which are called "sacbe" meaning white road. Every Mayan ruin we have visited has the sacbe and I think they are all connected. At the entrance of San Gervasio, the sacbe has a cool arch.

We are standing on the sacbe
Here are a couple more shots of the road.

A tree is growing in the middle of the road

the sacbe
You might be wondering, as I was, about the name San Gervasio. All the other Maya ruins have Maya names: Tikal, Tulum, Xunantunich, to name a few. Well, I guess there was a man named Gervasio who owned the land and sold it or turned it over to the government on the condition that the park be named after him. Guilbardo said there is a petition to have the name changed to the Mayan name Tantun.

It took about an hour or so to walk around with Guilbardo and see most of the structures in the park. We then got back in the cab and asked the driver to take us back to the ship. He really wanted to take us on a tour of the island. Maybe we should have taken him up on it. I would like to see the white sand beaches, but that will have to wait for another time. We went back to the town and the cruise ship terminal. We asked the driver if there was a good restaurant that wasn't too far from the pier. Without hesitation, he said, "Ernesto's". We had him take us there.

It was a tiny restaurant right on the water. We quickly ordered a couple of Sol beers (I love Sol! Such a good beer!) and a couple of plates of fajitas. I ordered shrimp and chicken; MT got chicken and catch of the day, which was grouper. The fajitas came out sizzling and smelling so delicious! The meat was cooked perfectly with soft carmelized onions. It was served with guacamole, chips and spicy salsa and fresh pico de gallo. What a great lunch!

lunch at Ernesto's on Cozumel
To finish the meal, we shared a slice of key lime pie. It was damn good, too! We had a short 10 or 15 minute stroll back to the pier. We did a little shopping for t-shirts - I also bought some silver earrings! - then we got back on the ship in plenty of time for departure.

Overall I would say that even though we didn't get to do exactly what we wanted to do on Cozumel, everything worked out just fine and we had a good time. I would like to go back there someday and stay at a resort. I think it would be great. I think MT would love to snorkel that big reef. That's how I'll try to convince him to go back to the island. :)

Before I sign off, I will quickly say that I am feeling better today. I do think I am getting a bit of a cold because I have been coughing and sneezing a little today, but the dizzy spells have been shorter and less frequent, thankfully.


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