Day 3 |
Sep 03, 2008

Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo Mexico

By Christian Walter

Noon Position: 20 degrees 37,1 minutes N and 087 degrees 04 minutes W

Our voyage through the Caribbean was so smooth – despite the fact that we were sneaking in through hurricanes Gustave and Hanna, or perhaps because of it, as the two were apparently counteracting each other - that hardly a ripple was felt while we advanced during the morning towards our first stop of the voyage: Playa del Carmen.

A leisurely breakfast was followed by the opportunity for me to share a bit of my knowledge on “Pre-Columbian cultures, the Maya and Tulum” with the guests in preparation for our afternoon excursion to Tulum. I started my lecture with thoughts on the early ideas of settlement of the Americas:

While some scientists have considered human settlement of Brazil to have occurred tens of thousands of years ago, others thought that Aborigines or New Zealand Maori might have taken a land bridge from Australia or New Zealand across to Antarctica and Patagonia, still others have seen Asian visitors by ship, or as most take for granted today, Asian groups crossing the land bridge of the Bering Sea. Why then is one of the earliest sites (if not the earliest) found in Southern Chile at Monte Verde with an age of roughly 14,000 years? What conditions were found in Chile at that time and why were/are there no older dates much further north in Alaska, North or Central America?

The next part of the lectures showed slides of the 4 different ethnic groups in southern South America, before cultures further north were mentioned and Central American, or more specifically, Mesoamerican examples of architecture and art were presented.

The Mayans had been around for a long time, but their classical period had already stopped before the Spaniards arrived. Unlike the Aztec or Inca, who were conquered by getting rid of their respective leaders, the Mayans had formed many city-states, and it took almost 200 years for the Europeans to break their resistance. Tulum had been a very late settlement and had been used as a port for some of the trade into the Yucatan peninsula. A walled area (therefore the name Tulum=wall) that enclosed several ceremonial sites, Tulum had still been used by the modern-day Maya for religious purposes until the 20th century; but as it had become one of the most visited archaeological sites of Mexico, the indigenous population did not find enough peace to continue their religious practices…

A short break was given between my lecture and Richard Harker’s talk on photography. Our Expedition Leader Suzanna took this opportunity to give an update on the disembarkation procedure for the afternoon, mentioning that we were not going to need the local tender, but would be able to use our Zodiacs instead. 

Richard started his talk with an unbelievable fact: most modern cell phones today have better lenses than the professional cameras offered until recently. His first of two talks centered on the basic set-up of one’s camera and the correct use, putting forth 10 points with which to improve the pictures about to be taken. His motto was “You are smarter than your camera”, and he gave numerous hints on how to improve the results of picture taking.

By noon, the outside temperature had risen to 31 degrees Celsius (88 degrees Fahrenheit), but The Restaurant provided a haven of comfort during an early lunch. The Zodiac operation was set up, and shortly the first group was taken ashore to board the bus to Tulum. Those that had been there already, or those feeling the temperature would be too much, decided to give Playa del Carmen a try, and either strolled through the center of town and its aptly named 5th Avenue, or went to the Mimi del Mar hotel for a relaxing afternoon. 

By 5:30, the last Zodiac had left the pier, bringing not only all guests and staff members back onboard, but adding two more staff members: Brazilian Claudia Roedel and Chilean Ignacio Rojas. Both of them were later officially welcomed and introduced by Suzanna during recap and briefing, following which I wrapped up our visit to Tulum, showing part of the Yucatan Enquirer’s special edition - while Brent talked about migration patterns of birds.

Since we were going to gain another hour on our way to Belize, dinner was savored in a leisurely way, and several of us visited with Daryl, the pianist/vocalist, in the Panorama Lounge before retiring for the night.