dinsdag 18 april 2017

The English story of our cruise, part 3

Cozumel, Mexico (19th March). Excursion:  Chichén Itzá Mayan Ruins

After visiting the Maya ruins in Belize, we had high expectations of the ruins of Chichén Itzá in Yucatan.
The port of call in Mexico was in Cozumel, a touristy Mexican, Caribbean island, from there we took the ferry to the main land. The ferry was luxurious but not so big and you felt rolling and pitching the boat very good. And then  happened what I never had thought would happen. Halfway the 45 minutes during trip I suddenly felt very bad and had to take seasickness tablets!
We arrived in Playa del Carmen on the main land and I walked sick and with cold sweat through the shopping centre to our coach. The coach however was very comfortable and the trip to Chichén Itzá lasted at least 90 minutes. When we arrived there the seasickness had gone and I was ready for the extensive Maya site.
Excursion route  'Chichén Itzá Mayan Ruins' from Cozumel
Walking route walking in Chichén Itzá
The site was very impressive and the guide was a walking encyclopaedia. We used headphones and the guide had a microphone and we could hear him, even when we were not close to him.
Jan and our friends with headphones and receivers are ready for the tour.
Again we had much profit of  the lectures of dr. Louise Bonner.
Chichén Itzá was one of the largest Maya cities and dates from 660-1200 A.D. The place covers an area of at least 5 square kilometres (1.9 sq mi). It consists of ruins of different periods and different kinds of architecture.

El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulkan
El Castillo, the Temple of Kukulkan pyramid is about 30 metres (98 ft) high.
By digging from the top, they discovered another temple buried below the current one.
At the bottom of the steps on the west side you see the head of the feathered serpent god Kukulkan.
Heads of Kukulkan
On the Spring and Autumn equinoxes, in the late afternoon, the pyramid shows a series of triangular shadows against the balustrade that evokes the appearance of a serpent. which should be a representation of the god Kukulkan.
Shadow serpent (photo from Wikipedia)
According to Maya and Spanish sources Maya sacrificed objects and human beings into the Sacred Cenote, a sacred well, as a form of worship to the Maya rain god Chaac. A great variety of objects have been found in the well: weapons, sceptres, idols, tools, jewellery as well as skeletons of children and men.
Sacred Cenote
As I said before, the place was very impressive. Other interesting  platforms and temples:
The Platform of Eagles and Jaguars
Skull platform
Looking for shadow against the wall of the Great Ball Court
Temple of Warriors
Çhacmool on the Temple of Warriors

A chacmool  is a (pre-Columbian) meso-american sculpture representing a reclining figure with its head facing 90 degrees from the front, leaning on its elbows and supporting a bowl or a disk upon its chest.

After the visit to the archaeological site, we deserved a Mexican lunch. You could choose from the Mexican  and Maya kitchen. I tried a hot tortilla and it was real hot! The Mayan food was nice, but not so hot. During our meal we could enjoy the performances of a Mexican dance group.
Enjoying lunch

Mexican dancers in the restaurant
After lunch we had to go the long way back to the Marco Polo via Playa del Carmen and the ferry to Cozumel.
Pisté, Yucatan
Central American agouti (Dasyprocta punctata)
 in a city park in Playa del Carmen.
Beach of Playa del Carmen
Ferry Playa del Carmen
The Marco Polo had large company in Cozumel.

20th - 22nd  March Havana, Cuba.  Excursion:  Las Terrazas.

Havana view from the Marco Polo
We arrived at the cruise-port of Havana at about 18.00 hrs. After a quick dinner in the Waldorf restaurant we prepared ourselves to go ashore. We took our visa application form and passport and had to queue at the customs. The custom officer took our application form and made a face scan, before we were allowed to go into the country. Then he put a visa stamp in the passport. Everyone was a little bit nervous, because we had the feeling we had to look very serious and were not allowed to laugh. But at the end it was not so bad as we thought. We left customs and we had to change some money into CUC's (Cuban Peso Convertible, for foreigners). The CUP (Cuban Peso) is for Cubans only. 
And then, finally we arrived in the Havana streets. It was just like we expected it would be: with old colonial (Spanish) buildings and a lot of classic cars from the fifties and sixties of the last century.

Avenida del Puerto (San Pedro)
Cruise terminal
Plaza de San Francisco de Assis
This first night we walked in the little streets and listened to the music, which was everywhere. At last we set ourselves in in a beer-garden, with nice live Cuban jazz music. The beer garden offered only beer and our friend Dianne liked to have a wine. Her husband Roy went to the restaurant next to our beer-garden, ordered a glass of wine and took it to our place. The waiter of our location saw it and she smiled and approved it!
I expected rain too, because our friend Clive had placed Cuban rain pictures on Facebook some weeks ago. Of course it happened. Suddenly it started to rain and everyone was looking for a hiding place. One of the  waiters tried to get the money from the people, because normally a lot leave without paying.
The rain did not last for a very long period, so we could stay a little longer and enjoy the music. That night we all went back to the ship with a good feeling about this amazing vibrating city.
Mieke and Dianne
Roy, Dianne and Mieke

Next day our friends took an excursion with a classic car and we went with a luxury coach to Las Terrazas
Excursion route  'Las Terrazzas'
We drove through extensive Havana firstand then to the west through the beautiful landscape of Cuba.
Las Terrazas is a small community and a by UNESCO declared nature reserve in the Sierra del Rosario mountains. The nature reserve includes 5000 hectares (12355 acres) of forest which was planted in the sixties of last century on the surrounding (deforested) hills by building terraces to avoid erosion. The forest looks beautiful and unspoilt.
Replanted forest Las Terrazas
We started with a welcome drink (with rum of course) in the visitor centre 'Rancho Curujey'. A band of young musicians played nice and sang songs and the style of the guitarist was a mixture of Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, not a bad combination, I would think.
Near the visitor centre
Young musicians in the visitor centre
Centro de Informacion 'Ranchon Curujey' - Visitor centre
After this nice start the guide explained what we could expect to see in the nature reserve. She had an app on her smart phone with bird noises and tempted all kinds of birds. But without the artificial call they came anyway
Cuban tody (Todus multicolor) - Dutch: Cubaanse todie
The Cuban trogon or tocororo (Priotelus temnurus) - Dutch: Cubaanse trogon
On our way through the nature we visited an old French coffee plantation 'Cafetal de Buenavista' (first half of the 19th century) and saw the sheds where, in the past, the slaves from Africa had to stay in the night. Inhuman.
After the tour we had a simple lunch of beans, rice, pork, chicken and custard in the restaurant in Baños del San Juan, a tourist place in the area, with a camping site even.
Baños del San Juan
Camping site Baños del San Juan
Later we enjoyed a very special Creole coffee in the Moka hotel in the village Las Terrazzas . 
The village of Las Terrazzas

When we were back in Havana, we saw a parade of dancing stilt-walkers in the town.
Dancing stilt-walkers in Havana

We did a little bit of shopping and went to the ship for our dinner. After dinner Jan, Dianne and Roy went back to the city and they had a nice evening. I stayed in the cabin with a terrible cold.  
Next day we left for the Bahamas.

The beautiful Marco Polo in Havana.
Last view on Havana

To be continued . . .

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