God continues to amaze us with the wonderful people he places on our journey. We are always excited when he opens a door to meet people. Back in February 2019, we found Port of the Islands Marina. It is a gem that we love and have been back to again. The people are part of the draw for us. We just love it here. Sometimes God has an even bigger plan in mind when he brings people together. Not long after we arrived, Dan and Karen returned back into their slip across the dock from us. We had been told that we would love them. When their boat backed in with Story on the back we were immediate intrigued. The first thing Dan said to us was, "We can't wait to hear your story." The name of their boat had several meanings for them, but one is they love to hear people's stories.
As we got to know each other better and hang out, they invited us on a dinghy cruise through the mangroves close to the marina. As we drifted along sharing stories, we learned about Dan's separation from his children. This is a deep sadness that he carries, but was willing to share the pain of the divorce from his first marriage and the loss of connection to his children. He prays that God will reconnect them all one day. After this Dan asked about our stories. Dee felt lead to share details about his recent wounds. He shared about learning that his father was not his father at the age of 51 and the pain that has caused him. Learning that others knew but no one trusted him with this knowledge. We discussed how this was his story and not just his Mom and Dad's to keep from him. It did feel easy sharing details with what some would assume are still strangers to us. God was working.
I can't remember exactly but several days or maybe just the next, Karen knocked on our boat and was crying. She said she needed to speak to Dee. I started to leave but she told me to stay. She shared with Dee that she had been feeling God calling her to share a truth with her middle child, a son. She had separated from her husband and had a relationship with someone else which resulted in a child. Her and her husband put their marriage back together at the time and he raised the child as his. She shared that people knew the truth and she was worried about someone telling him. He was also soon to marry and she felt she needed to tell him before the wedding.
Dee was able to help her understand how important it would be to tell him his story, but that it might take time for him to receive and work through it all. Karen was able to help Dee see where his Mom was in not sharing and attempting to protect him. It was a very healing conversation for them both.
Dee kept up with Karen until she was able to share the truth with her son. Although it took some time for her son to work through some of this new information, just as Dee it was something he had felt. Neither was totally shocked by this information. Karen and her son have a strong relationship today. Praise God!
Dee was never able to connect with his father even though we found him about 15 miles from where he grew up and lived his life. His family did not have an open heart and he passed away in 2020. We know there is a reason God did not allow this although it is hard to understand, but Dee feels blessed to have been able to help Karen through this difficult journey, and that God let him see inside his Mom just a little.
Dan and Karen will always have a special place in our hearts.
We set out with new friends, Annette and Tony, who are 20 year residents of Mexico and head across the Yucatan Peninsula from Tulum into the state of Yucatan. The roads were in great shape and we were able to experience passing through so many little villages to our first stop in Valladolid, which was the first capital of the Yucatan State. Today the capital is Merida. Valladolid is a beautiful city just like most large older cities in Mexico which is built out from the city center square with a large catholic church and government offices surrounding the square. We stopped for breakfast at a little hotel in the city square know as El Meson del Marques. We ate in a courtyard just off the street. Excellent! We enjoyed authentic Mexican breakfast. Yes, I wish I knew what we ordered, and I wish the hotel had a menu online so I could look up the dishes again, but they do not so I can only tell you that is was fabulous and I would recommend not just the restaurant, but the quant little hotel. I would love to go back and spend a night or two and explore this old Mexican City.
After breakfast it was time to work off all that great food, so we head to the Ek Balam archeological ruins. This remote archeological site is about 27 km from Valladolid and 127 km from Playa de Carmen which is only 15 mins from Puerto Aventuras where we are located. As you drive into this remote area you are first greeted by local vendors and their beautiful Mayan wares. The only modern portion you will see is the building you purchase tickets in which houses some history on the area. A short walk through the jungle and the ruins quickly open up and stand before you. Ek which means Black or Bright Star and Balam which means Jaguar comes together to mean Jaguar Star or Black Jaguar (depends on the website). Many stories from the mayan history surround how Ek Balam got its name but none have been proven through the archeological discoveries. I found more information about Ek Balam on the Chichen Itza website.
What archeologists have discovered about Ek Balam begins sometime around the year 300 BC, until the arrival of the Spaniards. It was the capital of the Tah empire, and this settlement covered about 12 square km, which included a sacred central space that I will refer to as the temple. This sacred area is little more than 1 square km where the elite were believed to have made their homes. Ek Balam is a Mayan City that really developed during the Late / Terminal Classic Period (600-850 / 900 AD) and the seat of the kingdom of "Tlalol". The first known king of Ek´Balam is Ukit Kan Le´t Tok (the father of the four flint fronts) who was the builder of the palace or temple known as Acropolis. This settlement influenced both technical and cultural advances during their time, as well as architectural and decorative designs, the best example of which is the section located inside the Acropolis and known as Sak Xok Nahh (white house of reading), which served as a tomb for Ukit Kan Le´t Tok, who was buried with a rich offering made up of more than 7,000 pieces such as ceramic vessels, shell objects, snail and tumbaga (South American gold which has portions of copper and silver).
Before arriving at the Acropolis you walk through the area where Pok-Ta-Pok was played. The information about this game came from the website Culture Trip . The best warriors were chosen to participate on one of the teams. In the game, they wore headdresses and paint, leather skirts made from sacred animals or loincloths, and protectors on the hips to cushion the impact of the rubber ball made from rubber trees. The hip protectors also helped to increase the speed of the rebound.
Before the game, they prayed to Hunahpú, a Mayan god, sacrifices were made after losing a game usually human sacrifices of the losers. The players had to kick the ball with their hips, elbows, knees, and forearms and not let it drop, as that indicated a ‘bad sign,' and once the ball passed through the rings on the walls, the game was over.
The reasons for the ritual vary. On one hand, they used to do it to maintain the order of the cosmos and the fertility of the lands (triumph of life) in times of shortage (evils of man). On the other hand, it was considered a substitute for war. It also served to get a response from the gods: one team represented a “yes” and the other a “no," the answer depended on who won the game. When the Spanish colonized Mexico, the game was still going on, but without a religious meaning: instead of human sacrifice, the winner got slaves along with gold, jade, etc.
The game wasn’t believed to be distinctive of a particular native group. Recently, a court was found in Mexico City, in an Aztec temple, underneath a 1950s hotel. The game is still practiced in Central and North America, but just as a cultural activity and “pok-ta-pok is what football [soccer] is today.” Nowadays, there’s a modern version called Ulama, practiced in Sinaloa, a Mexican State.
Finally, as you pass through the area where Pok-Ta-Pok was played you begin to see the rise of the ancient temple ruins of Ek Balam know as the Acropolis. This temple housed homes, ritual areas, etc. The picture above of the reading room shows some of the intricate work found all around this temple.
The climb up seemed easy for a few steps and then the skinny steps got steeper and steeper and yes I was scared, but determined to see it to the top and back. Thankfully, I survived. It is scarier than I expected and surprised their have not been accidents. Maybe accidents have occurred and I just can’t find any information about any. The view from the top was spectacular and I have no idea how far you can really see from the top of the Acropolis. Miles and Miles - almost a 360 view from the top. Check out some of the pictures below for the view from the top of Ek Balam. Another room we found had an opening where you could feel cold air coming into the room. Although, the opening went down into the dark where there was no light, It was certainly a very cool space probably down to some sort of cenote. However, the Mayans believed cenotes could be entrances to the underworld, so not sure they would have ventured down there on purpose. From the Culture Trip website: The Mayans believed cenotes to be a gateway to Xibalba, the underworld, and the god of rain, Chaac. These gods were believed to live at the bottom of these sacred wells. The Mayans performed rituals and ceremonies at sacred cenotes to ask for rain and good crops.
Speaking of cenotes, After climbing the temple ruins and exploring the grounds around the ruins, we were hot and tired and ready for a cool swim in the cenote also located on the Ek Balam grounds.
The Cenote Xcan ché is located in the middle of the jungle with easy access from the archaeological site. It has a depth of 40 meters. We had a blast! Check out the videos!
The water is so cool and refreshing and I could see a day spent here picnicking, swimming, and relaxing by the cenote. It was hard to leave, but the day must come to an end and we have that two plus hour drive back to Puerto Aventuras. We so appreciate that Annette and Tony took the time to share some of Mexico with us that we might not have found to explore. We can’t wait until our next Mexican Adventure!
.I wanted to start sharing some of the great people we meet along this journey that God has blessed us to experience. Part of God's blessing is meeting great people. There are so many, but sometimes they have special stories, or you know God put them in your path. The first person who comes to mind from our journey is Lawrence. If you read this and have any information about him, please share because we think about him often and wonder how he is and where he is. This was one person I failed to get contact information on, so we could not stay connected.
We first saw Lawrence in Black Point when he cruised in on his 29ft sailboat, Mini SS. If you don't know where Black Point is well you are missing Momma's bread. That is another story. Black Point is a small community just south of Staniel Cay in the Exuma chain of the islands in the Bahamas. This community relies heavily on cruisers to support it small population. When we saw Lawrence he did have his daughter and a friend on board.
We saw Lawrence who was anchored nearby, but we were never on shore together. We didn't get to know him and hear his story until we anchored by each other in Georgetown, Exumas in the anchorage known as Red Shanks. We rode out some pretty severe winds for 4 days and then after coming back from doing laundry in town. Lawrence was onboard and we drove by to stay hi and introduce ourselves. He quickly invited us onboard to visit and drink a cold beer. So we took him up on it and learned an incredible story.
Lawrence told us that he had been spending winters in the Bahamas for many years. This is an annual trip for him. He was from Canada and a retired school teacher. His wife use to come with him, but she has since decided not to make the trip south any longer. He was 81 and drives from Canada to Florida where he stores his sailboat and puts her in the water and heads across to the Bahamas. Wow! I am already impressed and the story continues. Lawrence has had several strokes one of which happened where were were anchored in Georgetown. Several years ago while anchored, he woke during the night and knew he was having a stroke because one side of his body was partial paralyzed and numb. It was dark so he had to wait until the sun came up and got his in his dinghy and made the 2 mile trip into town. The clinic did all they could and knew he needed to be moved to Nassau for further treatment. The nurse from the clinic in Georgetown came out to the boat while he got items he needed and then stayed with him until he was on the flight to Nassau for further care. He was eventually released after treatmen and returned to the boat and continued his trip which included sailing her back to Florida.
You can tell when you talk to him that he slurs some of his words, but he does remarkably well with speech and caring for himself onboard. Single-handing a sailboat is no small feat and then to have had multiple strokes. But he has a passion for the water and is no novice to sailing his boat. I still worry about him sometimes and wish I had gotten more information and knew where he was today. That is why I asked at the beginning. If you know him please comment below about him. He is one of those great stories. He reminds that we can overcome and endure so many things in life. Keep doing the things you love! Fair winds and Following Seas, Lawrence.
After hearing his story it was even harder to watch all the work he did on his own just so he could continue to do what he loved: Sail his sailboat through the Bahamas. Here is the video where we first shared Lawrence at the 9:29 minute mark.
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