Friday, August 13, 2010

A Day in the Yucatan Jungle: Punta Laguna

We followed the narrow road that slices through the Yucatan jungle, passing by small Mayan villages and vast tracks of tangled underbrush and trees. Even though we're seemingly miles from nowhere (and I guess, in a sense, we are) I've been on this road once before, several years ago when I visited Pac Chen for a Day of the Dead feast in that small Mayan hamlet.

Today, though, we're going with our friend Adriana Arriola Mora to Punta Laguna, part of the much larger Ma'ax Yetel Kooh which, I am told, is Mayan for house of the spider monkey and the jaguar.

We had barely started walking down the dirt and rock road towards the lagoon, when the trees above us began to shake. Looking up, we could see the dark silhouettes of spider  monkeys in the tops of the trees.

Well, I thought, already hot and sticky from the jungle heat, that's cool...we've seen monkeys. The placid waters of the lagoon beckoned with its pier jutting out in the water and its bobbing kayaks casting brightly colored shadows in the water. But instead we turned right and followed a muddy road deeper into the jungle and then suddenly the spider monkeys just weren't high over head, they seemed to be everywhere.  Leaping from tree to tree and munching on fruit while they watched us as if we were the sights to see (and I guess if you're a monkey at home in the your own nature preserve -- people are the sights to see).

The path ended at a cenote, accessible through  a large limestone hole and near a small wooden altar, decorated with flowers and a necessary stop before entering the cenote as a way of purifying and preventing tainting the clear waters of the cenote. 

As we stood in the small clearing by the cenote, the leaves of ceiba, guanacaste and zacate (whose sap was at one time used to make Chiclets and other chewing gum) trees shook and shells of fruit fell to the ground, the remains of the monkeys' dinners. There are, our guide told us, jaguars in this jungle too and howler monkeys live on the other side of the lagoon.

The Mayan culture worshipped nature and alone here in Punta Laguna with its deep greens, cool waters, red and orange blossomed trees and some 600 spider monkeys, it is easy to see why.

No comments: