Tulum, Mexico – This past Halloween, the twins revived their obsession with ancient gods and monsters, which gave me the perfect excuse to plan a family getaway to Mexico. So here we are, celebrating the New Year in the land of the Maya. (It’s not Egypt, but we’ll take it.)
The coast of Mexico south of Cancun, the Riviera Maya, is rich with archaeological ruins and geological wonders. It’s also accessible by a direct flight from Boston, which made it a no-brainer for our getaway. It’s also lined with resorts and theme parks and over-the-top attractions, which draw hordes of tourists; so that’s the downside.
We decided to start 2017 off right at the spectacular seaside Maya site at Tulum. (Our thinking was that we could get an early start and beat the crowds, who would be sleeping in late and lingering over New Year’s brunch, lucky dogs. We were right. The parking lot was nearly empty when we arrived shortly after 9am.)
Tulum is not a particularly large Maya site. It has the added disadvantage (from an intrepid explorer’s point of view) of having a designated visiting route. Furthermore, the ruins themselves are off-limits to climbing.
Nonetheless, the twins entered the walled city and were agape. The whole site spread out on a well-manicured expanse, sprinkled with palm trees and ancient stone structures.
Here was the ancient city we had been reading about in Shadow of the Shark (another gem from the Magic Tree House series). Here were the temples where age-old rituals were performed. Here were the watchtowers where guards kept their lookout.
The twins spent several hours spying on unsuspecting tourists, launching sneak attacks and planning our own mystical interventions. We investigated every structure; we examined the mysterious stone carvings; and we imagined life in an ancient Maya city. Then we retreated to the beach, where the twins romped in the waves. It was a pretty awesome day.
In 2008, I watched the New Year dawn from atop Templo IV, the highest temple in the massive complex of Maya ruins at Tikal, Guatemala. As the sun rose on the New Year, I sat atop the temple and listened to the jungle come alive, remarking on “the persistence of life and spirit” in that sacred place. Nine years later, in another country and another life, I was again awestruck by humankind’s irrepressible instinct to leave its mark, but also by our seemingly innate curiosity to investigate those marks. Here’s to a New Year filled with wonder. May we never cease to be amazed by things old and new.