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Monday Travel Update – Riviera Maya Edition

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One of the 1,000's of centoes outside of Playa del Carmen

One of the 1,000’s of centoes outside of Playa del Carmen

I spent the last week in Playa del Carmen getting to know a part of Mexico I hadn’t explored before. Technically, I had been in Cozumel during a cruise stop once before, but I didn’t explore the area and certainly didn’t get out to see any of the Mayan ruins.

So far I’ve explored the ruins of Tulum as well as the much larger ruins of Coba. Coba had the feel of a smaller scale Angkor. In addition to visiting the Mayan ruins (of which there are many in this area) I also had the pleasure of visiting a Mayan family and a Mayan village.

It is interesting to hear first hand just how ridiculously off-base the so called “Mayan Prophecies” surrounding 2012 are. Some of the things I learned:

  • There are no Mayan Prophecies that have ever been found in any Mayan writing. None. Zero. Especially none regarding the end of the world.
  • There are references to future dates in Mayan writings. In particular, there is one referece in Coba to a date 4,134,105,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years in the future!!! It is the largest known number that is found in the pre-Columbian world. They certainly didn’t think the world was coming to an end.
  • None of the Mayans had a clue about this whole 2012 thing until westerners brought it up. People would come to their villages to ask them about it and they had no clue what they were talking about. This is all new age nonsense where they took something from an “ancient culture” and ran with it to sell books.

The biggest surprise I found in the region, however, were the cenotes, which are sinkholes and underground rivers in the limestone which litter the area. I have heard estimates of up to 5,000 cenotes in the state of Quintana Roo alone. You can find cenotes open to the public located along most of the highways in the area. The water in the cenotes is fresh, cold and clear. I went swimming on one beach where there was a fresh water cenote spring coming up into the beach. You could instantly tell you were close by the sudden drop in temperature from the warm sea water.

When I return to the region, high on my list of things to do will be cave diving and taking some underwater photos.

Sponsor Updates

Did you know you can follow your friends on TripIt to know exactly where and when they will be visiting a place? I’ve met up with several people when I saw they were going to be in the same place I was. You can follow me on TripIt to see where I’ve been and my upcoming trips.

Spots on the G Adventures 2013 trip from Cape Town to Senegal is filling up. This is the first time G has ever offered this trip and there is no guarantee that they will do it again. Reserve your spot now to make sure you have space on the ship.

My assistant Amy is on vacation with her family this week on the Big Island of Hawaii. She is sporting her Scottevest Phoebe Dress and Lucy Cardigan. She has found it invaluable for long flights with young kids.


What I’m Reading

The Life of Super-Earths: How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet Many of you might not know that before I started traveling, I went back to school and studied Geology for two years. My plan was to go to graduate school and focus on the nascent field of astrobiology. I eventually decided that starting a science career in my late 30’s probably wasn’t that great of an idea. Nonetheless, I still try to stay up to date with what is happening in the field. The Life of Super-Earths: How the Hunt for Alien Worlds and Artificial Cells Will Revolutionize Life on Our Planet is a good overview of the latest developments in synthetic biology and extrasolar planet hunting. I think it is likely that we will find some evidence of life existing outside of Earth in my lifetime.


Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and SocietyUncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society by Jim Manzi is a powerful critique on the current state of what is often passed off as science, but is really not. Economics, business forecasts, polling, social sciences and epidemiological studies. It cuts to some pretty fundamental issues like how do we know what we know and what constitutes proof. It makes you think twice before you blindly accept “studies” you hear the news which are passed off with an air of science.

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About Gary Arndt

My name is Gary Arndt. In March 2007 I set out to travel around the world...
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