On May 23rd at 12:45 p.m. the Ninth Sacred Mayan Journey drew to a close. After three hours and 15 minutes of rowing in open water, a group of oarsmen excitedly reached land along the coast of Xcaret, just as the ancient Maya did more than 500 years ago.
Back then, the indigenous Maya made this journey from the port of Pole (modern day Xcaret) to Kuzamil (modern day Cozumel) and vice versa, to honor Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility and abundance. Today, the oarsmen do it for a variety of reasons, ranging from a physical challenge to the desire to relive one of the most fascinating traditions of Mayan culture.
The crew of 37 participating oarsmen (10 per boat) is made up of all volunteers. Before the journey, everyone must undergo intense training that includes swimming, rowing, speed, strength and endurance. They meet three days per week over a six-month period to train.
The day of the journey, the oarsmen gather at 3:00 a.m. at Xcaret Park for a light breakfast of mostly fruit. Shortly before departure, the park puts on a show during which dances and offerings are presented to the goddess Ixchel. At daybreak, the oarsmen begin the journey which can last from 4 to 6 hours depending on weather conditions.
Upon arrival at their destination, the oarsmen spend a night on the island at one of the hotels on Cozumel before making the return trip the following day. After finishing both legs of the journey, each about 18 miles, they will have been subjected to considerable physical effort, so much so that some oarsmen lose several pounds.
Although the physical effort required is comparable to that of a high performance athlete, the Sacred Mayan Journey is not a competition, but an exercise in teamwork. It's also an emotional experience for everyone involved and an inspiration for those who witness it, not to mention a chance to challenge nature, the vast sea, and themselves. For the participants, it's an opportunity to test one's physical capabilities and to cultivate new friendships. It's an experience that will hold a special place in their hearts and minds forever!
Thank You Sacred Mayan Journey!
- Juan Pablo Pinzón