Spirit Quest: Trekking the Mayan Jungles

 

By Sylvia Lahoma Ponce de León

The spirit quest is among the most well-known of the Native American legends.  Similarly the Ancient Maya participated in this same activity.  To become a man, a boy must leave his home in a journey to encounter his purpose in life.  By speaking with the animals, nature and following his dreams, a young boy would eventually return to his tribe a man.  While modern culture does not necessarily continue this practice, many people still feel the desire to strike out, to leave our home of sheltering and to find our purpose in life.

Yucatán represents for many a spiritual quest, including myself.  The land of the ancient Maya draws a wide variety of people, some simply searching for a beach to sun tan their bodies on.  While others come here with a specific goal in mind, but one thing we all have in common: we come to the Yucatán to experience something different.

I find the traditional tourist traps frustrating and wasteful.  I have never seen the pyramid of Chichen Itza.  I have never stayed in an all-inclusive resort or been treated to luxurious spas or fancy hotels.  I want nothing to do with these things.  My soul cries to see the places that a million tourists have never been.  To discover new things, to play with the local children and to tromp the jungles and paths traveled by the ancients of this land, this is what inspires me.

I discovered a little place like this recently, one that let me walk down its paths.  I could have spent days there; chasing down all the trails, listening to the shy deer, watching the playful butterflies and searching.  However, this particular trip, I stuck to simply tickling my imagination and walking the main path.  The hacienda I was visiting had called me out to see if I could help in an ecological concern.  When I arrived I found a beautiful driveway littered with tiny purple flowers and an overhanging canopy of trees.  I met the gentle owner, Raymundo and after a brief chat, he immediately began walking down a trail behind a halfway remodeled ancient hacienda.  I began my journey in heels (my legs still hurt) as I quickly realized my horrible choice in shoes.  I had no idea I would be taking such a long journey that day.

The entrance to the Hacienda. -Photography by Sylvia Ponce de León

An elderly Mayan man led the way, as we wound ourselves deeper into the jungles of Acanceh.  Raymundo, the owner of the hacienda and I began to chat about his plans to rebuild the hacienda into a lobby, adding eco-friendly rooms, a Jacuzzi and resurfacing the swimming pool.    Before long I realized I could no longer see the hacienda behind me.  I asked how long it would be until we reached our destination.  “About a kilometer and a half” he replied nonchalantly.  I was completely unaware of the distance I had left to go, my American mind still has very little grasp on kilometers, even after three years of living in Mexico.

Bend after bend and sinking too many times with my heels into the soft undergrowth, my mind wandered as I surveyed the beauty surrounding me.  Raymundo`s command of English was so impressive I found myself abruptly swept away once again into our conversation.  I listened to a bit of history and the tale of a Catholic Bishop that had been born in the Hacienda 150 years ago; Monsignor Domingo Herrera Castillo.  Raymundo explained how he had decided that these very paths could represent a spiritual or religious journey for many people.  I was fascinated by the idea and already there was a designated catholic trail awaiting to be blessed and to place small sanctuaries along the trail for prayer.  We spoke of a Mayan path and about including the other major world religions.

All of these ancient paths, curiously wind up in one central location, what the inherited owner believes was an ancient cenote now sealed and a mini-pyramid due to the sharp rise and fall of the landscape.  As we neared the end, I immediately felt as if I was entering into another land.  Purple flowers were strewn everywhere along the path and the atmosphere was so reverent that I quit speaking, eagerly looking around the next bend to see if we had finally arrived.

As I turned another flower strewn corner, a perfect circular rock formation laid out before my eyes.  The land dipped sharply downwards until it opened up to a limestone faced crevice in the earth.  I inched my way towards the entrance, more curious than worried about the danger.  Standing in the exact center of the rock formation I imagined being alone, sitting silently just long enough to hear the legendary “moan of the deer”, the meaning of Acanceh.

All of the paths eventually wind up here. -Photography by Sylvia Ponce de León

After surveying a small cave entrance in the rocks and admiring the roots of trees desperately searching for water, we turned and walked briskly back to the hacienda, encountering my husband and young daughter along the way.  I didn’t speak much as my mind was reflecting heavily on my experience.  I wished desperately to have been alone to leisurely wander the paths, losing myself in the nature and jungle.  I wondered how long I would have to sit perfectly still to encounter the wildlife undoubtedly upset at my noisy presence.   Or if I would be able to find the Sisal, Aloe Vera and Ceiba`s that I was positive would only require a sharp eye to locate.

Hacienda Kankirixche had welcomed me as one of its first of undoubtedly many international and local visitors to come.  The serenity of this Hacienda coupled with the beautiful landscape of Acanceh was a breathtaking experience, one that I will soon revisit.  Señor Raymundo Concha informed me that he plans to open these paths within days to visitors.  On October 8th of this year, an Ecological Rosary will be performed by a catholic priest.  In November Raymundo will host the first ever Maya EcoChallenge, a test of strength and ability, utilizing the ancient Maya tests.

For more information about scheduling a spiritual journey or to simply enjoy Hacienda Kankirixche`s nature trails, contact Señor Concha by email at haciendakankirixche@hotmail.com also he can be contacted through Facebook at Hacienda Kankirixche.

Source: The Yucatan Times http://www.theyucatantimes.com/2011/09/spirit-quest-trekking-the-mayan-jungles/

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