Do You Let Bodily Limitations Hold You Back?
We have just concluded
another wonderful tour in Bacalar and the Riviera Maya, together with my
traveling friends from Michigan.
the fourth year that they are escaping their winter to soak up the Caribbean
warmth and lush tropical vegetation for a little while.
This time they stayed
2 weeks, and another daughter accompanied them for her first time, so we caught
up visiting a few places that the others already knew, like the amazing
archaeological sites in Kohunlich, Dzibanche and Kinichna; the Museum of Maya
Culture in Chetumal, a fantastic sunset kayak paddle in the lagoon of Bacalar;
Fort San Felipe and Cenote Azul; as well as the gorgeous Tulum temples.
“Don Enrique”, a
retired biology professor, is 93 years old now.
Again, we rented an electric scooter for him, and he joined us to the
Maya community of El Naranjal, for an island tour on Isla Mujeres, and for a
second time to Chichen Itza. He
accompanied us to the Santa Cruz church in Felipe Carillo Puerto, an important
site of the caste war, where the Maya still worship the “Talking Cross”. “Don Enrique” sat in the shade in the park to
avoid the stairs, while his oldest daughter inspected the inside of the
church. As the rocks hold Mother Earth’s
records, they still emit the energy of long gone times, when the Maya were
resisting the conquerors.
Everyone was happy
with our hotel choices. Posada Mariposa,
a charming boutique hotel on Quinta Avenida in Playa del Carmen, has an
elevator which is helpful for travelers with limited mobility. The Rancho Encantado in Bacalar is just that:
enchanting! The initial owner had
mobility limitation himself, so he designed the resort accordingly. The second week we stayed at the Magic Blue
on Avenida 10 in Playa. They are
equipped with wheelchair-friendly ramps, and the room entrances have just a
tiny step. The beds are rather high, but
manageable; and the noise from the Coco Bongo was not noticeable.
We had great food all
along, including the little eateries like the family restaurant in Temozon, or
the little homestyle eatery on the country road short before Kohunlich. Not to forget the heirloom tomatoes and
earth-baked tamales on the farmer’s market in Felipe Carillo Puerto.
The new toll road from Playa to Nuevo Xcan is a blessing, and saved us a tremendous amount of time.
I am very pleased that my intention of creating
unique activities is so appreciated by my travelers. It is my goal to float as much money from
tourism as possible directly to the local people and communities instead of
supporting large agencies. And I wish for all my visitors that they
return home inspired, relaxed, and with something new learned. It touches my heart when I see how sincerely
interested my visitors are, and when a museum guide sits down with us after the
guided tour of the ruins in Ek Balam to show us pictures on his personal laptop
from excavations that are not open to public.
Same with our nature guide Gunnar, who has an incredible knowledge of
the Bacalar lagoon with all its fauna and flora.
You don't have to be topfit to experience adventure and the lesser known places in this culturally interesting region. All of us contributing to Project Mayan Encounter are here to help you getting around on tricycles, electric scooters, beach wheelchairs or in a specialized van with a hydraulic lift. Just get in touch and we co-create an experience for you!
Spotlight on Braille instructor Juan Simon!
It felt awfully good to meet Braille instructor Juan Simon last Friday,
after so many years!
We worked on
launching a blind school in 2009, and actually succeeded in receiving a
generous donation from ViewPlus Technologies
in OR, in form of a Tiger Cub
Back then, our goals
were to provide general curriculum and encouragement to blind kids and adults,
and to offer Braille translations of restaurant menus and room manuals to the
hotels, aside from massage services, to generate income.
Playa’s Rotary Club was about to grant us a
room in their building, when finally DIF (Social Services) provided a room for
schooling. Dominic from Human Ware
, a large
manufacturer of technologies for the vision impaired, happened to visit the Riviera Maya those days. We inspected the room together, and they also
offered to help with donations.
In autumn of 2009 I had to abandon the project due to my
relocation to California.
Until 2010, special needs students were schooled at the CAM
Learning Center. They had about 160
students and about 30 instructors, but little focus on visual impairment. In
January 2011, CAM was integrated in the City’s CRIM agency for rehabilitation,
counting more than 200 children, youth and adults in rehab back then. The new building had been remodeled to fit
modern standards and technologies.
In early 2013, at the inauguration of the first accessible
beach in Playa del Carmen, I received the good news that the blind school was
put in service, and enthusiastic Juan Simon was teaching. However, it took me until 2014 that I visit
Juan Simon and the school, when I delivered an inner tube for a wheelchair which
my last tour guest has generously donated.
Joy was big at both ends, and he looked great! He says the Tiger Cub is still in use, but most work is done digitally and with speech output now.
I’m thrilled that Juan Simon has brought our efforts to
fruition. With his enthusiasm he has helped many blind people building self-esteem, a solid base
of knowledge, and a career.
If you can, you are welcome to help with donations in form of note takers or other useful equipment that you can send down. Please email me and I connect you with Juan Simon.
Mayan Backroads in a Wheelchair
In April and May, an incredibly fun group of 4
travelers were visiting the meanwhile touristy Riviera Maya. They have snorkeled in the Maledives before,
explored Grand Canyon and other impressive sights in the US, traveled to Dubai,
drove through West Africa and visited some major nature parks – just to mention
a few experiences that they have gathered traveling around the world together
over a period of 20+ years. So these
folks were up to seeing the authentic side of this geographic spot on Earth! Plus, German travelers usually like to meet
the real locals and get to know the culture at its core. We started co-creating a few tours back in
August 2013, and April 2014 was when the rubber hit the road.
Traveling to the Yucatan peninsula for the first time, we
decided to visit Chichen Itza, simply because it’s an astonishing ancient city,
and it’s one of the 7 Modern World Wonders.
You don’t want to miss this kind of place. Most of my travelers rent an electric
scooter for this tour, but Dieter, the wheelchair-bound traveler of the group,
managed the trails through the archaeological site in his sporty wheelchair
with ease, and even advanced to the sacred cenote where archaeologists, besides
pottery and adult bones, found lots of children’s bones – an indicator of
offering of the “precious” and “pure” and “valuable” to the gods. Zig-zagging our way via the ramps to the
restaurant of the hotel Mayaland, after taking in the majestic site, we enjoyed
a delicious lunch. The restaurant was
quite noisy, but the Jarana dance (where dancers balance a plate with
water-filled bottles on their head) was something that my travelers hadn’t seen
before. If you want to avoid the big
crowds, I recommend using the small parking lot of the Mayaland Hotel. That small entrance to the archaeological
site has wheelchair accessible restrooms, but getting an INAH-guide (certified
Museum guide) in German or in not-so -common languages can be iffy. Also, you need to eat or stay at the hotel Mayaland
in order to use their parking lot. The
view of the observatory is spectacular. We also got a scope of what Valladolid
is about, as we were passing through on our way to Chichen Itza.
The next tour was a debut for everyone. Project Mayan Encounter started working with
the community of El Naranjal back in 2012.
A journalist from Kantunikil pointed the community leader of El Naranjal
my way, after I was following the tracks of the (unfortunately) abandoned
“Puerta Verde” – an eco-tourism project promoting the northern part of the
peninsula. El Naranjal is a neglected
pearl in the lush jungle, with a recently inaugurated archaeological site and a cave
cenote. I must say that Don Pedro, El
Naranjal’s community leader, is one of the most eager persons I have worked
with since 2008, when Project Mayan Encounter was launched. He had been in constant contact to receive
visitors, and I had been invited to their community meetings to brainstorm and develop tours. Since our first talks, they have done an
absolutely amazing job in hand-carving an access to the cave cenotes. A wooden stairway reaches all the way to the
water, where in 2012 we had to craw on our butts! They have installed lightening that is run by
a generator when visitors enter the cave. Another beautiful surprise was that a shaman
purified each of us with incense before entering – they say that this is done to the
villagers as well, always when they enter.
Even Dieter got his purification with delicious-smelling Copal (a tree resin),
even though he had to stay up while the rest of us entered the cave cenote. Dieter was set on a cargo bike – in his
wheelchair, and pedaled around. The
wheels were secured with stones, and he held on to the rails of the bike’s
crate. The Maya Rikshaw! We did a tour around
the mystic archaeological site hidden in the lush jungle, and the tiny village,
before having home cooked lunch in the house of one of the community
members. When we entered the little
church, one of the villagers was singing beautifully for us. Dieter glanced from outside, as well as when
we visited the tiny museum, which showcases the pieces that the villagers hid to save them
from the authorities who wanted to take them to the museum in Chetumal. Bravo, El Naranjal – great job! They are building a restaurant at the time of
this writing, and I still receive my regular phone calls from Don Pedro, asking
when I will bring visitors.
The third tour was very unconventional as well –
a-la-Project Mayan Encounter. Neighbor
Chucho, probably THE pioneer of the Cenotes Trail, and owner of the Boca del
Puma Cenotes and Eco Park, presented a highly interesting talk about the
history of this area. This was chewing gum
Mecca, where they cultivated the gum for export. It was flourishing until they started
reproducing chewing gum synthetically. And then, tourism took off when Jacque
Cousteau discovered Cozumel for diving, and Cancun was born. Now, a few
countries start importing chicle again – Germany, Japan and the UK as far as I
know, because of its value as an organic tooth cleaner. In the future they want to demonstrate the cooking process of
the chicle mass at Boca del Puma, involving the visitors actively, with all the original
artifacts that they saved from the old days.
Boca del Puma has a cave cenote and an open one. The open one is modified with natural stones
to keep mud from sliding in during raining season, so that the water stays
clearer. There are two openings to a connecting
canal that one can enter and get out at the other end. The cave cenote has a rather small entrance and
it can be challenging for visitors because they have to float across a very
shallow section to get into the big cave with a high ceiling. Chucho and his men prepared to help Dieter
into the water with manpower, but in the end none of us felt like getting wet –
except some of our feet. We enjoyed
Chucho’s history talk and demo tremendously though, as well as the lush
tropical jungle setting.
I’m always grateful for travelers with a sincere interest
in knowing the local culture, fauna and flora; and, especially with my four
fellow Germans, Dieter, his wife Carmen, and their friends Evi and Peter, a
playful and incredibly humorous approach to life. I think because this is what I appreciate in
travelers, those are the kind of people that sign up for specialized tours with
Project Mayan Encounter, where a wheelchair is no handicap at all. On the contrary, I find that doors swing open
all the time, and many hands come to help, if we have a wheelchair-bound person
in the group.
By the way, the Viva Maya Azteca in Playa del Carmen (Hotelzone Playacar), where my fellow
Germans stayed, has a beach wheelchair that guests can use for free.
If you would like to know more about
wheelchair-accessible tours, places or accommodation in the Riviera Maya please
feel free and email me.
Traveling at age 92
Project Mayan Encounter is specialized in eco-cultural tours
that include mature travelers, and those with limited mobility or traveling in
a wheelchair. We collaborate with AdaptA
in Cancun, where we rent beach wheelchairs and electric scooters. We encourage
people to pull themselves out of their comfort zone in order to grow their self-confidence.
This February, “Don Enrique”, a retired biology professor
from UC Michigan, has visited the Riviera Maya again. Choosing Project Mayan Encounter, he and his
daughter Susan have come to explore the Yucatan peninsula for the past 3
years. Every year we are co-creating
different activities, and the past 2 years we spent the week at the Rancho
Encantado on the Bacalar lagoon entirely, with pit stops in Playa del Carmen
and Felipe Carrillo Puerto. The initial
owner of the Rancho Encantado had limited mobility, and designed the hotel
accordingly. Southern Quintana Roo is
still very quaint and authentic, and far less touristy than Cancun, Playa del
Carmen or even Tulum. It has much
variety to offer, even for wheelchair travelers; like visiting the accessible
Museum of Maya Culture (except the basement exhibition), eating at the famous
Cenote Azul, enjoying boat or kayak rides, visiting the partly accessible Chacchoben
ruins, etc. Active travelers will find
the archaeological sites in Kohunlich, Dzibanche highly interesting; or they
can enjoy the Calakmul biosphere reserve.
Additionally to the walker that “Don Enrique” traveled with, we rented an electric scooter from AdaptA. He preferred enjoying the lush tropical
garden at the Rancho, and the well-deserved warmth (they live in Ann Arbor,
MI); while I took his daughter on tours.
The first one was the “Chacchoben Pueblo Tour”, a customized
visit of this Mayan Community with the most delicious food in a tropical
garden, and 101-encounters with the top huipil-makers of the village, as my
visiting friend is an avid sower and embroiderer. Huipiles are the typical dresses that Maya
women wear, with colorful embroidery around the neck and bottom. Before leaving, she was handed a
tortilla-wrapper that was offered to her for a minimal price before lunch, and
handcrafted while we were eating. We
also got involved in tortilla making.
The next activity was a Temazcal ceremony at another resort,
the Holistic Center Akal Ki. The
relatively young ceremony master was surprisingly versed, and completely dedicated to guiding us through the ceremony. He took us on an inner journey! After 3 “doors”, or sessions of pouring
herbal tinctures on red hot lava stones in a closed igloo, like in a sauna, we
took a dip in the lagoon – under the still full moon.
The last tour leaves long-lasting memories. We were picked up by a local nature guide
from the Paay Bej organization, and she is quite a person! We zig-zagged our way through the Bacalar marathon that was taking place that day,
to fetch another couple who joined the Kayak & Jungle Walk tour, our tour
guide charming her way through police barriers. She shared a wealth of information about
fauna and flora, and took us kayaking to a remote part of the lagoon with
crystal clear water despite the muddy rest of the lagoon that was still
recuperating its colors and clarity after the excessive rains. Five coconut palms are growing on the Ruta de
los Cenotes now - a donation from the place that we went to board the
kayaks. It’s a lovely place on the
lagoon near Xul Ha, with rustic cabanas to rent.
“Don Enrique” has been an inspiration for many over the past
3 years, and has gained all the respect of the people who met him. I was personally impressed by how he
exchanged the tiny batteries of his hearing aid by himself.
The bottom line is that there is no limitation to creativity,
age or mobility for people who would like to explore the Mayan culture “off the
beaten path”. Knowing that there are
helping hands will hopefully encourage travelers to enjoy the beauty of this
unique place on Earth.
Beratung für barrierefreies Reisen
Hier möchte ich eine empfehlenswerte Internet-Adresse für deutschsprachige
Urlauber mit körperlichen Herausforderungen teilen, über die ich gerade
gestossen bin: MeineBarrierefreiheit.de (s. auch Link-Liste oben links).
Georg Paulick steht Ihnen mit Rat & Tat zur Seite, um Ihnen einen perfekten
Urlaub zu gestalten.
"Mein Ziel ist, die
Touristikwirtschaft, öffentliche Träger und vor allem Privatpersonen
hinsichtlich Barrierefreiheit zu beraten und zu unterstützen, um Menschen mit
Mobilitätseinschränkungen das Reisen zu erleichtern. Behindert ist man nicht -
Behindert wird man! Deshalb gilt es Barrieren abzubauen, statt wegzuschauen.“
Genial, oder? Ich sehe Sie dann hier in der Riviera Maya!
Reiki Retreat with Alex from Germany
with my long-term friend Alexandra Paul, we are creating an upcoming
event that is especially interesting for those looking for spiritual or
educational travel alternatives. Alex is a yoga teacher and Reiki
master and is visiting the Riviera Maya in November 2013. We are
combining a 3-day
Reiki course (level 1 or 2, certified) with expeditions to the Mayan
Coba, the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve, Isla Mujeres and a Temazcal
ceremony. This 9-day package also includes airport shuttle from and
airport, breakfasts/lunches, as well as 8 nights in a unique B&B in
jungle on the famous Cenotes Trail, where ancient Maya have cultivated
gum (chicle). The package price for international participants is $2806
for Level 1, and $3426 for Level 2.
last year's retreat with Reiki Master Margarita Camarena, we welcome
local "Quintanarooenses" to join the class part. The temazcal is
optional and participation can be paid directly to the ceremony master
(300 pesos). The class fee for locals is set with 3500 pesos for Level
1, resp. 7200 for Level 2; and includes 3 days of instruction,
attunements and seals, certificate, materials, snack-lunch, water, plus
this time a yoga session each day of class.
The class will be bilingual
German-English, or German-Spanish, depending on how the class fills.
For more details and a timeline
please have a look at our event flyer and feel free to email me with specific
questions. You can also connect via our Facebook event.
“Palapa” for Project Mayan Encounter
Together with my 5-Star Mayan construction team we have been
building a 2nd floor on top of the house that we finished late
summer 2012. This is going to be a
sacred space for retreats and workshops with a focus on healing, well-being and
education. The first booked event is a
Reiki Retreat, co-created with a very dear, long-time friend from Germany. More news to follow in a short while. Other planned workshops are being given by
Mayan botanists and healers, and there will also be nutritional counseling
talks and cooking workshops for diabetic or overweight locals . Here is a personal story to recap the
The dust had just settled after the construction crew took off,
and I had about 2 days to “venusify” my “martian” battlefield, until the next
wave hit: a tropical storm that brought water masses of the amount that came
down with hurricane Wilma in 2006, just without the wind. At least that’s what I heard a few people
say. And thank God there was no wind,
because I would have been washed down thoroughly. It rained through the screen doors very bad, and
the water advanced well into the ground level living area, because I haven’t
made it a priority yet to install proper doors with a door step and top hood. Good lesson!
Now I had the choice of being very frustrated, or find quick
solutions to improve the situation as soon as I could. I improvised with sticks, ropes, plastic
tarps and other props, and when the rain stopped I drove to Puerto Morelos, the
nearest village with stores, that is about a 20 minute drive from the
house. I gathered my material, checked
emails at the library and drove back.
The most pressing tasks were to fix the roof of the brand new storage hut,
drill drainage holes, paint the house from the outside with a waterproof
product, and also fumigate the “virgin” straw roof covering the 2nd
floor. A thick layer of fungus had
already covered everything that was of wood or straw, and there were water
puddles on the floor of the downstairs part of the house. The upstairs floor was about 1.5 inch under
water and needed to be swept daily.
Especially the downstairs walls to the east and south, from where the
rain came, had very bad water stains and it took several days for them to dry
so that I could work on them. The area where
the house is located is considered subtropical rain forest, and during summer,
the humidity level can rise to about 80%.
Occasionally mirrors get fogged up from evaporating steam!
To test my skills in crisis management, I was sent on a hunt
for one special accessory for the fumigator, and I was forced to deal with a
tall, 10-12 inch thick tree that came down because it got eaten by termites
from the bottom up. All this was taking
away from my precious time frame of dry days.
The tree leaned on a thinner tree with an inhabited bird nest and
squeaked from time to time. I could not
jeopardize the birds’ lives, and also not take a risk to have the heavy tree
crash on my well and water pump – the only drinking water source, because I
live in a rural area without public water, sewage or telephone. So first things first.
Per the weather channel I had a few more dry days to work
off my list of improvements to make the house ready for the next downpour of
rain. Clouds of mosquitos are indicating that there is more water to come – and
we have just “officially” entered the raining season which typically lasts from
June until November. The plants are
thriving in this weather, and I’m off the hook in regards to watering them on
those rainy days. Don’t get me wrong
though, I deliberately moved to this remote, rural area about a year ago, to
live with plants, and I am committed to supporting them in their growth.
Luckily, we always have nice stretches of sunny days during
the raining season here in the Riviera Maya, to enjoy the beach – and in my
case now – continue working on the house so that the upstairs palapa is ready
to host retreats and workshops soon, and the house can be rented to travelers.
I’m glad that I got my list of improvements worked off
substantially until today, when a noon shower forced me to call it a work
day. My bones appreciated the break and
I’m eager to continue tomorrow, to complete the project by Full Moon on Sunday,
June 23, 2013.
Insiders know that my internet time has been very limited since I started
building a jungle dwelling on the Ruta de Cenotes in south-east Mexico right
after our Reiki Retreat in July 2012. That said, it has been very quiet at this
end, and I feel that I have to share the scoop with my new website visitors so
that they don't think that Project Mayan Encounter has been abandoned. I
have to say though, that trying my talent as a construction worker and
cultivating a fruit and veggie garden has been most fulfilling. It would have
been impossible without my Mayan friends in the community. The house is
located in a remote rural area, and there is still much work to do. I miss my
astrological research online, spontaneous Skype calls to my family and friends
abroad, and the ease of quick research in designing tour itineraries for my
travelers - but in the end, living offline is not that bad at all, and thanks
to the library in Puerto Morelos I have a temporary office where I can work
without limitation. I'm (still) in the process of setting up a home
internet connection, and with that I can report news from Mayan territories
For a quick recap, I had my 70-year old father and my brother staying with me
over Christmas and New Year, and they got the "whole enchilada" with pumping
water by hand, pouring a cement foundation, forest work, bureaucratic challenges, dealing with alacranes
(black scorpions), snakes and tarantulas. They were in the Mayan groove
as they left - including voluntary treatments from our local curadora, a
Mayan healer who somewhat works with chiropractic skills, using medicinal
plants and spiritual laws.
Then my friend Connie came for her Honeymoon. She stayed at a charming vacation rental
in Soliman Bay north of Tulum. One day tour took us to Xcacel beach and the
adjacent cenote - a marine turtle sanctuary. The other experience was a
rustic barbecue in the jungle.
The next travelers were a couple from Switzerland. As a result from a
motorcycle accident 5 years ago he was sitting in a wheelchair. She was able to
walk after her rehab therapy, but shows some impressive scars still. They
booked through my associates AdaptA, where I rent my assistive technology for
handicapped travelers (e-scooters, beach wheelchairs). These two were a little
more adventurous than my average wheelchair travelers so far, and one of our tours took us
to Isla Mujeres for a boat ride around the island. From their hotel in
Cancun, they went to Isla Mujeres on their own before, and they liked the
Island so much that they wanted to go again. The idea this time was to
see birds, ocean creatures and Joysxee Island, a sustainable housing project
that is built on re-used plastic bottles, floating in the lagoon of Isla Mujeres.
We set the date, but what we didn't know is that the sky opened up as we
arrived the Isla Mujeres ferry pier, and rain god Chaac poured buckets of water on us!
Nevertheless we went ahead, and had the crew lift my traveler in his wheelchair
onto the motor boat. We wore plastic bags and a rain coat, but the
tropical rain soaked us and hit us in the face - so hard that we had trouble
seeing anything else than water. The ocean was warm and the water looked
nice and turquoise though. The water surface wasn't even that rough,
rather smooth, but the strong wind made us wish for better times. Needless to
say, we didn't snorkel, nor see the underwater exhibition at the Garrafon
reef. By the time we entered the interior lagoon, the rain had
stopped. We looked at Joysxee Island from the water, and then had fresh
barbequed fish for lunch. Ironically, the sun came out. What I
really liked is that the two of them kept an optimistic attitude all along,
maintaining their humor and cheerful spirit. We couldn't switch off the rain anyway, so why
making our day miserable - and we have a fun story to share now! We
had a tour to Chichen Itza also, and a visit to our community healer, to
re-adjust bones, bladder and muscle strings that had be dislocated in the
traumatic accident 5 years ago. That alone will not make my traveler walk
again - the most important part is his own will and diligent exercising.
They stopped by my house here in the subtropical rainforest before heading back
The most recent travelers were a meanwhile 91-year old biology professor from
Michigan and his 62-year old daughter. They had visited in February 2012,
so this was their 2nd visit to this area. This time, "Don
Enrique", how people like to call him here, was less mobile though, and we spend the greater
part of our 6-day tour at the Rancho Encantado in beautiful Bacalar. The
original owner of this cozy eco-resort was mobility-impaired himself, and the entire
site is equipped with a nice path where Don Enrique could move about with the
e-scooter that we rented for his stay. At least 2 cabanas are fully wheelchair
accessible, and the staff is happy to build a ramp in no time for cabanas with a low step. Don Enrique's daughter and I went on some excursions by
ourselves, while he relaxed at the resort. We had one intense day of
anthropology, where we visited Kohunlich, Dzibanche and Kininchna.
Another day we had a spectacular sunset boat ride to the inner part of the
Bacalar lagoon. The last excursion we did together: we visited the
relatively accessible Museum of Mayan Culture in Chetumal. The parts that
are not accessible by wheelchair (at this point) are the bathroom (has one
step) and the Xibalba, the Mayan Underworld (has a whole flight of stairs
Find pictures and more on Project Mayan Encounter's Facebook page (use link in left panel). I will continue with adding links and info in German shortly!
The Mayan Community of El Naranjal
May 2012, my path has crossed with that of Don Pedro Cupul, the
commissary of a small Mayan community located at the bottom of a dead
end road in the northern Yucatan peninsula. I was investigating an
ecotourism project called “Puerta Verde” (Green Door) when a journalist
in Kantunikil picked up what I was up to and connected me with Don
Pedro and his community invited me to a board meeting, and we agreed on
collaborating in bringing visitors to their village of El Naranjal,
precisely visitors who are looking for an authentic experience of this
part of the Mayan world. Besides being surrounded by lush jungle with
impressive old and tall trees, they are blessed with a gorgeous cave
cenote and an archaeological site. Don Pedro took office as the
commissary in May 2012, and already after a few months he had the
archaeological site officially inaugurated by the National Institute of
Anthropology and History, and got approval for government support
starting in 2013 for developing El Naranjal as an ecotourism
destination. He grew up in El Naranjal, and it has been his long-time
dream to establish ecotourism in his village. When he speaks in front
of the group you can almost see him glow with enthusiasm.
community members are working on a volunteer basis to prepare the
village for visitors. One woman runs a nursery that also gets some
government support in that they purchase plants from the nursery on a
regular basis. But they also sell to regular clients. The men have
been working hard to control the weeds in the temples, widen the cave
entrance and build a walking path down to the underground water. All
work is being done by hand, since using dynamite would cause the cave
roof to collapse and fill in the cenote. Since nobody gets paid,
everyone is eager to receive visitors and generate income with soft
tourism. The idea is to open the cenote and underground river to the
public, lead guided cave hikes, educational jungle hikes, and tours of
the old temples as well as the nursery with explanations about medical
plants. The ruins can be visited by tricycle to include wheelchair
users. The village has an eatery with healthy homemade food, and local
arts & craft for sale – hammocks, broidered napkins and dresses
(huipiles), wood carvings, etc.
While Project Mayan Encounter
organizes (adapted) logistics and offers guided tours in German,
English, Spanish and French, everyone is welcome to visit on their
own. To get there, take an ADO bus or colectivo to Ignacio Zaragoza
(referred to as “Kilometro 80”), which is located on the freeway Cancun –
Valladolid, and a taxi from the taxi station at the park (refer to
police module). It may be a good idea to announce your visit with a
text message or call to Don Pedro Cupul: 984-132-1322. Or email us
What a Journey!
first Reiki Retreat was amazing - thanks to everyone who contributed to
making it such a joyful experience! We were a cozy group of 5 students -
a mixture of San Franciscans and locals from Playa del Carmen.
We launched the class at the New Moon with a visit to Coba and a temazcal (sweat lodge) ceremony in the Mayan community Tres Reyes.
After 3 days of Reiki Level 1 class we took a boat ride in the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve. Aside from the official itinerary, we had a quick escape to the beach in Xpu-Ha and a visit to Tulum.
Everyone took home their Reiki 1 Certificate, lots of great memories and new impressions – ready for new beginnings.
are already excited to prepare Reiki 2 and another Reiki 1 class for
either early November 2012 or the second week of January 2013, depending
The waiting lists are open, so please email Margarita
with your preferred timeline.
We have posted some photos on the Project Mayan Encounter Facebook
page to give you an inspiration.
First Degree Reiki Retreat
on Mayan Territory
Join Reiki Master Margarita Camarena & Project Mayan Encounter for an
8-day Retreat in Playa del Carmen. Dates: Wednesday, July 18 - 25, 2012. The complete package for people from the San Francisco Bay Area is $2,500 per person.
This includes economy airfare, roundtrip airport shuttle at
destination, 7 nights in a boutique hotel in Playa del Carmen,
breakfast/lunch, 2 guided eco tours, entrances. To secure the
airfare, we need a deposit of $800 by June 1, 2012.
Local residents are welcome to join only the class and certification for $325 per person. Reserve your spot with a $50 deposit by July 12, 2012.
Margarita Camarena is a graduate of the SF School
Massage and Bodywork. She became Reiki MasterTeacher under RMT Dr. Eric
Rubin. In 1996, she graduated from the Berkeley Psychic Institute and
two years later she completed her B.A. and B.S. at UC Davis in the fields
of Art Studio and Environmental Design. Bodywork and Reiki has become a
natural extension of the work she has been doing over the years working
with color, energy, spirit and creative visualization.
Find details on our event flyers:
Feel absolutely free to contact Margarita or myself for additional information!
La Noche del Jaguar (Night of the Jaguar)
Event Flyer (PDF)
Project Mayan Encounter is delighted to announce this Ancestral Dance
performance that is now open to the public. Art teacher Zita Vargas
created this beautiful choreography, which takes place on a jungle stage
in the small sustainable community Sac Be, just north of Playa
del Carmen. By choice, she and her family actually live with candle
light only, and without any electricity.
La Noche del Jaguar represents highlights of Mayan culture, and two
icons of serious, ancestral dance (one of them a former archaeologist),
who have been dancing ritually for over 2 decades, and who have traveled
and lived abroad to share their culture, are part of the ensemble.
Zita's husband Eric is the Chilam Balam, the storyteller who
guides the audience through the performance. The jungle auditorium holds
about 150 visitors and transportation from and to the hotels will be
The event starts at 7 pm with a reception, an offering of local foods
to the guests, and a short walk around the auditorium and by the cenote. The dance performance runs from 8:30 - 9:30 pm, then guests will be brought back to their hotel or home.
see this as a meaningful alternative to mainstream entertainment for
incentive travel agencies - or any larger group - and a timely response
for those who seek to quench their curiosity about the 2012 phenomenon
and the message of the ancient Maya.
Tickets are $137 for groups of 20 and up; and local roundtrip
transportation is $15. Wheelchair users just skip the walk, but can view
the show from the top level. It cannot hurt to bring a towel or small
cushion to sit on.
To book a date or inquire about exclusive groups of less than 20 visitors, please send us an email.
TOUR REVIEW: I have just tested a new tour for my travelers: Check out pictures on our Facebook page. This tour consists of a ride from Puerto Aventuras to Tulum on the Raiatea,
the largest catamaran in the Caribbean, a well as a snorkel part, and a
visit of the archaeological site in Tulum. This tour is partly
accessible to travelers using a small folding wheelchair, and who are
ready to lower themselves down into the opening slot to the
toilet. Sounds brutal, but it's not. There is one toilet each for women
and men, and the openings are about 80 x 80 cm wide (30 x 30 inch).
There is a ladder (ca. 1.5 m, or 5 ft), and the wheelchair could be
brought down first, and then the person would be helped down to transfer
her/himself to the restroom. The way up involves manpower also, and
staff is super helpful. Wheelchair users take the catamaran back to
Puerto Aventuras, while others visit the Tulum ruins and ride back in
airconditioned vans. Sometimes people opt to skip the Tulum site,
because they prefer to be on the water, or because they have visited the
site previously. However, guide Erick impressed even me with his
unique, well-researched and passionate interpretation of the site
and the Mayan culture in general. And I have been visiting Tulum since
2003! The tour includes an open bar, delicious home-made ceviche
(fresh, marinated fish with tomatos, onions, lime and cilantro),
guacamole, chips, salad, pasta and sandwiches; as well as snorkel gear
and roundtrip transportation. For US$ 115 per person you are on board -
just email us to reserve.
YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD!
recently went on tour with our oldest traveler so far: a 90 (!) year
old biologist and former college professor, eager to study the ecosystem
of the Yucatan peninsula and learn about the Mayan culture. He and
his 60-year-old daughter came to visit for a week.
appreciative and open-minded person that he is, our
mature adventurer has been an incredible inspiration for everyone we met
along the way - including me!
Has he not only handled the email
communication, itinerary adjustment and trip booking during the months
prior to the trip - but also challenged himself with some pioneer
activities: for the first time he used an electric scooter, and sat in a
kayak! Meeting him reminded me that an optimistic mindset and a
self-confident attitude towards life promote longevity and health.
See pictures of the tour on our Facebook page.
Joining Forces with AdaptA Maya
I have just published 3 photo albums and 2 videos on our Facebook page (you will need to be signed in to view) from the most recent trips that I have led in collaboration with AdaptA Maya,
an agency specialized in equipment rental and tourism for travelers who
face physical limitations. I have met with part of their team in the
Riviera Maya to open this new relationship, and using their assistive
technology was a huge help. The founder of AdaptA is an architect, specialized in making buildings accessible.
a fully accessible van, we picked up our traveling couple from Germany
at the Cancun airport and brought them to the hotel for a walk-through
and introduction. They had a day to relax before our private escorted
Our first trip took us to a destination that I do not typically have on my plan: the Xcaret
theme park. It’s said to be the most popular park in Mexico, and
visitors come from across the world - even during low season. The park
is very accessible and we saw about 10 other wheelchair users that day.
Our travelers took advantage of AdaptA’s special offer of $250 for a
beach wheelchair and an electric scooter for their entire stay of 2
weeks in the Barceló Costa Cancun.
A few days later, we took a tour to Chichen Itza. Our
traveler was using the scooter, which came in handy because of its wide
wheels. I had previously used regular wheelchairs only, and the thinner
wheels are more delicate with the little pebble stones and roots. We had a late lunch at the palapa restaurant in the garden of the Mayaland hotel, adjacent to the Chichen Itza site.
Since they wanted to swim with the whale sharks
as they are migrating at the north tip of the Yucatan peninsula from
June to August, I set our travelers up for an extra tour. This time they
took the beach wheel chair, and the day turned out perfectly - even
though this van was a regular vehicle and the group was not private. Before
joining forces with AdaptA, there was much more improvising necessary -
although I can proudly say that everyone I have worked with has been
very supportive in accommodating my special travelers. It is a nice
contrast to notice the comfort of using AdaptA’s advanced equipment.
Our last planned trip was a combination of visiting the archaeological site in Tulum in the morning (wait for icons to load, then click on city, then click tab for English), and the XelHa
aquatic park in the afternoon. The nice thing about Xcaret and XelHa is
that they are well prepared for wheelchair users – that includes
restaurants, bathrooms, super helpful staff, and the majority of their
facilities. In XelHa, we were given a special map with routes for
wheelchair users. We took the
‘train’ to the entrance of the underground river, and transferred our
traveler from her scooter onto a floating tube to enter the water. Then
she slipped out and just floated in her life vest, as she did in the
underground river in Xcaret before. Even though there is a hydraulic
chair installed, we exited at a different location and transferred to
the scooter again. For about $18
- $20 per day, visitors can rent beach wheelchairs in XelHa also, but
it makes more sense to rent one from AdaptA, because you can use it at
the beach of your hotel during your entire stay.
the Riviera Maya is an important region for generating income through
tourism, a lot is being done to accommodate mature travelers and those
with special needs, who prefer a different pace than the ‘Spring
Breakers’. My goal is lend a
hand to those who need, so that they can experience the beauty of the
Yucatan peninsula, while blending in respectfully with the environment -
preserving local fauna, flora and communities.
Private, escorted, and accessible tours are available to the Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve by boat, canoe or kayak; Chichen Itza and Tulum archaeological sites, Muyil
temples and lagoon, Mayan villages, and now the Xcaret and XelHa parks.
All tours can be conducted in German, Spanish, English and French. Most
all-inclusive resorts throughout the Riviera Maya are well accessible,
but for those who like to travel individually, we have selected some
small hotels, pensions and eco-lodges in Playa del Carmen and Bacalar
that are accessible; including one for Germans who don’t speak Spanish
Please email us for accessibility details, or to reserve your scooter, wheelchair, cane, walker, TTY kit, or any other assistive technology.
Riviera Maya August 2011 I will be in the Riviera Maya myself from July 29 to Aug 16 to lead some tours. These dates are already booked: Aug 1, 4, 6, 9 and maybe 11.
If you feel like experiencing Mayan temples and culture, tropical fauna
& flora, sweet water pools, great food, warm weather and the
barrier reef, get in touch
with us. This time we get to use sophisticated assistive technology -
so if you encounter mobility limitations: Welcome! Tours can be
conducted in Deutsch, Español, Français and English.
Bringing Down Prices for SF Bay Area Trips
Because of mini groups
with budget restraints, that are interested in a certain tour, we have
started operating mixed, open tours. That way we can break down the
costs over a larger number of heads. People of all ages and abilities
are welcome. Our next open field trip will take us to the 31st Annual Big Time Festival at
Kule Loklo, a Coast Miwok Cultural Exhibit which is located at the
Point Reyes National Seashore. Besides seeing presenters in action in
basketry, flint knapping, clamshell bead making, we learn more about the
culture and traditions of the Coast Miwok and other local American
Indians at a variety of informational booths. Traditional dancers from
the Intertribal Pomo group and Dry Creek Pomo will perform. Vendors will
also be selling a wide variety of crafts.
Please join us for a family-friendly excursion on Saturday, July 16, 2011 between 10 am to 4 pm.
This organized tour starts at $62 per person, based on a maximum
occupancy of 15 participants, and includes roundtrip transportation
from/to the East Bay (most convenient location to be determined), bridge
toll, snacks, soft drinks, and a picknic lunch.
Please get in touch to reserve your spot quickly, so that we can plan the logistics.
Breaking Barriers in the Riviera Maya Project Mayan Encounter is now collaborating with AdaptA
Accessible Travel in the Riviera Maya! We are joining forces to become
a substantial resource for travelers with physical limitations, who
want to experience this beautiful spot on Earth. Respecting local fauna,
flora and communities, we want to help create wellbeing and healing by
bringing people out to the Caribbean Sea, white sand beaches, the
Meso-American Barrier Reef, the unique underground river system,
tropical jungle and mangrove zones with all its inhabitants, and of
course the mystic Mayan temples. Adapta provides advanced technical
equipment, such as beach wheelchars, accessible vans, etc.,
so that we can move about the "Mayan Backroads" with more ease. The
summer months are perfect for swimming with whale sharks (June to
August), and the winter months are particularly good for bird watching
(November to April). The official rain season is from June to end
October, and that's when airfaire drops. Tours can be conducted in Spanish, English, German or French. Check out the links in the left panel for travel resources, or email us about details - we are happy to assist in putting a package together!
Take Good Care of Yourself! Not even officially launched yet, and already a best seller at Amazon: Cultivating Radiance by Tamara Gerlach. Tam's book landed among the top 100 in the category Happiness... must I say more?
~Nutrition for Mind & Soul
Founder of the movement Raising Love Consciousness
Kashonia Carnegie, has invested quite some time and effort to make the
past 50 interviews available that she conducted over the recent years,
including the one with Project Mayan Encounter founder, aka myself. All
of Kashonia's interviews touch on a variety of timely relevant topics,
such as crop circles; cosmic sciences; Hopi, Maya and Inca wisdom;
psychology; sustainability; natural health; socio-economic and
ecological matters, etc. This has really turned into a wealth of useful
information, and for a donation, you can download
any of the interviews instantly.
~Summer in the San Francisco Bay Area
the Pacific seashore, majestic Redwood forests, Native American
heritage, mineral & mud baths, sustainable farming and winemaking,
or kayaking in the San Francisco Bay. These tours officially run from May
to October and can be conducted in German, English, Spanish or French.
As always, we adapt to accommodate travelers with special needs and
we welcome seniors. Find details on the Tours & Prices
~Astrología Para La Paz Interior Al fin se realizo la expo Think Green 2011 en Playa del Carmen, y como había prometido a varias personas, comparto el folleto de mi pequeña plática en esta página.
Mayan friend Antonia and her family create some remarkably beautiful
artwork. Besides this very neat natural jewelry – all made with material
that Mother Nature provides – they produce some very fine honey and
honey products, as well as natural charcoal. Turning
this into a commercial business would take away its uniqueness, but I’d
like to encourage travelers who join me on a trip to the ancient city
of Coba, or my website visitors who like the style, to get in touch with
me so that I can intervene in purchasing a few handcrafted pieces. Bracelets, necklaces or key chains start as low as 25 pesos (approx. $2.50). Over
the years I have become someone who prefers introspection during the
‘Holidays’, rather than extroversion in form of parties and shopping
frenzies – so to me this seems as a very meaningful way to give.
Holiday Special Until
the end of 2010 I serve my purpose by giving away Cosmic Snapshots -
that means we take a 15min quick glance at your birth chart and its most
significant indicators. With this I want to inspire those who are not
yet used to working with planetary energies and natural laws. Email me
with your exact time and place of birth.
Successfully passed NCGR-PAA Level 1 Exam
I'm happy to announce that since Sept 30, 2010, I hold the level 1 NCGR-PAA Certificate (National Council for Geocosmic Research - Professional Astrologer Alliance). Great, my brain is never running out of space!
Kayab Naturaterapia Sabina guides you through the process of creating metabolic balance in your system. This could be a very nice reason to visit the Riviera Maya! Get inspired through a visit to her website.
I CAN TRAVEL—a great new resource which has been pointed out by one of my clients. We have decided on a 10% discount on the basic Caribbean itineraries for I CAN TRAVEL members. Check out the blog.
RiverSea Getaway This is a red-hot insider tip for a quick escape from urban turbulence, any time of the year! Visit Kathy & Jim in their beautiful Bed & Breakfast lodge in Guerneville, CA. A creek runs along the property, the Russian
River is just a short walk away, and the Wine County, Pacific ocean,
and Redwood forests are just a few minutes away by car. You can even help in the organic garden, if you feel like! Follow the link below for contact info. Just a warning: it’s really hard to leave!
Nature & Culture Trips in the San Francisco Bay Area Learn about the Miwok tribes, and regional fauna and flora. Check out the summer program and feel free to email with special requests!
web by michi Ich möchte diese wunderbare Webseite mit allen teilen, die der deutschen Sprache mächtig sind, und sich sowohl fuer Natur & Umweltschutz, als auch für effiziente Webpräsenz interessieren. Die Verfasserin –ich habe das Glück, sie persönlich zu kennen— spricht damit zwei der aktuellsten Themen unserer Zeit an. Mir gefällt, wie klar und kompetent der Inhalt gestaltet ist, und freue mich schon auf Updates. Bremerhaven
ist auch mein ‘Heimathafen’, und ich glaube, dass Michi den ein oder
anderen Leser zu einem Trip an die herrlich frische Nordseeküste inspiriert!
BotaniK: Biodegradable Sun Block, After-Sun Balm & Mosquito Repellent—Made in Mexico I met the producer at the Think Green Expo 2008. Their organic line is free of paraben, petroleum derivates, preservatives, synthetic colorants or sodium lauryl sulfate. Not quite sure whether you can eat it, but for sure this is organic stuff! Products
are good for approximately six months. The 100 ml (3.5 oz) bottle is
sold at $8.95 plus shipping & handling, if applicable. I am offering these to my travelers now. Please visit their website for actual products and prices.
Accessible Diving We
want to invite Veterans and anyone with mobility impairments to join us
on a dive trip to sites at the Pacific coast, Hawaii, or around Cozumel
Island in Mexico. Please email us about dates, details and prices.
Guide Published: Open Britain Tourism for All & Radar in the UK have partnered-up and published a new guide on accessible tourism. Click here to read the press release on their site.
Finding Your Purpose with Astrology Those who know me are aware of my deep interest in the cosmic laws. In the fall 2009 I have created pages with some basic factors of astrology for people who are curious about themselves. With
your exact birth time and place, get a birth chart somewhere online
(there are a gazillion of sites offering them for free—I personally like
Astrodienst.com). This is a very rough guide only, but you’ll get a glance of what’s up for you this lifetime. Have fun exploring yourself!
XCACEL TURTLE SANCTUARY needs serious help! In a nutshell, some business heads are trying to build a hotel and mess up the ecosystem. Mangrove Action Project has information in English. The
Riviera Maya is one of the world’s most desirable vacation
destinations, in particular because of its beautiful marine life, and
therefore is a very valuable area for the Mexican economy. So your signature can make a difference!
Kohunlich Ruins in Southern Mexico Coming back from an awesome trip to the Kohunlich ruins and Bacalar lagoon. View photos on Facebook!
Swimming with Whale Sharks These peaceful ocean creatures reach a length of about 12 meters (40ft) and are one of the largest living fish species. They can weigh up to 15 tons. Experience
coming eye to eye with these giant vegetarians when they pass the north
tip of the Yucatan Peninsula between June and August. I went to their feeding spots with Ocean Tours on May 26th and got to swim with some of them already—what a trip! But
that’s not all: we passed by Isla Contoy, an uninhabited bird
sanctuary, and did some snorkeling at the reef near Isla Mujeres, where
we saw many other marine species under & above the water level.
Green Expo Tulum 2009 Tulum is the eco-pearl of the Riviera Maya, where sustainable living is written in capitals. Besides
eco-conscious locals, tourists and investors develop an ever growing
interest in this area. The entire “hotel zone” (they are actually neat
cabana-style eco lodges, appealing to various budgets) generates
electricity with solar and wind energy. The 2nd Green Expo Tulum is
a two-day event, where ecologically-minded businesses from across the
country meet to show new and trusted technologies for sustainable living
and environmental protection. If you happen to be in the area, visit on Friday, Aug 7 and Saturday, Aug 8. In
the name of Project Mayan Encounter I am going to speak on eco tourism
and the integration of disabled & senior travelers on Saturday at
Blind School in Playa del Carmen Further developments of the blind school in Playa del Carmen: The Braille printer that ViewPlus has generously donated was delivered to DIF (Family Development Agency), specifically to Juan Simon, the Braille instructor, on August 28, 2009. See pictures
on Facebook. This would not have been possible without the equally
generous help of “Scottie”, my fellow volunteer at the diabetes program
at the Angel Notion clinic in Playa del Carmen, who donated the shipping costs. The next step is to get warm with using the printer.
More exciting news is that HumanWare,
one of the largest manufacturers of assistive technology for the vision
impaired, is going to help with slates, styluses and other voice-output
are always grateful for any help in form of computers, audio or large
print books, Braille paper, note takers, talking watches or calculators,
canes, abacuses, headphones, speakers, manual or e-magnifiers, talking
dictionaries and cell phones, curriculum and lesson plans in Spanish or
Please email me at info @ accessecotours.com or stef @ ocusource.com to
arrange things—whether you are coming down yourself, send small stuff
through someone you know is coming down, or send a shipment. Or call Juan Simon on his cell phone in Mexico: +52(1)984-137-3063 or at his desk: +52-984-877-3037. Donations can be tax write-offs.~
Tulum Green House Tours If you are interested in ecologically intelligent construction join Tamara for a house-tour. This
will be an interesting alternative while visiting Tulum, and you may
find some inspiration for environmentally beneficial modifications of
you own home, or even decide to move here and build your eco-house! Look
at wind and solar energy, green building material, compost toilets,
natural irrigation systems, recycling, permaculture etc. Tamara also sells biodegradable house cleaners and cosmetics. Email us at info @ accessecotours.com to set you up, or call Tamara directly if you are already in Tulum: 984-135-3773. Tours are ongoing and the cost is 200 pesos (aprx $20).
Medicinal Plant Workshops Together
with some ’alchemists’ in the Mayan communities we are offering plant
workshops to show you the benefits and use of medicinal plants for
alternative healing. Bring your list of questions!
Bird Watching The
winter months are usually best for bird watching in the Sian Ka’an
biosphere, although there are still a gazillion of tropical birds to see
year round. We take you out on a
boat ride in the lagoon and you get to float in the crystal clear and
cool canals, the ancient trade ways of the Mayans. The
price inclusive guided roundtrip transfer from and to Playa del Carmen
is $128 per person, and comes down if you are a small group. Please let us know if we need to make any accessibility preparations to ensure that this will be a special day for you: info at accessecotours.com
Press Release: New Destination for Senior and Disabled Group Travel
New eco-conscious expeditions in the Mexican Caribbean launched to provide alternative for seniors and disabled.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico, 12 Sept 2008 Project Mayan Encounter launches expeditions in the Riviera Maya that combine nature with cultural experience. Tours are geared towards small groups, but individuals are welcome, too.
idea is to bring the beauty of this geographical location and its rich
culture to the so-called baby boom generation, senior citizens, and
people with disabilities, as well as anyone who chooses to explore
fauna, flora, culture and the region’s archaeological wealth at a
relaxed pace. Most tour operators are forced to work within a tight
rotation schedule, while those that have an environmentally and socially
conscious focus oftentimes specialize in physical activities and
A forum has been opened to serve as a knowledge base
for vacationers and trip planners, such as senior or disability
organizations and agencies, group travel agents or any eco-conscious
individual, to pick from a variety of activities and design their
perfect “à-la-carte” travel experience.
Behind the project stands
Stefanie Baeker, a German native from the North Sea coast, where green
tourism prevails. Her understanding of tourism, coupled with her
association with an online portal for low vision and blindness resources
since early 2004, as well as her interest in Mayan history and the
local biosphere reserves, have sparked the idea for Project Mayan
Encounter. She has lived in the Riviera Maya for 5 years.