Why The Ruta Maya May Be The Coolest Cycling Tour Ever
It was only recently that we posted the details of the 2023 Ruta Maya on our website. Unlike the original edition, it now extends into Mexico, making the tour a little longer and a lot more more enticing.
It was in Mexico that I first came face to face with the wonders of Mayan civilization. To be exact, it was 40 years ago. I was on an extended Christmas and New Year’s holiday and my sister and I travelled to Chiapas and came to Palenque, Mexico. When I first saw the pyramid, ‘Temple of the Inscriptions’, I was in awe. That sense of wonderment has never left me. It was thus not very difficult in 2011 for our colleague Michael to convince me and the rest of the team that for 2012 when, according to the Mayan calendar, the world was going to end, we at TDA should organize a ‘final’ bicycle expedition called the Doomsday Ride.
Let’s get some facts straight. The Mayans never actually predicted the end of the world. The fact is that the Mayan calendar (more on that later) recycles every 8,000 years. And just as some people I know expected the collapse of civilization when our Gregorian calendar reached the year 2000, many people who simply love predicting cataclysms, also expected the end in 2012. Thus, the name Doomsday Ride came about. We, like the rest of humanity, managed to avoid the end of the world in 2012 but those who participated had such an enjoyable adventure that we decided to rename the expedition, the Ruta Maya and do it again. We are now running the ‘new and improved’ Ruta Maya in the fall of 2023, passing through six countries and exploring the past and present of Mayan history and culture.
Allow me to tell you a few things I have learned about the Mayans that you may find as fascinating as I do. It starts with the calendar which, by the way, is extraordinarily complicated. The calendar has several cycles of different lengths. There is a 260-day cycle called Tzolkin, which has been combined with a solar 365-day cycle called Calendar Round. Then there is a calendar that tracks long cycles called Long Count. And it goes on. The Mayans were not simple. And if you join the tour, you will have ample opportunity to learn more about them.
Another extra ordinary thing that most people have never heard of is “Popol Yuh”. “Popol what” you say? Wikipedia describes it as, “a foundational sacred narrative of the Kʼicheʼ people from long before the Spanish conquest of the Maya. It includes the Mayan creation myth. The name “Popol Vuh” translates as “Book of the Community” or “Book of Counsel” (literally “Book that pertains to the mat”, since a woven mat was used as a royal throne in ancient Kʼicheʼ society and symbolized the unity of the community). It was originally preserved through oral tradition until approximately 1550, when it was recorded in writing.” How cool is that?
I bet you love chocolate. Who doesn’t!? Well, you can thank the Mayans for that. It was the Mayans who first cultivated the cacao bean. In fact, the Mayan word for bean is “Ka’kau”, and the word “Chocolate” derives from the Mayan verb “Chocol’ha”, or “to drink cacao”. The cacao beans, the “Food of Gods” was even used as medicine for a range of treatments which included kidney and bowel problems – “Medic, I am not feeling well. Can I have more chocolate please?”
There is much more but for now I will finish with one really cool Mayan invention that, to this day, you or someone close to you gets a kick out of – no pun intended. Mayans created some really fun games using a rubber ball that varied in size from a softball to a soccer ball. And with a little imagination, you can see the connection from these games to soccer, football, and basketball. According to the History on the Net website, there are 1,300 Mayan ball courts spread through Mesoamerica and Mayan ball games go back at least 3000 years. The coolest thing of all? The same rubber that was used to make the balls, eventually was used to invent rubber tires that made cycling more comfortable and so very enjoyable.
So when you finally make it to the Ruta Maya finish line at the ruins in Tulum, Mexico, in the traditional Mayan way/custom, take some whisky with you and pour it out in an appropriate spot, to thank the gods for their gifts of rubber and chocolate!
This incredible cycling adventure will take riders across Central America, from Costa Rica through Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize and on into...