Loftin Family Vacation 1995



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Cancun, Mexico


Curtis Loftin Family
Sunday, 18 June 1995 - Friday, 23 Jun3 1995
Sunday, 18 June 1995

Carolyn, Beth & I (Curtis Loftin), along with 8 students from Newton-Conover High School, left for Cancun, MEXICO on 18 Jun 1995. Carolyn, who was teaching Spanish at Newton-Conover at the time, planned the educational trip through Encore Travel. Her trip was paid for as a result of hosting the trip, but Beth and I paid for our trip. I don't always journal when I'm traveling, but I did on this particular trip.


The eight Newton-Conover High School students who went on the trip were: (1) Nicole Bolick, (2) Jerome Bowers, (3) Carla Cashion, (4) Michael Cook, (5) Ryan Garrett, (6) Elizabeth Huss, (7) Kelly Keenan and (8) Wes Smith. All of the students were Seniors except for Elizabeth Huss who was a Sophomore.


Our flight at Charlotte Douglas Airport was scheduled for 7:00 a.m. but we had to be at the airport two hours early - 5:00 a.m. It usually took us about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to Charlotte. Having not been to the airport in several years, and not being sure where it was, we left home at 3:00 a.m. I would say the trip started when we all got up at 2:00 a.m. to shower and get dressed!


Beth rode down to Charlotte with her boyfriend, Brad Seese (who eventually became her husband). We left home at 3:00 a.m. and got to the airport at 4:00 a.m. We parked the car, unloaded our luggage, and were sitting in the lobby of the airport by 4:15 a.m.


About that time we found out that Beth did not have a photo ID (her driver's license) with her and thus could not get into Mexico or back into the US without it. She and Brad left the airport to drive back home so she could get her driver's license. They got back to the airport at 6:30 and we started boarding the airplane ten minutes later. (We never asked them how fast he drove.)

Beth & Brad - Spring 1995

The flight had open-seating so we had to find a place to sit and all ended up on the back of the plane. At 7:00 a.m. we flew out of Charlotte Airport on Allegro Airlines.

Allegro Airlines and Boarding Passes

The flight took about three hours and there was a two hour time difference between Charlotte and Cancun. We arrived in Cancun, Mexico about 8:00 a.m.

Cancun, MEXICO

We had to stand in customs lines for over thirty minutes before we finally got to a customs official. Once we got through customs, we had to go and find our luggage and then catch our ride to our hotel - the Kin-Ha. There were several vans waiting to take us to our hotel and each van carried eight passengers. The eight students all hopped into one van before we even got outside. Carolyn, Beth and I joined six other travelers who were already seated in the second van when we got there.


By the time we arrived at the Kin-Ha, all the students had already checked into their rooms. Ryan, Wes, Michael and Jerome were in one room. Kelly, Nicole and Carla were in a second room. Elizabeth and Beth were in a third room while Carolyn and I were in the fourth room.


The Kin-Ha was a beautiful tropical hotel - very open, spacious and airy. The rooms were comfortable and clean.

The Kin-Ha Hotel, Cancun
The Entrance to the Main Desk & Lobby are under the striped canopy
Carolyn and I were in Room 748 (Third Floor) - Beth and Elizabeth Huss were in Room 708 (Ground Floor)
The Main Lobby at the Kin-Ha was an Open-Air Lobby
Courtyard and Terrace View

There were no plans for the first day, so the kids all went down to the beach where they swam and laid in the sun. Carolyn and I waited in the room to hear from Rafael, the representative from the travel agency. It usually rains in Cancun daily for about an hour - but then the sun comes back out.

The Kin-Ha Pool Area
The Kin-Ha Beach

That evening, all 11 of us walked down to Plaza Caracol and ate supper/dinner at McTrios (McDonalds). The food was good and we were careful not to drink the water (or soda with ice) or eat any fresh fruits or vegetables. The rest of the evening we walked around the mall and shopped - eventually buying Philip a t-shirt. We found out that $1US was equal to 5.9 Pesos.

A Little Shopping at Plaza Caracol
McTrios McTrios Currency Exchange Ice-Cream Cone  
The first night we ate at McTrios. We had a chicken sandwich and french-fries. The Exchange rate for US Currency to Mexican Currency was 5.9 at our money exchange location. US$20 was 118 Pesos A small ice-cream cone costs N$7.50 or US$1.25  
Some of the treasures we purchased during the trip for ourselves and family back home

The weather in Cancun was different than anyplace else I've ever been. Being born and raised in North Carolina, I knew what humidity was but humidity in Cancun was much more intense. You'd take a shower and get dressed to go out but just as soon as you stepped out of your air-conditioned room the humidity would hit you like a "slap in the face". You were instantly wet and sweaty. We had to learn to dress for the situation.

Carolyn, Curtis & Beth pose for a few photos
There were several beautiful peacocks on the grounds at the Kin-Ha Hotel
Monday, 19 July 1995
On Monday, 19 July 1995, we boarded a tour bus at our hotel at 8:00 a.m. for the three hour trip to Chichen Itza.
During the course of our tour we had the opportunity to experience not only Chichen Itza, but also Isla Mujeres, Tulum and the Folkloric Ballet.
Tickets for Chichen Itza
On the way to Chichen Itza, we stopped to stretch, use the bathroom and get a snack.
Jerome and Kelly feed a zorillo

Chichen Itza was one of the largest Mayan cities and it was likely to have been one of the mythical "great cities" referred to in later Mesoamerican literature. It is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico and is located in the Yucatán State.  The city had the most diverse population in the Mayan world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site.

El Castillo, also known as the Temple of Kukulcan, was built by the Mayan civilization somewhere
between the 9th and 12th centuries CE. It served as a temple to the god Kukulkan.
Our first views of the great Mayan pyramid El Castillo
Curtis poses for a photo

All of us except Carolyn climbed to the top of the pyramid. I had to stop and rest twice on the way up since the steps were very narrow. Once at the top, you could look down and see the entire Mayan site. Coming down the pyramid was even harder than going up. I had to sit down and put my feet over the first couple of steps just to get started down. It was very high and a little scary up there. I later found out that the boys had gone down the terraces and not the steps.

Beth with the other teenagers from Newton-Conover High School
The pyramid has 365 steps—one for each day of the year. Each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, and the top platform makes the 365th.
Coming back down the large pyramid was a bit of a challenge
In recent years, the National Institute of Anthropology and History, which manages the archaeological site of Chichen Itza, has closed monuments to public. While visitors can still walk around them, they can no longer climb them or go inside their chambers. Climbing El Castillo was stopped in 2006.
Curtis climbs the pyramid but had to stop and rest his legs twice - It was also a good place for a photo
(Left) Curtis took a photo of Carolyn who was standing at the bottom of the pyramid waving
(Right) A final look at the El Castillo before we move on
***In November 2016, a second pyramid was found hidden deep within El Castillo at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza.
at Chichen Itza

After everyone was down from the pyramid, our tour guide led us through the dense foliage to the Sacred Cenote or Well of Sacrifice. Pre-Columbian Mayans sacrificed objects and human beings into the Cenote as a form of worship to the Maya rain god Chaac. Archaelogists dredged the Cenote from 1904 to 1910, and recovered artifacts of gold, jade, pottery, incense, as well as human remains. A study of human remains taken from the Cenote found that they had wounds consistent with human sacrifice.

Carolyn and our tour guide led the group to the Sacred Cenote

The Yucatán peninsula is a limestone plain and does not have any streams or rivers, so cenotes provide the only access to underground rivers. Cenotes are scattered across the peninsula, but the sacred Cenote of Chichén Itzá was by far the most important to the Maya.

Beth at the Sacred Cenote
Researchers have recently discovered an enormous cenote beneath El Castillo, the 1,000-year-old temple of Kulkulkan.
at Chichen Itza
View of the Grand Ballcourt from atop El Castillo
**Source of this Photo: André Möller - WIKIPEDIA - CC BY-SA 3.0
Walking toward the Grand Ballcourt
The goal of the game was to get the ball through the round stone hoop on the wall
without touching the ball with your hands or letting it touch the ground.
Inside the Grand Ballcourt at Chichen Itza
Temple of the Jaguar inside the Ballcourt
Temple of the Jaguar outside the Ballcourt
Carvings on the wall of the Temple of the Jaguar
at Chichen Itza
****Another huge structure at Chichen Itza is the Temple of the Warriors, a three-level pyramid with neighboring colonnades on two sides creating a semi-enclosed court. It was built sometime between 800 and 1050 CE. The colonnade of carved warrior and female gift bearer columns in front of the pyramid would have once had a roof. The building at the top of the pyramid has a doorway framed with feathered-serpents and two chambers; one contained a "chacmool" and the other a throne. A "chacmool" is a sculpture depicting a reclining figure with its head facing 90 degrees from the front, supporting itself on its elbows and supporting a bowl or a disk upon its stomach.
The Temple of the Warriors
(Left) Chacmool in the Temple of the Warriors; (Right) Beth with a chacmool
Reclining figure of a chacmool cradles a disk, perhaps for the hearts of sacrificial victims.
Carolyn and one of her favorite pastimes - shopping - in this case at Chichen Itza
When we left Chichen Itza, we drove to a beautiful spot where a buffet lunch was provided and we did a little extra shopping. As we ate, Mariachis played guitars and sang to us.
Beth posing outside Pueblo Maya
Elizabeth Huss and Beth
(Left) Carolyn in the buffet lunch line; (Right) Elizabeth, Carolyn and Beth enjoy their meal
(Left) Dancers danced while Mariachis played and sang; (Right) Decorations inside the pueblo
Beth and Curtis walk around the grounds while Elizabeth Huss takes a few photos
We left Pueblo Maya and continued our drive back to the Kin-Ha in Cancun.
A church on the way back to Cancun Mexican housing along the roadside
We arrived back at our hotel around 5:00 p.m. That evening we all went our own way for supper. Carolyn and I found a Dominos Pizza about five minutes from the hotel. We ate supper there Monday through Thursday. It was good and fairly inexpensive. After eating, we went shopping until around 9:30 p.m. Check in time for the kids was 11:00 p.m. - BUT since we were so spread out over the Kin-Ha Hotel, we were sure they slipped back out.
Tuesday, 20 June 1995

On Tuesday, 20 June 1995, we walked down to where we were to join the Isla Mujeres tour. We had to be there by 9:30 a.m. We boarded the Caribbean Queen and cruised for an hour over to Isla Mujeres. The cruise was wonderful. The water was crystal clear and there was a nice breeze as we cruised over to the island. The hat that I had worn the first part of the trip blew off of my head into the water and that was the end of that.

Post Card from 1995
Cruising from Cancun to Isla Mujeres
The Caribbean Queen docked at Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres, translated "Isle of Women", was the perfect destination for an unforgettable day trip. On "Isla", you can explore exceptional beaches, snorkel dazzling reefs, enjoy a wide variety of water sports, swim with the dolphins, and shop the local markets.


Isla Mujeres got its name in 1571 from Spanish explorer Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba. Sailing south from Cuba, Francisco discovered a sparsely populated island with mysterious stone statuettes of semi-clothed women. Francisco was disappointed; he was looking for slaves for Spanish mines in Cuba. He dubbed the island Isla Mujeres, and with a few captured residents, headed south. Theories abound as to the statues' origin, the most popular being that the island was a shrine to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility.

Once we were on the island, Carolyn and I shopped while the kids went snorkeling. Beth took these photos with an underwater camera.
Beth, Elizabeth, and all the other kids, went snorkeling

Carolyn and I enjoyed our opportunity to shop. Everyone wanted us to come into their shop and look at their merchandise. Merchants were willing to barter, so we did. We bought Mama (Willie Loftin) a T-Shirt. I also picked up a nickname from the merchants at the various places we shopped - "Mr. Whiskers". It was common to hear, "Mr. Whiskers, have I got a deal for you!". Carolyn got a chuckle out of my new nickname. Eventually the kids met back up with us. For lunch we re-boarded the Caribbean Queen and went to the other end of the island where a buffet lunch was provided. After lunch, we played in the water and sat in the sun. Some of the people on the cruise chose to swim with the baby sharks and have their pictures mad with them. After lunch, we re-boarded the Caribbean Queen and started the hour cruise back to Cancun. As we cruised we were surprised to find out that a Tequila Party was part of the cruise plan. Needless to say, no one in our group participated. We arrive back at the hotel around 5:00 p.m.


On the evening of 20 June, 1995, we went to the Folkloric Ballet. We had to be at the Convention Center at 7:30 p.m. for dinner. We ate a large buffet dinner while being serenaded by singers and musicians. Following the meal, the Folkloric Ballet began. The performance started with a dance where the dancers were dressed in Mayan Indian costumes. There was also a dance where a male dancer portrayed a stag that was being hunted and was finally shot. They even performed the Mexican Hat Dance. The dancers changed costumes about eight times. The performance was wonderful and was definitely one of my favorite parts of the trip. I didn't take my camera because I didn't figure they would let me take pictures during the show so I have no photos of my own.

Examples of Folkloric Ballet
Wednesday, 21 June 1995

On Wednesday, 21 Jun 1995, we boarded a tour bus at 8:00 a.m. and went to Xcaret. Xcaret is approximately 60 miles from Cancun.

Xcaret is an ecological theme park. There were Mayan ruins scattered over the property.
Post Card from 1995
Xcaret Beach with Palapas
The most enjoyable part of this excursion was the underground river ride. We had taken our snorkels and masks and were given life vests.
Carolyn, Beth and I joined the high school kids for some snorkeling. It was beautiful - fish, rock formations, coral and much more.
Post Cards from Xcaret
The park also has a Dolphinarium where you could swim with the dolphins for $60 - kind of expensive for 1995. After the underground river ride, Carolyn and I walked to the beach and sat under a palapa. We snacked and drank "bottled" water arriving back at the hotel around 5:30 p.m.
Park Map for Xcaret from 1995
Thursday, 22 June 1995

On Thursday, 22 June 1995, things did not go as easily as we could have liked. The boys decided they did not want to go on the tour that day. They said they felt bad and wanted to stay in bed. We believed they had slipped out after curfew the night before and had gone out drinking. At first I was going to stay behind with them, but the more I thought about it the more I decided they were going to go, too. I told them they "were" going on the tour. I told them that I had paid for the trip just like them and I was not willing to stay behind and miss this part of the trip. They whined for a while but finally gave in. Except for this one situations, the high school kids were pretty good.


We boarded the tour bus at 8:15 a.m. and went to Tulum (also called the City of the New Dawn). Tulum was about 80 miles from Cancun. Built on a cliff, it is the most visited Mayan ruin and is the only Mayan city built on the coast. It is also the only Mayan city known to have been inhabited when the conquistadors arrived. It is the only walled Mayan site.


As it turned out, it started raining as we were driving toward Tulum - and I don't mean a "shower" - It poured down all morning. I had carried my poncho with me - no one else had. Most of the kids decided to stay on the bus and not go on the tour. Carolyn, Beth and Elizabeth bought plastic trash bags for $2 each at the Tulum gift shop and used them as ponchos. We joined the tour group and had to walk about a mile to the entrance of the Mayan site. Water was ankle deep along the road. Scenery was beautiful but after a short while we gave up and left the ruins to return to a restaurant. Even with our ponchos, we were all soaked. We ordered lunch, shopped for a little while and were back on the bus by 1:00 p.m.

Our tour bus parked at TULUM
The Tulum Post Cards I bought while I was there

From Tulum we went to Acumal. The sun came out and we were able to sit on the beach under a palapa while some of the others went snorkeling. We were back at the hotel by 5:30 p.m. We got something to eat and were able to relax a little before we packed to go home. Carolyn, Beth, Elizabeth and I were the only ones who did not get sick during the trip. Curfew for the kids that night was 10:00 p.m.

Friday, 23 June 1995

On Friday, 23 June 1995, were were supposed to be picked up at our hotel and taken to the airport at 12:00 p.m. When the boys checked out, the hotel wanted to charge them $100 for a broken bed. They denied having broken it, but Mike had told Carolyn earlier that week how "springy" the beds were. They boys had to borrow part of the money from the girls. We were to be at the airport at 1:00 p.m. This time our seats were much closer to the front of the plane and provided for a more enjoyable flight. Carolyn and I were on the second row. Our flight left Cancun at 3:00 p.m.. We had a brief stop in Atlanta, Georgia, to go through customs. It was so wonderful to be back on U.S. soil.

Flying back home to the U.S.
We arrived in Charlotte at 9:30 p.m. We claimed our luggage and were out of the airport by 10:00 p.m. We had to pay $6 a day for parking - $36. We stopped at Wendy's in Charlotte to get something to eat. It was good to get some good-ole American food and not have to worry about the fruit, vegetables or water. We got home about 11:30 p.m. It was a wonderful trip, but I would never again take a group of school kids on an overnight trip - let alone one out of the U.S.
*Information about the Mayan Ballgame: Social Studies for Kids
**Ballcourt Photo from Atop El Castillo: André Möller - WIKIPEDIA - CC BY-SA 3.0
***A Second Pyramid found in El Castillo - CNN News
****Temple of the Warriors - Chichen Itza