Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Akil 15

We drove a few more blocks and parked outside of a very pleasant house on a side street. It sat in the middle of a rather large lot. There was a little garden on either side of the sidewalk leading up to the front door. There was no grass but plenty of flowers and rose bushes. The side yard contained the obligatory avocado, lime and orange trees. It also contained a dog chained to a doghouse in the back corner and a hutch full of rabbits. I figured this was her version of hunting!

It turns out that this was the house of Lourdes, Maria’s sister who had visiting the night before and shared Margarita’s with B. We were invited in and given the tour of the house. In fact, every house we visited, with the exception of Juan’s mother’s, we were immediately given a tour of the house. We stayed there about 15 minutes and were on to our next point of interest. He had us drive past his other sister’s house but we did not stop. He doesn’t like her. He just wanted to show us where she lives. He had us pull over a few times and he exchanged greetings with some people he knew that we passed. We were definitely getting the impression that we were being put on display. Later he told us that one of Maria’s brothers was jealous of him because he had American friends. Juan said he told him that if he wanted to have American friends then he better learn to speak English. This thing of having American friends kind of ran parallel to things Jaimie had told me on my adventure with him. I just don’t see the fascination or the big deal. B and I are the ones who feel special because we have Mexican friends who have taken us into their homes, their hearts and their lives. I guess maybe it is a two way street.

Monday morning was no different than any of the rest. B and I up first, followed much later by the family. This was to be the routine every day, no matter what was on the agenda. Since we had no idea of what this day was to bring, we were not concerned and enjoyed just sitting leisurely over our coffee. It is mornings like that one, where just the two of us sit and ponder our lives, our future and our plans, that I am reminded of Carly Simon’s line, “I had some dreams. They were clouds in my coffee.” But I digress.

Juan joined us and announced that his brother that we had met the day before was coming over and would join us on our adventure today. I don’t know when he talked to him and made plans, but plan he did. We were heading back out on Ruta Puuc to see some lesser known ruins. “Oh boy” I thought. “More ruins. More old tumbling down buildings. More mosquitoes. More heat. More exhaustion.” I feel really guilty when I get like that. The culture of the Mayans and these ruins are actually quite fascinating and each one is well worth the visit. We were actually very, very fortunate that Juan knew of these places and we were being afforded the opportunity to see places most tourists don’t even know exist. So I bit my lip and forced myself to be exhilarated about the news.

Juan’s brother, Mickey, finally arrived about 11 am with his wife and young son and daughter. They all arrived riding on the same motor scooter. It is not unusual for whole families, including the dog, to pile onto one scooter. I could write a whole story about scooter life in Mexico. It was already blazing hot and nobody wanted to ride in the Jeep with us. They all opted to pile into Juan’s VW Pointer with the air conditioning. Lizzie was the only family member that went along. I didn't know why the rest of the family stayed behind. Maybe they had had enough ruins for awhile too.

What a great drive it was to the ruin of Chacmultan. The route wound around hairpin turns, over and around large hills with the great views again. Through small villages with people bustling about. I was amazed as we passed through one very small village with a one room school to see the school children wearing uniforms. I didn’t think the people in these teeny tiny villages would bother. Burgundy skirts for the girls with blouses bleached so white that they almost blinded you. Burgundy pants for the boys and bleached white shirts. Remember, washing machines are almost non-existent in these small villages. Everything is still done by hand.

We entered the park of Chacmultan and parked in the shade. We paid our admission of 30 pesos (about $2.50) and headed to the first group of ruins. I was disappointed to find that this site did not contain signage that explained the purpose of each building. Even so, they were very interesting. We wondered around and stuck our heads in the various chambers for as long as we could stand it. The mosquitoes were horrible. Further down the narrow dirt road that we were parked on was a long chamber building. Juan said that beyond and to the left of that was the great building, high on a hill. Since it had recently rained, the road ahead was covered with water. We were going to have to cross through this to get to the rest of the ruins. I was not about to try to wade through this red clay muddy mess. B and I opted to take the Jeep. Nobody wanted to ride with us. The rest of them waded through knee deep, hot, red water. Children were carried. I really felt like a foreigner, being too good to get dirty. I carefully negotiated this quagmire of mud and water and parked on the other side. I was glad I did. The chamber building was interesting and decorated with motifs that I had not encountered before on Mayan architecture. As I stuck my head in one of the chambers, I disturbed a nest of bats and they flew about overhead.

As we were discussing whether or not to continue on the road and make the climb to the large building on the hill in the distance, Lizzie started to cry. She said she didn’t feel good. It may have been all the pop and candy she had consumed that morning, both before we left home and on the way here. Juan diagnosed it as dehydration and said she needed to return to the air conditioned car. They would wait for the rest of us to go explore the last ruin.

Mickey and family situated themselves in the back seat and we headed out down the road. It was a muddy, bumpy, narrow two track road that cut through the jungle, winding its’ way ever higher up the “mountain”. I was lucky to get into second gear at times. Once we were on the road, we totally lost sight of the ruin in the distance and had to keep an eye out for a turn off to it. As we passed around one hairpin turn, we saw a likely looking path leading up the hill. It was totally overgrown, rock strewn and did not look like it had been used very much. We decided that this could not be it and drove on. At this point, the road started to go downhill again. This road was incredible. It was more like off roading than anything else. I don’t know how a regular car could have negotiated it. We traveled exactly two miles on it and decided that we had either missed the path to the ruin or the one we had seen was the correct one. The road was so narrow, and the jungle so close, I could not do a three point turn. I had to do a six point turn in order to face back where we had come! Bouncing and jostling along, and trying to avoid the big boulders in the road, we eventually got back to the path we needed. I let everybody out and forced the Jeep into the jungle, just in case another vehicle should come along this road.

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