Archive for February, 2008

It’s odd

February 23, 2008

It’s odd how there was always something to write about down in the rainforest. What’s blooming; what’s the river doing, etc. Here that doesn’t seem to be so, and so far it’s a struggle to keep the writing going. But I want to keep it going, so I guess I’ll just write what comes out. Many trees are blooming and getting new leaves, but I know very few of them. The unknown tree in the back yard is now fully re-leafed and is providing very nice shade as we move into the hot season. Erythrina sp. are blooming, as are the ceibas (both species). Actually they’re not blooming, but producing their cotton and seeds. Tropical cedar is ripening it’s seeds as well, and guanacastes are full of green seeds. Guanacaste trees are allowed to grow large and right out in the street, in many cases. For some reason they are not cut, it seems. Cochlospermum vitifolium is blooming too, one of my favorite early dry season trees. Ziricotes are blooming profusely, with their pleasant orange flowers. There is a Bombax elipticum tree down the street, with blooms similar to provision tree. It’s a new one for me. And just this morning, while walking China, I say a bay cedar with fruit. And many others, mostly shrubs, which I don’t know yet. Last Sunday at Dzibilchaltun, I saw a beautiful, striking purple flower, in clumps, growing on a vine. I’m guessing it might be a Thunbergia of some sort. On the way back, I pulled into the puebla of Xanacatan, to get out of the wind. The village sticks in my mind for it’s radish fields.

Pages 303 to 308 from volume 2 of Incidents of Travel in Yucatan by John L. Stephens:
Aké  (I should mention here, that J.P. Stephens ‘discovered’ Ake’ in the nineteenth century)

The next morning we started for Merida, with the intention of diverging for a last time to visit the ruins of Aké. The road was one of the best in the country, made for carriages, but rough, stony, and uninteresting. At Cacalchen, five leagues distant, we stopped to dine and procure a guide to Aké. In the afternoon we proceeded, taking with us only our hammocks, and leaving Dimas to go on direct with our luggage to Merida. Turning off immediately from the main road, we entered the woods, and following a narrow path, a little before dark we reached the hacienda of Aké, and for the last time were among the towering and colossal memorials of an aboriginal city. The hacienda was the property of the Conde Peon, and contrary to our expectancies, it was small, neglected, in a ruinous condition, and extremely destitute of all kinds of supplies. We could not procure even eggs, literally nothing but tortillas. The major domo was away, the principal building locked up, and the only shelter we could obtain was a miserable little hut, full of fleas, which no sweeping could clear out. We had considered all our rough work over, but again, and within day’s journey of Merida, we were in bad straights. By great ingenuity, and giving them the shortest possible tie, Albino contrived to swing our hammocks and having no other resource, early in the evening we fell into them. At about ten o’clock we heard the tramp of a horse, and the major domo arrived. Surprised to find such unexpected visitors, but glad to see them, he unlocked the hacienda, and we walking out in our winding sheets, we took possession; our hammocks followed, and we were hung up anew. In the morning he provided us with breakfast, after which, accompanied by him and all the Indians of the hacienda, being only six, we went around the ruins. Plate LII represents a great mound towering in full sight from the door of the hacienda, and called El Palacio, or the Palace. The ascent is on the south side, by an immense staircase, one hundred and thirty seven feet wide, forming an approach of rude grandeur, perhaps equal to any that ever existed in the country. Each step is four feet five inches long, and one foot five inches in height. The platform on the top is two hundred and twenty-five feet in length, and fifty in breath. On the great platform stand thirty-six shafts of columns, in three parallel rows of twelve, about ten feet apart from north to south, and fifteen feet from east to west. They are from fourteen to sixteen feet in height, four feet on each side, and are composed of separate stones, from one to two feet in thickness. But few have fallen, though some have lost their upper layer of stones. There are no remains of any structure or of a roof. If there ever was one, it must have been wood, which would seem most incongruous and inappropriate for such a solid structure of stones. The whole mound was so overgrown that we could not ascertain the juxtaposition of the pillars till the growth was cleared away, when we made our whole, but with little or no enlargement of our knowledge as to its uses and purposes. It was a new and extraordinary feature, entirely different from any we had ever seen, and at the very end of our journey, when we supposed ourselves familiar with the character of American ruins, threw over them a new air of mystery.Plate LII
In the same vicinity are other mounds of colossal dimensions, one of which is also called the Palace, but of different construction and without pillars. On another, at the end of the ruined staircase, is an opening under the top of a doorway, nearly filled up, crawling through which, by means of the crotch of a tree I descended into a dark chamber fifteen feet long and ten wide, of rude construction, and of which some of the stones in the wall measured seven feet in length. This is called Akabna, casa obscura or dark house. Near this is a senote, with the remains of steps leading down to water, which supplied the ancient city. The ruins cover a great extent, but all were overgrown, and in a condition too ruinous to be presented in a dawning. They were ruder and more massive than all the others we had seen, bore the stamp of an older era, and more than any others, in fact, for the first time in the country, suggested the idea of Cyclopean remains; but ever here we have a gleam of historic light, faint, it is true, but, in my mind, sufficient to dispel all unsettled and wavering notions. In the account of the march of Don Francisco Montejo from the coast, presented in the early part of these pages, it is mentioned that the Spanish reached a town called Aké, at which they found themselves confronted by a great multitude of armed Indians. A desperate battle ensued, which lasted two days, and in which the Spanish were victorious, but gained no easy triumph. There is no other mention of Aké, and in this there is no allusion whatever to the buildings, but from its geographical position, and the direction of the line of march of the Spanish army from the coast, I have little doubt that their Aké was the place now known by the same name, and occupied by the ruins last presented. It is, indeed, strange that no mention is made of the buildings, but regard must be had to the circumstances of danger and death which surrounded the Spaniards, and which were doubtless always uppermost in the minds of the soldiers who formed that disastrous expedition. At all events, it is not more strange than want of any description of great buildings of Chichen, and we have the strongest possible proof that no current inference is to be drawn from the silence of the Spaniards, for in the comparatively minute account of the conquest of Mexico, we find that the Spanish army marched under the very shadow of great pyramids of Otumba, and yet not the slightest mention whatever is made of their existence.

The above italicized passage, I took from my favorite blog, Bicycle Yucatan, which is the impetus for my wishing to go to Ake’. My bike doesn’t fold, as theirs do, so I have to confine myself, for the moment anyway, to what I can do in one day, there and back again. This trip is well within that range.

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eclipse

February 23, 2008

The lunar eclipse is in process and so it seems like a good time to finally start this thing. I’ve been having trouble getting to my journal since we’ve been in Merida, and I don’t want to lose touch with it. I thought this might be a good way to keep my writing moving along. We’ll see.

I’ve taken up birding and biking tours on Sundays. Two Sundays ago I rode the 3o miles to Sisal, ate lunch and rode back into a stiff westerly headwind. I stopped to rest in Ucu puebla, and watched a couple innings of a baseball game. The birding was very good around Sisal, as there is a large wetland buffering the coast. I didn’t have time to do much birding though, as the ride was so long. This past Sunday I intended going to the little known ruin of Ake’, but didn’t want to go so far without a spare tube, so I returned to the Dzibilchaltun ruins instead, just 10 kilometers out of the city. I’d been there a couple weeks earlier, on an overcast, relatively cool day and the birding was excellent. This time though, it was quite hot and quite windy and there were no birds to be seen. This time I rode back to town into a gale force southerly wind. I’m not complaining though, as both times it was a great workout, though not terribly pleasant riding. But if great workouts were always pleasant, the world would be free of obesity. This week I plan to go to Ake’, having picked up an extra tube yesterday. That will take me West, and maybe the wind will be coming stiffly from the East on my return.

Connie’s sister, Kathy, was here for a few hours today, seeing the house she bought for the first time. She’s back on the cruise ship now, heading for Cozumel.

Hopefully I will get up on the roof tomorrow, for my second stint at cleaning the mold off of it with the pressure washer, in preparation for repairing and sealing it.

The water coming in through the water meter is very low volume and pressure, so all the houses have tanks on the roof. The water trickles into these tanks and then gravity feeds into the house. In order for the pressure washer to work, it has to receive water at some pressure, so it can then pressurize it further. With a gravity feed system, there is no way to accomplish this on the roof. So I got out my trusty solar panel and 12 volt pump, and draw the water directly from the tanks. The system works very well while the sun is shining (between clouds).

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February 17, 2008

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