Thursday, November 19, 2009

Incidents of Travel With Pablo

WARNING...this is one long post...but full of adventure, humor, sex, and life lessons.

Not really.

To all of my favorites who I usually read religiously at least every other day, I apologize. I've been a bit out of sorts with blogging the last few days, and haven't been keeping up. There are a ton of fine blogs I follow and sometimes it just overwhelms me in the sense that I spend TOO much time keeping up. So, I purge myself occasionally.

The following is something I started a month or so ago.

Read an interesting story by Mr. Charleston over at Termites of Sin, about one of his visits to Merida, Yucatan, several years ago. His post was over a month ago, but still worth a read. It's entitled,  In Appreciation of Panama Hats.

His post was of interest to me because I have made at least 7 or 8 trips to Yucatan. Most of them occurred in the 70's with my last sojourn in 1981. I started visiting when Yucatan was a little less, a lot less Americanized. Certainly there were no computer designed resorts such as Cancun, etc. Back then, there were far more Germans visiting there than Americans. Not sure why.

Besides the unique Yucatan culture, and of course the Spanish influence, my main interest was the Mayan ruins and culture. In my teens I read a book entitled, Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, by an American Adventurer/Archeologist, John Stephens.He was accompanied by Frederich Catherwood, a British Artist/Archeologist/Architect, who visually recorded their discoveries. It is a recounting of their travels to Yucatan in 1839. The book, which was a best seller in the United States, was first published in 1843.

Stephens was the first to recognize that the overgrown mounds one sees throughout Yucatan were in fact, ancient cities, and he was the first to surmise that the indigenous peoples of Yucatan were descendents of the city builders. If you have any interest in ancient American cultures, this is a must read. The bonus is, it also gives a insight into 19th Century thinking and culture.

Most visitors to Yucatan usually hit the popular restored ancient sites such as, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and Tulum. And most also do it as a tour group. I have never liked the tour group idea. My travels need to involve side roads, unscheduled way stations, and of course most importantly, interaction with the citizens. And that always lead me to experiences that can't be obtained on air-conditioned buses, nor with large volumes of people.

There are literally hundreds of sites on the Yucatan Peninsular, and spread apart...restored, and partly restored sites.

If one really wants to experience Mayan cities in Yucatan on one's own, an automobile is a necessity. Nothing is wrong with hiking either, but if your time is restricted, that leaves a lot not to be seen. In the seventies, VW bugs were perfect for out back ventures. That was my vehicle of choice.

All of which leads me to the real subject of this story. A small, 8 year old lad named Pablo.

We met Pablo at the restored Uxmal archeology site. When Pablo approached us we were trying to figure out how to get to Kabah, Sayil and Labna, which were farther up the road from where we were...and being the superb map reader that I am...thanks to the U.S. Army and...Texaco...I could tell that the second and third of these ruins, Sayil and Labna, was not on the main route. It was at this point that Pablo intervened. He spoke broken English, which was about as perfecto as my broken Spanish. Later I figured out that he mainly spoke Mayan.

We showed him on the map where we wanted to go. With a little Spanglish, we determined that he could show us the way. Good damned thing that we took him too, as we were to find out.

First stop was on the main road at Kabah. After spending a couple of hours hiking around there, we moved on. Taking the main road we drove for a few minutes and then Pablo indicated that we needed to turn left. Left? I didn't even see a road. What I saw appeared to be a burro path, or some other vicious creature tramples. It was completely overgrown on each side and barely wide enough for a Volkswagen from the fine country of Deutschland...uber alles. With trepidation and grave imaginations...envisioning banditos lying in wait with very sharp machetes, and remembering Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and THOSE blood-thirsty banditos...and remembering what happening to Humphrey Bogart, aka Dobbs, as a result of some very sharp machetes...and how he lost his burros, and  his boots to boot...I turned left into the densely grown over burro/monster/bandito path, thinking to myself, "there ain't no stinkin banditos down here"...and anyway, shit man, I'm an Amurican, they wouldn't dare fuck with Uncle Sammy, unless of course they've heard about Viet Nam...or Treasure of Sierra Madre. Given that thought and with my army training and natural instinct for ambushes, I felt confident I could handle what ever this child had in mind for us.  We bumped and grinded and pot-holed and slid and sweated profusely ever alert for sneaky bastards with sharp weapons, or barricades, and imposter iguana purveyors...and burros...and we did this for oh, about 45 minutes. But...but...but, we got there. We made it without incident of travel, flat tire, busted suspension system, and beer.

Please, no comments regarding type casting...jeez, it was the 1940's!

There was a hut to the right side of the "road", it was the caretaker and his wife's hut. We all got out and they approached gesturing that we needed to pay a fee to enter the site. At this point I had no pesos left, and gave him a dollar bill (in most instances in Mexico, at least back then, dollar bills were preferred to pesos) At that time a dollar was worth about 20 pesos (as I recall). The entrance fee was 10 pesos. I intended for the care taker to just keep the change. But, he began a lengthy conversation with Pablo, in Mayan...apparently the caretaker spoke neither English or Spanish, and I could tell he was upset. It took a while of Spanish, English, and high gestures but it turned out that the old guy thought the dollar bill was too old, and therefore not good. So, I fished for a newer looking bill, which satisfied him.

We entered the site. It was partially restored at that time. After about an hour of wandering around, Pablo began trying to get us to take one of the jungle trails. It was obvious that he wanted to show us something. Finally we followed. The trail was greatly overgrown and dense. Looking at the map I had from Stephens book, I knew there were more ruins down this way, so I was more than happy to follow, thinking that the ruins were where he wanted to take us. We rounded a bend and he began to point excitedly at a stela which was lying  flat on the ground. A word is necessary here. This stela is the only one of it's kind ever found in this region. Since I was last there, it has since been returned to it's upright position and covered with a thatch hut for protection from the elements. But when I saw it the first time, I saw it as Stephens and Catherwood saw it...on the ground. And Pablo wanted us to see something that was special to him. Here in the next photo is the stela, as Stephens...Catherwood...and I first saw it.

Yes, that is an oversized penis. Your eyes are correct.

By the way, the penis is indeed circumsized. The Mayas did that. This fact has lead some historians to the conclusion that the Mayas were a lost tribe of Israel. A stretch I'm thinking.

And here it is in it's present location.

We were taken aback. Pablo was beaming. We went on to the other ruins, and on to Labna, which was farther down the same bad ass trail. We never encounter banditos, or sharp machetes, or burros...not to mention, we still had our boots.

Toward the end of the trek, we headed back to Merida. Pablo fell asleep in the back sleep, as 8 year olds are wont to do. We dropped him off in his village which was on the main road about twenty miles north of Uxmal. We woke him and I gave him $20 for his great service. That was a lot of money  in Yucatan back in the early seventies...he was elated.

Pablo would be in his 30's now, and I hope he remembers the gringos who chagrined at his favorite Mayan Stela, Yum Keep. No doubt he is blogging about that incident of travel here on blogspot. I hope so.

Pablo, this one's for you.


One of my visitors is having a problem sighting the ah, penis. So in the spirit of cooperation, an outline of the phallic figure:


Jon said...

nice narrative... i like the discovery waiting in the bush too... wonder if you might want to change the title to reflect the discovery? maybe something like Pablo and the Rock Hard Penis... or something to that effect... just a thought

the walking man said...

Jon already did the penis joke so I will just leave with a thanks for the trip to a place I have never been.

Mr. Charleston said...

Great tale JJ. I was there in the early 80s and it still wasn't completely as Americanized as it is today, not even Cancun. Back then you could take the ferry to Ilse Mujeres and pretty much have the place to yourself, at least in off-season.
One of my vivid memories of traveling to the ruins, which we did in a tour, but in an un-airconditioned VW bus, was the thatched roofed mud huts along the way. The windows and doors were open for ventilation and you could see the hammocks stretched across the rooms. They had electricity and each a large TV antenna outside.
I remember wondering what these people must think, living in their dirt floor huts, watching some glitzy detective guy drive around Hawaii in a Ferrari, or, my lord, The Gong Show.

mo.stoneskin said...

Your Spanglish is fantastic and I'm particularly pleased that you found Stella in the wilderness, that must have been very refreshing.

intelliwench said...

So you think you can disappear for days on end, then make it all better with some travelogue post?

Eh, works for me. Great story.

The Peach Tart said...

Great story. I've never been there but now you have me intrigued.

Holte Ender said...

Great story, I'm jealous, never been to Mexico or Central/South America. You mentioned that the Mayans have been considered by some historians, to be a lost tribe of Israel, a stretch I agree, but also they have been compared to the Egyptians due to the pyramid shape of some of their structures.

jadedj said...

Jon---Har har har, good suggestion, but possibly a bit stiff.

wm---Well, somewhat like Detroit, no?

C---Thanks. What's the problem with the Gong Show? A great representation of America at it's best. Jeez man.

mo---Buenos thanks, hombre.

intell---There were no logs involved, but glad you enjoyed it.

Peach---I can furnish directions directly to the sculpture, but if you take Mr. Peach Tart, best let him down gently in advance, you know, the old emasculation thing.

Holte---It's a short flight from whence you are. I guarantee you will enjoy it. As to theories, my favorite is the theory that the Mayans were too stupid to do these things themselves and had help from aliens...of the outer space kind.

Doug said...

I've never even been to California, let alone south of it. It would help if I was a good traveller, but I'm not :-)

Great story, J.

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm sorry, I just can't see the penis.

jadedj said...

tittletoo---well it isn't obligatory to see it, but I do like visitors to leave satisfied. Having said that, take a look at the new graphic I added after your comment. Keep in mind that the piece has deteriorated over the years from the elements. Hope this works better for you. And I really appreciate your coming by and commenting.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

We went to one of the less traveled sites two years ago, and were able to climb the ruins. It is amazing, and I think $20 still goes a long way there today.

jadedj said...

Bucko---I am glad to hear someone talk of other than the popular restored sites. For me, the absence of people adds to the aura and mystery.
Glad you enjoyed it.

Tom Harper said...

Interesting post. I've traveled all over Asia but I've seen very little of Mexico; just a few border towns. I've liked what I've seen (which isn't recent), but Ensenada is the furthest south I've been.

The least Americanized town in Mexico I've been to is Mexicali. It's over the border from a rural, mostly Hispanic part of California (at least that was true 20 years ago), so it's not overrun with camera-toting tourists or military people looking for a "good time."

jadedj said...

Tom---I've not been to Mexicali, but have spent many a weekend on the beach at Ensenada. This was back in the 80's when I lived in L.A. Just north of Ensenada was a motel/bar/restaurant called La Fonda, do you know the place?

Actually I've been thinking about posting a tale of Sea Bass, tequila, near death, and life realizations, all connected with La Fonda.

Karen said...

The penis definitely is an eye catcher and your narrative was interesting, as well. :o)

jadedj said...

Karen---Welcome...thanks for stopping by. Comments are always appreciated, especially nice ones.

Comrade Kevin said...

What an interesting story! I wish I'd had more of chance to travel out of the country.

jadedj said...

Comrade---Sorry to hear that you haven't, but glad you enjoyed the story.

the walking man said...

Dude in Detroit you do not trust anyone you don't know well to guide you anywhere. Our culture her is continually being updated after the old is torn down. We have artifacts left in the rubble but the scavengers usually get to them first.

jadedj said...

wm---having been there, I hear you.

sage said...

Good post--I was there for the first time last winter--traveling from Cancun to Merida. The freeway was weird--not at all what I'd expected, but taking the back roads through Izamal was a treat

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