paulfraser (paulfraser) wrote,

Hot air hangs like a dead man

Getting up extremely early to enter the wilds of Tabasco, I aimed to reach a small, unfrequented archaeological site of the Zoque, a people likely descended from the Olmecs. The painful hour of arising came as there is a inverse proportionality between amount of people on a site and difficulty of access. This place was at the high end of the later, and I had no guaranteed means of arrival and even less guarantee of successful timely return. So, I took the earliest bus out into the bush, which dropped me at the nearest intersection any main road has to the site, where there was some form of civil unrest happening (it may have been Zapatistas, but they are mostly in the neighbouring state of Chiapas), and walked through the stinking heat for the (supposedly) 5 kilometers to the 'town' below the ruins. People who think they have seen country towns in Australia, even people who think they grew up in a country town, have never seen a country town in this sense of the words. Six or seven houses with the locals out the front watching the stranger walk by and a highschool, which is not too far from what you might know, but roadside graves at the entrance, chickens and turkeys roaming around, the only store in the front room of the last house and only one or two cars. And jungle.

A further couple of kilometres up the road to the site, I was indeed the only person to have arrived that day, apart from two groundskeepers and the ticket vendor. I saw almost all of what was to see very quickly, and beautifully designed and well-restored the main complex was. The main draw though, stone carvings, were not as easily to locate as my information indicated. This information was more or less 'follow a jungle path for a while, see things, and then follow a more obscure jungle path to see more things'. The problem is that obscure jungle paths disappear very quickly and new ones arrear very quickly, as half an hour wandering around in said jungle, and finding myself in the middle of an eerily abandoned mountain-top cattle farm proved. Hassling one of the grounds keepers, he finished gathering leaves, grabbed his machete (pronounced with the 'ch' here), and bid me follow him. So, I followed the stranger with the machete into the jungle. He carved a path to more carved rocks than my information suggested were present, but the collapse of the roofs protecting them, which stemmed from the same neglect that let the jungle swallow them up, meant that the rains had allowed moss to completely cover the carvings, making them indistinguishable from the many other rocks. However, the gentlemen who showed me this and other things hidden in the jungle, Pedro (though when asked his name he said “Pedro Something Something Something Something”, to which is said “Pedro”, and he said “No, Pedro Something Something Something Something”), had done so on a killer of a hot day, and so before leaving I volunteered to wander back to the town to get him and the staff a six-pack. The cheek, he insisted on a certain brand.

By now, it was early afternoon and the sun had reached full intensity, and constant re-application of pump-pack sunscreen and aerosol insect repellent was starting to leave my face and the sensitive pale skin on the underside of my arms stinging with chemical burn, and my lips numb, causing waste of my precious water to wash them clean. I was exhausted, hungry and despite best efforts dehydrated, and I was loathing the unshaded walk back to where the bus had dropped me, and ill at ease regarding my chances of getting a bus there to pull over for me. This is when the police stopped me.

However, like everyone else here, the police are curious about foreigners, but having guns have none of the caution some people show, and they gave me a lift. We went through a dialogue that repeated many times during my stay, and almost always in the same order:

Where am I from?
¡Ah, kanguro!
Traveling alone?
What am I doing in Mexico?
Do I like it in Mexico?
How much does it cost to fly to Australia? (Being somewhat cooked at this point, I think I answered with the equivalent of 150,000 Australian dollars)

Returning to where the bus had left me, and where the protesters were still stopping each and every car, the police declined to let me out and drove several kilometres farther to the next town (larger and more elaborate, if constructed in the Mexican bright-paint, concrete-slab and rusting-reinforcement method) and a bus terminal. Waiting for the bus, I ate a simple meal of fried chicken, chips and salad in a restaurant made from the front room of a family's home. Being the first honest, home cooked meal I had enjoyed in days, it was mana from heaven. Even if I am still yet to learn that every condiment is napalm. The full plate only cost A$3.50. When the bus came and I sat down, my passage back to base assured, I knew true relief. Next time I'm just renting a damned car, which will surely lead to new and different adventures.
Tags: archaeology, mexico, tabasco
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