Friday, May 10, 2013

The Mineralogy Museum, Newly Discovered Ruins, and New Friends in Tehuacan, Puebla

Monday we said goodbye to Cordoba, and started the drive to Tehuacan, in the state of Puebla.  We were told that the libre (public road) was about an hour's drive and crossed the mountains, so we decided to take this scenic route.  As usual the roads were narrow and curvy, this time with a change in landscape from tropical to desert.
This road had an interesting twist.  On the ride up the mountain, every time there was a hairpin curve, the lanes were reversed, so that buses and trucks could make the turn.  That meant shifting from driving on the right, to driving on the left, and back again, following the big white arrows on the road!
One of our main goals for visiting Tehuacan was a chance to see the Museum of Mineralogy there, which displays one of the finest collections of Mexican minerals.  On Tuesday, not only did we get to see the museum, which was a total delight,
but we also got to go on another adventure, thanks to museum director Miguel Hurtado.  When he started chatting with us and discovered we were visiting from the United States and had an interest in minerals and archeology, he asked if we would like to visit an archeological site on the outskirts of town that is not yet open to the public.  Of course we jumped at the chance, and Miguel called his friend Ramon and asked him to come and pick us up.  Shortly thereafter, around 5 pm, we were picked up in style in an orange Isuzu Trooper, which was the perfect vehicle for the bumpy road ahead.
Riding in the backseat of this four wheel drive vehicle felt a lot like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland.
When we arrived at the path that would lead to the ruins, we were joined by Miguel's son, Angel, who also works at the museum, along with several other cousins and friends, and we all started the hike to the archeological zone.
Halfway up the hill, we encountered the gate warning us that we were on federal land, and were not permitted to enter.
We passed the gate and continued up the hill, where we saw some very interesting cacti,
this colorful bug,
these tree pods,
these yucca trees,
and this vine bearing some kind of fruit.
There was also obsidian scattered along the path, which Miguel identified for us.
 Soon we encountered another sign,
along with a police officer with a rifle.  Ramon and Miguel talked with the officer,
and we were permitted to continue our journey along the path.  Shortly thereafter, the ruins started coming into view,
with the biggest reward being two pyramids at the end of the path.
There were these large stone pillars at the top of the the larger pyramid,
and the view from the top was spectacular in all directions, whether looking out towards the mountains,
or towards the smaller pyramid and adjoining ruins.
There's Eduardo way down below chatting with the police officer,
but he made it to the top eventually to join me for a picture!
The sky was beautiful as the sun began to set,
and it was almost totally dark by the time we made the hike back down the hill to the car.  Afterwards, Miguel asked us to join them for dinner at home of the cousins, and it was a lovely ending to a very enjoyable, adventurous day.  We were grateful for a chance to have a look at these newly discovered ruins, and for the chance to make some wonderful new friends.

Thanks so much to Miguel, Ramon, Angel and Company for making our time in Tehuacan so memorable.  We'll be back!

xoxo Linda

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Art and Culture of Cordoba, Veracruz

Our next stop on the way back to Mexico City was Cordoba, Veracruz, and although I have seen people selling many things in my four months of traveling in Mexico, this was my first encounter with a roadside parrot salesman.
We slowed down to take a picture, and he was happy to put the birds in the car for me so I could have a closer look.  We explained that they were adorable but not the kind of thing that you really can take home over the border!
We arrived in Cordoba late in the day on Sunday.  Since it was close to dark, we chose our hotel first, the Hotel Palacio in the historic district.  I loved the look of this hotel, reminiscent of an antique hotel in Miami.
Our room was delightful, with furniture from the 1950's and cool aquamarine tile floors.
Since we are in Veracruz, you can rest assured that you will find a delicious "Lechero".  We had ours at "El Borrego", an antique cafeteria just a couple of blocks from the hotel.
Walking along the zocalo at night, we had the good fortune to happen upon some dancers performing "son jarocho".
I especially enjoyed seeing the beautiful chemistry between dancers Fabian Morales and Nancy Martinez,
 including this dance where Nancy balances a candle on her head.
They were delightful to watch, and nice enough to spend some time chatting and posing for a photo after their performance.  Thanks Fabian and Nancy!
Continuing our walk along the zocala, we enjoyed the music of this marimba player,
and admired the beautiful cakes at this Pasteleria.
The zocala was bursting with color even at night, thanks to these balloons.

The next morning we were able to view an art exhibit at the Casa de la Cultura, entitled "Musicos y Chamanes" by maestro painter Armando Gomez de Alba.  His masterful use of color and bold brushstrokes hypnotized me!  Here are a few examples of the paintings in the exhibit, that the director of the Casa was so kind to let me photograph,
along with a detail of the brushwork.
I was equally enchanted with the way he handled the subject matter of Mexico in his paintings, and he really inspired me to do some painting of my own when I get back home.

In early afternoon we bid farewell to this beautiful town, and were on the road again, making our way towards Mexico City, with our next stop to be Tehuacan, in the state of Puebla.  Stay tuned for our next adventure!!

xoxo Linda

Spotting Monkeys in The Mayan Jungle Ruins of Comalcalco, Tabasco

We got back on the road on Friday, heading back to Tabasco on what we were told was a much newer and nicer road than the one that led into Simojovel.  Well, that turned out to be debatable, as this road also had its share of holes and sunken areas where it became only one lane,
as well as other surprises, like this area where a waterfall created a stream across the road.
Once again we're Indian Jones and company!  But the reward was being surrounded by the wonders of nature in all its glory.
We made it safely to Tabasco, greeted by banana stands lining the road,
and spent the night in Villahermosa, before moving on to Comalcalco, an archeological site.

Comalcalco is home to an ancient Mayan settlement that was developed between 250 and 950 AD, a contemporary to Palenque.  It sits in a large clearing,

surrounded by jungle.
Since there is no stone in this area, the older buildings were made using compacted earth coated with thick layers of stucco made from charred oyster shells, followed over time by the use of bricks in various sizes.

Several carvings are still well preserved on the structures.
I am continually as fascinated with the flora and fauna of each site as I am with the ruins themselves.  I spotted this beautiful orange bird,
this enormous ant hill on the side of a tree,
gorgeous yellow flowering trees,
and this tree trunk, which looked to me like the foot of an elephant.
But my greatest and most memorable reward of the day was being able to see the monkeys in the trees.  I heard their haunting calls in the distance when we were in Palenque, but this was the first time I was actually able to see monkeys in the wild.  It was thrilling!
After visiting the ruins, we completed our tour with the on site museum, displaying treasures that have been unearthed from the site.  I am always especially delighted to see the statues of the women,
and also found these bones of a body found in the fetal position particularly moving.
Since we are now making our way back home, we got back in the car and continued on to the state of Veracruz, feeling so happy to have made the time to visit Comalcalco.

I wish you all a very happy and productive Thursday!

xoxo Linda