Archive for September 6th, 2013

Petén, Sayaxché.

Friday, September 6th, 2013

Another quick story of one of my spontaneous trips to Petén.
Aguateca is a Mayan Ruins site on the shores of Petexbatun Lagoon, a 3 hours ride on a rudimentary boat. The site has a very complex history: many invasions by neighboring kingdoms, emergency abandonment of the city by the inhabitants, a couple of planned out abandonments too. Great monuments built on top of smaller ones, etc, etc.
The main access point to the city is by a man-made bridge on the top of a huge crevice that served as a natural defense for the Mayan settlement.
The first time I went to Aguateca was more than eight years ago. There were no other tourists when I arrived. I went out solo exploring. I climb down the crevice and out in the mud you could find dozens and dozens of Mayan artifacts, spearheads, etc.

The beauty of being a retiree.
This time I was not planning on going to Aguateca. I have some distant family members a few miles before the Aguateca site. They lived on the shores, on a small and humble farmers settlement.
I had had no contact with them since last time I went to their place; more than 16 years ago, but I wanted to go see them and bring them some much needed supplies. They were very kind with me and my old man when we visited them. They showed me how to track animals in the jungle, how to fish with rudimentary equipment, make sweets with whats available in the jungle.
I was at Sayaxche -an important town of Peten where the boats leave to Aguateca- trying to find a boat to the settlement where my distant relatives lived. Talking to a lanchero (boat operator) he tells me he can find me a lancha (launch) for around Q500 ($63 US Dollars). Well, I’m a retiree, so I have to bargain and find better prices.
I was being friendly to another lanchero who was heading to Aguateca. He tells me he could give me a ride, he was just waiting for some tourists he was taking to a hotel close to Aguateca. The tourists were supposed to be there at 1pm. We waited and waited. We had to leave soon because it is very difficult to maneuver those launches after dark. It figures! The tourists were very very late. They arrive at the docks around 5:30ish and it was getting dark. The lanchero had no flashlight at all and the tourists seem not to find one neither. To their luck, Eli always carries very good equipment: I produced out of my backpack a very powerful flashlight (the one I use on my night rides on my bicycle). Ha ha, these scenes me close to the lanchero made them think I was the lanchero’s copilot.

We made a quick stop at where my relatives lived and I drop off the supplies and gifts I had brought them and I continue with the launch to the tourists’s hotel, why not, it was dark and they needed my flashlight and I am a retiree, I’ll take a free ride to a beautiful location anytime.
The owner of the hotel was very kind with me. He treated me like family: he gave me a mattress and a full meal. I slept on the launch, next to the operator. Next morning we headed to Aguateca where I helped the tourists not to slip on the mud and clear the path of some obstacles.

The Challenge
We left Aguateca with tourists on board and they drop me off at my relatives settlement and they leave.
I start looking for them. I asked several children if they knew where my relatives where. No positive replies. I walked to a distant house and talked to that family. They tell me my relatives moved out not long ago. They are still living in Peten but on the opposite side of the province! But I have their phone number one of them tells me! Great! I made the call I talked to them, after more than 16 years without seeing or hearing from them.
Well, now I just have to wait for another boat to take me back to Sayaxche. Uh!? There is no other boat until Sunday they tell me. I was not willing to wait four days. I knew there was a way to get to the town walking, I had done it once before eight years ago from Aguateca to Sayaxche. They pointed me to a almost invisible path through the jungle to get to the town.
I started walking carrying all the supplies for my relatives on my back, plus my backpack and camera equipment.
the first few miles were not difficult, I was refreshed and full of energy. I had to cross the river and that side became very difficult. The path was almost unmarked. I continue for a while just trying to guess the course. The terrain was very challenging. It was very muddy and at some point I had to walked with the water reaching my chest. It was at least a mile walking with the water this high. Aha! I found foot prints on the mud! Barefoot prints!!! I followed them prints on the mud. I’m at the point of exhaustion. The mud is very thick! it is like clay mud, it sticks to your boots and makes layers and layers of mud on your soles. You give one step and there is a thick layer of mud on your boot’s sole. You remove that layer and another thicker one sticks! It was miles and miles of this mud. It was getting dark and I was becoming desperate. I see no sing of getting close to civilization. The night caught up with me. Benefit, because I could see the glow of a town in the distance. I took a break, lay down on a patch of green grass I found. Change my cloths, removed the mud off my boots. found something to eat in my backpack and grabbed my flashlights and there I went again.
I was getting close to town, I got to some barbwire fences: For those of you farmers and cowboys: cattle makes some really deep tracks on the mud. I had to cross these huge stables to reach town. There was a thin layer of water on top of the mud, so it seemed it was not deep mud. I started walking on that and my feet would sink me up to my hips. Several times I had to reach deep in my tracks to rescue my boot (s).
Finally I left the stables and got to a partially dried road. Town was near! I got to the town center around 1:30am! I had left Aguateca around 9am, 16 hours earlier.
Finding the address of a friend my relatives had recommended for me to stay the night took me another two hours.

Any of you wants a to go to Aguateca next time?

Oh, by the way: there are photos of my journey through the jungle. If I can find someone with an XD card reader I will share them with you. My Olympus camera died on me and I have no way to read the memory cards.

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