The adventures of a knitting grandmother

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She spins, she knits, she blogs about it all.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Thirty One Steps

There are thirty one steps to the plateau. Or maybe there are only twenty seven. Or twenty three. I think there were thirty one. It felt like thirty one. This picture doesn't do justice to the massiveness of the stone steps. I had to be helped up more than a few of them.

One disadvantage to traveling somewhere on a cruise ship -- as if there could be such a thing as a disadvantage -- is that you never really leave the civilization that you are accustomed to. You board the ship in Los Angeles or Miami or Galveston, and you are surrounded 24-7 by the luxury to which you are accustomed. Or would like to be permanently accustomed. Suddenly, sitting on the bottom rows of these steps, listening to our tour guide explain what we were about to experience, I realized that we weren't in Kansas anymore, Toto. Here we were in the jungle, the real jungle with screaming parrots and toucans, and the ever present threat of forty nine different varieties of snakes and large man-eating felines. We had been severly warned not to go off the paths into the brush and certainly not to disturb any piles of dried leaves. Anything that looked like a moving tree root or branch was to be immediately avoided. We were here, ready to enter into ancient (360 A.D.) civilization.

And so we ascended the massive steps to the plateau. The first breathless view was astounding. Photographs cannot do the massive temples justice. There were three large temples that had been fully excavated and the foundations for two more. The temples are so well preserved because they are solid; there were no rooms in them and therefore no walls to crumble and fall. We were one of the early groups of the day and so it was not yet very crowded. (It was by the time we left.)
Each of the large temples could be climbed up to the first level. So the old man finally got to fulfill his wish to climb a temple of an ancient civilization. Here he is climbing the middle-sized temple. See how high the steps are? There are probably many more steps below the ground level here. This is in the area of the city plaza; there are centuries of dirt now covering the original stone plaza that will someday be excavated.
This whole area is extremely undeveloped. They are only now beginning to develop the port area. There are only maybe one or two hotels there, that I could see. The coastal area is very flat and some livestock is being raised. Yes, there were a few sheep. There were also iguanas the size of ponies. Some of the local inhabitants make a living -- such as it is -- by selling fruit, mostly coconuts and pineapples, to the visitors. The land is table flat, which makes it very easy to find ruins. Just look for a mound covered with trees.
Our guide was very knowledgeable, as well he should be. According to him, the descendants of the ancient people are still quite numerous in the area, although the European colonists did destroy nearly all of the vast culture. He told us that every so often, traces of recent ceremonies are still found on and around the temples here. The old culture is definitely still alive.
Everyone in our group from the ship, including the college spring-breakers, was very impressed with the tour. Well, all, that is, except one. Miss B was not impressed at all with the jungle or the piles of old rocks. Can you imagine being 16 years old and taken on vacation to such an exotic, historic place? I would not have even been able to contain the mind-blowing excitement of taking a trip like this when I was in high school. And she didn't even want to have her picture taken on the ruins. I tell you, youth is certainly wasted on the young. Maybe someday she will regret that she didn't appreciate it more. But I did sneak a few pictures of her without her knowing. See Jungle Jane here on the buried city plaza area, where 1700 years ago other young Jungle Janes frolicked. Probably wearing about as much as this modern day miss is wearing here in 2007. And probably just as bored with their parents as she is, too.
At least she was more than willing to take our tourists-at-the-ruins pictures.



Anonymous Kelly said...

That look's like quite a climb. What a great trip. Thanks for sharing your experiences and pictures. I don't really get to travel so it's nice to live vicariously!

5:33 AM  
Blogger Roxie said...

WOW!! Where is this? So awesome!

What your jungle Jane needed was a young tarzan to direct her interest to all things archeological. That's a brilliant shot of her by the way. Long-stemmed American Beauty!

6:34 AM  
Anonymous Dipsy said...

What a trip, my gosh, what a trip! I've been dying to get there too, and one day I'll certainly will! The question is just: How in all the world can anyone manage to get up these steps? Thank you ever so much for sharing these awesome photos - I'm right in the middle of a serious case of travel fever now!

8:17 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I enjoyed your blogging about the cruise! We have been on several ourselves and can't wait until our girls graduate from college so we can go on some more!

I once climbed to the top of an Aztec temple in Mexico and was terrified about going down when I got to the top. I think I even hyper-ventilated..LOL

11:56 AM  
Blogger cyndy said...

Great post! Great photos! Thanks for posting about the trip...how interesting it must have been to be standing right there in the middle of all that HISTORY! Fantastic!

12:58 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Funny about those really tall steps... the people back then were so much smaller in stature! My gosh, seems like the steps would have been up to the hips of an average person!

And Miss B.... this is not your daughter is it? I can't believe you would have a daughter so disinterested in such a great travel experience lik this!

10:57 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...


ahem, wonderful post and photo, but those do not look like handknit socks you are wearing.....

4:36 PM  

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