Jan 14 – 16
Neptuno RV Park
(Once again, no WiFi to be found. This is being posted on Jan 24 from Campeche)
Our first morning on the Costa Esmeralda was a beautiful day and Barry and Pat, along with the Green Angels, made it in before 9AM that morning with all accident and insurance reports successfully completed. I was disappointed to discover that our RV park (Neptuno RV Park) did NOT have Wi-Fi as we had been led to believe from Googling the place prior to leaving Texas. It did have 15-amp (US parks normally offer 30- and 50-amp service) receptacles, sewer, and water (although not potable) at each site. It was off-season so the pool was empty (which was OK because it was rainy and cool) and the restaurant was closed so we were unable to take advantage of the reported breakfast and dinner for about $5 (US) per person per day. Nor did we ever see Lucas; the parrot that was said could be seen hanging out around the outside dining room.
We arranged for our motorhome and car to be washed by the sons of the RV park owner. His wife would also wash, dry, press, and fold any laundry we had for $16 pesos per kilo, or about $0.55 US per pound. We would be charged $350 pesos for washing our 40-foot motorhome and $70 pesos for the car. A total of $420 pesos, the equivalent of a little less than $32 US! Most places in the US charge at least $2 US per foot to wash a motorhome.
A bus picked us up at 9AM for the short drive to the ruins of El Tajin, a Mayan city that is still being excavated. El Tajin is noted for its “Pyramid of the Niches” because of the many niches included in the architecture. There purpose is still unknown. Why must they have a purpose? Maybe the Mayans just liked the way they looked.
I skipped the guided tour, figuring that I could read all about the place later. All I wanted to do was photograph everything there was to see and the place was so big I didn’t want to be held back by the tour. The sun was out and it was quite humid, after all, we were on the edge of a rain forest. Amazingly, there were no mosquitos or other pesky insects to make my life miserable (I am a “mosquito magnet” and if there are any within about a ten mile square area they will manage to find me).
Although soaked in sweat by the time I finished, I managed to take over 500 photos from many different angles, distances, and perspectives (since then I have eliminated about 200 of them but still have a lot of culling to do). Unfortunately, climbing on the pyramids was not allowed. However, I did find a hill at one end of the cleared area, next to the jungle, that overlooked the archeological site and allowed me to view almost the entire city. It is amazing what human beings were able of constructing before the invention of the wheel or metal tools. Millions of tons of stone had to be quarried, shaped, transported, and designs carved – all with only rocks and bones for tools. At least the Egyptians had the wheel and metal tools when they built their pyramids and temples.
The Mayans were into human sacrifice in a big way. At the top of the big pyramid/temple, the “sacrifice-to-be” would be held down on a stone altar by priests. The head-honcho priest would then take a stone knife and rip the victim’s chest open and tear out the still-beating heart. The priests would then smear the blood all over themselves and eat the heart. The body would be tossed from the top of the pyramid and roll to the ground where minor priests would butcher and eat the body. This was supposed to place them in favor with “the gods”. The gods must not have appreciated the offerings or the Mayans would be a world power today!
They also played a ball game with a solid rubber ball. The court was enclosed by a stonewall, perhaps 50 or so yards in length, but relatively narrow. On the “50-yard-lines” of each side was a stone hoop that jutted from the wall several feet above the ground. The object was to put the ball through the opposing team’s hoop and the ball could only be passed by hitting it with ones hip or thigh (not real sure about this). Anyway, when the game was over, the winning team would be sacrificed to “the gods”, which was apparently a great honor. I would assume that there was no such thing as a “winning streak” back then!
On the way out of the ruins we took in the “Papantla Fliers,” composed of about a half-dozen brightly costumed Indians. They climbed a very tall pole, wound ropes around the top of it, and hung by their feet as the ropes unwound while they rotated around the pole, their circle becoming greater as they got closer to the ground. The ceremony (dancing around the pole to the sound of a wooden whistle and drum) of climbing the pole and getting ready took a lot longer than the actual act of descending. Apparently, the city and area around Papantla are noted for this feat and there are quite a few of these “Fliers”. Kids in the area dress up like “Fliers”, do the ceremonial dance, and probably dream of someday hanging upside down while spinning around and down a pole.
We returned to the Neptuno RV Park to rest up for the next day’s activity, a little side-trip to San Rafael. We would not take the optional San Fernando side-trip. I had read about some of the places we would visit prior to leaving Texas and learned that, in Mexico, San Fernando was becoming known as “the murder capital of Mexico” and the highway running through the town was called “the murder highway”. It has something to do with over 100 bound and blindfolded corpses being dumped in the highway about a year ago.
The next morning we car-pooled to the town of San Rafael, whose main industry seemed to be bananas as we saw many banana plantations on the drive. Bananas hung in bunches, which were enclosed in plastic bags. I assumed that this made it easier at harvest time or perhaps it was to deter birds or insects from feasting on them. That is something I intend to learn.
In San Rafael we shopped at a general merchandise store that had a little of everything. Carol Ann and I bought some tequila (for Margaritas!), bread, canned cat food, pastries, insect repellant, and milk (the non-refrigerated, quart-sized cartons that are kept on the shelf at room temperature). I remember when quite a few years ago this type of milk packaging was experimented with unsuccessfully in the US.
We stopped at a small independent cheese “factory” on the way back to the RV park. They sold a variety of cheeses and pastries. Carol Ann bought something that looked like a jellyroll but was filled with vanilla custard instead of jelly. It was delicious!
Next on the itinerary and in the next post will be a 123-mile drive further south to the El Rey Beach Club RV Park, on the beach in Anton Lizardo, just a few miles south of the city of Veracruz.