TRIP REPORT #4 - LA CHOLE

by Tamie in Idaho, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 11:32 (3889 days ago)
edited by Tamie in Idaho, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 11:58

Our first trip to Zihutanejo was in 1972. Many times over the years, we’d heard about a place nearby where artifacts wash-up when it rains, and an ancient civilization is said to be buried beneath the lush farmlands of a local village. My husband was somewhat curious, but having no background or interest in archeology or geology we didn’t pay much attention or bother looking further for more information. Therefore, on our recent trip when my favorite Tour Guide, Carlos Garcia recommend we spend some time visiting La Chole, we pushed it to the bottom of our to-do list. Fortunately, Carlos convinced us it was a tour worth taking.

We arranged for Carlos picked us up at our hotel at 8 a.m. Before heading to La Chole, he drove us up the mountain to catch a morning view of the entire bay. Carlos speaks excellent English, and he was able to answer many of our questions about the area from a local perspective. The view was stunning, and we could watch the area come to life as another day dawned on the sleepy village.

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Along the way, we made brief stops at both Play Blanca and Playa Larga. Although we had seen these beaches before, it’s always amazing to see miles of pristine white beaches, undeveloped, and on this day, inhabited only by a few birds and a stray sand crab. The air was so fresh you could smell a fish being pulled from the ocean a mile away.

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Next, we made a quick stop in Barra de Potosi to say hello to Avi (Shark Boy). I always love his comments on the message board and enjoyed meeting him in person. We didn’t have time this day, but look forward to his lagoon tour one day soon. Carlos recommends Avi’s lagoon tour and often transports people from Ixtapa or Zihuatanejo, then returns them to their hotel or continues on to show them more sites. We looked around the charming little village, enjoyed fresh fruit, huevos rancheros and orange juice, and then went on our way to La Chole.

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Basically, this area was continually populated for over 3,000 years and has been deemed to have been a ceremonial center used by three cultures including the Tomiles, the Cuitatecos and the Tepoztecas during its extensive history. Because the area is below sea level, it’s believed that the whole area was decimated by a Tsunami at some point in history and has remained buried until recent discovery.

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When we arrived at La Chole, members of the Romero family greeted us. They are currently owners of much of the land involved in the La Chole project. Prior to our tour Carlos had explained the plight of the family to remain involved in the project currently underway on their property, and the resistance by the government to ensure local involvement and prosperity for the families. Like everyone else, Carlos is concerned for the welfare of the generous Romero’s and includes a family member in each tour. He had asked us in advance to please tip our family guide generously, as they do not ask an admission price and rely solely on donations. We were happy to do this, especially after our incredible experience with Jose.

Our visit to La Chole was just a few days prior to the opening of the museum. The largest of the artifacts were still outside, waiting for their permanent placement in the new building. These large, stone game pieces are part of the recently excavated ball field. Although this field is not yet completely excavated, it’s believed to be one of the largest in the world. The ball games on these fields are historically known to be important entertainment rituals. Teams of seven men competed to maneuver a rubber ball through the game piece holes using only their shoulders and hips. They played to honor their Gods, and often times the winning team became willing human sacrifices.

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A few years ago, as the excavation of the ball court began, the remains of seven humans were found. Carlos told us of having seen one set of the exhumed remains, still draped in ornate jewelry and head dressings. We were then taken to the opposite end of the court where the work continues. In this area currently being unearthed by geologists more human remains have been discovered. It is believed that seven sets will be found on this end of the court also, as excavation continues.

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The remainder of the site is known to contain pyramids, a plaza and more. As we toured the site, artifacts were clearly visible everywhere. Archeologists had obviously been unearthing incredible finds. We were able to view staircases, floors, and walls being worked to the surface. Bits and pieces of broken relics were in piles, labeled in bags and peeking through the dirt. Eroded areas exposed walls and shapes, hints of things to come. We were allowed and encouraged to touch, poke, photograph, climb, explore and ask questions. It was incredible.

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After several hours, as we left the site, we were escorted into the tiny town of La Soledad de Maciel, consisting of 80 houses and 400 people. We enjoyed a cold beverage and met a few of the friendly local kids. Outside the church, we had an opportunity to see the “King of Chole,” an Olmec creation dated 1,500 B.C. and locals shared with us additional artifacts soon to be in the museum. We were graciously shown how they grow their tobacco, corn, beans, vegetables and coconut. Everyone in the town was so friendly and nice. I was even treated to a hand-rolled cigar. I don’t smoke, but he won’t take no for an answer and I wasn't about to insult the guy. And no...I didn't light it!

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By now we were hot, tired and a bit overwhelmed by all that we'd experienced. We still have no knowledge in archeology or geology, but suddenly we find we do have an interest! We can’t wait to return to La Chole again next year and to discover what new treasures have surfaced!

Trip Report #1 - The Refuge 8027
Trip Report #2 - Market & River 8251
Trip Report #3 - School Visit 8498

http://www.soledaddemaciel.com/


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