TRIP REPORT #4 - LA CHOLE

by Tamie in Idaho, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 11:32 (3899 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!

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http://www.soledaddemaciel.com/

TRIP REPORT #4 - LA CHOLE

by Donna, Bucks County, PA, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 12:24 (3899 days ago) @ Tamie in Idaho

Great photos, Tamie. Make me want to be back in Zihua. I also toured La Chole with Carlos and Adan a bit before the museum opened, but Adan gave us a sneak peek st some of the artifacts. Can't wait to see it nest year.

TRIP REPORT #4 - LA CHOLE

by lia ⌂ @, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 13:16 (3899 days ago) @ Tamie in Idaho

What a great report, Tamie. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us. Your photos and narrative are fantastic and will no doubt inspire lots of new people to visit La Chole. The report must have been time-consuming to do, double thanks for putting it together so nicely!

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TRIP REPORT #4 - LA CHOLE

by Donnyboy @, Atwater,California, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 18:03 (3899 days ago) @ lia

We have been coming to Zihua for 15 years and this will most likely be #1 on our to do list upon our return in Nov. Thanks for a great report!

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TRIP REPORT #4 - LA CHOLE

by Laura ⌂ @, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 21:42 (3899 days ago) @ Tamie in Idaho

What a great report! Very interesting and informative. Thanks for the attention to detail and all these gorgeous photos. My favorite was the one of your and your friend with cigars in front of those bright Mexican colors...green and red..and of course those beautiful faces of the children of La Chole.

I do wonder though about the being encouraged to touch and poke... this runs counter intuitive to all I know about preserving ancient artifacts and sites.

Thanks for a good report!
Laura
Casa del Encanto B&B Barra de Potosi

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TRIP REPORT #4 - LA CHOLE

by Sharkboy ⌂ @, Barra de Potosi, Wednesday, April 06, 2011, 22:20 (3899 days ago) @ Laura

Hey!! very good day! with my boat. jejejeje. La chole is an exelent place to visit. friendly people and cultural area.

Feel the nature... Eco tours in Barra de Potosi

Valid concerns, Laura

by Tamie in Idaho, Thursday, April 07, 2011, 11:06 (3898 days ago) @ Laura

Thanks for taking time to read my post. Regarding your comment about the "touching," I was a bit concerned also. Keep in mind however, that currently these folks are living among the ruins and artifacts. Someday, much of this will be behind glass, in museums or fenced off, but right now school kids walk home through the ancient plaza, crops are grown on pyramids and artifacts are stored in plastic bags or used as yard art.

I would encourage any visitors to be respectful of all they see, but the fingerprints of a few curious tourists seem to be relatively harmless at this point. It certainly won't always be accessible at this level. See it while you can.

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Valid concerns, Laura

by ZihuaRob ⌂ @, Zihuatanejo, México, Thursday, April 07, 2011, 11:16 (3898 days ago) @ Tamie in Idaho

Thank you for such an interesting report with photos. It is much appreciated.

However, I share Laura's concerns. I'm not sure if you realize that your comments about "We were allowed and encouraged to touch, poke, photograph, climb, explore..." could actually get José and Adán in trouble with the INAH, and frankly I am a bit surprised that they or anyone at La Chole would even say such a thing that goes against everything the archaeologists are trying to do.

I certainly hope that anyone who visits La Chole will do their best NOT to touch any of the artifacts and that they will restrain themselves from climbing on any of the ruins.

Invalid Concerns, Rob

by Tamie in Idaho, Thursday, April 07, 2011, 11:25 (3898 days ago) @ ZihuaRob

Perhaps the picture I painted with my words was a bit deceiving. We most certainly did not climb on or disturb anything. Common sense would certainly come into play here. We were allowed to take photos (obviously), to view close up and personal the work being done. And I'm sure that we would never have been allowed to act in any way disrespectful to this incredible place.

Glad you like my photos.