Notes from the field: Adventure Walkers

"Notes From The Field" cronicles Adventure Travel with all things intriguing and adventurous for the fan of exotic culture and ancient civilizations. Meant to be niether too academic nor too wildly sensational, it seeks to illustrate that truth can be more fascinating than fiction. These are "walking adventures" for the rest of us.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mayan City of Altun Ha -- Belize

My favorite Mayan Princess, Lori, perched on top of the sacrificial altar at Altun Ha, a pre-classic/early classic Maya ruin not far from the Caribbean in Belize. This is the site of the largest, refined jade artifact found to-date in the Mayan empire, an intricately carved head, weighing more than 9.7 pounds! It is thought to represent the Maya sun god, Kinich Ahau. The ruins were attractive with two central plazas and a main, excavated pyramid. Masks done in the Teotihuacan style adorned the main pyramid. Rounded corners and particularly the rounded ceremonial altar on top are somewhat unique to Mesoamerican pre-Colombian sites and distinguish Altun Ha. Post burial offerings found nearby at the earlier city site included the dark green obsidian also representative of trade influence from Teotihuacan. The primary source of that obsidian is a mining site controlled by The Teotihuacanos in the current state of Hidalgo Mexico, not far from Mexico City. Those items place the site squarely in a Pre-Classic time period, back as far as 200 B.C.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Marvelous performace at Benimerito

Students at Benimerito de las Americas performing

Romans famous Oaxaca woven rugs

Getting in the lanchas for our trip up the Usumacinta River

The Acropolis at Yaxchilan in high canopy jungle

On the Usumacinta River on the way to Yaxchilan

Palanque's Palacio, My focus on this visit...

The Palacio at Palenque, under dramatic skies

Coatimundis, Mesoamerica's answer to the racoon

Friday, October 20, 2006

Little Jungle Friends: Coatimundi

Another Mexico Adventure

Just back from Mexico...Again...helping Lori's parents with a group of 80. It is the end of a very wet rainy season--that was still going--which made for the best weather ever: Cooler in the tropics, greener in the highlands...awesome altogether. Every experience was fantastic. Fewer mosquitoes in La Venta park, Villa Hermosa, but more coatimudi's (see picture). Palenque was near deserted allowing us to climb around on the ruins and me to discover a whole, new breathtaking experience exploring the "Palacio", its courtyards, sculptures and underground passageways...before a sudden shower drenched us all with a delightful cooling effect. The air was actually refreshing (rare in the tropics) riding the small wooden "lanchas" down the Usumusinta River to Yachillan (I looked for the watch I lost there in 2004 when I fell down by the Acropolis, but the jungle had grown up so much through the rocks, the effort was near hopeless. A howler monkey is probably wearing it and enjoying his newfound prestige.) The drive by beautiful lake Catemaco was great as usual and Cerro Vejia (The Mesoamerican "Cumorah") was only lightly shrouded in mist and ideal for picture-taking with the faint strains of Mexican band music rifting up form the valley below in San Andres Tuxla. Oaxaca was a bit tense with burned out bus barricades and newly applied graffiti citywide, the result of recent teacher strikes and anti state government demonstrations, but the outlying towns as quaint as ever. A night in Vera Cruz eating a scrumptious shrimp cocktail on the plaza was awesome. Finally a visit to the always impressive Teotihuacan Ruins in Mexico City and the world-famous Archeological Museum off Reforma topped off a wonderful trip. Great people and great and memorable experiences.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Libertador Hotel in Cusco...Inca, colonial and modern architecture... Posted by Hello

Llama with Huayana Picchu in the background Posted by Hello

Lori's famous Machu Picchu Posted by Hello

Amazing Peru - Fabled Machu Picchu - One of the 7 wonders of the world

Niether pictures nor words give justice to fabled Machu Picchu. The magnitude of the setting, hundreds of feet above a winding jungle river gorge, sheer rock cliffs trimmed in foilage and a landscape of ancient ruins so finely constructed, the whole scene seems a work of virtual fiction...The site is still shrouded in mystery even after its discovery in 1911 after evading detection by the occupying Spaniards and most native Peruvians alike for over 400 years! (And that estimate is conservative. The site may have been created hundreds or even thousands of years earlier and reoccupied by the Inca later) You must see the clouds hovering over the green peaks, the finely-fitted grey, Inca stone walls, the verdent green terraces that served as mountain fields for ancient inhabitants, to believe the site truely is real. Our concern with travelers we lead here is that the build-up and anticipation become so great that the experience is anti-climatic. But that has never been a problem. In the case of Machu Picchu, the real thing always evokes trademark Adventure Walkers "awe and wonder" of the highest order even without all the far-fetched, mystic connotations sometimes attributed to the site.

All mysticism aside, Machu Picchu is awe-inspiring as it stands, evoking wonder from everyone who steps foot there. And there are many. Reservations were so hard to get on the train going to the foot of the site that we were compelled to send half our group halfway by bus. Guides spoke of the possibility of the ruin itself being closed to on-site walk-throughs in the near future due to the pressure of tourism. Though May is not considered high tourist season, the venue was packed and the bus to the mountain-top filled with a polyglot bunch speaking English, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, Polish and other languages we didn't recognize.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

A spider monkey who is tired of it all... Posted by Hello

Snakes Alive! Chris with Jake Worthen and...Anaconda friends Posted by Hello

Amazing Peru -- The Amazon

Just returned from Peru, helping Marlan and Colleen Walker with the second of two waves of travelers on a walking adventure that took us to the Peruvian Amazon, the teaming city of Lima on the costal plains and to the fabulous, colonial Cusco, former Inca capital, the Inca Sacred Valley of the andes and exotic Machu Picchu.

The Amazon
It is surprising to find that almost 60 percent of Peru lies in the famous Amazon basin and is composed of largely untraveled and seldom-visited jungle.

The El Dorado plaza of Iquitos rang with the primitive music of tropical Peru outside our hotel as a young girl in grass skirt and halter danced around a relatively small, six-foot boa snake for tips from onlookers just outside the hotel. The music was underscored by the stacato sounds of small motorbikes (moto-taxis or moto-carros) three wheeled contraptions with a wooden, rear bench seat, scurring past as townspeople wrapped up the tasks of the day.

A dinner of Paiche, an Amazon River fish that grows larger than a man, and "lagarto", litterally, "lizard" in Spanish, the local name for an Amazon-sized version of the Alligator, topped off an amazining day near Iquitios, a city of 500,000 people where seeing an automobile is uncommon. (The only way in or out is on the river or by plane.)

A ride up the Maroa River, an Amazon tributary, on large wooden "launchas" with thatched roofs for shade, took us for some true walking Amazon adventure.

First came a visit with the Bora Indian tribe where we were conducted to a thatched roof pavillion to witness, then participate in dances with these gentle ancestors of native Amazon people. The children were bright-eyed. The teen-aged girls shy and covered modestly unlike the older women who, like the men, wore only traditional grass skirts and shell jewelery around their necks in the oppressive tropical heat. There followed a frenzy of purchases of simple seed and shell jewelry and popular jungle "blow guns" by the travelers.

Next came a rustic (picture wooden shanties on stilts and a few chicken-wire enclosures), river-side serpentarium where the more couragous handled 20-foot-long Anaconda snakes. These giant water serpents that populate amazon waterways were as thick as my thigh and rippling with muscular power. And the ones we handled were relatively smaller specimins. Others held land Boas that were equally intimidating, though smaller at 13 to 15 feet long. There were brillant jungle parrots, Tucans, baby monkeys, gigantic prehistoric turtles and jaguar or puma "kittens" (It was hard to tell since at their young age, the rosette markings typical of jaguars are not yet obvious) twice the size of large house cats, and the lovable jungle sloths, or "osos perizosos", literally, "lazy bears" too.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

El Salvador Wanderings

...Then we drove a mountain road through
the thick greenery shrouded with a thin veil
of mist, a place that seemed lost in time and
appeared to be distant from the most remote
vestiges of civilization. Were it not for
the people that appeared like phantoms on
the roadside from the misted greenery--a
woman with a pot balanced on her head; an
old man with a machete and a small bundle
of firewood; or a child with a small, black
dog in his arms--we could have been in the
heart of the deepest wilderness...The
vibrant city of San Salvador, teaming
with traffic was only 45 minutes ahead...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Tazumal in El Salvador - Appears to have been influenced by the Aztec or even possibly the earlier Teotihuacano culture of Mexico. I'll add more as I find out. Posted by Hello

Calakmul's Giant Pyramid Posted by Hello

AdventureWalkers To Scope Out Ruins in El Salvador

I'm headed south to visit ruins in El Salvador the last week in April to determine if they should be placed on an Adventurewalker itinerary in the future. (A fortunate consulting trip there to discuss the CAFTA--CentralAmerican Free Trade Agreement--has presented the opportunity). Amazingly enough, both Olmec and Aztec influence from Southern Mexico is found there along with the expected Mayan influence. The site, Tazumal, is a primary objective as is the Joya de Ceren, a site that preserves ancient dwellings in ash due to a Pompeii-like eruption of the volcano Quezaltepec. Apparently there is an ancient source of jade, the most precious of all Mesoamerican substances, nearby. I'll keep you all posted on the results. All the best...Chris

Dr. Walker Helicopters in to The Hidden City of El Mirador

Dr. Marlan Walker, whose group travel experiences over the past 50 years in Latin America and other destinations has provided the inspiration for AdventureWalkers, had a rare opportunity to see an ancient Mesoamerican city in its pristine, near undiscovered form last month when he flew by helicopter into the El Mirador (The Lookout) complex in Northern Guatemala. Characterized by the largest pyramid yet discovered in Mesoamerica surrounded by 27 separate city complexes, the site is mind-boggling in its scope. We'll continue to follow the cues of El Mirador's most committed advocate, Dr. Richard Hansen, a UCLA-trained Archeologist who has spent more than a decade studying the site and working to protect it for its archeological and cultural value to Guatemala and the rest of the world. You can find an article about Dr. Hansen's efforts on the adventurewalker website at > interesting articles.

Discovering Ancient Mexico -- October 2005

The AdventureWalkers little "corps of discovery" is off on another adventure in October, visiting the ruins of ancient Maya kingdoms deep in the Yucatan jungles of Southern Mexico. This excursion will be much like our last (October 2004) with the significant addition of the huge city complex of Calakmul, resting like a lost jewel in the middle of a bioreserve. Its massive Pyramid # 2 is a breathtaking edifice, and the view from the top unforgetable. River trips provide a change of pace, down the winding Usumacinta to the remote and seldom seen city of Yaxchilan, home of some of the finest Maya Iconography in the world... and up the Grijalva River through the near unfathomable 4,000 foot high walls of Sumidero Canyon. Beautiful colonial towns of Oaxaca and Puebla provide a few days of R&R before the return home. There, we'll visit the amazing ruins of the ancient Zapotec and Mixtec races. The markets in Oaxaca are brimming with beautiful handcrafted weavings, pottery and "artisania". Those in Puebla with the colorful and famous Mexican Talavera china. It promises to be the Experience of a Lifetime. As an added bonus, we will be there through the days approaching "Dia de los muertos", the "Day of the Dead" a sort of Mexican version of Halloween characterized by facinating cultural experiences, parades and handicrafts. (A few of you have done this trip without Calakmul, stay posted for more updates)