Sayaxche, Dos Pilas, Flores

Previous Topic Previous Next Topic Next
Maya Info

Other Xoc managed sites:

MONDAY, DECEMBER 25, 2000. Next morning, we took our little boat back down the Petexbatun River toward Sayaxche. Just past the Posada Carribe, our boatman detoured through a shortcut of bewildering narrow passages through the mangroves. It was a great adventure with all kinds of birds all around. We kept looking for Mr. Olnut and the African Queen.

Back at Sayaxche, we left our luggage in the boat with our boatman and climbed into the sturdy 4-wheel trucks that had taken us to Ceibal. We had little idea of the adventure that awaited us.

I cannot truly guess the actual physical length of the unpaved portion of the road into Dos Pilas. Most of it was simply the bumpy sort of road that we had encountered going into Ceibal. But long stretches of it were a gooey quagmire that threatened to trap us or our companion vehicle. And just when we thought we were approaching Dos Pilas and nearing the end of the ordeal, we sank into the really deep, black gooey mud that was the semi-liquid version of the tropical forest topsoil. Finally, the trucks could go no further, and we ended up hiking in the last mile-and-a-half or so. It was an amazing adventure and one that we will never forget. Typically, our methods of travel are so far removed from the travails of the early adventurers that we cannot appreciate at all how difficult it was for Stephens and Catherwood or the others. Here, for a few minutes, we caught a glimpse. While it was exciting, we were all happy to have an established road to follow and a big truck to return to after our visit to the site. A less-intrepid group might have been discouraged. Bette did a particularly graceful job of selecting her route along the muddy trail through the jungle. Greg, still carrying all his present worldly belongings on his back, loaned Sunny a dry sock to replace a particularly muddy one that had nearly been sucked off her foot with a muddy misstep. We all learned the Spanish word for mud- “lodo”.

But I wouldn’t trade the visit to that site for anything! Stela 8 was one of the most exquisitely carved Maya pieces I have ever seen! Each individual glyph was a sharp as if it had been carved yesterday. Scholars have traced four major kings at this site. We were able to identify their monuments and structures. This was a site that saw late occupation and the destruction of earlier buildings to build defensive ramparts. Those defensive walls were still visible. The archaeologist who explored this site was Arthur Demarest, the fellow who (literally) just fell into a big discovery at the near-by site of Cancuen. In line with the defensive wall on a high residential acropolis area, another hieroglyphic stairway had been uncovered. Unfortunately, half of it had already been cut away by looters. How terrible!

Our trip back out of Dos Pilas was even more of an adventure than our trip in. I was seated in the back of the first truck, hanging on for dear life. Marco Antonio and a young man were standing in the back. Bea and Bette were in the cab of our truck; Kathryn and Sunny were in the other cab. Nick, Greg, and Al rode standing in the back of the other truck. Since I couldn’t see what was coming, Marco Antonio would warn me that we were approaching another “Ouch!” Toward the end, he promised me at least a dozen times that this was the last "Ouch!” - - until we came to the next one! We finally made it to the paved road again just as darkness was falling. We were just grateful that it had not rained while we had been at Dos Pilas. If it had, we might still be there!

Back at Sayaxche, we bade our intrepid truck drivers good-bye, crossed the Rio Pasion again, and boarded our bus for Flores. The stars and planets were particularly clear along the dark road. Soon we were back in civilization.

We must have looked quite a sight as we trooped into the Hotel Santana lobby in Flores. We left a distinct muddy trail all the way up to the third floor where our rooms were. As Al said, if Linda Schele had written a fourth book, it would probably be called “Mud of Kings”. That seemed terribly funny at the time. Kathryn, who is probably a candidate for diplomatic immunity by now, negotiated for us to have our shoes cleaned by the young man at the desk for a mere 10 quetzales each – the best bargain any of us had ever seen.

We went right to eat, despite our appearance, and had a lovely dinner. Some of the folks had tepezquintle, a small rodent (paca) that looks rather like a big rabbit with short ears and no tail. When Charlotte and I had been to Flores before, we had thought that tepezquintle was the Mexican hairless dog – not a menu choice for us. I sampled some that night and have had some before at Uaxactun, but instead I had a nice white fish.

After dinner, we returned to our rooms for nice, hot, well-earned showers and a comfy bed. Merry Christmas!