A visit to Sian Ka’an is one of the oddest experiences that I’ve ever had. Who’d think that a day in the swamp is a day well spent? And yet the haze, the turquoise water and holes from which the lake bubbled were intriguing.
The Mayan ruin of Muyil is one of many Mayan treasures crumbling in the forest and sinking into this oddly scenic place. There is a very unique feeling to the landscape – nothing like the sterile desolation that the well traveled tourist ruins at Tulum have become. And in amongst the grass and crocodiles there is a rusting narrow gauge railway. There is also a channel that connects the lake in the middle of the swamp out to the Caribbean Sea, and a current of incredible strength flowing down this channel which was dug by slave long dead and sacrificed.
In the accompanying video on the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, we wandered amongst the pyramids and climbed to the top of one such crumbling edifice that Manuel called the castle. It was over fractured blocks that I clawed my way up to a platform way above the canopy. One misplaced handhold would have sent me bouncing back down the pyramid – a fall that I’d not survive.
I assume it was an alter that I found myself leaning on and behind me a grotto from whence I gazed across the swamp to a structure known as the Customs building. In the shadow I noticed a kneeling figure up against the wall, just a faint outline where the light caught the edges of raised plaster. It seems that the fresco must be decaying in the humidity, and the building is supposedly slowly settling into mud.
So I’d meant to visit the Heart Machine. It seemed to be a nifty concept, the idea of taking control of your city, instead of passively waiting for the city to happen and you just being an observer. As the artist had written, the interaction between citizen and city was meant to be symbiotic.
long before you saw the exhibit you could see the orange flicker of the Heart Machine on the upper walls of nearby buildings. I was especially interested as the Heart Machine had been featured last year at the counter-cultural Burning Man Festival in Nevada. the whole idea is that these 4 big severed arteries or maybe it was the Vena Cava would belch huge roiling puffs of flame into the sky when triggered to do so by some good citizen who was beating at the heart. Well it certainly was a spectacle and it drew a crowd of citizens who chose to interact with the exhibit.
Carl, Jeff, Maggie and I were standing around the Heart Machine somewhat passively watching this fire twirling girl toss a flaming stick around when this Mohawk’d fellow climbed up onto a reddish mound that I took to be the heart. Imediatly the heart seemed to be picking up the pace. The pulse was increasing and the night above was lit by great roars and exhalations of fire and then the citizens arrived – planned or not they certainly added to the atmosphere and if it had not been for the chill in the air I could well have imagined that I was at the Burning man Festival myself.
I felt it first – this primitive vibration in my gut, a pounding beat explained as “step-Dub” by Jeff who is familiar with the raving scene. The street was packed and a mob was moving toward us – the smell of weed (cannabis) preceding their arrival. It was a mobile rave where the police were conspicuous in their absence, several hundred youths in varying degrees of stonedness, one fellow near me puffing a joint so large it lit the crowd up all around him. There was this guy who looked like Renfield from Dracula, faries, various pseudo Manga characters, kids in masks, costumes, fancy gowns and tons of neon glow sticks. And of course a couple of rave queens in a pickup and another vehicle behind that was kind of like a float. “Water, anybody got water?” a young fellow cried out to nobody in particular.
The music was pounding out so loud that I could barely hear Maggie saying “lets get out of here, this is getting out of control”. As though in reaction to the new arrivals the heart was now spewing flame as though it had just ruptured. A fire engine was caught up in the mess and its siren added to the chaos.
You might say that these citizens of Toronto had come to interact with the heart, and interact they did!!! It was a symbiosis that seemed symbolic of recent interactions – read into it what you will.
A map of Costa Rica will be confusing in the maze of convoluted roads along the Guanacaste shoreline. Here we are, several world class beaches within about 20 minutes drive. But where to surf in Tamarindo?
A simple map of Costa Rica with some broad destinations plotted relative to each other might sometimes be the way to go. Follow road signs and ask the locals and providing time is not an issue you will get there.
The last Simone saw she was thrashing a flinching Nicaraguan who’d come to pray for the health of his fellow workers.
“Good on you old lady,” Simone shouted approvingly. “I bet he friends with that red hair monkey.”
Simone found Talbot at Las Ruinas, skulking beneath its bell.
Symbolically both the ruined cathedral and the bell are representative of something other than their actual physical presence. Cartago was the old Costa Rican capital before San Jose captured the title in a battle in a nearby mountain pass.
My mother worked at Christ Church (Oxford University) and she was the first to bring the Trill Mill Stream to my attention. Pictured here the stream appears deep and slow – coming from under the University into Christ Church Meadow.
At one time the stream actually flowed on the surface, but it was eventually buried. The high walls within which the stream is channeled (just before it reaches the Thames – or the Isis as they call it in Oxford) is because in the 1800s the vapors coming off the water were blamed for causing a cholera epidemic- hence the idea to contain it. Initial exploration of the stream in the 1920s revealed a rotting Victorian punt wedged somewhere within and populated by 3 human skeletons.
Numerous people have traversed this underground waterway, Lawrence of Arabia did it in a canoe and one enterprising adventurer used a sea plane float. Modern urban explorers record their adventure and reveal an arched roof of bricks, the undersides of numerous manhole covers and a passage that makes at least 6 90 degree turns – finally ending in an iron gate – as seen from the outside it is this incredibly archaic industrial age contraption – a plate of metal that is raised and lowered by a wheel.
In Ronald Knox’s book, “The Hidden Stream; the Mysteries of the Christian Faith” he mentions Trill Mill Stream in his introduction in saying that, “if you know the right turning close by the gas works you may thrust your canoe up to the mill-pool under the castle walls where an entrance hardly more dignified than that of a sewer invites you to leave the noise of Oxford behind, and float down through the darkness.”
If I still lived in Oxford, I would certainly have been one of the explorers. I had at one time entertained the idea of using an air mattress. Now that I live in Canada the gloomy tunnels under Guelph will have to suffice – sadly they do not have the history of the Trill mill stream.
I can’t remember what I’ve blogged about this trip so far – so here is the full story (as I remember).
There is this incredible storm drain that is very spectacular (as storm drains go). Many years ago SNFU and I resolved to follow it up as far as we could – this in place of the especially old drains in Niagara falls that I still intend to visit.
Well you enter in a rather public place – at the edge of a highway and the noise from within is quite intimidating. As a caver that sound of water suggested that we were about to be swamped by a flash flood, but it never came so we waded in and soon found ourselves at the bottom of a stairway down which flowed a gush of very cold water.
It was midwinter and though you might not be able to tell, I am wearing a wet suit beneath my coat.
The stairs slope toward their center and with the algae build-up and the coldness it was not exactly easy, but we were very pleased to have done it and we rose from about the water level at the lake to the height just at the base of the cliffs. Along the way we had the fortune to observe some rather spectacular rust stalactites which were growing from cracks in the roof from which water poured. We resolved in the spring when the water was higher and warmer to inner-tube the drain from infall to outlet (wearing helmets) but in retrospect, its probably better that we didn’t.
Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.
We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).
So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on
1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.
8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).
9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.
Is this a shrunken head or just a severed head? I’m kicking myself now for not having bought it. How would I have explained him at the airport?
I have a collection of various tribal artifacts. The supposed head would have been made in Hong Kong, but it would go just fine on the wall next to this great big Congo mask that I’ve got – I call it Hannibal the Cannibal because it has a mouth of jagged teeth.
On the subject of tribal, check out my malagan mask (I’ts real)
I can’t be sure of the story behind this fellow, but I was sitting waiting for Maggie in a square off one of the main streets in Chester and in the distance I heard this sound like a wild turkey; everyone around me was looking, wondering what it was … and again the sound; it was this sort of crazy cackling – warbling noise. It just kept getting closer.
Finally this fellow sprinted past, looping back he returned to leap up and down, flapping his elbows like he was trying to fly and yodeling out a wild turkey noise.
I couldn’t be sure whether he was serious or not. We locked gazes and I wondered if I was in for a pecking??? I only had time to snap this hurried picture and then he seemed distracted by something in the distance. Unexpectedly the turkeyman dashed off in a crazy zig zag sprint dodging between startled pedestrians, half crouched over, flapping and leaping, but in vain, everyone knows turkeys aren’t so graceful - in fact they barely fly. The last I heard of the warbler was his deranged turkey call fading in the distance.
Oh turkey man, from whence did you come and where did you go?
Just recently Maggie and I had spent the day walking around the walls of the ancient Roman city of Chester – the town from which her father came and in which her mother had worked as a nurse. Apparently the two of them met when her father was choking after an appendix operation and her mother applied her nursing skills.
We had visited Chester some twenty years ago and had stayed in a bed and breakfast down on the banks of the River Dee.
This ruin was situated above Chester’s Roman Wall and it is part of the structure of the church of Saint John the Baptist. Set up into the wall there is a most unusual feature – a medieval coffin of solid oak. It looks like the coffin was cut from a solid tree trunk and inside it is inscribed “ashes to ashes.”
Nobody really knows the exact story behind the coffin but there are many theories – everything from, “it was bought from gypsies,” to “somebody dug it up while digging another grave.”
Following the release some time ago of my book "Rockwatching; Adventures above and below Ontario", I am pleased to announce the release of my new book "Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica". It is a story of opportunity. Edgehill Press is the publisher. (www.edgehillpress.com)