Clara Bennett:Secret of the Kukulkan Temple

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Chapter One   Thinking back to the time when my great adventures began, I realized how life is truly full of surprises. The drive to Calakmul has always been one of my favorites. From the car window you are surrounded by what appears to be ce...

Chapter One

 

Thinking back to the time when my great adventures began, I realized how life is truly full of surprises. The drive to Calakmul

has always been one of my favorites. From the car window you are surrounded by what appears to be ceaseless tropical forest. I had rolled down the windows so I could absorb the amazing atmosphere I was in. The air smelled of fresh green flora in the warm air of a lovely sunny afternoon in early January. The faint sounds of the tropical forest inhabitants could be heard from the car window. It was music in itself. I looked over at Daniel and smiled at him as he watched the magnificent view from his window. 

Our trip today would be almost 160 miles. Our destination was the Puerta Calakmul Hotel at the entrance of the Calakmul Biosphere reserve. The reserve has the famous Mayan ruins of Calakmul. It was one of the largest Mayan city-states during the classic period of A.D. 250-900. The ruins are located in Mexico’s largest nature reserve of over 2500 miles. The ruins of Calakmul are around eight miles alone. Calakmul is located about twenty-two miles north of the Guatemala’s border between Mexico. 

We have been to Calakmul a number of times before for research on my PhD thesis.  Another Mayan ruin site was recently discovered nearby. The Mayan ruins are about thirty-one miles northeast of Calakmul. It has remained undiscovered so far due to the site’s remote location in the nature reserve surrounded by heavy tropical forest covering the area.

 Before we left Belize Daniel had made arrangements for us to fly alone to Mexico and join our research team tonight at the hotel. He thought it might be the last chance to be alone before months of communal atmosphere while camping near the new ruins. There are no roads into the site and cutting a clearing is not an option since it’s in a protected nature reserve. We will be flown in by helicopters. For now, the site will just be surveyed to see what is there and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (NIAH) can make a decision how they want to proceed.  

I could feel my heart skipping with excitement as I anticipated surveying the site.  We were temporarily transferred there by invitation from the NIAH in Mexico from our Belize government archaeology jobs. In Mexico, that is who oversees all archaeology sites whether they are excavated by archaeologist employed through the government or private research institutions. I believe the invitation was sent from our former professor Dr. McAdoo; although, that was not mentioned on the invitation. As far as I know, the majority of the participants on the project are archaeologist employed by the Mexican government. 

           Dr. McAdoo will be the principle investigator or manager of the project. He was originally from England and graduated from the University of Cambridge. He was offered a job at Galen University in Belize where he taught for fifteen years. He recently left to work for the NIAH in Mexico.

We hired a driver to pick us up from our hotel which we stayed in last night. We had flown in yesterday to the Manuel Crescencio Rejon International Airport. The driver’s name was Arturo, whom we have known from several trips to Calakmul. He picked us up in a white Nissan Versa with lots of colorful knickknacks for decoration on his dashboard. He liked to talk about the Mayan ruins with us and all the possible theories as to why they became abandoned. We both sat in the backseat together.

          I had on jeans and a white peasant top with red flowers. The outfit looked nice with my silver necklace of a single large azalea. My bracelet was silver with turquoise Mayan glyphs surrounding a bangle. The glyphs were not depicting actual words just decorative designs. I had on my brown leather gladiator sandals.

          Daniel thought I looked nice in red. It looked good with my cinnamon skin tone and ginger hair color. I kept my hair about midway down my back. It is soft and wavy. I have been told it compliments my oval facial shape and full lips. I have always thought my best feature is my small turned-up shaped nose. Daniel believes my best feature is my almond shaped amber eyes. My height is 5’4. I have always loved the outdoors and enjoy being active. As a result I have an athletic slim build. I am twenty-eight years old. 

          Daniel and I are both of Mestizo and British descent. A Mestizo is one who is a blend of both Maya and Spanish descent. I have also some distant Greek from my mother’s side.

Daniel has a coco skin tone with chestnut hair color along with almond shaped hazel eyes.  His facial shape was oval with full lips and a straight nose with narrow nostrils and pointed tip. He is lean with a muscular build at 5’9. Daniel had on tan khakis and a solid green t-shirt. He wore a silver watch which I gave him for his last birthday. Daniel is also twenty-eight years old. He tapped his leather sneakers to the rhythm of the bird calls from the tropical forest as we drove along.

          Daniel and I arrived around 4:00 p.m. at the hotel. We said goodbye to Arturo and watched him drive off. It felt good to get out and stretch after the long drive. Even though we had been to the hotel a dozen times before it was always wonderful to be back. As we stood there and looked around the parking lot Daniel spotted a few red-lored amazon parrots on the trees near us. He loved nature, so for him this was amazing to be surrounded in the tropical forest. His eyes just lit up seeing all the beautiful plants and animals. 

The hotel was quite a sight to see. It was built right in the middle of the tropical forest. The hotel rooms were very intriguing individual wooden bungalows spread out in the tropical forest itself. The bungalows are connected along a natural dirt pathway to the hotel office and restaurant.

We checked in and looked for our room along the pathway. The sounds of the tropical forest were very intense this close up. It sounded as if a hundred different animals were all speaking at the same time right next to you. At first, you would try to list each animal sound in your mind as if I just heard a bird or a monkey. The sounds just came to fast and too many. The best way to take the sounds in is to allow it to sound as if it is music; a harmonious melody of everything.

We found our bungalow as we walked along the pathway surrounded by dense thicket of Honduras mahogany, ceiba, and srangler fig trees.  A spider monkey was climbing on a branch in a tree near the front door. I also saw a keel-billed toucan on a branch near the spider monkey. I could hear a grey hawk in the distance. Outside of the room it had a large covered porch with chairs and a hammock.

Our room had large screens instead of glass windows on the side walls of the room. There were no curtains just wood blinds. The sounds of the tropical forest could be heard from the room, especially the parrots and monkeys. Above the king size bed was a nice mural of two scarlet macaws perched on a branch facing the viewer. The bed spread was ruby surrounded by aurecaria leaves.

The room had a thatched vaulted ceiling with wood beams for support. There was no air conditioning except a ceiling fan hung on a wooden support bean in the center of the room. There was a mosquito net hung above the bed as well on the same support beam. Thankfully, the room had a nice modern bathroom with a tile shower.

We set our luggage down on the floor by the left window. We had about an hour before the rest of our group would be arriving. We decided to take a walk around the hotel. There were a few trails off the main pathway for hiking.  We saw butterflies and an agouti, which is a large rodent, run across the path. One of the trails went to an area where howler monkeys are said to frequent. Daniel held my hand as we walked. As we walked we could hear the sound of us crushing the fallen leaves on the ground.  We looked up in the trees to see what kind of birds there were. It was hard but I saw a white-fronted amazon parrot, blended into the green leaves of a chaká tree.

  It felt so humid during the day. The combination of heat and humidity would slightly burn your nostrils as you breathed. You began to feel very sticky just by walking outside for a few minutes which attracted a ton of mosquitos. I was constantly slapping them off of me. The tropical forest also kept you alert in more ways because you never know when a tarantula would be right in your pathway or a poisonous snake. 

As we walked Daniel checked his watch and it was 4:50 p.m., he began to speed up his pace. At five o’clock is when our group will be meeting at the hotel’s restaurant. We both were beginning to get hungry and were looking forward to the taco salads. We began to head towards the restaurant to check if anyone had arrived yet. Sunset had begun and the sound of bats coming out of the nearby cave could be heard through the trees.

Neither one of us knew that day how attending this meeting would transform our lives forever. For years Daniel and I had traveled to Calakmul without any particular incident or much adventure except the sheer thrill of working on a Mayan archaeology site. I look back on my memories of everything that is about to happen with enduring enthusiasm as to how it all changed my life. I hold all the good and not so great memories tight in my heart. I would never be the same after this sunny day in January.

 

 

 

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