Saturday, November 8, 2014


Once Upon A Time
There are so many good pictures of Cholula on the internet that actually visiting the place in person was sort of anticlimactic. The Instagram-doctored pictures are actually better than my own eyes. They are like movie spoilers for the brain. This is the danger of researching places before traveling. I love being unaware, like walking into that Franciscan Monastery in Huaquechula. I'd never heard of it or seen a picture. It was my own discovery. I only went there for the Dia De Los Muertos activities. Cholula is famous for the biggest pyramid in the New World and I felt like the Pakistani trinket salesmen had occupied it long before me.

Impressed? Can you find this spot in the first illustration?
I applied for a job in Yosemite National Park in 1990, before the internet. I found an application in a dusty folder in the career center in Fairbanks, Alaska. It didn't have a brochure or even a picture attached to it. Half Dome is the logo but I thought that was a clam shell and not an enormous glacial monolith. I was applying to every National Park job in that folder so I didn't even think it was any different than San Juan Islands or The Grand Canyon or Joshua Tree or The Everglades. I'd never heard of Yosemite National Park even though I'd watched Star Trek V the previous Summer and it's featured in the first few minutes of that movie. I thought that scene was set on another planet! Well, I got that job and hitchhiked some 3500 miles through sub zero Alaska and The Yukon, British Colombia, Washington, Oregon, California and arrived in the Valley in the middle of a moon-less night, walked into the forest and slept next to what I thought was a raging white water river. I woke up and crawled out of my tent and my jaw completely dropped. It was like watching Star Wars for the first time in 1977. I'd had no idea what Yosemite Valley looked like and the "river" I thought I was next to was actually Yosemite Falls spewing Spring snow melt about 2500 feet through the air. Because of the internet that's an experience not many people are going to get. We've got images crammed up our ass. Carlsbad Caverns is another place one should not preview before visiting. Just go!*

All my Cholula pictures ended up being redundant versions of what is already available on a google search. My creativity must be waning or else I was respectful of the fences and didn't reenact a sacrifice scene on one of the actual sacrifice altars.

Apocalypto is based in Guatemala and this temple was constructed in similar fashion, which is to say the hard way, laboriously putting one small stone on top of another and setting it with mud and straw and prayer. These structures are properly called temples, not pyramids, so that's what I'll refer to them as. Mexico is full of temples although it's taken some lessons that just because they look like a Mayan temple does not mean they are Mayan. Like seeing a Native American structure in Maine and saying the Seminoles built it. If you're over the age of 12 then you can at least try to credit the correct society. It took 600 years to build the temple and it took another 600 years for the Spanish to arrive and put pictures of a skinny dead man on a cross everywhere. It took so long that it's hard to say who built the temple. I guess it's a collaborative effort of many generations of Olmec-Xicalanca and Toltecs and Nahuatl people. Mayans can't take any credit for this temple unless some Mayan Proto-Oggy architect wandered north and was conscripted to design another temple and then killed by an Olmec who took credit for it all.

Can you find the 4 guys perched on top of a pole? One of them played a flute upside down while dangling from a rope spinning in circles.
 My first Spanish teacher in High School showed us a slide show of a temple like this where he went for his Summer Vacation in 1985. But I was asleep the whole show.

This is beginning to sound like a travel blog but there's no easy way to write about traveling except by describing one's experience when traveling. It's boring to me because it's a little passive. The gypsy wandering is cool but writing about it feels redundant because it's not meant to be a substitute for travel. So what's the point?

*Of course if you "Just go" then you will not realize there are tunnels open through the temple until you do some research later on. So it might be good to add that once you are there, make an attempt to learn what's open to the public and not wander around aimlessly.

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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.