Saturday, March 05, 2005

Still at Playa Tecolote ... Desert Safari by Marilyn Brodhurst, a Mulege trip and pictures on Day 9, March 1, 2005 ...

Desert Safari to Cave Paintings

Our local tour guide, Salvador, picked our group up in his 14 passenger van (which we noticed had seats upholstered in 4 different patterns) at 8:30 a.m. Our first stop was in the town of Mulege to register with the officials and show our i.d. since we were going into a National Park. Shortly after leaving town we passed an orange orchard, stopping by a home that sold fresh “organic” grapefruits and oranges. They were 4 pesos a kilogram which amounted to 40 cents for 7 small oranges. Here's Doris and Joy ....

We then began our safari-like ride over dusty, rocky, dirt roads through 15-20 miles of desert country. Salvador (who is standing in front of a Chardon cactus close to 500 years old) stopped at one spot to give us a brief description of several local plants and their uses.

Here’s a few that I remember:

The palo blanco is a white barked tree whose bark is used in tanning hides.

A bush that is family to the ocotillo and looks like it, has a red blossom on it which helps relieve toothaches.

The barrel cactus can provide you with water if you slice the top off, make a well, and wait a few minutes for the water to collect.

Marmalade can be made from the fruit of the Chardon cactus. The pulp from this plant prevents infection and stops bleeding.

The root of the cholla cactus makes a tea that reduces headaches.

The leaf of the Cresole bush can be put in your shoe to cure athlete’s foot and a tea can be made from it to relieve kidney stones.

Candelia, which is a leafless green stem resembling a candle, has a thick white sap which is a strong laxative and is also used in making candles.

Now don’t go quoting me on these. They are only to show you the variety of plants here and all the uses the people have found for them. We even found two small mushrooms about the size of a thumbnail peeking out from the fine dust.

We continued our bumpy ride, stopping twice to open gates to a private farm. At the farm house we registered again and paid 40 pesos for our access privilege. In the distance we could see 3 peaks, part of the Trinidad Mountain Range and our destination. Finally we arrived at the foothills, and began our climb to the cave.

Doris, Linda and Pam ....

We came to a dam that the government had built in the early '90’s. There had been no rain from 1980-1990, so steps were taken to prevent an inevitable flooding. When the next downpour came, it was so violent that part of the dam was washed into the town. This is a gypsum weed, which is an hallucinogenic, next to the wall of the dam.

We arrived at a pool of water and had the option of swimming around the next boulder or taking a small row boat with Salvador.

A few more rocks to climb and we were at the mouth of the cave. Many large boulders filled about half the cave, but the pictographs on the wall were very clear. Salvador gave us a brief history of the Indians who lived here, mostly the Colchimes, but there had been Indian groups here before them. Some of the paintings dated from 1500-3000 B.C. No one knows who made the first drawings.

We could clearly see a red deer upside down, a figure of a person identified as a male shaman, fish, and several small while handprints. These were made by young children whose hands were burned and then placed on the wall. This allowed them to become eligible to be the next shaman.

After scrambling down the rocks, loading the boat (10 to a trip) and boarding the van we were eager for lunch – served at the small farm house. We were served tortillas, goat cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes, onions, refried beans and marinated chilis, yum.

Ten minutes down the road we made another stop, walked through a river bed and viewed some very faint petroglyphs high on the canyon wall. Salvador pointed out several fish, a whale, female shaman, and on a large lower rock a coyote.

We continued our trip home, passing several large alfalfa fields, and seeing cows, horses, donkeys and ostriches. Because of the heat we opened our side van door – truly safari style!

That's 30 for today.

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