Saturday, December 10, 2011

Playing with Petroglyphs

Almost on a whim, I asked my counterpart if he had heard about the glyphs.  From the giddy look on his face, I could tell that a trip down to the banks of the Rio Miko is in our near future.
Cara de Mono is a tiny little farming town on the road to Rama, RAAS.  Rio Miko supplies it and all the other communities in the area with water, and also a little something else that only a few travelers have ever ventured off the roads deep enough to find it.
            Moises and I called up my sitemate, Jake, to see if he was down to see some petroglyphs.  Of course he said yes and about 30 minutes later, we were getting out of a taxi in the tiny community of Cara de Mono, or in English, monkey face. 
            The town is really more like a bus stop with a few houses built around.  There’s a corner store, a cell tower and that’s about it.  We wandered off the highway towards one of the houses.  Moises asked one of the boys in the house if he could show us the “famous” petroglyphs.  The boy, Jose, seemed happy to have a reason to get out of the house and so off we went.
            We spent about 15 minutes walking along the highway passing nothing but trees.  The RAAS is a part of Nicaragua that is massively under developed.  Combined with its northern sister state, RAAN, the two make up more than 50% of the land of the country.  However, the population is something along the lines of 10%.  So as we walked down the highway, it was rare that we passed anything other than the natural landscape. 
             Finally we reached the cemetery, a long flight of steps to get up to the plateau where the graves were.  Then our journey took us off roads completely.  We pushed our way through trees, shrubs and long grass that apparently cows frequented by the amount of pies Jake and I narrowly avoided stepping in. 
We passed pools that were homes to caimans, Central American crocodiles.  None made their presence known to us, but Jose was quite wary of them and we passed the pools quickly.
            After about 20 minutes we had reached the Miko.  We slid down rocks as slick as soapy glass cup, and made our way to the banks of the river.  Following the current, we swung under low hanging trees and climbed over boulders bigger than my bed until we reached a peninsula of rocks that jutted out into the river. 
            This was the place we had been hiking through such rugged terrain to find.  On almost every other stone was an articulately drawn monkey face or abstract shape that spiraled over the surface or the rock.  Rather cartoonish looking and certainly not as glamorous as the carvings at Tikal or Chitchen Itza, but some were still in very good condition for being on the banks of a river that would be wearing them away wet season after wet season, century after century. 
            I try normally to not look to touristy when I’m around Nicaraguans to keep my street cred.  But in the presence of basically unexcavated pre-Columbian rock art, I was ecstatic, snapping my giant tourist camera and jumping at anything that looked like a scratch on the rock to see if it was some undiscovered piece of stone art. 
            As the time went on, and we had seen all there was to see, Moises, Jose, Jake and I decided it was time to start back up the river.  We wanted to be out of the jungle before it got too dark to see where we were going or worse, Jose’s fabled caiman.  

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