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El Zacatal: The case of the murdered mannequin

Thursday, March 31, 2005 | 0 comments

Today we went to El Zacatal, or at least that was where we wanted to go. According to the book we bought, "Ruta de la Niebla" this is where the Jilotopec waterfall originates. And there should be a Center of Buddhism nearby, which we couldn't find. But let me start at the beginning.

We took the bus in the direction of Naolinco. Esme asked the driver where we had to get off to see the Buddhist monastery Dhamma Vihara. A short time after we left Jilotepec the bus stopped and the driver told us we had arrived. We asked for directions and started to follow a dry and dusty road.

John and some cows
John and some cows

Esme took a picture of me with the Casio LV-10 when I said "hi" to some cows.

Bell shaped flowers
Bell shaped flowers

We enjoyed the view of big hills around us, and the meadows surrounded by low walls made partly out of porous volcanic stone.

Plants trying to survive the dry and hot environment
Plants trying to survive the dry and hot environment

The walls are covered with plants that are adapted to the hot and dry environment. I considered it an excellent place for lizards, and indeed after some time walking, I saw a very big one run away. Later we saw a few more. Most of the time they run away, look back at you, and vibrate their heads up and down.

The 'little witches' plant
The 'little witches' plant

Esme showed me a plant with white flowers. She told me that as a child she played with the flowers, and called them brujitas (little witches).

After quite some walking we reached several houses. Suddenly, Esme called me to look at a nice blue colored bird. And next we saw a very nice bright red bird. When I got home I checked my "Guía de Aves" and the latter could have been a summer tanager.

Big, white beetle with black spots
Big, white beetle with black spots

More houses appeared, and we reached what looked like a small village. On one low wall I saw quite a big beetle, white with black spots. I estimated it to be about 6 cm in length (over 2 inches).

In a little shop we asked for directions to the monastery. The owner told Esme that it was quite a walk. In the shop was also a cat with very weird ears, like a Scottish fold has.

Quarry for volcanic stone
Quarry for volcanic stone

After the small village we saw a few small quarries that the local people use. The landscape changed from meadows to small outcrops of volcanic stone and trees consisting mostly of pines.

Arm of the murdered mannequin
Arm of the murdered mannequin

Suddenly I saw something that looked like an arm. I joked to Esme that someone got killed. And indeed it was an arm, of a mannequin.

Pine seedling
Pine seedling

We saw lizards more often. Esme saw one hide inside a little hole. I tried to make a photo, since the head of the lizard was clearly visible. However, when I moved closer, the animal tried to hide a bit more, and only its tail was visible.

Carefully, I tried to get the animal out, without breaking its tail, or harming it. But it didn't cooperate. So I let go of it, and asked Esme for a small plastic container. In the past we were able to catch a lizard because it just ran into the container. No such luck this time, when I poked at it with a small stick it ran away to hide somewhere else.

Pine cones
Pine cones

After a short break I took some close up pictures of male pine cones. I had to climb an outcrop to come close enough.

Three male pine cones
Three male pine cones

Esme walked a bit ahead of me, and didn't see another crime scene. I had found the leg of the murdered mannequin...

Leg of the murdered mannequin
Leg of the murdered mannequin

The road forked. The left one had a sign of the monastery, but according to Esme the shop owner had told her that we had to follow the right one.

Pine cones and pollen
Pine cones and pollen

The landscape became more open, with lots of outcrops of volcanic rock. We looked for snakes and lizards. No snakes. And the lizards were fast, as always. We saw a lot of rabbit droppings, but no rabbits.

Tillandsia attached to a tree trunk
Tillandsia attached to a tree trunk

The road ended in a closed gate. It was clear, no monastery here. So we walked back, and decided to take the left road this time. On the way back I showed Esme the leg of the mannequin and I made jokes about what could have happened.

The road got more and more steep. I said to Esme that I smelled water. And indeed after some time we heard water running, and somewhere down in the gorge to the right there was a small stream. We walked more up and up. Above our heads we could hear the crackling sound coming from the high voltage wires.

A huge tree fern
A huge tree fern

We both got quite tired, and when we saw that the road forked again in the distance, the left one leading to a house, and the right one too, we decided to walk back.

Lizard hiding (center of the photo)
Lizard hiding (center of the photo)

I tried again to make a picture of a lizard. But when I moved closer, a car came down the road and scared the lizard away.

We walked a bit more, and the next car stopped, and asked if we wanted a lift. We were both quite tired so we didn't say no. We had an excellent day although we didn't solve the case of the murdered mannequin. The weather was not too hot, just about right. In the evening we ate chicken with tortillas in a small restaurant while we were drowned in live Mexican music.

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