Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Celebrate Carnaval in Vera Cruz!

Bring on Carnaval! The two young girls above are all dressed up to enjoy Carnaval in Vera Cruz, the second stop on our 9-day tour of southern Mexico. Carnaval is celebrated in many Latin American countries, as well as New Orleans in the US where it is known at Mardi Gras. Carnaval is the blow-out party thrown just before Lent in the Christian calendar. Lent is the time for modesty, restraint, and giving things up, so Carnaval is the last chance to be sinful, outrageous, and generally have a good time. The name Carnaval comes from the Spanish word carne, which means meat, one of the items people typically forgo during Lent. People from all over Mexico flock to Vera Cruz for Carnaval because of the city's reputation for great fiestas. Our Caravan tour arrived just as the festivities were getting under way.

Pico de Orizaba, Mexico's highest mountain. Huge and perpetually snow-capped, 18,490 foot Pico de Orizaba tops the range of mountains paralleling the Gulf Coast about 110 miles inland, on the border between Puebla and Vera Cruz States. It stands so high that Cortes and his Conquistadores could see it from far out at sea as they first approached the Mexican coast. Orizaba appeared just as we reached the edge of Mexico's central plateau and prepared to drop far down the escarpment to the coastal plain. A dormant, but not extinct, volcano, Pico de Orizaba last erupted in 1687. However, it is known to have erupted 6 times before that during the early years of the Conquest. Called Iztactepetl, or White Mountain, by the Nahua-speaking indigenous people, it is the third highest mountain in North America. We were lucky to see it on a crystal-clear day on the plateau, because when we dropped steeply down the escarpment to the coastal plain, we were enveloped by thick clouds. As you can see in the pictures below, the clouds stayed with us all during our stay at Vera Cruz.

Hotel Diligencias provided a front-row seat for Carnaval. While in Vera Cruz, we stayed at the Hotel Diligencias, a luxury hotel overlooking the Zocalo, or central plaza. In the 17th Century, diligencias, or stage coaches, would drop their passengers within the high walls of the city, built to protect against the pirates then plaguing the area. Over time, the need arose to house the coachmen and their passengers and the Hotel Diligencias was built in 1795. The great Mexican composer Agustin Lara (1897-1970) wrote the song "Vera Cruz" while staying in the hotel. The balcony above the arched portales on the front of the hotel was a great spot to get the big picture of the action below.

From the Hotel Diligencias balcony, one can see the celebrants gather. Signs of globalization are found everywhere in Mexico. Here, Coca Cola shares a signpost with a poster declaring "Viva el Carnaval del Bicentenario!" The year 2010 is the Bicentennial of Mexico's War of Independence, and the Centennial of its Revolution. The hotel was far more luxurious than what Carole and I would normally choose, but it was tour company's choice so we just sat back and enjoyed it.

Checking out the action on the street. On a column at the hotel's entrance, a poster proclaims the schedule of bullfights, while across the street shoeshine stands conduct a brisk business. I decided to get my dusty shoes buffed while I people-watched in the Zocalo.

A shine by pantomime. This fellow gave me a fine shine while I used the perch of his chair to observe the activity swirling all around me. Although I attempted to communicate with him in Spanish, he never spoke a word. We conducted the entire transaction through hand gestures and pantomime. I have no idea whether he was deaf, or was indigenous and spoke no Spanish. We managed to communicate perfectly anyway.

People thronged streets closed off to auto traffic. Through the palm trees you can see the steeple of the Cathedral which stands along one side of the Zocalo.

A variety of mimes practiced their craft along the malecon (waterfront). This silver-painted fellow remained motionless until someone dropped money on the hat at his feet. Suddenly coming alive, he would draw his pistol and act the part of a very silent Old West cowboy. An appreciative customer watches from the harbor railing, while in the background cranes load ships at the docks across the water. Vera Cruz is more an active port city than a tourist town. It was founded in 1519 by Hernan Cortes after he had landed his Conquistadores, but before he had taken Mexico City and conquered the Aztecs. This makes Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz (Cortes' original name) the very first city founded on the mainland of either of the American Continents, North or South, as well as the first colonial city in Mexico.

Huge puppets provided another form of entertainment on the malecon. Action, color, and music were everywhere we turned. Vera Cruz does know how to party! The port is not only a very active center of trade, but has a long history as the point of entry for foreign invaders. Cortes was followed by the French in the famous "Pastry War" of 1838 when they seized the port to compel reimbursement for a pastry shop looted in a riot. Next, the United States invaded through Vera Cruz during the Mexican -American War of 1846-48, and ended by stealing half of Mexico's territory. In 1862, the French seized Vera Cruz again in the Franco-Mexican War when they attempted to install an Austrian Duke as Emperor. Finally, US forces invaded here in 1914 during the Mexican Revolution to enforce an arms embargo. In spite of all this, the people of Vera Cruz remain warm and hospitable to foreigners like us.

This magnificent building dominates the end of the malecon. The building is named after Venustiano Carranza, one of the victorious Revolutionary generals who became president of Mexico. Next to the building, the city set up one of several huge stages located in various places around El Centro for the variety of simultaneous musical performances.

One of the unscheduled, informal musical events. Small bands of musicians roamed the area, looking for anyone desiring their own personal performance. The fellow on the right in the sunglasses was apparently the one who "payed the piper, and called the tune."

Still another set of musicians provokes an impromptu dance. This marimba group played such a hot tune that the woman above jumped up and got into a vigorous dance routine. Depite her size, she had some pretty graceful moves.

And speaking of dancers... Another band was suddenly joined by this masked transvestite on stilts who completely stole the show. Just one of Carnaval's many amazing sights as we wandered the streets of Vera Cruz.

"Flores, señor?" A flower seller offered me what appear to be lilies, as a group of women across the alley watch to see if he makes a sale. I had my hands full with my camera, so I had to decline.

Mother, daughter, and peanut seller. Each of the three women above adopted a different attitude toward my photography. The white haired abuela maintained a dignified, disinterested stance. Her daughter, in the middle, gave me an impish, gap-toothed grin. The peanut seller was more interested in finding a buyer for her wares than posing for a foreigner.

Dance troupe family portrait. When the father of this little group noticed me setting up for a photo, he corraled his son and made up him stand up straight. He couldn't do much with his wife and daughter, who were absorbed in a costume adjustment, or his other son who was busy teasing his sister. The clothes the children are wearing are the traditional costume of the people in the Vera Cruz area.

"Ticket, please..." This haunted house ride was graced with the scariest ticket taker I've ever encountered. If this is what one encounters on the outside, I shudder to think what might be hidden inside, ready to leap out at the unwary.

Wheeeeeee! This little girl whooped with joy as she whirled by on the Whirly-gig ride. Kids nearly always make the best subjects for photography, but they are very fast and you have to be quick or lucky.

Ready to go in the Zocalo. Most of the Zocalo was covered by a giant stage, various booths, and masses people sitting in chairs and tables outside restaurants. Here, you can see the stage behind the red umbrellas. Looming over everything is the Cathedral, called Our Lady of the Assumption. The original site contained a chapel built in the 17th Century. The steeples and dome were added in 1795 and the structure was completed between 1807-09. However, the church didn't achieve Cathedral status until 1963.

And still more dancing! Vera Cruz is famous for its fiesta dancing. As I wandered the streets, many were dancing to rock music at the zocalo. I turned the corner and found a youthful crowd gyrating to a Mexican hip hop group. Around still another corner, I ran into this large group of older folks performing a very graceful samba. I loved Carnaval's incredible medley of sounds, sights, and experiences.

And still more music! When one dance troupe took a break, this group picked up the beat. ¡Viva Carnaval en Vera Cruz!

Back at our hotel, we found another treat. Caravan Tours set up an after-dinner show for us, featuring these gorgeous young Vera Cruz student/models. After the show, I joked to Mauricio that I finally understood why he took the job of Caravan Tour Director--so he could spend time with these beauties. He grinned and answered "you see how I sacrifice myself for you every day?"

I hope you have enjoyed this visit to the Vera Cruz Carnaval. If you'd like to leave a comment, you can use the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE leave your email address so I can respond.

Hasta luego! Jim

Musing on the Malecon

The Ajijic Malecon, with Lake Chapala and the south shore mountains in the background. The winter and spring of 2019 have been especially lovely, so I decided to share some photos I took along the shoreline walkway. In Spanish, a walkway like this is called a malecon.

More and more of Mexico's pueblos sport colorful signs announcing the name of the town. The mountain in the upper left of the photo is Cerro Garcia. At 2,743m (9,000 feet), it is the loftiest peak directly overlooking the lake.

At the east end of the Malecon is a grove of eucalyptus trees filled with parakeet nests. One of the nests rests in the fork of the tree seen above. The wild parakeets are one of the many species of birds that can be found at Lake Chapala. Some are year-round residents, while others migrate from areas as far away as Canada and South America.

A white pelican glides demurely along the shoreline. The water has been unusually high this winter and spring. Normally, local residents could be seen resting in the shade of the tree above. Now, only the pelicans can enjoy it. Excessive local rain is not the reason for the high water. Lake Chapala is fed by the Rio Lerma, which flows through a number of Mexican states. Heavy rains in those other states prompted them to open their dams to prevent overflows. While Lake Chapala gets some benefit from the extra water,  in drought years the same dams hold back water and the lake's level often drops significantly.

Tall, leafy trees shade the park next to the Malecon. Some of these are relatively recent. In 2008, an upstream release of water drastically raised the lake's level and flooded the shoreline. This included the area called Parque Amistad (Friendship Park), which runs along the north shore of the lake. The government of Chapala decided to raise the level of the park and build the current Malecon along the shore as a barrier against future floods.

At first, I was a bit dubious about the project. Many of the former park's lovely old trees were cut down during the construction. Also, I have seen projects like this begin and then be abandoned due insufficient funds or a change of administration. However, new trees were planted and construction continued steadily. When the new Parque Amistad was at last completed, the result was a lovely new recreation area along the shore. More improvements have been added every year since it opened to the public.

A Great White Egret eyes its possible lunch. Ardea Alba is found along the shore year round. Some can be found perching on beds of  lirio (water hyacinth), like the egret above. Others hang out along the concrete edge of the Malecon. At night they roost high in the trees along the lake. Usually an egret's long neck curls back in an "S" like a snake's body. When it's stretched out, the egret is almost ready to strike into the water for a small snake or a fish.

A woman contemplates the lake from the muelle (pier). This view is from the east side of the muelle. It juts out into the water from the base of Calle Colon, the street that runs north to south, from the foot of the mountains to the lake. Colon is lined with restaurants, cantinas, art galleries, and boutique shops. In a previous posting, I dubbed it "Ajijic's quirkiest street".

The lirio (Eichhornia crassipes) you see in the foreground is one of the most invasive plant species in the world. It originated in the Amazon and constant efforts are needed to keep it from overwhelming the lake. Local Lakeside governments work hard to control it. However, periodic water releases from the upstream dams bring great rafts of lirio down to Lake Chapala, requiring cleanup efforts to begin again.

A Snowy egret rests on a branch. Snowy egrets are smaller than their Great White cousins. The Snowy (Egretta thula) has a tuft of feathers running from the top of its head down the back of its neck. When it is excited, or wants to intimidate another bird, a Snowy will flair these feathers while spreading its wings.

Often, a Snowy will fish right alongside a Great White. This confused me at first, because I initially thought the smaller bird was the female of a breeding pair, not an entirely different species. The close proximity of the two species also puzzled me because a Great White will aggressively challenge any of its own species that might stray into its preferred patch of shoreline. For some reason, the larger bird doesn't consider a Snowy to be a competitor.

View of the west side of the muelle. The "barber pole" at the end of the pier is a navigation light. The structure built along the pier is a restaurant that was completed a while back, but never opened, apparently due to legal issues. It is the last of a series of restaurants on this spot that have closed for similar reasons. Mexican federal law prohibits the building of any private structure within a certain distance from a shoreline. Time and again, restaurants have opened on this pier and then have had to shut down.

Sometimes the closure doesn't happen for several years. This may indicate that the owner had friends in high places or (as many suspect) money has changed hands. The current restaurant was announced with great fanfare but, after a long period of remodeling, everything stopped. I have mixed feelings about all this. On a hot day, this is a great spot for a restaurant. On the other hand, I would hate to see the quiet shoreline overwhelmed by a line of glitzy establishments projecting out into the water.

The Malecon, looking west from the muelle. A line of palm trees was planted along the edge of the Malecon, with benches placed between them for those who want to stop and enjoy the view. Parque Amistad is on the right. In drier years, there is a narrow beach between the Malecon and the water. However, this year the water reaches right up to the edge of the wall.

A fountain decorates the east end of Parque Amistad. The fountain wasn't running the day I took this photo, but it is quite lovely when it does. The muelle and its restaurant can be seen on the left side of the photo. Set under Parque Amistad's trees are picnic areas with tables and BBQ pits. On weekends, the park and Malecon are packed with Mexican families. Parque Amistad is a major attraction, both for local folks and visitors from Guadalajara.

A playground with various climbing and sliding structures. The population of Mexico tilts toward the younger end of the scale and kids are everywhere. A sign at the play area credits the federal government for funding the equipment. Adult exercise equipment can be found a little further west. All this emphasis on exercise is a good thing, because Mexico has a problem with obesity. It recently passed the US as the most obese country in the world. Fortunately, there seems to be a boom in gyms, running, bicycling, and soccer (fútbol, in Spanish) and other vigorous activities. I've even noticed more Mexican hikers on the trails in the mountains.

View of the Malecon, looking east. Most mornings, the Malecon is almost empty, except for a handful of expats like Carole and myself. Most Mexicans are at work or in school during the morning hours. While we enjoy the people-watching opportunities in the evening and on the weekends, we find the Malecon most enjoyable during strolls on quiet mornings like this one.

The Malecon includes this amphitheater. The seats and classic columns provide a faint echo of ancient Greece. This area was created for musical events and political rallies. When millions of people in the US and around the world marched and rallied on January 21, 2017, expats and Mexicans living in Ajijic participated in the event. Four hundred expats and Mexicans marched from the Ajijic Plaza to this amphitheater to support women's issues. The gathering did a lot to cement the relationship between foreigners and people in the local community. This was particularly important at a time when the new Trump Administration was gearing up to attack the human rights of immigrants.  Believe it or not, a photo of our rally made the front page of the New York Times!

One of the date palms that grow along the Malecon. The palms were small when they were planted about nine years ago, but now they tower over the walkway. Evidence of cultivation of date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) dates back to 7000 BC in Mesopotamia. In 1765, during the late colonial period, the Spanish brought them to Mexico. The fruit of date palms is edible, but I don't know if anyone actually consumes the dates that grow along the Malecon.

Impromptu art work adorns the skateboard area. Next to the amphitheater is a skateboard area, complete with ramps and other devices to challenge the skills of local kids. The existence of this area helps keep the skateboarders off other areas where they might damage property or themselves. The people who built this area apparently encouraged local "taggers" to do their work here, so as to keep the spray painting contained. An explosion of remarkably creative artwork resulted.

This brilliant poinsettia caught my eye. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is an indigenous Mexican plant that can be found throughout the north shore area of Lake Chapala. It is cultivated in local gardens but also grows wild. The bushes on which they flower often attain a height of 10-12 feet. The plant got its name from Joel Roberts Poinsettia, who was the US Minister to Mexico in 1825. He introduced the plant to the United States. Because it flowers in winter, it became a popular Christmas decoration.

A Chacmool in the park's sculpture garden. A little west of the skateboard area is the sculpture garden. Chacmools were pre-hispanic stone sculptures closely associated with human sacrifice. The one above is a reproduction. These reclining figures first appeared in the Toltec Empire (700-1000 AD). They have also been found at Chichen Itza (600-1200 AD) in Yucatan. It was a Maya city which had a somewhat mysterious connection with the Toltecs. The Aztecs (1200-1500 AD) were also fond of Chacmools. They were originally barbarian nomads from the northern deserts. After their arrival in central Mexico, they  decided to adopt cultural features of the great empires that had preceded them, including Chacmools.

The Malecon, looking west. The north shore mountains can be seen in the background. The sculpture garden continues on the right side of the walkway. I hike regularly, not only in the north shore mountains, but also in the south shore's Sierra El Tigre, as well as locations even further afield. In fact, I am a founding member of the Ajijic Hiking Group and lead some of their hikes. Every Tuesday and Friday morning, hikers meet up to choose their route for the day. The menu includes hikes of every level of difficulty from "beginner" to "very difficult".

A local fisherman casts his net on the edge of the lake. On any given day, you can find fishermen casting nets like this along the shore. Just past the western end of the Malecon, you can find their camp where they pull their boats up and repair their nets. So far, I have seen only men or boys engaged in this activity. Even on cold days, you can find them knee-deep, or even waist-deep, in the chilly water. Their catch includes charales and tilapia. The former are small, about the size of sardines. The tilapia are larger, about the size of perch.

While the fishermen make net casting look easy, it is an activity requiring a high level of skill. Sinkers are attached to the edges to pull the net down and envelope fish. Cast nets are a technology that is extremely ancient. The oldest sinkers yet found were unearthed in Korea and date to 27,000 BC.

This completes my posting on Ajijic's Malecon. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. If you leave a question, PLEASE include your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim

Monday, April 22, 2019

A hike to the mysterious rock balls called Piedras Bola

A rock sphere perches on a pillar of volcanic tufa. Piedras Bola ("Ball Rocks") is a protected area deep in the mountains overlooking Ameca, in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The area is famous for the large stone balls found there, some of them almost perfectly spherical. They can be found lying on the ground or, in some cases, perched on rock pillars. A few months ago, I visited Piedras Bola, along with several carloads of expat hikers. We were led by my good friend Jim Boles, one of the more adventurous of my fellow hikers.


Google map showing the area between Lake Chapala and Piedras Bola. The protected area is identified by the red marker in the upper left of the photo. My hiking friends and I all live on the northwestern shore of Lake Chapala, between Chapala and Jocotopec. The drive from Chapala to the protected area is about 113km (70mi) and takes about 2 hours.

Upon arriving at the park entrance, you can leave your car by the highway and hike in on a forest road. However, it's a pretty fair distance and all up hill. If you try it, make sure you have plenty of time, water, and are in good shape.

Alternatively, you can drive in, but a high-clearance vehicle is necessary. Four-wheel-drive is not normally required, but there were some spots where I found it tough going in my two-wheel drive Toyota RAV-4. I guess it all depends on your sense of adventure and how many people are available to push if you get stuck.

Flower of the Leonotus leonurus. I took this shot at the parking area on the highway next to the Piedras Bola entrance road. This plant is native to southern Africa, according to Ron Parsons, my expert on Mexican flowers. How it got to this remote spot is a puzzle, but Ron says that it naturalizes easily. I guess it is just another sign of how small our world is. Ron is a wonderful resource and his work can be accessed through Wildflowers and Plants of Western Mexico or on his Flikr site: https://www.flickr.com/people/95453157@N02/?ytcheck=1&new_session=1

An almost perfectly conical mountain rises in the distance. There were numerous spectacular views on our drive up into the mountains, as well as along the trail. The conical mountain is almost certainly an extinct volcano, of which there are many in Jalisco. I have climbed several volcanos in the area, including Nevado de Colima and Volcán Tequila.

The forest through which we hiked was open and park-like. High altitude forests in Jalisco tend to have very little underbrush, giving them a pleasantly open feel. By contrast, the mountains around Lake Chapala, where I usually hike, are much lower and covered with dense, jungle-like foliage.

The hike in

Three expats hiker along the park's access road. The man on the left is Beto, a Mexican-American who moved down to live full-time in Mexico. The two others are Marilyn and Peter. All three are great people to hike with.

Not far along the trail, we encountered a small lake. For reasons not clear to me, the shoreline was bordered with dead trees. Perhaps it has something to do with the water. Whatever the water's quality, the setting was lovely.

A little further on, we reached this small, rather odd cottage. Notice the sofa sitting on the edge of the roof on the right. It seemed a strange place to store furniture. There was no one around, so we couldn't ask about it.

A tall mirador, or lookout point, was attached to the cottage in back. When we followed the trail behind the cottage, we noticed that the cream-colored mirador had a door at the bottom. Since it was standing wide-open, we decided to take a peek.

A spiral staircase led up to the viewing platform. This was too much to resist, so several of us climbed up to take a look. When we got to the top, we saw that the rooftop of the house was flat concrete. The sofa was apparently placed there so that the cottage's occupants could enjoy the view in comfort. The only thing missing was a cooler for the beer.

Penny, Beto, and Brian were surprised to find us on top of the house. By this point, the warm weather had persuaded Beto to strip off his long-sleeve shirt and zip off the leg bottoms of his hiking pants. After checking out the view, we descended the spiral stairway. The cottage is apparently a public building used in administering the park. We never did encounter the people who use it.

Near the cottage are a couple of very rickety footbridges. Brian and Beto's wife Shari decided to give one of them a try. The rest of us looked it over and took another route. As they say, discretion is the better part of valor.

Not far from the bridge and cottage was a large stone amphitheater. Perched around the amphitheater you can see several of the smaller piedras bola. The cottage, bridge, and amphitheater are all apparently part of the park's infrastructure.

Piedras Bola formations

Beto and Shari lean against two of the rock balls during a break. Many of the balls sit on the surface or are partly submerged in the tufa (volcanic ash). There are a number of theories about the composition of the rocks, why they are round, and how they got here. As usual, some are convinced that they were crafted and placed here by space aliens. Skeptical of such claims, I decided to investigate a bit further.

Other rock balls sit on top of eroded pillars of tufa. Another theory proposed that the balls were carved by pre-hispanic people. This sounded somewhat more plausible than space aliens. However, while pre-hispanic folks did a great deal of stone carving, there is no evidence that they created these megaspherulites, as the scientists call them. While Mexico's native people have probably been aware of the piedras bola for millennia, scientists did not take note of the rock balls until the 20th century.

Tufa pillar with a partially round ball on top. Actually the first person to take official notice was not a scientist but a silver mine manager named Robert Gordon. Beside the entrance to his mine sat a huge piedras bola, which gave the mine its name. In 1967, following his retirement, Gordon decided to contact an archeologist named Matthew Williams Stirling. The archeologist agreed to look into the matter and quickly discovered an additional 17 rock balls in the area. Stirling theorized that the balls were man-made. However, this was based on very little except Stirling's previous experience in other areas where stone balls were crafted by humans.

Anthony enjoys a view of the mountains from a cliff top. In addition to being an enthusiastic hiker, Anthony is a yoga instructor who, with his lovely wife Katherine, has lived full-time in Mexico for a number of years. Word about the strange rock balls spread and, in 1968, a team from the US Geological Survey, National Geographic magazine, and the Smithsonian Institute arrived to take a look. In an article that appeared in the August, 1969 issue of National Geographic, they disputed the archeological theory because of a lack of evidence. (Being scientists, I doubt they gave the space alien theory a moment's thought).

Jim Boles, at the base of a vertical cliff. I asked him to pose here to provide some scale to this photograph. When I walked around the back side of the cliff, I was astounded to find that it was part of a single huge rock. One half of the rock apparently sheered away sometime in the distant past. The leader of the scientists was Robert L. Smith, of the US Geological Survey. Smith and the others determined that the balls are made of rhyolite, a rock that is formed from volcanic lava.

Remains of a wasps' nest formed an interesting pattern on a tufa formation. The National Geographic article postulated that the piedras bola began to form when a volcano in the area erupted 10-12 million years ago. Fragments of molten lava and ash shot into the sky, along with superheated gases. When they landed in the valley below, they were covered by layers of tufa ash. The glassy fragments began to cool, forming the nucleus around which surrounding material began to crystalize into spheres. The size of the ball depended upon how slowly the crystalization occurred. The slower it went, the larger the ball.

Anthony leads a group of hikers up from an arroyo. In 1998, a scientist at the University of Guadalajara proposed still another theory. Arturo Curiel Ballesteros agreed with the volcanic origin of the piedras bola. However, he asserted that the spheres were formed while still hurtling through the air and retained their shape when they landed in the soft tufa. This seemed unlikely to some of his fellow scientists (as it did to me) at the University of Guadalajara. Six of them got together and, in 2007, published a 266-page book on the subject, known as "the Bola Book."

Jim Boles passes by a large and partially fractured rock ball, on his way out of the park. The Bola Book agrees on the volcanic origin and chemical make-up of the rocks, but differs on how they came to be spherical. The authors assert that the piedras bola were the result of a pyroclastic flow--basically a hot, gaseous, avalanche full of lava and debris. As the incandescent lava bombs inside the flow were pushed along, their rotation caused them to form spherical shapes which they retained when their motion stopped. They were then covered with falling ash and remained entombed for millions of years. Natural processes of erosion wore away the tufa, leaving the rock balls fully or partially exposed.

Tasty tostadas from the restaurant where we lunched after our hike. One of the most enjoyable aspects of these hikes is the aftermath. Sitting around with good friends, comparing our hiking experiences, while enjoying a feast like this, makes all the effort worth while. So, which theory to believe? I'll leave it to you. Meanwhile, Scientists believe that there may be many more piedras bola deep under the surface. And, there may yet be other theories in the works about their origin. Stay tuned...

This completes my posting on the Piedras Bola. I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, and would like to make a comment or ask a question, please do so in the Comments section below or email me directly.

If you leave a question in the Comments section PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim