Readers who have been traveling closely with us may have noted that we have been in Villahermosa once before. Our itinerary forms a figure eight and we are closing the bottom loop as of today. When we came through here last, we stayed in one of those infamous parking lots since the wagon master feared that the campground was muddy and we would get stuck there. We already have four days of boondocking ahead of us, so he figured that the risk was worth it. We are camped next to a large recreation complex including a pool and enjoying our final night of electricity.
The drive here was a relatively short one although lengthened by lots of road construction. It's nice to see Mexico improving their infrastructure, but it makes me think that perhaps we should have waited to come until next year. It's tough for many people to make a living here, so they use their ingenuity to create jobs for themselves. When we parked at the grocery store, a guy jammed a piece of cardboard over our windshield so that the interior wouldn't get hot in the sun. He gratefully accepted a few pesos for this service. I have complained numerous times about the topes (speed bumps) here and how they slow us down and cause major cataclysms to the inside of our rigs. But the locals use them as a market opportunity. Nearly every tope has a vendor with out stretched arms selling whatever he thinks the traffic will bear - peeled oranges and bottles of juice and water are favorites. We slow down just enough to make the purchase and everyone is happy. We passed many blooming trees reminding me that it is spring despite the summer temperatures. Chiles drying in people's front yards were a colorful sight. Coming soon to a tope near you.
In the afternoon we toured the La Venta Museum. This open air facility was a jungle oasis nestled between busy roads. As we walked past giant trees festooned with vines that Tarzan would have loved, it was hard to remember we were in the middle of a big city. The museum is centered around an extensive collection of Olmec artifacts. This ancient tribe were the ancestors of the Mayans in the Yucatan and the Aztecs around Mexico City. They lived about 1200 - 400 BC and were fond of really big stone carvings out of volcanic basalt. Some weigh as much as forty tons and it's a mystery how they transported them tens of miles to the locations where they were found, although they were all found near a body of water and could have been trasnported by boat perhaps. It's impressive how much they could accomplish with their obsidian knives and anthropologists have studied them for clues about the racial origins of the original Mexicans. Some of the carvings have definite African features and some look much more Asian. Some have speculated that ancient astronauts got this civilization going. The Olmec are credited with beginning all this bloodthirsty religious sacrifice we've been hearing about as well as creating a calendar that corresponds with planetary motion and the concept of zero. Much still remains to be learned about these long ago people. Interspersed with all this culture, local animals entertained us as we walked. The coatamundi were especially friendly in the hopes that we had brought some treats. The jaguars and crocodiles were in enclosures of course, but reminders that the jungle is not nearly as jungly as it used to be.