Monday, 20 October 2008


I have cabin fever. So I am taking an imaginary trip this morning. I am going back to some of the places that I visited earlier this year. We visited the Tulum Mayan Ruins in April (?) and at the time I said I would do more indepth posts on this fascinating culture. So here I am again, travelling vicariously through my photos. The text below is taken from the site
TULUM - The name Tulum in Mayan refers to its fortress like walls, but the real Mayan name for the site was "Zama" which means dawn. The site is located an easy drive down the coast from Playa del Carmen and is also easily accessible from Valladolid via Cobá. The ruins at Tulum are now part of a National Park covering some 1600 acres, but the ancient city stretches along the coast for almost four miles. This royal city, perched on limestone cliffs seems to rise right out of the beautiful Caribbean Sea.

The ruins are from the post-classic era of the Maya civilization and are fortified. While walled cities are not normal for the Maya, they existed in many of the postclassic cities. Tulum rose to prominence around 1200 A.D. a little more than three hundred years before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. Astronomy and celestial navigation, maritime trade, even weather forecasting were among the Maya achievements at this small but powerful city state.

The Maya who inhabited the Island of Cozumel were known to worship the sun at sunrise. And even though the site was named Zama for dawn, the Maya at Tulum are known to have worshipped the setting sun.
Tulum, unlike many other Maya cities has been used as a fortress into the 20th century.
In 1518 the Spanish documented sighting, what is surely Tulum. They compared the city to Seville in Spain and noted that there was a very tall tower seen there. This is certainly a reference to the Castillo. During the Maya uprising of the War for the Castes, which began in 1847 and lasted until 1901, Tulum served as a fortress for the rebels. In 1871 it was used as a sanctuary by the cult of the "Speaking Cross" of Santa Cruz. They were led by the Indian woman Maria Uicab, who was also known as the patron saint of Tulum.

These iguanas are everywhere.
One of the most interesting things about the architectural precision of Tulum is the natural show that takes places during the summer solstice. On this date, the sun is perfectly aligned to beam, with laser-like intensity through the centre of the Tulum Temple opening. This was a major event for the community and the high priests (all members of the nobility) exerted a fair amount of control over the unsuspecting masses with this impressive event. There is a small stone pallet high on the hill that receives both the sun beams and moon rays of this impressive engineering and architectural feat. The events were much anticipated and attracted crowds from neighbouring communities with what sounds like the equivalent of a moden day concert. Our guide also mentioned that attendees would also have received mild hallucinogens to enhance their spiritual experiences. The idea behind all of this was to maintain control over the masses by showing alignment with the gods. This ensured a docile, tax paying worker base who were happy to keep the priest happy. In an interesting note; any form of physical or mental disability meant instant access to the noble classes. They were absorbed into the highest families and seen as being specially "chosen" by the Gods.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Serious Gardeners

Yesterday the Garden Club of Trinidad launched the club's 2009 calendar, Gardening in Trinidad 2009. The launch was held at Chris Talma's home in the Santa Cruz valley. The showbench theme was "orchids" and there were some spectacular examples of unusual varieties. The Santa Cruz valley is exquisite at the best of times but from Chris's home, it is truly remarkable. The club's committee always manage to make their duties appear effortless. All of us who have ever served on a committee know that this could not be further from the truth. Below are the stalwarts and backbone of the club: Chancy Moll, president, Janice Potter, secretary and past vice-president and Jacinta, the ever-efficient treasurer.

This swing hangs from the magnificent saman tree that sits on the front lawn and looks over the northern range.
If I ever had to leave this country, this is the image that I would take with me. The saman branches stretched out against the backdrop of the northern range. This view says home so strongly: branded on my bones. When I land in another country, it's hard for me to imagine how the rest of the world navigates without mountains. A walk through the garden turns up beauties such as the berries on this palm

The orange flowers of the bromeliads tied onto a trunk

And my favorites, the calatheas

Here they are in combination - Chris is very good at creating mixed baskets - this is a combination that I would not have thought up on my own but it's one that I am very happy to copy. Bromeliads and calatheas.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

The Strange and Wonderful World of Orchids

Our steamy humid climate is perfect for orchids. The Cattleya is the blowsy tart of the the family Orchidaceae. She is irresistible to bees who visit to sample the Miss Cattleya's perfume. My husband is wary of Cattleyas. He finds them to showy for his liking but I love them as they are so over-the-top. A long-stemmed Dendrobium is the girl next door. Solid, dependable and occasionally, very beautiful. She will acclimatise easily to most conditions, blooming to show that she is happy and content.
The Oncidium is the shy beauty. The flower of many Oncidiums mimics the shape of a full-skirted dancing woman.

The centre of this "Chocolate Drop" Cattleya is as darkly beckoning as its namesake. It follows through on its name with the warm unmistakeable smell of chocolate.
Cattleya Cattleya "Chocolate Drop"

A Dendrobium on its way out.

The equitant Oncidium is native to the Caribbean. Each flower is tiny and perfect. A study in miniature.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Orchids and Begonias

I have waited for almost three years for this orchid to bloom. I bought one plant in flower and it has grown into a colony. I would guess that there are 15 to 20 plants in the basket now but all this frantic growth never produced a flower. Today I noticed that it is about to flower with at least 10 sprays. It is a tiny, neat little spray and I would guess that the plant is a member of the vanda family.

The pink begonias are going crazy and running all down the stairs. These are also lightly scented in the morning.
My firecracker hedge. I caught this entire hedge from piece. It was probably the most significant change to my garden when I moved in. This hedge blooms constantly and attacts both hummingbirds and butterflies.
The annual blooming of my wild orchid which I believe is a Catasetum macrocarpum (Male Flower) commly known as "monley goblet). According to the Trinidad and Tobago Orchid Society database: Flowers have a unique pollination mechanism. When the pollinator - usually a euglossine bee - lands on the lip a trigger mechanism on the column shoots pollen onto the back of the insect. Plants may be terrestrial growing in leaf mould in rock crevices, or epiphytic on tree trunks, branches and even telephone poles. Pseudobulbs fusiform with three to five large leaves. Inflorescences arise from the base of the pseudobulbs. Schultes