To whom it may concern…

Umemodellen Intro…Plus some!

Posted: October 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


I thought some of you might like to know how I came to live in Umeå. If you find this account too much then you can always go back to texting your friends, instead;-) The bottom line is I am here to stay in ‘cos I love it and am developing a television production series of documentaries to highlight various issues which have come to my attention.

Any critical feedback and especially advice, personal contacts in the political, legal and TV/ film making business would be highly appreciated.

In October 9th, 20023 I came to the Arctic regions on a winter survival course. I arrived a little before midnight in Stockholm city centre, having arrived at Arlanda airport. I looked at the expensive hotels looming all around me as I made my way to the canal, near the train station. No way would I pay the price to start my trip to spend a few hours in such ‘luxury’! Instead I found a suitable bridge spanning the canal and unpacked my sleeping bags and ground mat and got at least two hours sleep before organising the train north, the next morning to leave that next evening.

My trainer, Benny, ex Scottish Army, had arrived twenty four hours ahead of me and when I arrived soon afterward, in Arvidsjaur found I could not make contact with him, however many times I tried calling him on his telephone.

Eventually, I discovered he had been offered and had accepted a job at the airport as a chef, along with an apartment and car which went with the position. I guess he felt awkward about letting me know that small detail!

So, there I was, unwilling to give up on my quest to live outside, in this mythical, winter wonderland, for as long as possible, but not quite sure how to go about it. I had no tent as it had been planned, as part of a, ‘less-is-more’, approach. I had even been instructed to cut off my toothbrush handle to save weight! That was the extremist, Benny!

The first morning in the Arctic region I was awoken by two voices. I was snuggled up comfortably in my two sleeping bags and GorTex, bivouac sac. I quickly aroused and sat upright. The callers seemed genuinely disappointed as I welcomed them cheerily on this chilly morning. I discovered later from an old lady who regularly walked her dog around the lake each morning that her daughter worked in the police force and as she had been concerned by my unmoving body and so fearing the worst had phoned her daughter who then prompted the police to investigate, fully expecting to find me dead and frozen like an icicle. These guys were two official looking Swedish cops. They had even thoughtfully bought along a digital camera to presumably capture the ‘event’. I assured them that I was in fine spirits and apologised that I could not offer them coffee (as it would be nearly six weeks until I bought a cooker to heat anything.) They went away cheerfully enough but I am sure the best ending for them was in direct contradiction to my own.

Next day the nice old lady bought me the weeks pending weather report and a tiny little plastic thermometer. The two of us hardly traded a single word in the other’s mother tongue but we made ourselves quite well understood, all the same. Although, she often disturbed my peace and quiet, I liked her.

One day at a time and as the winter wore on and the weather became colder I discovered that the relatively dry, cold in the Arctic was much easier to manage than the horrendously wet, windy, relative cold of the Scottish mountains, where I had mostly self- taught myself winter mountain craft, living for 32 non consecutive days, on the Highland mountain tops the previous, very wet, and windy, winter, in Scotland. The winds in the mountains where often so fierce they reached full hurricane force. I had most fun and feeling of freedom when out in the wilds alone. It was never so much fun with Benny, who assumed the role as my task master and training officer.

Once I went camping alone in full snow conditions. From the top of the mountain I could see over 5000 (English) square miles and every part was white. Overnight the weather changed and along with horrendous violent winds there accompanied torrential rain. Everything was soaked. I could scoop water from my sleeping bag, by the canteen. The only snow in this new, morning vista was the 6′ by 3′ patch that I had pitched my tent on. All the 500 square miles of snow was running as new streams and icy rivers into gullies and valleys I had to ford and cross to get back to civilisation. Now after being trapped for 36 hours I had to somehow cram every item which was soaking wet and make it in hurricane force headwinds off the mountain. The gear weighed a ton. I forded about 20 streams and one major river by the time I made it at last, exhausted, back to the car. My feet hurt so much that as I was driving directly home to my local pub to dry out, I nearly crashed into a large male Stag, rooted to the middle of the road. I couldn’t push the brake pedal hard enough to slow the car and was only just able to swerve around it.

In fact the caravan I rented was so expensive to heat relative to the rent that I remained all winter with virtually no heating and so became accustomed to the damp and cold temperatures. In the caravan, if it got really cold I opened the fridge door! Until I could not longer justify the ‘heating’ bill.

The colder the conditions the less moisture there is in air. Also, the colder it is often the air is stiller and so keeping warm with no fire is not necessarily an heroic effort. I was intrigued to discover in Sweden that air even at minus 20 Centigrade still has a moisture content. But less than the Scottish. Much less.

In Sweden, after surviving for six weeks and without a tent and almost exclusively without a fire, when I was close to town, and not picking frozen berries, I would frequently come into town to buy food, warming myself, walking up and down the isles of ICA, wearing my backpack, with my crampons and ice axe stowed away on the top of the pack. (Benny and I had initially planned to do the Kebnekaise, in full winter conditions, glaciers, crevasses and all.) However, I must have made an unusual sight trying to decipher the coded messages on each and every package of Swedish food on offer. What the hell was Mellan milk? I just wanted cow’s milk.

Back in ‘camp’ I would ravenously devour the food before it froze solid and become useless. Peanut butter, Nutella, and tomatoes are not designed to be eaten deep frozen. For some reason until my last week I didn’t even have a cooker. Each morning I had to hack an ever deeper hole through the thickening ice just to get nearly freezing water to brush my teeth and wash.

The local media caught wind of my story (their studio was probably down wind of me!) I forget which, exactly but TV4 and Afton and some other paper, all made features of me and their daily news ‘sensation’, on their slow news days. Not quite what I anticipated but welcome to my normal lonely routine. I was even the ‘poster boy’, my enlarged picture selling one of the weekends news papers.

I met a nice woman and was invited over Christmas to move in with her and her kids who lived in Arvidsjaur, town.

Soon afterward I was offered a 23 hectare farm with 9 hectares of forest, itself worth more than the whole farm. It cost me just 100 000 Kr.

I never cut the forest for commercial gain like all my neighbours. It was too valuable to me as it was. ‘My’ forest. Some of it was over 150 years old. I did though spend my first winter cutting and sawing, splitting and storing a barn full of fire wood but which would not be ready until the next winter.

I began developing my skills working as a winter wilderness landscape photographer, producing images, both still, and video, for Viasat sport (ice driving,) car testing, Porsche GT3 RS Ice driving, Kottulinski NMI 4×4 Audi driving, and producing commercial landscape as huge posters, which I considered my particular and proudest niche. I produced a series of huge laminated posters, one made from a stitch of 15 photographs carefully made into one single image, which is five meters long. I sold a smaller two meter one of Arvidsjaur in full winter conditions with a great streak of optimistic sunlight splitting the town, to the airport where I believe it still hangs, nicely lit and framed over the check-in desk, to this very day.

I did lots of my business with the tourist office, who used my pictures in hundreds of thousands of their print advertising publications throughout Europe.

Once I ended my Arctic survival episode and ‘basked’ in local media ‘fame’ (not very Jantelagen!) I was introduced to the local high rollers, big wigs, self important business people and komunnhuset-iers…and a few ordinary, very nice folk too.

But as I was just about to discover I had not landed in the middle of a dream world. Nor a snow covered, southerners fantasy-land!

I had spent some years earlier, working in the UK, after my return from living for ten years in the jungle of Mexico, in another, very different paradise as a diving instructor and cave diving explorer in the Yucatan Peninsula. Later upon my return to the UK I worked daily as I club motor sport photographer, at Silverstone race circuit where I even covered Formula One (unofficially!) whilst living in a boat on the Grand Union canal. As soon as the first media digital camera was released, the Nikon D1, I bought one with a loan from the bank, in the days when banks were throwing money at people. It cost 33,000 Kr and had a resolution of a whopping 2.7 Megapixels. In suitable light conditions and with a good lens I got some great shots. I had just a single 1 Gb hard drive, which itself cost over 3000 Kr. Still I could squeeze enough pictures of less than 3Mb onto it before I had to download it onto my laptop. The lcomputer had only a 333Mz processor and cost as much as the D1. Those were the days!!

Later back in northern Sweden, whilst living outside, I had gone to Centrumbadet, to the Bastu to warm my creaking bones and clean up. Whilst sweating myself clean I met a guy who offered me a job operating his saw mill. His name was Carl-Johan. He seemed kind and honest.
I accepted a one week on, one week off position, so I could develop my photographic company ‘IcePix’, at he same time. He was a great boss and I never had a single issue with him. I have to admit the work was hard and the pay not good. He had a fearsome reputation in town, but I think people were jealous of him. He had set me a three month training schedule to learn to operate a whole series of mechanized processes, and synchronise them individually to bring in raw logs at one end of the factory facility and by guide them with careful timing and operating a whole glowing control panel of switches, levers and knobs, I produced nothing more glamorous than fence posts.

Within just three weeks the three factory workers had trusted me to run the whole workshop, with Thommy as a tractor driver, who delivered the raw, forest product, onto the large mechanised conveyor outside. One of the reasons Carl-Johan had earned his reputation as a tough businessman was his output demands. He had set a daily maximum output of about (I forget exactly) 1200 items. This was a distant long term goal.

On their arrival back two weeks later I had averaged (on a god day) that number, 1200 items. I think they were surprised but nothing was ever said.

Quite by coincidence, I found myself again in the world of paid car drivers, this time in extreme cold conditions. I applied for a job position and surprisingly, especially for a guy who on his CV stated his past motor sport photo coverage, foreignness, ability to live out in all weathers, and interest in automobile winter testing, and offering a photographic service too, was offered to join my premier choice of test companies, on a five day snow and ice driving course, with the hope that on successful completion I might perhaps actually find employment within their ranks. The course alone would normally have cost a fortune. The idea of a job working and relating data to engineers and personal feedback to technicians (in English) was too much to have ever hoped for.

I wrote to the personnel manager and thanked her for their amazing offer. Sadly declining, though, as I felt beholden to my current boss who had been kind enough to trust me and provide me employment. I felt I couldn’t just up and leave him, just like that.

Very soon afterward my girlfriend came back home one evening from her shop. She emptied the letter box on her arrival and whilst sifting through the important mail , she suddenly expressed an Oj, Oj, Oj! (however it’s spelled.) She had lived all her life in this nice little community and everyone knew her, personally. We both read with astonishment a secret ‘internal’ document, written in the common testing language of English and which had been leaked to her by a friend from the very company which had just offered me the job.

On part of the blacklist, A4 sized paper, were ‘reports’, of overheard conversations in restaurants and cafes, along with warnings of the makes, models, colours of private and rental cars and even number plates seen of those they suspected of industrial espionage.

By far the most detailed report was about me.

It said; almost to the letter:

‘We have evidence that (no name yet) sambo to (****) daughter of (****) owner of (****) was seen taking photographs in our facility, in (****) on his own scooter. He lives on his own farm in Krogträsk (a newspaper had recently misspelled the name,) and we would like to recommend that we encourage our employees and colleagues to no longer do business with them'(!) (My italics)

The statement was written by the new chief of the same test facility whose kind offer I had just declined. My girlfriend and he were best friends, and played often together, back when they were both about ten years old.

Interestingly, I have now learned, spying is perfectly legal in Sweden, except within private facilities. It is blacklisting which is illegal. I was not guilty of spying, even if I had been a spy. They, however, were certainly guilty of blacklisting.

Initially, I accepted that mistakes could be made, I was in my new snow covered dreamland and did not want to spoil it by reacting unduly and asked the corporation concerned to simply retract the statement and simply admit in their next security report, that they were had made a mistake about me and clear it up with the interconnected security infrastructure, basically all the local testing companies.

We even phoned the founder of the facility the very next morning and asked him to help. He declined! He and my girlfriend had known each other for many years.

It took the company a whole year to agree to eventually meet me but by then my reputation had already suffered. They offered me a small financial settlement, which I refused, as I considered the issue would be clouded by the taint of money, and I only wanted to clear my name and my reputation.

During a long and immensely tiring process where I was in frequent contact with the CEO (VD) of the company to keep up the pressure on him to act on the promises he had made to resolve the issue and show the other companies in the region they did have faith in me, I received an email from the head of security, accidentally. It was in reply to a message I sent to him but instead of forwarding it to the chiefs of the company for feedback he ‘replied’, instead to me. His reply described me as ‘a problem that wouldn’t go away, would it?’ Whatever you want to read into that…!

I was told directly, which in itself was refreshing, that I was unemployable locally but there was a possibility that they could find a testing position for me in the Namibian desert, on the coast of south west Africa. I declined! Hot sand and cold snow are not quite the same. The reclusiveity might, however be paralleled. I felt they were hoping I would just give up bothering them.

They made a crucial mistake.

I was told by friends and colleagues that despite all concerned with this spy fiasco had been informed of my innocence, they were still hearing new reports that the rumor of my days of ‘espionage’, were still circulating. I found that I was getting very well paid and confirmed photographic work, in the test industry, canceled for no apparent reason, and started to lose the opportunity of making a lot of money.

My photographic services had just been confirmed by a German media company who wanted me to produce something like (I forget) 30, (or was it 80?) VIP, multi media DVD’s, for 30 000:- for one weekend’s work. Of course anyone in the industry knows it is never quite that simple…but even so!

For no reason they just told me they no longer required my services. I suppose I could have sued them but I was fast running out of energy.

The CEO of the test company maintained that their security force had ceased the ongoing accusations; however, I was discovering from my colleagues that they still continued hearing that I had been labeled a spy.

Eventually, I threatened them with complete media exposure and promised to continue to sell my story until I could afford to sue them in court.

Finally, over the weekend I cut and pasted every email from every employee of the company who had dealt with me over the many previous months, including, from my memory, transcripts of telephone conversations and meetings, sent to all my business ‘buddies’, the key members of the kommun, I had met and been so kindly received by, when I had at first been a welcome, ‘famous’ face.

On Monday morning I got some alarmed people asking me for details including the business partner of the VD who I was seeking the settlement. I thanked him for his interest and concern and told him to tell *** that if he continued to mess me around he should inform him I was going to fuck him up!’

Suddenly, *** telephoned me and asked how he could resolve the issue. It seemed my message was getting through and I was now in the controlling seat. I had recently had lots of practice synchronising panels of knobs and dials, working for Carl-Johan!

I told him that on the following Wednesday, I would meet him at his law firm and if he could connect me, during banking hours, to my bank manager, to assure me that the agreed money had been successfully transferred then we had a deal. If not, I would never discuss the case with him directly again. I would solve it through the media and then through the courts. I would string the case out for all it was worth. He was in the middle of some legal case and was due to spend the whole week in court, and could not spare the time. ‘That,’ I told him, ‘is your concern!’

The following Wednesday we met, made the deal and I got the money. He even congratulated me!

I had assumed that the moment the deal was done I would finally sleep again, and life would revert to usual. I was badly mistaken. With the looming accusation still unresolved and the immense stress I had been under life did not return to normal. To this day it has left its mark. I went into a major ‘fuck you!, ‘mode, only went into town for ½ a day a week where if I was ‘lucky’ said three words to the checkout girl in ICA, went to the gym to work out and get out some of my aggression, visited the Kommunhuset to register a variety of complaints and then quickly escaped back home to firmly shut myself back in doors and away from the whole world.

Corporate psychopathy is something that I particularly despise. If one individual acted in the way that many corporate entities do then they would be locked away in jail, for life. Government bares the brunt of responsibility by allowing lobby groups and other underhand activities, including promises of tax revenues, to allow such corporate behaviour.

Corporations are there for one purpose and one purpose only. Themselves. Fine…except it is at the direct expense of you and me. Our health, welfare and often our very lives are at stake.

There has to be a mediating, independent monitoring agency acting on behalf of the local people concerning the strangle hold the car manufacturing companies have with the help from their tight knit buddies, the local government.

I have observed very troubling, local Norrbotten work conditions, based on weakening the test drivers’ employment conditions by not giving them employment contracts. I believe this is so they have no employment rights or union support.

The locals are scared, underpaid, and very afraid to speak out but also very dependent on the test corporations “good will” to provide them any work as there is little other. A virtual monopoly. Arbetsförmedlingen are ‘in on the act’, as indeed are ‘Lernia’. I have direct evidence through personal experience which suggests they all usurp huge amounts of EU tax funds which are not intended for well established companies, after 20 years, to spend 6½ million :- on a six week course teaching reluctant unemployed folk to test cars when they can not physically get to and from work because of their remote geographic location, unless they move from the place of birth. Lernia and Arbetsförmedlingen just want to ‘tick the boxes’, make every thing look rosy so they can get the same funding to reline their own pockets the following year. I believe they ‘cook the books’, and adjust the figures!

The bosses consider themselves a kind of mafia and they make me seethe with anger.

This whole region “thrives” off winter car testing and winter tourism but the huge EU subsidies, available for small business start-ups for the community, never get to the people because the test companies have the ear of the weak mayors and the pathetic spineless councils, and siphon it all into their own projects/pockets, and those of their friends and associates.

I have discovered the test companies’ ‘Achilles heel’. Their businesses depend completely on the general perception of strict secrecy and they hate the threat of media exposure!

I am now considering exposing their business techniques and making their activities public.

I guess this might be considered a first step!

Put simply, I feel that I have been labeled a troublemaker! It seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I have been so badly treated I am left with few alternatives.

Other local foreign residents were recently invited to a meeting, with the mayor.
For some reason I was not! I had a previous angry discussion with him where he was unwilling to advise me how I could best produce a multi media, interactive website to link the car industry who needed employees with those people, with skills who were looking for work.

I hated not knowing how the community really felt about me. I think I was very popular until the spy report came out. At first, I received lots of well-paid work. For years after I became reclusive at home hating the world.

Interestingly though, spying is not illegal, here but blacklisting is!
There are many other examples too of my possible blacklisting.

There are very concerning stories of other foreigners who also appear to have been labeled troublemakers.

One example; I had two friends who sold up, leaving after only one year in the north, because of a devastating situation, not of their making.

It seems they are the subjects of an active conspiracy.

They ran a small holding, a tiny farm. They were unconventional and had five small children and lots of animals. Everyone was wonderfully looked after. My friend had also been a nurse so worked shifts and often all through the night. Whilst she slept through the morning the animal welfare official had come uninvited and unannounced not only into her house but into her very bedroom. My friend told her in most direct terms to get the hell out. Only, knowing Suzanne it was even more direct than that. After that there was no satisfying her. The local veterinarian had no issue with the animals keep. Only his troublesome official. So now virtually my only friends and neighbours left the territory. They had the last laugh, though. They made a 400% profit on the sale of their farm in the one year they had spent living there.

I felt very alone, had no support, and felt vulnerable and isolated!

I am now putting together a very complex documentary story board about the whole process. I have appealed for advice from the Parliamentary Ombudsman as well as the Ombudsman from Discrimination. Much of my experience I described to them is out of their jurisdiction but I have asked for their general advice. I am still waiting.

My single aim is to undermine, expose and oust the current political regime. Hej! We know they are all the same but with a different coloured party hat! But any regime that has had its feet under the table for well over 40 years, needs to move along.

I will not stop until that has happened in Vesterbotten and Norrbotten.
Then, after that I have some serious issues to document!

So! Just for the record, if go missing it is not likely it was because I was eaten by bears.

It’s pretty sad, I know, that my motivation for writing my first blog entry for weeks is to write about the morons in my local Khao Lak community. That’s probably you!

Jesus! It’s likely you are an idiot!

Almost no one here can handle the most basic concept.  ‘Friendship’!

You probably won’t care much but unless you are an exception to my rule, you can take your concept of KL  ‘friendship’ and stuff it up your asshole.

Just in case  I was not clear…fuck you!

Form alliances between yourselves then back stab, bitch about each other, and everybody else, and then when the chips are really down, and someone else finally holds you to account…blame them instead. Go on, be brave! Be cool! Probably, be you!

Call me paranoid, but before you do…fuck off.

If you can’t manage concepts like honour and integrity that’s okay but don’t think that means I can’t, either. I can!

Don’t expect me to put up with your games and then act all surprised when I get back in your face.

And if you cowardly mother fuckers’ want to make an issue of it, then you know where to find me.

You know who you are.

Oh yes! Sorry, I nearly forgot. Happy Christmas, you sorry-ass, lying, cheating, backstabbing pieces of shit.

Peace out.

My Thai!

Posted: December 10, 2010 in Khao Phayam
Bridge to Nowhere


Arctic Issues!

Posted: December 6, 2010 in Uncategorized

Not Spear Fishing!

Although in many parts of the world net fishing is illegal, in Sweden hunting and fishing are both extremely popular ‘sports’ and net fishing is an especially efficient way to put food on the table.

Of course it it is a very efficient way of catching fish. Normally one would use a hand operated, or motorised auger to drill the ice. In the picture above, it looks like our guide is about to spear a Seal. In fact, he is only clearing the ice forming over a previous hole. Once a hole is made, a device, which looks something like a loom shuttle, used for weaving, is put through the hole where it floats and makes contact with the ice. It is called a ‘jigger’, because as you keep tugging, or jigging, on a line, attached to it, it cranks along under the ice. With a line attached to your net your buddy follows its progress, sometimes having to warm the ice surface and polish it so as to see the jigger below. Eventually when the line is fully played out, just drill another hole by the jigger and pull the line through until the net is strung between the two holes. And ‘Hej Prestö’

Leave the net for a few hours, or overnight and when drawn in it will likely contain perch (aborre),  pike (gädda),  brown trout
(öring), grayling (harr), white fish (sik) or even burbot
(lake). If you are very lucky you might even hook an arctic
or alpine char (röding).

Peter Sundström. Net Fishing!








Miss Belgium Photo Shoot.

Posted: December 4, 2010 in Uncategorized

Some of my photos from the set of the Miss Belgium, 2011 photo shoot.

'Oh Yes!' It's the name of the Bar

Shana Smeets

Shana, from Ekeren, Belgium, had previously never worn make-up before this week. Last year, she said,she proudly told me she hiked around Ecuador, by herself.



The crew were kind enough to allow me to take some snaps, yesterday. I am amazed they were not more concerned about me blowing their shoot, so to speak; making my images public. I did get some good photos, considering the circumstances. It seems so easy with a whole team, even if I was not actually a part.
They spent months, with 50 people, organising, setting up the shots. Technically, not particularly amazing, with focus issues, light angles, etc, but for some ‘happy snaps’, I think they work really well.
Shana, went backpacking in Ecuador, last year, and hiked through the Andes.

Shana, had apparently never even worn make-up before this week, and she has not done any previous modeling at all, which possibly explains her being so real and approachable.


Clickable Thumbnails

A Bit About Me

Posted: December 3, 2010 in Uncategorized

Recently I moved to southern Thailand but until then…


I live in a little, cosy, wooden, farmhouse, surrounded by forest and lakes. It is totally peaceful here. I have no neighbours, except Reindeer, and the occasional Moose.

I am a self employed photographer, which is good as I can work when I need to and not when I don’t.

As an underwater Divemaster and Instructor I lived abroad, in the Mexican Caribbean, for ten years, running dive trips, by day, and exploring the cave systems, by night. I helped explore the world longest water filled cave system, (about 50 kms) in the jungle of the Yucatan, and then moved to Florida where I managed a Cave Diving Adventure shop in Alachua County.

Eventually I returned to England (that was a shock) and lived on a narrow boat and worked daily as a motor-sport photographer, at Silverstone.

I did not enjoy the hectic pace so after several years I ‘escaped’ to the Highlands of Scotland, where I taught myself winter mountain survival skills, and adventured, mostly by myself, on the tops, for 32 winter days. I only ever went climbing once in the summer. I think it was in reaction to the insects and mosquitoes back in the Jungle.
Scotland can be hell in the summer with loads of flying bitey things!
I lived in a caravan without heating and during the winter, if the weather got really cold, I opened the fridge to warm up.

After that I was invited to visit near the Swedish Arctic, on a survival course, by an ex- army survival expert, but when he arrived he got a paid job as a chef, at the local airport restaurant, and so I he left me to survive outside, by myself, alone, instead!

I lived outside with no tent and mostly without a fire or cooking equipment in temperatures as low as minus 20C, for six weeks. I bought my food from the supermarket in town, which must have amused the locals as I traipsed around the aisles wearing my back- pack, with my crampons and ice pic strapped to the back.
Once back outside I had to eat the food quickly before it froze solid. Tomatoes and Peanut Butter are pretty useless when completely frozen solid!

View from 'Camp'

I have now been living, here, in Sweden for over five years and have no plans to return to the UK. Ever!

I have learnt that paradise is all in the head and this is about as good as it’s going to get.

Mayan Sacrifice

Posted: December 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Having spent quite a number of years living in Central America, I have trekked through my fair share of jungles. Naturally, along the way, I developed an interest in Mayan culture and history and years later started to develop a theory.

In the jungle, as with plant life everywhere, one factor which particularly inhibits plant growth is nitrogen, or more precisely the lack of it. In Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, for example, the bed rock is limestone and very porous to rain, which falls in copious quantities. However, instead of dead and rotting vegetation eventually building up to form thick, nutrient rich, soil where it might be useful in supporting the surrounding plant life, it is washed through the bed rock, and far away from where it is most needed, through vast networks of underground water- filled cave systems where it lies, as a thick carpet of silt on the undisturbed floors of the endless, subterranean passageways. Sometimes, over millennia, as the water carves out immense underground waterways through the rock, the aquifer systems come close enough to the surface that the ground (or ceiling, if you happen to be underground) can no longer support itself and the structure collapses in on itself. The resulting holes in the ground provide windows into the cave systems and are known locally as Cenotes. They allow access to anyone adventurous enough to gain entry into the water filled world beneath.

One thousand years ago, the Mayan civilisation had developed into a highly sophisticated society and, at its peak, great and impressive cities supported many thousands of people in vast clearings in the jungle. However, all of a sudden, according to modern records, the populations died out and disappeared.
Why? What catastrophe occurred to wipe out an entire civilisation?
Quite simply there was not enough nutrient in the poor soil to sustain a crop yield necessary to support such large and growing populations.
Over time the soils, which had once been able to sustain crops, sufficient to feed large numbers, were now becoming degraded as all the nutrient was being washed away through the porous bed rock and this, along with the radiply increasing populations migrating to the cities, had reached a critical mass and were now no longer sustainable.
That much is known.
But! What was that thing about Mayan sacrifice all about? It seems to me that so much about the Maya was logical and made perfect sense. After all didn’t the ancient Maya produced the most sophisticated calendar of all time? It is far more accurate than the clumsy Gregorian one we use today.
The Maya were great mathematicians. They had accurately calculated the movement of the stars and even displayed carvings of the earth’s relative position within the milky- way, only recently optically observed using the most modern high powered telescopes, within the last few years.
In fact, the squirely symbol, repeated ad nauseam, by chintzy modern home designers and architects who so frequently replicate it, is an overused graphic representation of their early discovery.

Being so logical and all, why would they just go around killing people? Archaeologists, today, talk of the religious significance of such an act. They talk about the circle of life and death, and that out of death comes life. What a disappointment. What an  unsatisfying and limp- wristed  argument.
Thousands of people were slaughtered to ‘appease the Gods’. It all seemed so disjointed.  So many dead bodies, and for what?
That valuable and most illusive  commodity. Blood! Fertilizer!
I haven’t done the calculations. I don’t know how, plus, if the truth be known, I couldn’t really be bothered. But I do know that all the blood from a person, up to five and six litres, when sufficiently diluted, would fertilise an awful lot of crops and feed many people, for quite along time.
Also, after a few hundred years of systematic genocide, the message surely, eventually got back to the ‘campesenios’ still living back on the farm, in the jungle. Their same fate might itself have had the effect of stemming the growing tides of incomers, somewhat.
At some point they must have run out of BabyBio ‘plant grow’.

During my travels through the Yucatan I kept hearing tales of Palenque.

I had also seen ragged photocopies from families back home (mostly from the USA.) Posters of loved ones, missing for no apparent reason.

I had to go and see for myself, my very own mysterious and ancient ruined city, deep in the steamy jungle. It all sounded so romantic.
And so, one day I found myself contentedly swinging to and fro under a palapa, in my recently acquired hammock, at the very laid back, and badly run- down, camp site (the name of which, perhaps, should remain undisclosed), being terribly bitten by mosquitoes, and soaked to the skin by frequent torrential downpours. All this less than one mile from the ruins that I was so anxious to explore.
Around the camp-site were signs, roughly painted in different languages, saying things like, ‘Keep away from the ruins after dark’ and, ‘Do not enter ruins out of hours’. Of course the signs just fueled my mounting imagination.

There are not many ways for the locals to supplement their meager incomes from farming, but as with hippie tourism everywhere (I assume)there is a healthy market for mind altering substances, mostly marijuana, and here, in all the damp, magic mushrooms.
I don’t suppose our clouds of exhaled dope smoke had much effect on the clouds of voracious mosquitoes, though. If anything it probably made them even hungrier.
Alcohol was another anaesthetic we used to numb our senses. I still remember quite clearly the heavy and oppressive atmosphere surrounding the camp as I shared a whole litre bottle of Tequila with a fellow traveller called Carl.
Perhaps now you might understand why we did not care too much about our extreme discomfort.

Late one night, at around midnight, Carl and I headed out of the main gate and walked along the road towards the ruins. It was easy to see, however, as there was a full moon and a clear sky. Very prophetic.
I noticed, however, that , as we were left we were spotted by a local chap who worked at the camp site. Still, we felt that we were not doing any harm.
We wandered along the main road towards the ruins, intending to climb up the foot path along side the waterfall running through the jungle and in through the unofficial back entrance to the ruins. However, no sooner had we turned off the road it became pitch black. We had planned ahead and each bought a flash light.
No sooner had we left the main road we heard what sounded like a Jeep driving along in our direction. To our horror the vehicle stopped at the edge of the road, right close by to us. We had already turned off our lights and we waded into the waterfall and crouched there in complete darkness for what seemed like an age, as we listened to the voices of several men walking up and down the foot path, really close by. Thank God they never did shine their lights in our direction.
Eventually, after they presumably had reached the ruins, and after having searched for us there and returned, they gave up and drove away.
Naturally we decided not to bother with our original plan with the ruins, any more. It would seem foolhardy and anyway we thought they had might have left a guard or two up there, waiting, ready for us.
Quietly we retraced our steps back to the road and eventually made it back to Maya Bell without further incident.
That adventure was more than 15 years ago but I have always remembered it clearly.
The first is, I remember clearly having seen black and white photocopied flyers, of young missing travellers, pinned up around the area, presumably by their distressed friends and families.
I always wondered why we were hunted and what would have happened to us if we had been caught. It was a full moon and I just had a really horrible feeling about the outcome. I felt like I was about to become a part of some local ancient ceremony.
Any ideas, or thoughts on the subject would be most welcome.

howler monkeys
In fact the ruins, although highly impressive, were by day just as one might expect. A much more romantic image, surely, to visit alone, by the light of a Hollywood full moon.


Next blog entry…Riot in Palenque! Whilst filming the burning of the county council offices…escaped a clubbing, and I don’t mean of the disco/night club kind!

An All or Nothing, Kind of Guy!

Posted: December 1, 2010 in Uncategorized