Spanish style houses come into view

Juan and his father had come to an amicable agreement with their porters and on the next morning the porters had prepared their rations and stood and watched as the two headed south.  Juan picks up the story:-

On the second day we started to climb through the foothills of the Sierra Madre. Father continued taking his readings every hour, and I prepared our evening meal while he wrote up his notes.

It was on the morning of our sixth day alone that we topped another scrub-covered ridge and stopped in amazement. Every other ridge we had breasted had presented us with another in the distance. This one walled a cultivated valley. Through a quirk in the geology the valley had steeper sides than any we had seen. Instead of being a dip between ridges it had a finite shape. The far side was a distinct wall of rock. To the east a small river gushed down a steep incline, almost a waterfall, and then meandered gently across the flat valley floor to a lake that lay glistening in the sun away to the west. The banks of the river flanked neat fields. On each side of the river a white road wound through the fields, joining near a small bridge to become a single road leading into a village of white, flat-roofed, Spanish-styled houses.

“The Valley of Quetzalcóatl,” I heard my father murmur. It was then I noticed something else: although the fields looked well-tended, there was no sign of movement anywhere in the valley.

I mentioned it to my father.

He shrugged his shoulders and looked up towards the sun. “The people will be taking siesta now. It will be warmer in the valley than here on the ridge. Come, let’s go down and see if we can meet the dwellers of Quetzalcóatl’s valley.”  With that he hitched his rucksack onto his shoulders and set off down the slope.

After a few moments’ hesitation I followed him. As we walked through the fields we could see stone-lined irrigation channels leading water from the river to every field. “This is the work of skilled men,” father said as we walked. “No Indians I’ve ever known would do this.”

We turned a bend in the road and saw ahead of us a white cottage with orange trees in the garden and a vine with bright yellow flowers growing all over the veranda. Almost as soon as we saw the cottage a man appeared in the doorway.  As he looked around he saw us. For a long moment he stood still; then he went back into the cottage.

“I have a feeling we shall soon find out what sort of people live in Quetzalcóatl’s Valley, Juan,” my father said. “Just stay calm. I have my rifle and pistol if we need them – just pray we don’t have to use them.”

We kept walking and were within twenty metres of the cottage when the man reappeared, closely followed by a second man. Father and I stopped in our tracks – both were carrying guns. “Easy, Juan,” my father warned.

But it wasn’t just the guns that made us stop – it was the men themselves.

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