Last weekend I took a walk around a ranch named San Benito, about an hour's drive east of Mérida.
This "ranch" is a parcel of old cattle pasture which hasn't been grazed in years. It definitely is not wilderness, but amidst swathes of maleza -- dense, thorny scrub where fields and pastures used to be -- there are some nice patches of old native trees, wildflowers and interesting plants such as orchids.
I drove out Saturday with my friend Victor and his niece Paola. We left the city early, to avoid traffic and heat, and upon arriving met a guy named Ramiro, who is being paid to clear out some of the undergrowth. Since in advance I'd asked permission of the caretaker, Ramiro knew we were coming, so he welcomed us and took a brief break from his work to chat. When we headed down one of the trails to explore, he resumed work with his hatchet and moruna.
This was not my first visit here. I had walked this parcel a few times in the past, starting in 2009 when first it was advertised for sale. The property suddenly sold before I realized just how interested in it I'd become, and I felt disappointed. Perhaps because I loved and lost, I've had a sort of long-distance romance with this piece of land ever since. Recently when I discovered that the new owners want to sell, I came back here to see if the feeling was still the same.
One of the things I like about the ranch is that because it has lain largely undisturbed for about a dozen years there are animals here. I have seen wild turkeys and a good variety of other birds. Bird chatter was a constant background music as we walked the overgrown trails. There are signs of deer, too, and I found the remains of an armadillo and a large snake skin as we hiked. Along with many native tree species, I spotted bougainvilleas in flower and a "flamboyan" (Royal Poinciana, or Flame Tree) that will be spectacular in season.
Although quiet now, this land was worked for generations. The entire place is enclosed and cross-fenced with dry-stone walls, "albarradas," and there is an old one-room stone house, corral and a deep well with an antique windmill-driven pump to keep the watering troughs and the cistern full.
As we arrived, I'd noticed that the fruit on a great old ciruela (wild plum) tree near the well and house is nearly ripe. After our dusty, hot walk I was tired and parched. I picked and ate a low-hanging plum. Although still somewhat hard and bitter it tasted good. Maybe I'll come back in a few weeks to pick some when they are ripe.
That would be a good opportunity, sitting in the shade by the well and eating those soft, tart wild plums, to consider again all that I might do on a piece of land like this one.
If you liked this post you might enjoy: Hacienda Dreams
Text and images copyright 2015 by Marc Olson