November 30th, 2010 by ejalbright
The environmental activist organization Greenpeace floated its balloon demanding “Rescue the Climate” over the ancient Maya city of Chichen Itza. The stunt, however, almost didn’t happen. The Diario de Yucatan reprinted a story by Miguel Arguelles that originally appeared on the Mexican Greenpeace web site (although doesn’t appear to be there now — if anyone knows where this originated, please e-mail me and I’ll put up a link). This has been translated from the Spanish.
I was meeting with my fellow Greenpeace Mexico members on a busy corner in Cancun; we eat and then quickly line up to go to Chichen Itza, a two-hour drive ahead of us, pulling a trailer with a balloon. It is relatively early, 6 p.m., but there is no daylight … While we are comfortable in the truck there is not much space. A few hours later we are at our destination, where we met with colleagues from Greenpeace International to find out the details of the plan. We are assigned roommates and after talking a while we go to sleep; tomorrow we have to get up early and we expect a hard day.
The hard work of today will not let me sleep, nor the passing trucks, much less the snoring of my roommate. I take a risk by wearing ear plugs to fall asleep. Still, I wake up 5 minutes before sounding the alarm that we have set for 4. Being so early gives me time to go to the store for some dubious coffee to wake up … The morning is covered by a fog that seems to unwind at times and in at other times covers us completely. Shortly after we left for the archaeological site of Chichén Itzá in the hope that the fog clears at some point.
Upon our arrival we find no problems … we have the permission of the authorities … All permits were in order, and the guards could not be better to us. They tell us that the aluxes, goblins of the Maya, do not like the balloons, which have repeatedly tried to fly over the ruins and something always goes wrong. Today we all think positive, and although it is 7:20 and the fog is still here we believe that there will be a moment where everything suddenly clears and click! The photo opportunity will be ready.
But the fog is dense … and prevents us from flying the balloon this day, so we will have to wait until Sunday … the aluxes are making mischief again.
The rain does not stop
Once again an early night. Tomorrow we leave even earlier; the pilot wants the balloon inflated and ready to go at 6:30. The rain continues to fall when I go to sleep. I stop to think that at best all will be waterlogged and will not be easy to deal with the world. I sleep better.
Sunday. Once again I beat the clock, this time by four minutes. It does not rain. I wash my face and head to the store for coffee and which now must have spent a week in that coffeemaker. Bad caffeine is better than no caffeine. We greet the pilot who says, “This is the perfect day to fly, even better than yesterday. ” Silently, I ask the aluxes to let us work this time.
Ten minutes before giving the volunteer team is on top of the truck. Photographers are running around, the coordinator of Greenpeace tells us to go … A car will not start. Do not know why. The passengers are distributed among the other cars and go to the site. We are already a few minutes late, we cannot lose more time.
The sun rises … no clouds in the sky, the pavement is not as wet as previously thought. We reached the parking lot, the gate is chained and oh, surprise! The guard says that they will not let us enter. And no, and no, and no! Yesterday was then; today is different … On the one hand I understand it, he is doing his job; but after call his superior and her saying to let us, we lose another five minutes … Everything is perfect except this.
After a few minutes of exchange, he opens the lock, and we run away and in five minutes we had things arranged, the balloon on the ground ready. The captain has over 30 years flying balloons for Greenpeace, so he knows about racing and how to do things right. We followed his instructions, began to blow air from the burners, and the balloon begins to rise slowly. Four volunteers per line is the minimum required, and so we are ready, we have to avoid getting too high and we have to avoid crashing into the treetops.
The balloon has gone up and down without any problems, the teams of four people begin to sweat. There are no setbacks and heard in the distance is the rotor of the helicopter, a few seconds later we see it passing over us. It flies over the area several times … From the radio we hear that the view is spectacular … Shortly after they say “All is well, you can lower the balloon, the helicopter can leave.” The clock reads 7:30. Everything went well, aluxes gave us permission to take the picture. In my mind thank you very much.
It is the task of the team of photographers and communications professionals to choose the best photos and upload them to the network. Now the balloon is in your hands.
The balloon is already in the trailer, we see as tourists begin to arrive and while we talk we drink water to relieve the intense time of day.
I tell my colleagues, as we go to breakfast, the image has to be in the drafting of several newspapers. The image and the message are clear to everyone. From the Mayan heart: “Rescue the climate.”
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