Saturday, September 15, 2018

Why the Jaredites Did Not Move Southward – The Desierto de Jubones

One of the nagging questions that surrounds the development of the Jaredite kingdom after landing and disembarking from their barges, is why they did not move southward. Since they landed north north of the Narrow Neck of Land, they had not only the entire area referred to as the Land Northward before them for settlement, but also the entire area of what is known as the Land Southward that they could have entered. However, except to hunt for wild game (Ether 10:19,21) that was driven south of the narrow neck by the poisonous serpents during the time of a severe drought (Ether 9:31), the Jaredites never entered the Land Southward.
The Narrow Neck of Land prior to the 3 Nephi destruction and the raising of the Andes; The Jambelí Channel in the Gulf of Guayaquil is the “Sea that divides the land” (Ether 10:20); the Santa Elena Peninsula is the site of the Jaredite Landing, and the area of Chanduy is the first and oldest settlement on the Peninsula, which was anciently covered with forests (now it is has become desertified from cutting down all the trees); Machala might well have been the “great city  by the sea” the Jaredites built at the southern opening of the narrow neck
At first glance, it might seem strange that the Jaredites, after “the whole face of the land northward was covered with inhabitants” (Ether 10:21), in their exploring and movement about the land, chose not to go into the Land Southward to settle. However, though a map seldom shows the terrain and topography of an area, it is that very knowledge that tells us why the Jaredites did not venture much beyond the narrow neck other than to hunt for game. First of all, the area immediately at the southern end of the narrow neck around Machala, is fertile lowland along the Jambelí Canal of the Gulf of Guayaquil.
    Sandwiched between the Pacific coast, or Costa region, and the Andes, all traffic, trade, and human movement funnels through this area and the city of Machala, which is a present-day commercial center. Basically at sea level with a flat landscape, the area possesses a semi-arid or steppe climate (between desert and humid climes), it receives less rain than the amount of water lost through evapotranspiration, but more than the surrounding desert lands. This area lies between the wet forests of the north and the dry forests of the south, not far from mangrove swamps along the Gulf.
The city of Machala at the southern end of the Narrow Neck of Land where the coastal region opens and spreads out and the hills and mountains flow to the east. The main channel is one of four such channels through the Jambelí Archipelgo off the Jambelí Channel within the Gulf of Guayaquil that opens to the Pacific Ocean

Here the estuary is deep and its shore cliffed, about three miles from the hidden cove at the end of an arm connected to the sea forming a limestone ravine. The area is dense with mangroves in the fluvial-marine Jambelí Archipelago, made up of a series of 6 major island and 12 smaller ones, all separated by channels and narrow estuaries with some additional small islets, and salt flats. There are five minor canals that cross perpendicularly the archipelago that run to a depth of just over 21 feet, and connect the main channel and the Gulf. The banks of silty sand are frequent in the islands, especially in the mouths of estuaries, where four rivers, the Zarumilla, Aenillas, Santa Rose and Jubolnes have given rise over time to these islands.
The area just south of the narrow neck from Machala in the west to Putushio, Ona, and Saraguro in the east, including the Jubones Desert and the Yunguilla Valley south of Cuenca

From Ona south to Saraguro is a deep canyon, and to the west, beyond Gera, in the midst of the mountains at about 6,000-feet elevation, where strong winds blow making progress difficult, begins the Jubones desert. This is a hot, almost rain free, near-barren land containing deep canyons, rushing rivers, steep cliffs, and dry hillsides with a sparse distribution of cactus and Acacia trees, and ground dwelling bromeliads (monocot flowering plants) and poisonous snakes. To the east of Ona is the settlements of Yucuambi and Tutupali along the high upland cold and bleak, wind-swept Páramos, or wastelands of the high equatorial mountains. Between Saraguro and La Union the Paquishapa River flows through a deep canyon, with high, thundering Falls, rapids, boulders, and some still water between the steep cliffs.
Top Left: Acacia shrubs; Top Right: Ground-dwelling bromeliads—monocot flowering plants, which covered the ground in the Jubones Desert; Bottom Left: Acacia tree; Bottom Right: Jatrophas trees

Today, Cuenca, at 8,400-feet (upper right in above image), is twelve miles northwest of Girón, at 6,800-feet, where the sub-tropical Yunguilla Valley begins, and extends southwestward into the 6,000-foot Jubones Desert, the latter extending clear to the coast. Between Cueneca and Girón and to the east near Cumbe, in the towering peaks of the mountains lies Alverjasioma, which provides an awesome overlook of the Yunguilla Valley and of the Lion River Canyon in the middle of the Jubones desert.
    In the south, the ridges around Saraguro are more or less parallel to each other and seem to be distributed in groups. They vary between abut 10 and 18 feet in width. Some are as long as 500 feet. Most are aligned with the slope of the hill upon which they were built, but some are on land with no slope or do not follow existing slopes very closely. 
Maximum slope on which they exist is 18 to 20 degrees; most are on slopes of ten degrees or less. Depths of the canals between the ridges is between six and twenty inches.
    From Girón, the road continues descending till you enter the Jubones desert, full of acacia shrubs and yucca. This valley extends all the way to the Pacific; the upper part of it, surrounding the bustling town of Santa Isabel, is called Yunguilla, and farther down is the Jubones Desert, interandean deserts in Ecuador are particularly interesting ecosystems, usually created in river valleys in lower altitudes as a consequence of rain shade of surrounding mountains. More precisely, they should not be categorized as a desert but as an interandean dry forest because they still contain some species of small trees as Acacias or Jatrophas. However, the main flora of those interesting ecosystems are terrestrial bromeliads capturing the humidity from the air.
The barren wasteland of the Jubones Desert
Moving into the Jubones, the road turns off at Nanú, towards the Jubones River valley and Sumaypamba, where the landscape changes rapidly into a rocky, arid semi-desert. There is an occasional oasis where a small stream runs between a few palm trees, with the surrounding area composed of barren mountains in different shades of browns and yellows. Some areas are covered by dry, yellow grass, interspersed with low, thick-stemmed shrubs, sprouting almost no leaves, but very bright red flowers. A species of cacti grows here near the Jubones, and the climate is quite harsh, with strong winds blowing over the hilltops where cold air currents blowing down from the higher mountains and some warmer winds blowing in off the coast.
South and east of the Jubones, to the areas of Ona and Saraguro and the wilderness surrounding this area

Deep washouts surround the area, some the size of a gorge, their steep sides made of loose material, where the soil is mainly loose dirt or sand, and the limestone outcrops brittle and easily broken when moving across them. This Desierto de Jubones is quite an extraordinary place, all the more intriguing because so little is known about it; however, it is not the type of place even the most desperate would choose to settle in, with very little water, extreme heat and little but barren ground incapable of producing any growth, let alone crops.
The trip from Loja down to the desert lowlands of the Jubones on the way to Machala and the coast

The 60-mile road that drops 6,500-feet, from Saraguro down to the Jubones desert begins at a high moorland plateau and descends to the Jubones interandean desert that drops down close to the lowlands level. The road zig-zags through the various mountain peaks and valleys and across barren land, where a small, occasional fertile area is packed away between mountains where crops have been planted and Saragura Indians eek out a living.
Top: The green highlands city of Loja, at the foot of El Ahuaca mountain peak; Bottom: the drop off along the road down to the Jubones Desert. Note the drastic change in both terrain and vegetation

Loja is due south of Cuenca and southeast of Machala, high in the mountains of the Cordillera Del Condor, and part of the Cordillera Occidental, or Western Cordillera, with several current settlements along the road (585) to Machala, dropping over 3500-feet from Loja to Portovelo in onl 73 miles, and dropping to just 50 feet elevation in the next forty miles at El Cambio, which is four miles from Machala and the coast. Along this 585 road, there are few settlements in the Andes over this completely barren stretch of land, and even today the area is unoccupied.
Top: The southern highlands around Saraguro, drops 6,500’ down to the (Bottom) Jubones the barren desert where little grows and no crops can survive

It is not difficult to see why the Jaredites would not have chosen to move toward the south once encountering this wind-swept, barren land. That it must have provided good hunting because of all the animals that gathered south of the narrow neck after being driven their by the poisonous serpents, it was not a good area for settlement, in Book of Mormon times or even today.

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