Home is Where we Hook-up

January 30, 2008

Palenque in Chiapas

Filed under: Travel,Travel in Mexico — Heligypsy @ 8:38 am

By now we have become accustomed to the men with machine guns. We no longer stare straight ahead as if – if we don’t look at them, they won’t see us – it’s a trick Zoe has taught us. No, now we are bold and will even pull over to ask directions, even though we know they don’t speak English (and they have machine guns). This was the case as we came into the park area of the Palenque Archaeological Site, at dark, looking for our campground the Mayabelle. As before in our travels, I point to the words Mayabelle in our book, as if reading English would be any easier for them. I’m certain I heard one of them repeat “Mayabelle” before waving his arm pointing down the road we were already on. They didn’t shoot us, they didn’t ask for money, and guided us in the right direction. Yeah!

Within 5 minutes we were pulling down the narrow, heavily treed driveway of the campground. There was light at the other end coming from the open aired restaurant and gift shop. At least 20 silhouetted individuals were enjoying dinner and live music. A truck was just ahead of us, the bed was full of backpacks and gear. Greasy haired youths in natural fiber clothing grabbed what was theirs and disappeared into the darkness. This is a place that kids who are “against the Man” and don’t want to “conform” to society find themselves hangin’ out in the palapas in the jungle doing mushrooms. In another 15 years they’ll realize they hadn’t broken free of anything, just conformed to the group of non-conformers. But, I digress, and you get the picture 🙂

We made a plan to take Zoey for a nice long walk the next day (which is getting shorter all the time for her) and head off to explore the ruins of Palenque. As I fell asleep to the live music coming from the restaurant, and distant bellows of howler monkeys in the jungle, I knew we would have to stay another night.

Of the reasons we chose the Mayabelle, the close proximity to the ruins was major. To be able to leave Zoe inside the parked and hooked up vehicle was such a bonus. To get in a couple miles walking there and back was nice too – gets hard sitting for such long hours for days in a row.

The next morning we walked the winding road on a pretty good incline, keeping an ear open for approaching buses so we could step off as far to the side as the jungle would allow. The final curve dumped us into the chaos of the parking lot and ticket area. Souvenir stalls overflowed with baskets, Mayan calendars, statues, masks, multi-colored woven handbags, belts and hair scrunchies. Men with badges around their necks lurked along the sides of the ticket booth, offering “tour guide” services. Small children held out small square cardboard with figurines affixed. It’s always hard to brush off the little kids, but we do anyway.

The way I read about Palenque was that it is an off the beaten path type ruin. Not on the typical tourist route, not highly visited. Well, that must have been back in the day, word has gotten out, visitation is up. We arrived early enough in the mid-morning to get in-between the large, mostly French and German, tour groups. Wandering between temples, through plaza’s, over an aqueduct and up ancient steps, we tried to absorb the history, antiquity, meaning and the mystery of it all.

Mayan feet didn’t come in size 11, so side-stepping the steep and sometimes crumbling stone stairway to the top of the Temple of the Cross was a little precarious. Once I arrived, I was happy to stay awhile and enjoy the view.

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The path laid out for exploring the ruins is such that we came in from the top parking lot, but would descend through a switchback set of paths and stairs, along waterfalls and pools. This allowed us to discovered yet one last set of ruins, and watch and listen to howler monkeys in the jungle before we were deposited just across the street from the museum and gift shop. A few hundred yards from that, and we were back at the Mayabelle with enough daylight to hang at the pool and visit with other travelers in the campground.

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Fully recharged after a day lay-over, we were back on track for getting to Belize. One more day of driving, we would be at the border of our destination.

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