Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Templo de las Inscripciones, Palenque
We got up at 9:00 and went for Nescafé at the Refresqueria Oasis. Actually, we went for coffee, but instant was the best we could do. We then traveled by taxi to the Mayan ruins of Palenque. The day was hot and very humid.
Palenque is said to have the most magical location of the major Mayan cities, its pyramids and temples rising out of valleys between cascading vegetation and fast-flowing rivers. The setting is grand. The pyramids are striking and the jungle stunning. We climbed every structure we could.
Temples of Palenque
Palenque is one of the largest Mayan sites, spreading over an area well beyond the section open to be visited. Despite the vast amount that remains to be excavated, there is no Mayan city about which more is known than Palenque, it being the first Mayan site to attract exploration, in the 18th century. Palenque first brought to the attention of the outside world the existence of an advanced ancient culture in the Mayan region. At its height around 700 A.D. Palenque had a population of as many as 70,000.
El Palacio from El Templo de la Cruz
We'd worked up quite a sweat exploring, so we headed for the Baños de la Reina (Queen's Baths), a set of waterfalls, to cool off. On our way there, we met some old American hippies, Rainbow People, and watched spider monkeys frolic in the treetops!
Tom had visited Palenque previously and told me some people spent all day at the falls, swimming and just hanging out. Sounds refreshing. Unfortunately, now the area is posted with signs stating "no bañarse" (no bathing). Tom got scolded by a guard when he stepped into the water to retrieve some litter I'd dropped. Much to our surprise, the guard jumped out from behind some trees. If they're going to post a guard, I feel he should stand in full view and deter people rather than lurking in bushes and jumping out afterward!
Baños de la Reina
We checked out the museum and then headed back to town for some food. Tropi Tacos served up some muy bueno tacos, but then they ripped us off by charging us 100 pesos instead of the proper 82 pesos. We let it go and paid the extra $1.60, but it was annoying. Jab the gringos.
Back at the Zócalo, things are lively. When the sun goes down, the people come out. We were pleased to see a number of "USA" t-shirts. Not everybody hates us. We also saw an Albino Mexican woman - you don't see that every day.
As a side note, for three days now I've thought people were following us as we walked around town. As it turns out, I'm just unaccustomed to pedestrians!