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Journal - 15-Mar-2001, Thursday, Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico
(Trip: Ruta Maya, Southeast Mexico)

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Click for larger image! Raucous in red. Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,tabasco,villahermosa,la venta,anthropology museum,olmec,olmecan,maya,stone,figure,head
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Click for larger image! My personal Olmec. Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,tabasco,villahermosa,la venta,anthropology museum,olmec,olmecan,maya,stone,figure,head
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Raucous in red
My personal Olmec
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A little sleep was caught on the bus during the night. At 06:15 we pull into Villahermosa, Tabasco, bus terminal. Monica comments on how nice the city looked coming in. It even has a Sanborns' (a popular restaurant chain in Mexico City).

Not sure what to do next, we sit down with the guidebook. The city center seems relatively close by, so we set off walking, ignoring the "Taxi?!" calls. After a few paces, I check the 'toy' compass on Monica's backpack. Oops. We're walking the wrong way. Great things compasses.

After walking about 1km with all our gear, we catch sight of the river, indicating that we're more or less in the downtown area. We both hot, sticky, and starting to ache! We start looking at hotels. Seems like budget accommodation shouldn't be a problem.

Spying a 'VIPs' (another popular, and clean, restaurant chain), Monica suggests we have breakfast, then one of us can wait with the bags while the other looks for a hotel. Deal.

After eating Monica goes out to hunt. She returns with news of a $17 hotel she likes. One interesting feature of hotels here is that they advertise having cold water just as much as hot water! The guidebook says it's horribly hot here, all year round.

The room is pleasant enough, with a huge ventilating fan hanging from the ceiling. The idea of sleeping under an old, rotating, helicopter blades is a bit intimidating but I reason the chances of it falling tonight are pretty slim.

We decide to spend today exploring Villahermosa's attractions and to go early tomorrow to the ruins of Comalcalco. A taxi takes us to 'La Venta' - a large, open air, museum full of relics from an nearby eponymous archaeological site. The museum features various Olmec statues and monuments, including some famous boulder-sized carved stone heads. There is also a zoo area with bored jaguars, snakes, monkeys, etc. One nice part is a large, walk-in, aviary with tame exotic birds.

The heat is quite intense, and, after walking around for a while, we're starting to feel a little light headed. We share a half liter bottle of water which disappears in a single slug each. A combi (VW minibus) takes back into town where we plan to visit the local anthropological museum.

The combi drops us off in front of a nicely designed, modern glass building. Even though it's not the museum we're looking for, we step inside as it looks like it might have air-conditioning. It's like walking into a refrigerator - beautiful. It seems to be an art exhibition center. We slowly share a soda in the café, to cool down a bit.

Outside, it's like stepping into an inferno. We need to take another bus to the museum. The route follows the bank of the river - it's tempting to get off the bus and dive in!

The museum looks like it was the pride of the city in the 70's and hasn't been updated much since. Nonetheless there are some interesting pieces from many of the major archaeological sites in Mexico. If nothing else, the collection strikingly demonstrates the amount of diversity in pre-hispanic art and culture.

Again, leaving the museum is like walking into an oven. We take the bus back to our hotel and take an early siesta. I wake a couple of hours later at 4 pm. Seems like it might have cooled a little.

We decide to go back to 'La Venta' to take more pictures in the softer, afternoon, light. The ticket office is closed but a small payment ($2) to the guard gets us in. The park seems to harbor quite a lot of wildlife. After most of the visitors have left, a number of unusual animals come out to play.

Tourist information has been hard to come by in Tabasco. The anthropology museum had a good guide but it was for 'viewing' only. We're close to the big hotel zone so we figure we can probably find a rack of leaflets in one of the major hotels. No such luck. We do, however, get to enter air conditioned lobbies and gaze longingly at the pool. I even consider pretending to be a guest and diving in!

The travel agent in the Hyatt is at least able to give us a tourist map which marks the general location of some of the places we read about in the museum. According to the same guide, there are a few 'eco-tourism' parks that have camping facilities.

Now soaking in sweat (I know, sorry, 'too much information'!), we head back town. In an attempt to re-grasp our budget, dinner is bought in a supermarket.

Back in the hotel room we instinctively strip off and enjoy dinner in our underwear - try that in a restaurant, no matter how fancy it is!

Insect repellent is applied before bedding down. We're probably in a malaria area and have already experienced some voracious biters. As additional, flimsy, protection, we use a mosquito net as an over-sheet.

Loud music enters our room from the bar/restaurant downstairs. With the temperature, I'm not sure closing the window is an option. Compared with cooking alive, music is probably the lesser of the two evils.

The heat is insufferable. I rise to soak my body in water. The evaporation provides temporary relief. I muse on a device to gently drip water on me during the night. Monica can't take the music anymore and closes the window. Eventually we drop off around midnight.

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Cuba - Rotorua, New Zealand - Christ Church, Dublin - Monument Valley, Arizona - Monte Albán, Oaxaca, Mexico - Staffa, Scotland - Huamantla, Tlaxcala, Mexico - Costa Rica - Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico - Fiesta, Mexico City - Making Lacquer, Olinalá, Mexico - Talavera Ceramics, Puebla, Mexico - Mata Ortiz Pottery, Mexico - Lebanon
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