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Journal - 18-Mar-2001, Sunday, Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico
(Trip: Ruta Maya, Southeast Mexico)

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Click for larger image! Our man (and woman) in Palenque. Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,chiapas,ruins,maya,maya bell,jungle,villahermosa,palenque
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Click for larger image! The Mayan Arch<br> . Keywords: backpack,Mexico,travel,overland,camping,camp,bus,autobus,chiapas,ruins,maya,maya bell,jungle,villahermosa,palenque
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Our man (and woman) in Palenque
The Mayan Arch
 
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It's 10:00 before we get to the bus station - we're going to have to try and start getting up early! Of course sleeping in an oven doesn't exactly help.

The next bus to Palenque leaves at 11:00. An unsatisfying supermarket breakfast is consumed as we wait.

The two hour bus takes us into increasingly green countryside as we approach our destination.

Arriving into Palenque bus terminal, small hotels line the roadside. No shortage of tourists here - in fact the bus is full of them. Beyond the hotels, nothing is visible except palm trees, fields, and jungle.

For $4, a taxi takes us to 'the best campsite' close to the ruins. We're told to pitch our tent anywhere 'green'. We select an RV site (with power point) that happens to be green. The campsite is only about half full so I don't any problems with robbing an RV slot.

The weather is warm but not suffocating. To allow ventilation in the tent, I decide not to bother with the waterproof flysheet. The main body of the tent is nylon mesh, so hopefully it won't get too hot inside. I've some reservations about leaving my laptop in a 'see-thru' tent but calculate the risk to be minimal. The crowd is mix of RVing Americans and European 'peace & love' hippy types - both hopefully harmless.

We head off in the direction of the ruins. A combi passes by and takes us all the way for $1.

The cost of a guide is $35 for up to 7 people. Unfortunately we can't see anyone around to share with, so we go it alone. The time is 14:15 and the tour will take 2 hours.

The guide is extremely interesting and well worth the investment. Draped around the ruins are scores of dreadlocked tourists, apparently trying to pretend they've just 'discovered' the ruins and therefore have the right to scale the ancient, unprotected, walls. It is little wonder that the site is in a constant state of deterioration. It is also hard to understand the mentality that can treat a site as ancient (zenith 600AD), and as beautiful, as this, with so little respect. The irony is that the clamberers probably feel like they're becoming 'one' with the ancients and absorbing their 'vibes' or energy. The guide doesn't see it that way. Nor do we.

All around is the chatter of birds. We are fortunate to see a few bright yellow toucan beaks streaking the sky, as birds return to nests.

At the end of the tour the weather has cooled slightly and drops of rain start to fall, building up to a tropical downpour. Refreshing and welcome. Until Monica remembers our open tent! (And I remember my laptop inside the open tent!)

A mad dash is made for the exit. An empty combi is waiting outside. Unfortunately the driver can't be persuaded to move off till he's broken the record for 'most people in moving VW camper van'. It's about 15 minutes later before we get back to the tent. Mercifully, a tree has protected the part of the tent with our bags, and no damage has been done.

Five minutes later, the tent is secure and we're in the campsite restaurant, both famished after an exerting day with little food. The meal is good and we're able to take stock of our beautiful location. The site is completely surrounded by large trees and undergrowth. We're now truly in the jungle. Exciting. After dinner we explore a little.

The rain continues on and off as we busy ourselves lying outside our tent. The gravity is strong today.

As the sky darkens, we climb inside the oven. That is, our small tent. Despite stripping off, we feel like we're on slow broil. When the rain stops the temperature rises.

To make matters worse, somebody is enjoying 'the great outdoors' by playing their drum at full, monotonous, wallop. More irony from the 'back-to-nature, peace, love, and harmony' set. So much for listening to exotic jungle sounds - maybe the call of a jaguar on the prowl - a lousy night club is closer picture!

When the drumming finally stops, it turns out to be nothing more than an intermission before a session of 'Mr World Music gets wild on the digeridoo'! Then back to drumming. Now, while it's quite possible that the ancients were amused, for a month or two, by a drum going 'Do-do, do. Do-do, do. Do-do, do. Do-do, do', us westerners have been 'poisoned' by millennia of musical evolution. Sorry friends, but the old, repetitive, drum solo with random chanting is back there in history, along with the dinosaurs.

No sooner do I write these words, when a a cappella rendition of "Don't let me down" drifts our way. Hey, progress!

Luckily the music dies down and the temperature drops a little, allowing odd moments of sleep. The rain comes and goes. The noise of jungle surrounds us - insects, toads, monkeys, and who knows what else. At one point I'm aware of new mosquito bites on my feet. Strange. I check the tent door. Slightly open. Damn!

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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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