per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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Mexico - Day 2 and 3 - Veracruz, Olmecs, and on to Chiapas...
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Veracruz was where it first got really uncomfortable, weather-wise. Not much hotter, and there was a nice breeze off the Gulf, but the humidity was really high. The town itself was fairly picturesque, and we were on the main square which meant music and hub-bub (though our room was thankfully quiet). There were some similarities to New Orleans- a relaxed, happy atmosphere, not to mention the local equivalent of the French Market's tacky souvenir stands. And there was an equivalent to Cafe du Monde...

The hotel put on a gloriously glitzy pageant and fashion show for us (of which more later), and then some of us had drinks at the restaurant on the terrace, watching the crowds and the brilliantly lit-up open tour-buses (some of which had MCs costumed as Disney characters, for no good reason).

We rose early the next morning for our longest drive of the trip. It was mostly over flat, wet lands, with lots of egrets in the fields. We made a stop in Villahermosa, where there was an outdoor museum and sculpture garden dedicated to Olmec sculpture. A lot of it had been at a nearby site called La Venta, before Pemex (the Mexican state oil company) started developing the area. So a philanthropist founded the sculpture park, which also has a small zoo and nature reserve. It was a beautiful setting, and the sculptures were quite impressive and many of them were lovely. I have less of an empathetic connection to Olmec art, but it was still worth seeing. The zoo had a gorgeous black jaguar who was making "I'm horny" roars and at one point decided to spray in the direction of the tourists. ;-) We also saw spider monkeys, coatimundis, and an impressive number of leafcutter ants.

Then it was time to head for Palenque, in Chiapas. The first intimation of trouble was the toll-collector (who looked like an Olmec) telling our driver, "Palenque? No hay paso." But all seemed well for a while, until after we crossed into Chiapas we ran into a tailback and came to a complete halt. Carlos bravely forged ahead on foot to see what was what- it turned out that some Maya protesters had blocked the road several miles ahead. We sat there for a while, making jokes about naked demonstrators and watching people (try to) turn around on the narrow road. At one point, a man carrying a machete, a flashlight, and an umbrella walked past the bus in a determined fashion. We decided he was "Señor Machete," and was going to fix things. Oddly enough, it wasn't too much longer after that when the traffic began to move. ;-)

We picked up Carlos at the intersection where the demonstration had been. He reported that the Maya were demanding the reinstatement of some local official, but hadn't been able to glean more since most people were speaking Mayan. After that, it was only a short drive to Palenque town. It's a hilly little place that runs on a tourist economy, but is actually kind of charming. Our hotel was quite large and in a lovely, rainforest-y setting. After dinner, I took a walk into town to visit the ATM, and enjoyed absorbing the atmosphere. Then it was time for bed, after a long, long day.

Next: the wonders of Palenque...

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I loved Palenque! it was wonderful.

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