Evil Voodoo Celt (evcelt) wrote,
Evil Voodoo Celt

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Mexico - Day 4 - Palenque

Palenque was the site I had most eagerly anticipated, and I wasn't disappointed. It is easily the most dramatically-situated, nestled on a verdant slope in the tail-end of the Sierra Madre del Sur. The buildings aren't huge and tall, but they are very harmoniously constructed and sited to impress- both looking at them from below and looking out from the top. The level of preservation and restoration was very good, too- the aqueducts that channeled the Rio Otulum through the site and the original "storm sewers" were all still working, there were many surviving carvings and even some bits of fresco.

The architecture of the Palace was particularly good- a sense of strength and proportion, even grace- given that the Maya didn't have a true keystone arch, this was some achievement. In a lot of ways it was the most intimate, the most human pre-Columbian building I've been in. The Temple of Inscriptions was nice, too, though I wish it had been open to closer inspection- it's the one where they found Pakal's (intact) tomb, one of the greatest discoveries in Mesoamerican archaeology...

Our guide, Salvador, had an attitude that was both laid-back and kind of gonzo; he also could have done a good job portraying Dr. Gonzo from "Fear and Loathing." His tag line was, "OK, now we go over here and I give you some more 'blah blah blah'." His "blah blah blah" was actually pretty well-informed and engaging, though, and he had an innovative way with visual aids- there were a lot of vendors selling pyrographed suede paintings, and he used several huge ones to explain Pakal's sarcophagus lid and the panels in the temples in the Group of the Cross.

bbq_bill and I continued in our temple-climbing program, adding the Temple of the Cross and the Temple of the Sun to our list. The view from the former was particularly fine. Then a number of us took the jungle trail down to the museum- truly gorgeous, with waterfalls (I was pleased to find out that they were on the Bat River!), greenery, half-covered unrestored ruins, tropical birdsong... It was cooler there, but if they hadn't posted a "no swimming" sign, he and I would have been in the water in no time.

The museum was very good, with a fine array of artifacts and bilingual signage, including many glyph translations. But the gem was the Pakal's Tomb display- a beautiful replica of the sarcophagus with all the carvings interpreted, surrounded by plexiglas walls which had representations of the wall paintings from the tomb. There was a good set of short films on the discovery and various aspects of the find, and several subsidiary displays. And it was air-conditioned!

We ended up staying onsite for longer than the rest of the tour, so we caught one of the shuttle buses back to Palenque town, where we ran a few errands. monsteralice and I took a cab to the hotel, while bbq_bill decided to walk. Transport was amazingly cheap- the shuttle bus and the cab ride all together was 50 pesos for the both of us, and that included a tip for the cab driver.

bbq_bill, bless his heart, picked up several cold bottles of Negra Modelo for us on his walk back, so there was much rejoicing. We contemplated a dip, but the water in the pool was actually warm. So I took a short walk around the grounds before showering. A couple of yellow and black birds (Great Kiskadees or Social Flycatchers, they look very similar) tried very hard to attract my attention- it turned out that there was a fallen (wounded or young) one of their fellows on the ground nearby.

After dinner, there was a wonderful all-out tropical thunderstorm, with plentiful thunder and lightning and a gully-washing downpour of warm rain. Nice to fall asleep to, even if it did ruin the plans of some of the more adventurous sorts on the tour, who wanted to go bar-hopping...

ETA: A pic of me at Palenque, courtesy of bbq_bill...

Next: off to Campeche, and then to Uxmal...
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