per amica silentia lunae

or, across the ferny brae with the evil voodoo celt

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Mexico - Day 5 and 6 - Campeche and Uxmal
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evcelt


We left Palenque bright but not too early, headed north into the Yucatan. After leaving the Sierra Madre del Sur behind us, it was mostly flat, with fields and low jungly bits alternating. We crossed briefly back into Tabasco before entering Campeche state, then made a pit-stop at a little restaurant where they made excellent quesadillas- handmade tortillas, local cheese and an herb called epazote, with tasty salsa verde and salsa rojo. Just the thing...

After that, we took a very flat and rather narrow road towards the Gulf coast, crossing the Laguna de los Terminos and a belt of mangrove swamps (quite stinky fragrant). A storm had been looming on the horizon for quite some time, and we ran into it, which made driving interesting, I'm sure. It was still raining at our lunch stop, a lovely waterside family restaurant. I had the grilled camarones (prawns), which were delicious.

It was a fairly short run from there into Campeche city. It had the usual slightly-scruffy sprawl around it, but the historical center was quite nice- not surprisingly, it reminded me a bit of St. Augustine. Our hotel was a Best Western, and was like a mid-range beach hotel anywhere in the world... still, it was comfy and well-run. We walked through the old town a bit, visiting the Museum of Maya Architecture (in one of the original bastions of the city wall)- a nice little place, with good signage and displays.

The next day, we got an earlier start, and headed up into the Puuc Hills to Uxmal. In some ways, this was my favorite site, if only because it's a little more obscure. But the adornments of some of the buildings- especially the Nunnery Quadrangle and the Palace of the Governor- are stunning. Intricate and baroque, with an awful lot of care and artistry in the design. They're so well-proportioned that you end up forgetting the grotesqueness of some of the imagery. And the House of the Magician is striking- it's unique in the Maya world, and it commands the eye from nearly every point on the site, without dominating things.

The setting itself was second only to Palenque, with the hills backing things up and the greenery all around. There was also a very peaceful feeling to the place. Of course, some of this was due to the smaller number of people there, and the lack of vendors in the actual ruins area (the vendors were particularly bad at Chichen, but lots were at Palenque and a number at Teotihuacan, too). But there was something there in the atmosphere... I wanted more time there, not so much to see the rest of the site (though that would have been nice) but to sit on one of the high points and just sort of absorb.

John Lloyd Stephens, who had two extended stays there in the early 1840s, said that the stones seemed to him to be weeping- crying out to be restored. I think he'd be happy with the work- completed and ongoing- there and at other sites he visited. he traveled with the architect/draftsman Frederick Catherwood, whose drawings and prints of Maya sites are quite lovely. Stephens wrote two books- Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan and Incidents of Travel in Yucatan about his sojourn in the area; I've read the latter, and it's quite good.

It was nice to be there in the earlier/cooler part of the day, even though we did get a bit of a shower... I actually didn't mind; it kind of added to the experience. There was a fine crop of iguanas inhabiting the site, including some impressively large ones.

Lunch was at a local hotel's outdoor restaurant, where (for some reason) they had creepy near-life-sized dolls hanging from the thatched roof. After that, we headed north into the green flatness of the Yucatan, towards our last major stop...

Next: Mérida, Chichén Itzá, and home...

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