It all starts with a bus.
12 hours on a bus.
However, for you folks in the States, you might be picturing a nasty, dank, Greyhound bus. Filled with disreputable characters and the stench of failure in the air. If there’s one thing that Mexico does better than the US (other than Tequila, of course) it’s bus transportation.
Since we knew it would be a long ride, we wisely opted to begin the trip to Palenque, one of the more famous Mayan ruins in Mexico, at 10pm on Sunday. This would allow us to sleep the whole night through, then arrive fresh and ready to start the day in the morning. Genius, no?
Boarding the bus, my expectations were confirmed: comfy seats that recline to nearly flat. Leg room. Air conditioning. That last points makes this bus ride more opulent than my room in Playa by a mile. However, there were a few things I didn’t count on. For example: the Spanish-dubbed version of Pirates of the Caribbean number One-Too-Many playing full blast over my seat with no way to turn it down. No matter, a simple matter of waiting it out. It was already half over judging by the plight of Jack Sparrow and some mermaid lass. I even attempted to understand some of the lines, hoping my Spanish classes could come in use. I was able to pick out such crucial dialog as “Siempre!” and “Nunca!”. I’m totally almost a native.
During this time, I spread out luxuriously on seats (I found a row with no occupants), and got comfortable. It was at this point that it became clear to me that the AC was, shall we say, aggressive. I noticed that other travelers had received a memo on this fact as they pulled out all manner of blankets, shawls, jackets, sweaters, basically everything short of a full on parka or hazmat suit. I, however, had in my possession several t-shirts, several shorts, and a travel towel. After fiddling with the vents for a bit, I resigned myself to the fact that it would just be a tad chilly. But that’s fine, especially after all the grousing I’ve done about the heat and humidity, this would be a welcome change, no?
Jack Sparrow and his lot finished their antics, and I settled in for a good sleep. I noticed that the bathroom behind me (12 hour bus rides necessitate proper facilities) gave off intermittent sighs for some reason. Hopefully this would not be an issue. As I was pondering this, movie #2 started up. John Carter (Juan Carrrterrr, for those of you who roll your “r’s” properly), Warrrrlorrrrrd of Marrrrrs. At 11:30 at night, I’m less than excited at this news. The bathroom behind me sighed dejectedly.
No matter. I had been sleep deprived for weeks due to humidity, I am determined to make the most of my time with proper temperature and dry air (even if the proper temperature has rapidly headed southwards of “proper”). I get comfortable and begin a series of plunges in and out of shallow sleep, being roused by particularly active and noisy spots of the movie, only to return to blissful slumber during the more calm and meditative moments. I have a few odd dreams involving the few stand0ut words I can pick out from the movie subconsciously (oddly, “Tars Tarkas” proves to be the most prominent).
At some point past midnight, the driver kills the movie midstream, much to my inner rejoicing and toilet’s jubilant sighing. The rest of the trip passes uneventfully, only interrupted by stops to pick up or drop off passengers at various cities, and by the errant sigh from the latrine area. I wonder if the bathroom is just lonely?
We arrive in Palenque as planned at 9:30am. We are both rested and quickly pick out a hotel. The hotel is on the expensive side, so we opt to share a room. And the room has my new favorite word in it: AC. Joy!
So, first order of the day: see the town and get some grub. Both of these would prove to be quite easy because first off: Palenque does not have many people in it, and secondly because our hotel is right in the center where there are many dining options. Despite its proximity to the Palenque ruins, Palenque seems like a relatively small, honest Mexican town.
While walking around, we also encountered what I can only assume is a baker of some sort. Not sure if he is supposed to bring people in, or frighten away small children, leaving them scarred until their early 20’s, fighting to hold it together.
Anyway, we had enough of that, it was time to get to the Palenque ruins. A quick colectivo ride and we were there. You pay 20 pesos for the ride, then 27 to get into the park, then another 57 to get access to the ruins. Seems like a lot of paying. But hey, you’re in Mexico, just roll with it.
First off, they have some amazing examples of flora here. Heavy, colorful flowers that are so dense they drag the plant downwards.
Moving past all the beauty, we enter the park proper.
complete with the requisite shops to sell you touristy trinkets.
Very quickly, you come upon ruins that put to shame anything I have seen before (Coba, Tulum, etc).
And while you can go up these ruins (like Coba), it turns out that here you can even go into the interior. I’ve never gotten to do this before! Wheee!
The interior is basically an entombment chamber. There were a couple rooms that held rectangular coffins, and some stairs that you aren’t allowed up. After that, we ran around the rest of the ruins. Well, okay, maybe “run” is the wrong word. It was more like a hot, sweaty, meander punctuated by frequent stops in the shade. But man, what a place! If you are ever anywhere even close to Palenque, this is worth your time.
Here begins an un-ordered photo dump. Proceed at your own risk.
And there you have it: the ruins of Palenque. Worth the bus trip over.
Next up: San Christobal and waterfalls!