Why can't the bus leave sooner?

Palenque Travel Blog

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I just finished polishing the lenses of my $15 Wal-Mart aviators, 'cause I'm a pimp like that, which technically means I'm pulsing with as little or much pimpishness as is required that I'm preparing to leave Mexico reminded that titties exist outside of Skinemax only by change-begging mothers nursing from the gutter.

The Mayan ruins at Palenque are absolutely marvelous, enormous monuments set in the sweltering jungle, like something out of an Alien vs. Predator movie -- a series which, no matter how much it sucks, can't possibly compete with the utter sucktitude of Palenque the city, with which the ruins have the misfortune of sharing a name. The city is a grimy little strip with all the amenities but none of the character or charm of the cities we've visited thus far.

I want to burn our shabby hostel, Posada San Vincente, to the ground. Sure, it's only US$7 each per night for our own beds and private bath, but...
  1. The hot water that's advertised doesn't flow to our quarters.
  2. The cooler full of free purified water "pours" at a lollygagging trickle, constantly changing the part of the spicket it dribbles from, so filling my empty 2-liter bottle playing catch-the-droplets takes ten minutes, all the while I must keep the slowly filling bottle held aloft.
  3. There's no toilet seat, so we have to spread cheek or scoot to the front of the bowl to avoid falling in.
  4. The welt on my head that currently extends my height two inches, courtesy a "traditional" Mexican doorway, has trained me to duck anytime I enter a room. This evening, however, shivering after a shower only a penguin could love, I almost punched out the ceiling bulb while drying my hair. Anti-American sentiment apparently spreads into architecture.
(I'd rather chase sleep on a bumpy bus ride than stay here another night. As it is, that's what we're doing tomorrow night, escaping this pitiful blemish on a night bus to Chetumal, from where we'll quickly tour Belize before jumping into Guatemala for language school and diarrhea.)

But the Palenque ruins. Unforgettable, many incredibly well preserved, with steep steps leading to buildings rife with chambers, passageways, and towers, many portions of which are still open to public exploration, a rarity in the protective modern world of ancient wonders. All sorts of mystery surround the Palenque ruins, like those at Monte Alban. Mostly, why did such supposedly tiny people insist on building such gargantuan stone steps, and so many leading up to every edifice? If each step is knee-high on Jackson and me, long-legged Americans both, how did miniature Mayans ascend to their spectacular creations? One can only assume each climb was a strenuous endeavour requiring arms, legs, and stamina. People who spent a day accidentally climbing to the wrong building, at the top overwhelmed by the frustration of an advanced civilization that couldn't conquer intelligent stair construction, would simply volunteer for ritual sacrifice.

By the way, a new term for those occasions you encounter a pair of girls, half beauty, half beast: "Nickel and dimed."
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Just navigating the aisle to the bus back bathroom, much less landing a stream of urine in the toilet with one wobbly hand while the other grips a safety rail for the stability to prevent ones skull from playing pinball with the claustrophobic walls, is a treacherous undertaking on a first class bus winding down the speedbump-littered mountain pass from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque.

We're leaving the crisp altitudinal clime for buggy jungle, trading sweatshirts for layers of sunscreen and insect repellent. If plans progress accordingly, we'll visit Palenque's ruins this afternoon and be on our way to Guatemala tomorrow, though I vow to return to Mexico before home, once I have a conversational command of Spanish, for a more thoroughly authentic experience. And to fulfull Michigan-made summer promises to spot an elusive Chupacabra; what I do upon discovery is a mystery for the moment.

Chiapas is a gorgeous, mountainous state, with outcroppings of money averting the casual observer's attention from the pervasive poverty. Shacks and shanties seem the norm, leaky-roofed showers perhaps as likely as any other for their inhabitants. Mornings are delicate and serene, sleepy towns waking up as wisps of smoke curl skyward, the odd worker trudging uphill, wares in tow, to some roadside stand, woodwalled and tinroofed, hoping for a day's take of peses that wouldn't cover my Chick-Fil-A dinner back home.

But a pile of pan dulce those pesos will afford, and probably do, judging by the carbohydrate paunch that is such a popular accessory amongst Mexicans. But I empathize, unable to honor my daily swearing off of pastries, failing every time I pass another panaderia. Running better make its way back into my daily routine before I fulfill the jealous wishes of every fatty who's ever witnessed this lean-boy's buffet dominance. For now, at least, metabolism suffices.

Maybe I'll get a chance to workout on the court, basketball so far appearing more the national sport than futbol, soccer jersey-clad, one-hand dominant Spud Webb wannabes clogging lanes not penalty boxes, vying for rebounds. The universal language of sport sounds ideal, my pathetic Spanish alarmingly unimproved after eleven days of immersion; reconciling my instant-gratification-or-give-up nature with the long-term burden of learning a language is a struggle. If I'm immune to the purported wonder-working of Guatemalan language schools, the six-month minimum I've imposed upon this trip could shrivel faster than a forlorn alcoholic's skin in the Central American sun.
photo by: monky