I'm left (mostly) speechless...
Palenque Travel Blog› entry 6 of 10 › view all entries
We arrived at the Palenque ruins early today. Dr. Vick tried to get us special permission to enter the Temple of Inscriptions and see Pakal's tomb. You need to be at the museum office at 9:30 to talk with the director, and give her a written request detailing who everyone in your party is, and why you want to see the tomb. Unfortunately for us, we picked the one day when the director was off of work. With no way to contact her, and no one else having the authority to give us permission, we gave up on trying to see the tomb. Supposedly, the museum has a full-size reconstruction of it, but that was closed when we visited as well.
Up at the parking lot outside the ruins site, we found ourselves a guide, named Salbador.
I am rarely without words. The scale of the structures was overwhelming, and so many! Their size, and the heat, made climbing even the smallest of the pyramids at the site seem like an impossible task. But up we went; first climbing the Temple of the Skull, then entering Temple XIII, the resting place of the "Red Queen." Some other tourist started climbing the Temple of Inscriptions, even though it was roped off. Slabador began yelling at him to come down, but the guy ignored him. Eventually, an armed guard went up and escorted him down, at which we all cheered.
Our guide took us all around the Palace. I had wanted to see the ballcourt, but our tour went in the opposite direction. Instead, we crossed the aqueduct (which still works!) to the Temple of the Cross group. We went into the jungle a few hundred meters to see Temple XX which is still undergoing excavation, and so is closed to the public.
After that, it was time to climb the Temple of the Cross, the Temple of the Foliated Cross, and the Temple of the Sun. Apparently the best vantage point (and photo opportunity) of Palenque is from the top of the Temple of the Cross. Salbador offered to watch everyone's backpacks while we climbed. I snapped a good shot of him from the top of the Temple of the Foliated Cross "watching" our packs and having a little nap at the same time.
Heading back towards the van, we had the opportunity to take a short jungle tour. Palenque is only about 10% excavated, and buried structures run about 2km into the jungle. We saw a few of them, as well as some neat Mexican foliage. Salbador showed us the Mexican "money tree," the cacao plant whose seeds were used for currency back in Mayan times. He also ground up a plant leaf into a green paste which is the ink used to make USA currency. Several others in the group and I ate termites, which taste somewhat like cucumber or carrot. Not bad at all.
To finish off the tour, we visited a jungle waterfall, and cooled off by splashing around. On the way out of the jungle, the sky opened up and dumped a ridiculous amount of rain on us.
The mountain drive was a little hair-raising. Beautiful vistas flew past, with hardly any visual obstruction from, say, nonexistent guard rails. To top it off, other vehicles kept speeding past us in both directions. The the rain began again, as strong as ever. When we finally reached Ocosingo, we applauded Anna on her courageous driving skills.