Mexico and the Mayans
8th-9th June 2004
3 days in Guatemala is as much as we had time for, so off we went to Palenque in Mexico, by bus, then motorised canoe across the border, the bus again. Palenque retained the same charm it had last time for Roger with archealogists still at work excavating. The Mayans clearly had a good eye for scenic settings (or at least the queen did) - the nearby
watering hole was very nice (see pic).
Back to the border with Guatemala (sadly it was easier to go to Palenque & back than do this all on the way!) to visit the Lacanja area, with a Lacandon indian to guide us through the jungle to some Mayan ruins as yet unopened to the general public. Authentic trek through jungle, across numerous wooden planks/trees over rivers to get there, with
interesting wildlife on the way.
The following day included an hour´s ride on motorised canoe down the Usumacinta river until we reached Yaxchilan - a Mayan ruin utterly surrounded by jungle with the cacophony of Howler monkeys to add to the atmosphere. Thoroughly enjoyable! Next to Bonampak, with its very impressive murals, still in full colour after
all these years, though not quite in as perfect condition as they once were (see pic).
Having seen some Mayan sites, we thought we ought to stop by and learn a bit about the people that came before them: the Olmecs (1150BC-150BC). So we went to Parque Nacional La Venta in Villahermosa to see some rather large Olmec heads, and other stone sculptures, laid out in a park/zoo that had as many animals jumping through the trees as in cages (Not the jaguars, fortunately!). And, to save a few pennies on
accommodation, we took the night bus to...
Merida. Based ourselves here for a few nearby excursions to: Uxmal (including Son y Lumiere - see pic), Chichen Itza and Mayapan. Given that it was hot and humid, and since our plans of spending a day or two on the beach at Playa del Carmen or Cozumel were confounded by the worst flooding in Cozumel´s history, we decided instead to round it off by cooling down with a swim in each of three cenotes - naturally formed
sinkholes in the limestone.
Arrived in Mexico city, and literally fought our way through the rush hour crowds and roadworks to reach our desired hotel, complete with all belongings!
Contrary to suspicions (website not updated for some time), we have not been kidnapped in Mexico City. Instead, we went to see the impressively enormous pyramids of the Sun and Moon (which according to recent discoveries should be Water & Moon), at Teotihuacan. These are by far the biggest we saw. Whilst wandering through the ruins, we were interviewed by a 8-year old Mexican girl (for her homework) who asked us, among other questions, whether we carried a bottle of water with us (Yes - must just be us foreigners that carry them!).
Went to the Museum of Anthropology where we found the vast majority of the missing stellae that had been "stolen" from Yaxchilan (those that weren't spirited off to the British Museum!), amongst many other interesting Maya and Aztec exhibits.
Despite its reputation, didn't see any crime occur during our brief stay there but did see the biggest flag we've ever seen, in the main square.
Celebrated England's 4-2 victory with the world's most tedious city tour-bus.
Left Latin America for another flight on stingy American Airlines, getting fed 2 tiny bags of pretzels during our 7 hours of flying with them (via Dallas to San Francisco)