Friday, February 12, 2010
I went to the Eastern part of Chiapas to see the Maya rainforest ruins of Palenque the other day. I was beautiful. Probably my favorite of all of the pre-Hispanic city ruins in Mexico.
The day started out annoying. I stayed in this jungle collective of restaurants and cabana huts near the entrance to the ruins (El Panchan). I wanted to fall asleep to the peaceful sounds of the jungle frogs and birds. I was even okay with hearing monkeys in the night, but the hippie bongos til 3 am were intolerable. I barely slept despite my exhaustion from the 5 hour winding bus ride from San Cristobal de las Casas that day. I woke up at 5:30, then 5:35, then 5:40... dang German dudes kept hitting "snooze" on their cell phone alarm and when they finally turned it off they were not concerned at all about waking up the rest of us in the shared dorm room with their conversations.
It was pouring rain all night and continued into the morning. I had already paid a man in town to pick me up and take me to the ruins and some water falls before returning to San Cristobal, so I was locked in to going out in the torrent at 8am. I managed to buy a large trash bag off of one of the restaurants (DIEZ pesos! for a BAG) and stuck my head and arms through holes I made. Panchoed up, I was ready to go. I lost my bad attitude because at that point, it was just funny to me.
The rain eventually turned into an eerie mist after a half hour of being in the ancient city. It definitely heightened my experience. The clouds and the thick of the jungle surrounding the sight meshed together seamlessly. It was a truly amazing sight. I was able to climb around the steps and the insides of most of the buildings there. Being INSIDE a B.C. Mayan palace was intense. The energy was almost palpable. Que suerte yo tengo...
There are still some baas reliefs intact on some of the buildings which depict decapitations, skulls, and rulers ascents to the throne. Loved it. Architects found a lot of amazing art work around the site and some of it is on display in a small museum near the site. Despite the size, the content is worth the visit. A couple of things I read in the museum struck me. First, archeologists think that the city was abandoned because the tribe over-exerted the natural resources of the surrounding area. Secondly, only the ruling class (dynasty, priests, specialized artisans) were able to read and write the glyphs and the agrarian workers had to not only pay the upper class taxes for being in communication with the Gods, but they had to maintain themselves with virtually no support from their rulers. Different epoch, same shit...
The falls of Misol Ha were gorgeous. Lush surroundings, the most pleasing noises, and a neat cavern to enter to see another cascade inside the cliff. It was still grey and drizzling out, so I didn't swim, but I could have. I didn't want to be shivering en route. It was nice to sit under the falls and next to more and absorb it all. Agua Azul is yet another rapids/cascade around the area. It gets its name because the water there is almost swimming-pool-turquoise. I think it gets its color from algae or something. It was also beautiful. I followed the cascades upstream for a while barefooted. Squelching in the mud. A girl who could not have been more than 5 years old demanded pesos from me to "buy a pencil". I told her she needed to learn how to say please if she was going to ask strangers for favors. She never said it. I gave her an apple. She won.
So the whole experience was beautiful, but I wouldn't do it all again over 10 hours. I was BEAT by the end of it all. I recommend spending two days at a slower pace.
I heard something sad yesterday. The government wants to put in a more direct road from San C. to Palenque, and supposedly, they plan to do it without the consent of the people who live along the way (Agua Azul is another Zapatista territory). They also want to build more resort-like buildings in the area to encourage increased tourism. It will be a shame when these things become more like Chichen-Itza (Elton John is scheduled to preform in front of the temple dedicated to Quetzalcoatl this Spring... cringe. Sacrilege)