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Palenque (Final trip in Mexico)

MEXICO | Monday, 14 September 2009 | Views [660]

I'd waited so long to get to Palenque and been looking forward to going there for such a long time.  We arrived before it got dark, a day earlier than planned.  We decided not to camp and went to the rainforest area El Panchan to find a cabana for a couple of nights.

The first one we were shown was really cool: it was round and the bedroom was up some spiral stairs and was right in the middle of the rainforest.  However, the bathroom was downstairs and was dirty and had no toilet seat. We said we'd think about it.

The next one was a lot less quirky and cool but it was clean and very nice.  In the end cleanliness won out (and the prospect of being able to sit on the toilet and not feel like I was in a crap public one) and we went for the marginally more expensive second cabana.

In the evening we went to the main restarant / bar in El Panchan and had cocktails and huge pizzas!  There was live music and lots of people watching opportunities.  It was the first time I felt I was really on the "tourist/traveller route" in Mexico, which was both good and bad.

I liked the place, but i was tired and determined to get up early the next day and get to Palenque before the crowds.  It rained duing the night and it was quite fun to have our first rain of the trip in the exotic rainforest setting (and it made me glad that we had gone for a cabana rather than a tent!)

We got to the ruins before they opened the next day.  Luckily it on of the Sunday's in the month where Mexican's got in free and in Palenque that also included foreign residents in Mexico, so my FM3 came in handy and got me a free ticket - Ed had left his in his suitcase at the cabana and had to pay though.

Palenque was beautiful and I wouldn't have minded paying as it was a stunning site - everything I'd hoped for and more!  It took us 8 hours (including a lunch break!) to see the whole thing.  I felt like you could just wander round all day.  I don't really think I can describe what we saw there (especially as I'm no expert on the Mayans and was really just enjoying my day at a really beautiful site) - hopefully the photos will be all you need.

The first area that you enter is so impressive, with the palace ahead of you and towering temples to the right.  What you don't realise is just how much there is to explore in such a tiny area and how exhausting it is to see everything!  Hidden behind each thing you visit is another path, another route taking you to yet another room, or building or set of steps.  This is one of the things that just makes it such a magical place.  Unlike other ruins I've visited I could really imagine this place working as a town - being more than just a load of old ruins.

The areas further into the sight were maybe not as impressive as that main area near the entrance, but we still had a great time wandering down loads of steps, through the jungle and all the way back down to the museum, looking at bits and pieces of ruins along the way - many of them buried under the jungle that surrounds it.

We had a look round the museum and then headed back up to the car on a little shuttle bus, bought a guide book so we could learn more about what we'd seen that day and drove back to El Panchan for some relaxation time!

We ended up back in the big main central restaurant and had huge pizzas and a couple more cocktails for dinner.  We planned the next day and decided to drive to Ocosingo via two sets of waterfalls: Misol-ha and Agua Azul. 

So the next day we set off quite early towards Misol-ha on a windy little road.  It took quite a while to get there and we were a bit nervous because these roads had been described as some of the most dangerous in Mexico and that tourist muggings, vehicle  hold-ups and robbery were not uncommon, but it was really quiet and peaceful and when we got there we walked down to the waterfall - thought about swimming in the beautiful but deep and cold water, but didn't.  Took a few pictures and then decided to move on to Agua Azul where it said there was nicer swomming and more to explore.

Agua Azul was a lot busier with hundreds of children selling stuff in the car park, loads of food and clothes stalls, but a really lovely area for swimming and several sets of stunning waterfalls.  We walked up to the top of the waterfalls, took loads of pictures and enjoyed relaxing and dipping our feet into the cool water.

When we got back down to the bottom we both went swimming in the shallow, calm water after having a little picnic.

After lunch we headed on to Ocosingo.  It started raining on the way and by the time we got to Ocosingo it was cold and grey.  We found a hotel and went up to the room for a sleep as it was raining hard and we didn't want to go out at that point.  We thought we'd go out for dinner and a walk around later.

The weather didn't improve much, but we decided to go and find an internet cafe and get a coffee somewhere.  We found a nice coffee place which had balconies looking over the square.  It was pretty cold though so we had to move away from the balcony table and go further inside.

We had a small dinner there and then bought a few more snacks to eat at the hotel.  Ocosingo is a pretty small and unremarkable town.  I think the only thing it's known for is the Zapatista movement and at the moment that's all pretty quiet.  So we decided to get up early the next day and visit Tonina (more ruins!) before the inevitable afternoon rain.

Tonina was really different to other ruins we'd been to and really empty and quiet.  It was all set into the hillside and just climbed and climbed with buildings and a lot of steps all seeming like part of one great big hillside building.

It was really fun to explore but kind of scary too as it had not been tidied up for tourists as much and some of the paths would have been closed off at other ruins, but there you could go anywhere you wanted.  Safety was your own concern!

Despite the lack of safety precautions we scrambled all the way to the top where we had a very close encounter with an eagle silently soaring past us, no more than a metre away, and breathtaking views of the valleys of Chiapas.  It really is a beautiful site, if a bit difficult to get to.

It was quite difficult to get back down from the top and we had to do most of it sitting down and sliding on our bums!  It was a bit nerve wracking but a really fun experience.

The museum there was nice and informative, but we knew it was time to get going so that we'd make it to our next big destination: San Cristobal before it got too late.  We stopped off at the supermarket in Ocosingo and stocked up with provisions and set off through Zapatista country to San Cristobal - a place we'd been looking forward to visting and the longest stay on our trip.


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