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The adventures of the Mel

Palenque ruins

MEXICO | Wednesday, 2 April 2008 | Views [1542] | Comments [2]

The Palenque ruins can really be described in one word: Oh-my-goodness-wow-wow-wow! An ancient Mayan civilisation spread out over 15km² (only a small part excavated, originally spread out over nearly 130km²!), built entirely without metal tools, pack animals or even the wheel!! It was built around 600AD (although there is evidence of habitation around 1500BC) and then abandoned around 900AD, most likely due to a collapse from overpopulation and resource exploitation. The city was discovered in the mid 1800s and serious excavations started about 100 years later. It is beautifully enshrouded in rainforest, giving it a sense of beauty and reverence that Teotihuacan lacks. It was just stunning.

We walked the 2km to the entrance and we were pouring with sweat before we had even arrived. Very high humidity and temperatures were the only things that were taking away from the experience. It took us nearly 4 hours to get through the entirety of the ruins,  and it was just amazing. To see crumbling ruins peering out beneath winding trees and leaves was really something else. Some parts of the ruins are very well kept and resemble parkland, but you cannot forget where you are for the tall, dilapidated edifices rising up above you with their sheer stone steps that seem to defy gravity.

Amongst the buildings there were many temples, dedicated to various deities and past rulers, and even a ball court. That sounds like good, innocuous, fun. A ball court. Yay and fun. Well, at least I thought it did until I found out that the losers of the ritual ball games were beheaded. Nice.

It was just amazing wandering through, up and down the stairs and looking at all the buildings and ‘carvings’ for lack of a better word this late at night. To top off the atmosphere, howler monkeys were kicking up a storm. Ever heard a howler monkey. Think Dark Crystal, not quite a dying Skesi, more like an adult Nebri (grub-like animal in the moat that lifts Jen up after he finished Dreamfasting with Kira). Sounds crazy? You obviously never watched it because it was AWESOME. Who am I kidding. It IS awesome. For those plebs who have no idea what I’m talking about, thinking screeching, horribly creepy, sounds like it might eat you screeching. So they are going on and off all day.

I thought this post was going to be a lot longer, but lucky for you I’m tired!! Check out the photos though, although they don’t really capture it, they give you a good sense of the awe I felt as I wandered through the ruins of this ancient city. What makes it even more amazing is that much of it was painted blood red, bright blue, yellow, and other colourful….colours. This truly was an amazing experience, and I can’t say I’ll ever forget these jungle encrusted ruins.

Currently I’m in Merida, which I’ll explore tomorrow before heading off to Chichen Itza, yet another Mayan ruin…..what a shame.

Palenque photos




I can imagine that the photos haven't done credit to the place, which means that it must be, well, awesome. all those steps.
Must have been very fit people.

Oh god, I so want to visit Mexico.

  Sally Apr 3, 2008 3:41 PM


Your description of the sound howler monkeys make reminds me of my youth time, 1980's visiting Palenque.

Being my 1st experience of jungle(came straight from Mexico City) I pitched my small tent at Maya Bell 5 meters closer(in)to the jungle than the other folks.
Not being told about the howler monkeys I awoke ~1am
hearing a god-awful sound, creating a picture in my mind like a very hungery big evil alien lion type creature with very long needle like fangs in its enormous mouth !

I knew it couldn't be true & than the other folks sleeping in hammocks would laff at me if I went & woke them but it was 1am & the sound was telling its own terrifying story !
So I maned up, and set my open pocket knife by my side & vowed I'd go down fighting when this monster
came to eat me !

  Yif Sep 15, 2009 6:15 PM

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