Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chiapas - The Journey to Villahermosa and Palenque - Day 1 and 2

 Our first day started by leaving the bus station in San Miguel much earlier then planned.  The reason?  Our intrepid and organized tour leader had read and checked and rechecked the newspaper articles about a HUGE group of holding tanks traveling from Veracruz to Tula to be installed at a Pemex plant.  Guess what - it was reported that they were "somewhere" in the vicinity of Queretaro and would be traveling on Hwy 57!  Our path.  These storage tanks, made in Europe, are so large that bridges have to be lifted on the roads to get it through....I kid you not.....Can you imagine?  No, I could not until I saw photos of just that happening.  So, we left early, heading for Mexico City International Airport to fly to Villahermosa.  We lucked out.  No tanks were seen anywhere.  We arrived quite a bit earlier then originally anticipated, but being the troopers we all were, we just vegged out and waited for the flight.  Across the waiting area, sitting on the floor with trusty phone and computer was David, the owner of Los Vagabundos.  He is always busy checking and rechecking every detail to make OUR trip seamless.

To tell you the truth, I've traveled with him over the years so many times since Los Vagabundos was formed that I could not even tell you how many times I've done so, but, each has been an adventure of pleasure.

We finally arrived at our hotel some time around 7:30PM or thereabouts.  It had been a long day.  I forgot to even take a photo of Villahermosa, which we only saw on the outskirts.  At least now I can say that I have been to the State of Tabasco, or better still that I spent the night in Tabasco.  We departed at 8AM
the next morning for Palenque.  8AM!

 As we got off the bus, we were assailed by tropical heat and humidity.  To me it felt like Houston. I thought I was back in my former home.  To many others it was not a pleasant experience.  Any hotel whose reception area is out of doors makes me happy!
Above is ONE of the many forms of transportation we had on this trip.  Others were boats, tuk tuks in Chamula,  and a combi van in Palenque.  All were adventures and fun ways to travel.
If I had just photographed flowers, I do believe my camera would have died of exhaustion.  These were on the grounds of the museum at Palenque.  Lovely, aren't they?
 My room mate, Nora, a former Delta employee, has moved to San Miguel.  We met back in 2002 through a mutual friend, but since she did not live in SMA, we would meet once in a while for a meal or two when she was in town.  However, I knew she is a world traveler and would be great to room with.  What fun.  It would be difficult to name a place that Nora has NOT been or spent a month or so getting to know a culture.  She was a great friend to share the trip with.  We both look forward to future adventures. 
 And, then, there is the guide, Supremo, Patricio Murphy Ruiz.  I wrote about Patrick about eight years ago when we first met in Chiapas.  He is without a doubt, the most knowledgeable and personable guide that I
have ever traveled with.  His degree from Berkley in Anthropology and his life in Chiapas, where he was
born, gives him a unique mixture of two cultures that blend well.  Patricio traveled with us from Palenque to Chiapa de Corzo.  A great addition.  If you are ever traveling anywhere in Chiapas and want an amazing guide ask me for Patricio's contact information. 
 Again, I'm besieged by plants that grow tiny in my gardens in San Miguel but are nearly a tree in Palenque.
This croton was about two stories high!
We were so lucky that it was an overcast day on that Tuesday.  There were very, very few others in the whole area of Palenque except for our group.  How marvelous!  Many years ago when at other archaeological sites, the people were swarming around.  Not here.  It lent itself to a peak experience. 
When I arrive at places like this, one of the things I like to do is stop, sit down and absorb the place rather then to keep moving around and miss things.  It is so interesting to sit and stare at the buildings and try to imagine them being built, what the conditions were like and the purpose of each building.
 This ceiba tree is something I might have missed if I had not been sitting nearby, looked up and realized
that this great wonder was here.
Ahh, and then the boy with the tump line on his head carrying goods somewhere.  The first time I ever saw someone carrying things like this was at a cantera quarry near Guadalajara about thirty years ago.  A short man was carrying a slab of cantera down the mountainside. The cantera probably weighed over 500 pounds. It was a remarkable sight, to put it mildly.  It is unusual today to see someone with a tump line as a means of carrying items.  IF you look at old artwork and drawings, it was a common form centuries ago.
 This photo says so much.  David, our leader, made it to the top. As I sat watching all that was going on, all of a sudden, I saw David literally sprinting up the steps of the pyramid!  His speed was amazing.  What I did not realize was he was trying to get behind one of our most elderly travelers who was slowly but surely climbing the stairs.  He did not let the man know he was behind him, but it was soon apparent that he was
there, just in case.  And, at the top most step, which was very high, it was a good thing David was there as
he had to help the man up that last step.  THAT is the kind of man he is......always watching and helping.  A real gem!  I called to him and he turned around, did this, and I got this GREAT photo.....
 On the ground, sitting on stone slabs were two little girls who were selling little necklaces to tourists.  But, in that black bag, the one little girl had her school work that she was showing to her friend.  Finally, they came over to me and we talked for quite a while about their families, where I live, what was my name, and many other pleasantries.  Those are the experiences that stay close to me, forever.

Then I decided, with another participant to catch a combi van back to the village of Palenque.  When climbing into the van, there was only one person but by the time we stopped and picked up others, there were a total of 17! of us in the van.  What fun. We were the only gringoes. We exited near our hotel after paying twenty pesos each and walked the rest of the way to our hotel.

That evening we all relaxed out on the patio of our hotel for drinks and snacks.  The couple with Nora and I are from Canada and are heading back the end of March.  It is a great Canadian exodus from San Miguel on the first of April each year.

It was interesting to me that most of the people on the bus this trip were not known to me.  In the past, most of us knew each other.  After a while it was apparent that most travelers, not all, were from Canada.  They come the first of November and leave usually the first of April.

Initially, I knew about 4-6 people, but it was delightful to get to know many more by the end of the trip.  The former Canadian Ambassador to Mexico was sitting across the aisle from me on the bus.  We had some delightful conversations as his knowledge of the history of Mexico and its politics was deep.  We also talked about Mexico City in the 70's and 80's - a golden time, in my humble opinion.

As you can see, day two into the trip and we were all already getting to know each other.  Onward tomorrow to more adventures!


Anonymous said...

Palenque is an amazing place. I loved looking around and imagining it at its peak, with all the buildings new and well-maintained, people going about their business. It must have been a truly impressive sight, with overtones of Imperial Rome.

I was also amazed at how few people bothered to climb the pyramids to see the temples at the top. Despite the extreme humidity and high heat, I still climbed to the top of all that I could. And it was well worth it, both to see the temples and sculptures, as well as to gain an aerial view of the rest of the sight.

However, if I ever go back, it'll have to be in January or February. When I went at the end of April, it was already FAR too hot.

Happy Travels!


Kim G
Redding, CA
Where we are dying to travel somewhere. Anywhere, really.

Babs said...

Hi Kim - I was amazed that they allowed people to still climb to the top of all of these buildings. Some places they no longer allow it. The weather was great in March, as it was overcast. Otherwise, it would have been very uncomfortable.

I remember, distinctly, being in the Yucatan in January, and thinking I would have heat stroke at Chichen Nietza (or however you spell it), ha. I finally had to go seek shade.

Hope you get to travel soon. Met several people on this trip from Boston, but who live in San Miguel now. I think they had had one too many Boston winters.....

Retired Teacher said...

Which pyramid was it that the group climbed? The Temple of the Inscriptions which you show in one of your photos? The first time that I went to Palenque back in the 80s, you were not only allowed to climb that pyramid, but descend to the burial crypt of King Pakal which is deep within. The second time I was there, you were not even permitted to climb, much less go into the chamber. You could climb several of the smaller temples.

Babs said...

Yes, Bill - you could climb all of them, surprisingly.

How wonderful to have been there in the 80's. I'm envious.

Michel starc said...
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