Thursday, October 8, 2009

Palenque, Chiapas

On Tuesday we got off the bus from Oaxaca at 8 am after 15 hours, and immediately got on a tour bus to see the ruins of Palenque, and two different waterfalls. It was a 10 hour tour, but the next bus didn't leave until 9 pm, so it was a good way to fill up the time.

Chiapas shares a border with Guatemala. Palenque is in the jungle, and because of the time of year, it is warm and humid. While we have been in some very humid places, this was more of a choking humidity. While it wasn't comfortable, it definitely added to the jungle experience. We walked under dark green plants with huge leaves, next to thick vines that should be used by Tarzan, and saw and heard strange animals. We didn't see a toucan, but Jose heard lots of howler monkeys, which are one of his favorite animals.

Palenque is the first Mayan site we have visited. The architecture is more complex than we had seen before, but I wouldn't necessarily say it was better. The pyramids in front of mountains of jungle are really pretty to see, though. We walked around the palace, up pyramids, into temples, and through many residential homes. The regular houses are my favorite buildings to see, because that is where the majority of people lived, and where they spent their time. The pyramids are amazing, but the average person didn't spend their time at the temple. I like to see where they cooked, slept, and spent time with their families. They are so different than houses today, and so small. Some of the houses have shelves, tables, or what look like chimneys. It is such a strange feeling to know that I am standing in a house where people used to live and do many of the things I still do.

After the ruins, we went to the Mis-solha waterfall. It took about a half hour to get there, driving up steep mountains. It is a narrow, but powerful waterfall, that drops off a huge rock. People swim in the pool under the fall, but we didn't have our swimsuits. The coolest part of the visit was actually walking under the waterfall. I have wanted to walk under one since I was a little girl and saw it done so many times in Disney animated movies. It was about as cool as I imagined it to be when I was little, too. Everything was really green and the water was crystal clear. There was also a cave with a large creek running through it. It was pitch black, but we rented a flashlight and went in. Inside, there is another waterfall. We could really only see the waterfall with flash from cameras, but an underground waterfall is still pretty cool. Then too many people came in the cave and starting pushing us forward, so I got claustrophobic and had to get of their quickly.

The last place we went on the tour was to the Agua Azul cascades. They were also high up in the mountains. They were a pattern of wide, short cascades followed by a large pool, and then more cascades. The water was not quite as blue as it normally is, because it is still the rainy season, but they were impressive. The falls were graceful and all the rock was perfectly rounded by the water. Again, people swam, which we would have liked to do. Instead, we ate delicious fresh fish. Jose had a fried fish, and I had a garlic fillet.

The ruins were outstanding, like they all seem to be, and it was really nice to see something different with the waterfalls. We got back to town about 7 pm, ate dinner, and then got back on the bus to Merida, Yucatan.


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